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Former Yugoslav President Milosevic Headed to Trial

Aired June 28, 2001 - 14:01   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: There are reports that former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is headed for The Hague. That's where the United Nations war crimes tribunal is located and where many in the international community have demanded that Milosevic stand trial.

For the very latest, let's check in with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, who's in The Hague at this hour -- Christiane.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the Serbian authorities have confirmed that at meeting at about 4:00 p.m. local time in Belgrade they decided that they would transfer the former Yugoslav president to The Hague here to stand trial on several indictments of crimes against humanity and the violation of laws and customs of war.

It's been quite a scramble over here at The Hague because they were not, apparently, given advance notice, and they have come back to us confirming that Slobodan Milosevic is on his way to detention here at the jail that has been set up for indictees who come here to stand trial.

We were talking about the kind of procedures that we may expect to see in the next few days. The first order of business will be for Slobodan Milosevic to be checked out. He'll get a medical check. He will go to the detention facility. There he has a single room, like most other detainees, there he will have a chair, a bed, a desk, the opportunity to have fresh air and recreation and sports, should he want to. He will have access to his defense team.

Then he will, at some point in the next few days, make his first appointment and appear in court, where he will hear the charges against him, and he will enter his plea: guilty or not guilty.

Thereafter, there is going to be likely a fairly prolonged period of pretrial wranglings, where the defense team will conduct their investigations, gather their evidence and witnesses, and perhaps, according to tribunal here, set forth a few motions to delay and prolong that period.

Only after that will the trial start. The prosecution here says that it is ready to go to trial as soon as Milosevic comes to The Hague. However, the reality is that the defense needs time in which to prepare its case. After that, if the prosecution is successful, if it convicts Slobodan Milosevic on the crimes with which he's indicted, the maximum sentence he could face is life in prison. He will either spend time in prison here in The Hague, or there are several other European countries who have offered facilities for detention, not just for Slobodan Milosevic, but for other indictees here. Where he spends his time if he is convicted is not yet clear -- Lou.

WATERS: Christiane, how did we get to this point? The new president of Yugoslavia had said at the outset this was not going to happen. The United States put heavy pressure on to make it happen. The Constitutional Court of Serbia had held up a final decision on whether it would allow it to happen. What finally did the trick?

AMANPOUR: There are several reasons. Clearly, the Serbian government, unlike the Yugoslav government, was very, very keen to have rid of Slobodan Milosevic. They feel his presence in Belgrade was holding up their chance of getting foreign aide, particularly from the United States. They need something like $1 billion this year alone just to stay afloat. They need something something like $4 billion dollars by 2004 just for the very basics. There's an important donors conference, where international aid is pledged, taking place in Europe tomorrow. The United States will take part in that.

The United States put an enormous amount of pressure, pressure that many experts said was necessary and had to be put in order for the authorities in Yugoslavia to come to this decision.

We're going to turn now to Jim Landale, who is the tribunal spokesman.

Jim, you've just confirmed, recently, in the last few minutes, that he is on his way.

JIM LANDALE, TRIBUNAL SPOKESMAN: Yes, we can confirm he's on his way as we speak.

AMANPOUR: We've said a little bit about what we can expect. How long do you think, realistically, before he gets here.

LANDALE: It's very hard to say. We don't really want to discuss his travel arrangements too much, for obvious security concerns. Once he gets here, though, he'll be taken straight away to the detention facility in The Hague.

AMANPOUR: What is the possibility of more indictments brought against Slobodan Milosevic?

LANDALE: Well, certainly the prosecutor has said, on a number of occasions, that she intends to expand the charges against Slobodan Milosevic to include crimes committed in Croatia and Bosnia.

AMANPOUR: And perhaps to include the crime of genocide, which is the most serious crime under international law. LANDALE: That's the most serious crime that we have jurisdiction over here at the tribunal. She has said publicly that she intends to try and extend the indictment to include the charge of genocide, should the evidence allow that.

AMANPOUR: It's no secret to you that there was deep skepticism when this court was established, in 1993, that Slobodan Milosevic, who was considered responsible for Balkan wars, would ever, ever come to trial here. Is this an extraordinary moment for you, or did you think it would happen?

LANDALE: It is an extraordinary moment. It's a very, very important moment in the life of this institution. I think everyone involved, though, at the tribunal was confident that one day Slobodan Milosevic would be brought to justice here at the tribunal. It's taken two years, but it happening now, and it's a very important moment for us.

AMANPOUR: Jim Landale, spokesman for the tribunal, thank you for joining us.

There you have it. Slobodan Milosevic is on his way here. He will stand trial, and there may, indeed, be extra indictments leveled against him during that process -- Lou.

WATERS: Christiane Amanpour in The Hague, waiting for Milosevic's arrival and a war crimes trial.

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