Judges hear arguments on the appeal against the decision assigning Slobodan Milosevic counsel. The assigned defense counsel claims he is not able to present an adequate defense; the accused insists that his "right to defend himself be restored"; the prosecutor warns that accepting "unreasonable demands would start a process in which the powers of the Trial Chamber would be handed over to the accused."

Slobodan Milosevic in the courtroomSlobodan Milosevic in the courtroom

Slobodan Milosevic demands his "right to defend himself be restored" and says he is not asking for anything more but will not settle for anything less. Assigned counsel Steven Kay supports Milosevic's demand, noting that he and his team are not able to carry out their job properly and to present the best defense for the accused. Prosecutor Geoffrey Nice qualifies Milosevic's attitude as "threat and blackmail" and asks: "Who runs the Tribunal: the accused or the judges?"

The first to present arguments in the hearing on the appeal against the Trial Chamber’s decision assigning defense counsel to Slobodan Milosevic for health reasons was the appellant, Steven Kay. He considers the decision merely substituted one risk with another, much greater, risk. "The risk of the deterioration of the health of the accused has been substituted by a new risk, that justice might not be done," said Kay. Because the accused has refused to communicate with him, assigned counsel has been unable to present an adequate defense. That, said Kay, might lead to an unsafe judgment and a miscarriage of justice, which is "a much greater risk with much graver consequences" than the disruptions in the trial’s schedule due to the health problems of the accused.

Milosevic, however, considers his health problems are just a pretext for the contested decision, which, according to him, was motivated "by political reasons" in order to prevent him from telling "the truth about the events in the former Yugoslavia." It is his deep conviction that the "doctors have been manipulated," as were "their reports and findings." According to Milosevic, the only "fair and logical solution" is to restore his right to represent himself; he is not interested in any other option and he refuses to budge from that view "as a matter of principle." He considers that no lawyer would be able to replace him in this "political trial." Presiding Judge Meron intervened at that point, saying that the trial was "not political but legal" and that it was moreover "a model of a fair trial."

In the opinion of prosecutor Geoffrey Nice, the arguments and comments of the accused at the appellate hearing "clearly show that this man is not able to preset his defense before this criminal tribunal at this time." Nice rejected as untrue claims made both by Milosevic and defense counsel Kay that the prosecution has been trying from the start to "prevent the accused from presenting his arguments." Nice said from the beginning, the prosecution has been in favor of the accused getting professional counsel to assist him--not to substitute him--in the presentation of his case and arguments. Whenever there was a debate on this issue, Nice claims, the prosecution favored making it possible for the accused to participate in the proceedings to the extent his health allowed.

“Meeting unreasonable demands of this accused person," Nice warned, "would be to start a process in which the powers of the Trial Chamber would be handed to the accused."

According to Nice, if the Appeals Chamber confirms the decision to assign counsel and if Milosevic continues to act as he has so far, "the trial will simply be shorter and this case can be concluded." He contends the only person responsible for that would be the accused himself, "who retains the pleasure of making the decision whether to present his defense or not."

In his reply to the prosecutor's arguments, Milosevic illustrated his argument about judicial and political conspiracy by pointing out that Madeleine Albright visited the Tribunal on 5 July 2004--the date his defense case was to begin; it was postponed due to his illness. He also said that the question is not "who runs the Tribunal, but who runs the defense": he or prosecutor Nice? Milosevic insists Nice is trying to dictate the terms of his defense.

As he brought the hearing to an end, Presiding Judge Meron indicated that the Appeals Chamber might request additional submissions from the parties before rendering its decision.