Former leader of the Kosovo Serb “resistance” Kosta Bulatovic has been charged with contempt of court for “his conscious and persistent obstruction of justice”, that is, his refusal to answer the questions of the prosecutor in Slobodan Milosevic’s absence. Milosevic is still on sick leave due to a very high blood pressure and a “risk of a cardio-vascular incident”

Kosta Bulatovic, witness in the Milosevic trialKosta Bulatovic, witness in the Milosevic trial

Kosta Bulatovic, Slobodan Milosevic’s defense witness, has been charged with contempt of court for “his conscious and persistent obstruction of justice”, as the Trial Chamber termed it. He persistently refused to answer the questions of the prosecutor on 19 and 20 April 2005. Although the judges wanted to transfer him from the witness stand to the dock today, his initial appearance before the judges as an accused was postponed until 5 May when he will be called to enter his plea on the charge.

Last week, Kosta Bulatovic was examined by Slobodan Milosevic, contesting the prosecution argument about the ”nationalist inspiration” for the Kosovo Serb movement in late eighties. Bulatovic, who was one of the leaders of the “Serbian resistance” in Kosovo, claimed that the Serbs had been fighting only for their civil and human rights and equality, not for any “nationalist motives”. He was to be cross-examined yesterday, but he refused to answer the prosecutor’s questions because the accused was not in the courtroom due to ill health. He said it would have been “embarrassing for himself, his family and his tribe” – indeed, for “the Serbian people and state.” The judges had warned the witness that he could be charged with contempt of court and had given him until today to think about it and to consult his appointed counsel.

Bulatovic notified the Chamber this morning that he had thought about the matter, consulted the lawyer and decided not to change his mind. The Chamber then issued an order to initiate contempt proceedings.

Bulatovic was today represented by his appointed counsel, Canadian Stephan Bourgon. At the beginning of the hearing he made a few preliminary objections. In his opinion, it is not appropriate for the same Chamber that accused Bulatovic of contempt to conduct the proceedings, and it is not desirable for the proceedings to begin today, since the accused must be given enough time to prepare for his defense and possibly retain a lawyer of his own choice.

Prosecutor Geoffrey Nice opposed any delay in the proceedings, warning that this would send “a wrong signal to the witness” who tried to “control the court’s time”. Judge Bonomy silenced him telling him that the prosecutor “had no role in the proceedings.”

After a brief consultation, the judges made a majority decision to postpone the beginning of the contempt proceedings until Thursday, 5 May.

Milosevic did not appear in the courtroom today. At the beginning of the session today, Judge Robinson read out the report of the detention unit doctor about the health of the accused Milosevic. The report states that the accused had high blood pressure and a “risk of a cardio-vascular incident”. “All activities that might lead to stress” had to be ruled out until the end of the week. The judges today requested that another medical report be submitted to them on Friday, so that they can make plans for the next week.

Milosevic’s assigned counsel Steven Kay notified the Chamber that he had contacted Dragan Jasovic, who was to be Milosevic's next defense witness. Jasovic also ruled out any possibility that he might testify in the absence of the accused. Jasovic’s position is different to that of Bulatovic who refused to testify after he had made the solemn declaration and completed his examination-in-chief.