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Milosevic trial study recommends changes to war crimes process

[JURIST] A Human Rights Watch study [text] of the five-year trial of late Yugoslav ex-president Slobodan Milosevic [JURIST news archive] released Wednesday has proposed [press release; HRW recorded audio] making changes in future national and international war crimes trial procedures that would increase their likelihood of success. Milosevic died of a heart attack in March 2006 while still in detention, without a verdict having been reached in his case. Critics of his prosecution before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia [official website] have argued that it was far too long and detailed, while defenders of the court have countered that thoroughness was necessary to document the extent of Milosevic's crimes and that the ill-health of the defendant, who was allowed to defend himself, forced the process to spin out in its later stages because the court could only meet three times a week.

The HRW study recommended that future war crimes courts should:

  • Ensure an adequate pretrial period for an expeditious trial in order to narrow the issues and allow all parties to fully prepare;
  • Limit charges against the accused to the most serious crimes alleged, and avoid duplication;
  • Limit the number of crime scenes in the trial of a high-level official;
  • Require that the right to represent oneself be subject to the defendant’s ability to fulfill the role of counsel and attend court sessions regularly.
Reuters has more.

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