Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: SARAJEVO ( BiH )
Top Serbian War Crimes Suspect Arrives in Hague
THE HAGUE - Former Serbian President Milan Milutinovic arrived in The Hague Monday to face trial on charges of war crimes during the 1999 Kosovo conflict.
"He's arrived at the tribunal. He's at the detention center," a spokeswoman for the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia told Reuters.
The former ally of ousted Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic- also on trial here for Balkans conflicts including Kosovo -- traveled to The Hague voluntarily, Yugoslav authorities said.
"Having departed to The Hague by his own free will, Mr. Milutinovic has fulfilled his duty as stipulated by the tribunal's statute and the Yugoslav law on cooperation with the international war crimes court," the foreign ministry said.
He has also set an example to all other suspects," it said.
Airport sources in Belgrade said a government plane carrying Milutinovic, whose five-year term as president of Serbia ended late last month, left the Yugoslav capital in mid-morning after being delayed by several hours due to fog.
Milutinovic, 60, was indicted in 1999 along with former Yugoslav federal president Milosevic and three other former senior officials for atrocities against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, the southern province of Serbia now under U.N. rule.
U.N. Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte planned to meet Milutinovic after his arrival, her spokeswoman said. She declined further comment amid speculation he could be called to testify against Milosevic.
Prosecutors allege Milutinovic had at least formal control over Serb forces who killed hundreds of ethnic Albanians and expelled hundreds of thousands from their homes.
But Milutinovic has said he does not feel responsible for the crimes he has been charged with, arguing that as Serbian president he had little real power. Serbia is the dominant of the remaining two republics of Yugoslavia.
Milutinovic is expected to make his initial appearance before Hague judges later this week, when he will be invited to enter a plea to the charges against him.
Serbian officials worked to persuade Milutinovic to go voluntarily to the tribunal, arguing this should increase his chances of being released from custody pending trial.
The Belgrade authorities have given guarantees to the United Nations court that Milutinovic, who has undergone heart bypass surgery and complains of serious health problems, will attend his trial and cooperate fully with the tribunal.
Many others charged with war crimes following the bloody break-up of the former Yugoslavia remain at large, including two of the world's most wanted men -- wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander Ratko Mladic.
The United States has said Yugoslavia risks losing economic assistance after March 31 if it does not arrest suspects including Mladic, thought to spend much of his time in Serbia. Karadzic is believed to be hiding in remote eastern Bosnia.
Separately, the tribunal said Milosevic still had flu and his trial would remain adjourned Monday. The trial was halted a week ago after Milosevic fell ill. It was not yet clear whether he would return to the dock Tuesday.
Milosevic has been on trial since last February charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia in the 1990s.
This is the sixth time proceedings have been interrupted by Milosevic's ill-health. He has suffered high blood pressure, flu and exhaustion.
- VICTORIA BECKHAM
- SARAJEVO - BiH
- Mervana Jugić-Salkić ( 24-5 )