According to Milosevic, an oral request is “the same as a written one,” since it has been part of the record. The judges, however, do not share his view and refuse to consider issuing binding orders to Western politicians the accused wants to call as “hostile witnesses” until they are given a proper written request showing cause in detail

Slobodan Milosevic in the courtroomSlobodan Milosevic in the courtroom

The Trial Chamber dismissed today an oral request made by Slobodan Milosevic for the issuance of binding orders to Western politicians the accused wants to call as “hostile witnesses”. This, however, does not mean that the Chamber will refuse to consider carefully any written request to call witnesses, if the accused submits it, Judge Robinson said.

At the beginning of his case, Milosevic asked that the former US President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, General Wesley Clark, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and defense minister Scharping be called to testify before the Christmas recess. Milosevic admitted today that he had made that request orally, but, according to him, “it is the same as in writing” since it was recorded in the transcript.

The judges do not think so and today they reminded the accused that he must show cause, in writing, for asking that the Chamber issue such a request, and to state what he has done in order to ensure the voluntary attendance of the witnesses. Binding orders, Judge Robinson stressed, “are not issued lightly, but if the conditions are there, the Chamber will not hesitate to issue them, regardless of the person in question.”

Milosevic, however, fails to understand how the judges “do not see clearly the reasons why Clinton and others should testify” and casts aspersions that the Chamber “wants to prevent them from coming by insisting on procedural matters.”

Assigned defense counsel Steven Kay notified the Chamber that he had talks with the US Embassy in The Hague regarding this issue two months ago. He was told to submit a written request in which he would list the topics the accused wants to question the witnesses about. Kay, however, did not have that information and was unable to submit such a request, which would have been forwarded to the persons whose testimony is sought through diplomatic channels.

Ever since the Appeals Chamber restored his right to conduct his own defense, Milosevic’s conduct in the courtroom has been more professional than before; he tends to comply with the procedure and rules of the game, although he still refuses to submit written motions to the Chamber and to give instructions to his assigned counsel. The Chamber is just as stubborn in refusing to even discuss the issue of calling “hostile witnesses” before it has a written request before it.