Extreme prejudice: The Hague tribunal and the trial of Slobodan Milosevic
“We are the judges Mr. Milosevic, and we have judged that you will have forty-five minutes to cross-examine this witness.”
Judge Richard, May 7th June 2002.
To spend one day at The Hague Tribunal is enough to confirm the worst of suspicions. What is actually taking place in the heart of ‘democratic’ Europe is a show trial so blatant, so lacking in any form of legality, that it brings shame to those who are participating in it and to those who refuse to challenge it. The history of the Tribunal’s formation and funding is well documented. Originally an idea that emanated from the United States Department of the Army, it was brought into being via the UN Security Council in its Resolutions 808 and 827 of 1993. Not only was this act legally invalid, being that the Security Council had no authority in judicial matters to establish such a Tribunal, but its creation also involved a reinterpretation of the UN Charter. Canadian lawyer Christopher Black observed the following: “..the UN is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of its members, a fundamental principle of international law and the first guarantee of the right to self-determination of the world’s peoples. If a people do not have the right of sovereignty, the right to self-determination is a sham. This principle is completely denied by the creation of the Tribunal. The UN Charter states that nothing contained in the Charter shall authorise the UN to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state. This fundamental principle, put in the Charter so that the UN could not be used by some members to bully others has also been fatally undermined by the creation of the Tribunal. The members of the Security Council, more precisely, the permanent members, now hold the opposite position, and I submit, do so for reasons connected more with imperialism not humanitarianism.”
Indeed the political character of the Tribunal was made clear in a statement to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Boutros Ghali, in 1994 by Antonio Cassese. Cassese commented, ” Our Tribunal will not be simply ‘window dressing’ but a decisive step in the construction of a New World Order.”
Similarly, the Tribunal’s funding also exposes its political character. Much of its funding has come from the US government through cash and equipment, with other notable contributors being the Rockefeller family, Time-Warner, who own CNN and have exclusive rights to broadcast the trial, and American billionaire financier George Soros. The Soros connection is significant. The Coalition for International Justice (CIJ), founded and funded by George Soros, supplies many of the Tribunal’s legal staff. The George Soros foundation, the Open Society Institute, is one of the parties that obtain evidence for the Tribunal, and most tellingly, the Open Society Institute funds the main KLA newspaper in Pristina, a fact that has not been mentioned once by the western media.
POLITICAL BIAS IN ACTION
Even if one had no knowledge of the Tribunal’s history, a brief visit to Courtroom One of the Hague Tribunal to witness the trial of Slobodan Milosevic would immediately give cause for concern.
Unlike the practice in criminal courts The Hague court itself is involved in the laying of charges and the approval of one of the trial judges must be obtained before a charge can be laid.
This extraordinary relationship between the prosecution and judges undermines the right of the accused to a presumption of innocence. Furthermore this close relationship can be witnessed in the day to day proceedings at The Hague.
I visited the Tribunal during the first week of June 2002 and can bear witness to the various ways this hand in glove operation of prosecutor and judge appears in practice.
I heard the testimony of several prosecution witnesses during the sessions I attended.
Each witness gave their, sometimes lengthy, statements that were then elaborated on by the prosecution and on occasions involved photographs and maps. At no time during this process did the judge, Richard May, stipulate a time limit on the prosecution. Yet when it was the turn of Mr Milosevic to cross-examine the witness, Judge May would instruct that a time limit be put on proceedings. At one point, in response to protests from Mr Milosevic, Judge May arrogantly proclaimed, ” We are the judges Mr Milosevic and we have judged that you will have forty-five minutes to cross-examine this witness.” (7th June 2002).
Basically a cross-examination should take as long as it takes, be it ten minutes or ten hours, especially as the accused is facing the gravest charges any human being can face. But in the peculiar rules and procedures of this particular court, the trial judges will ensure that this is not the case.
Additionally, the Tribunal has been given absolute authority to devise its own rules and procedures, an unheard of situation in any other circumstance.
When we come to the way the judges attempt to ‘protect’ the prosecution witnesses from any piercing cross-examination of their statements the full political bias of the court is revealed. I understand from other reports that this is a daily occurrence, however I will limit myself here to what I personally witnessed.
On the 6th June prosecution witness Mr Buyo, a KLA commander in the Racak zone during 1999, in his testimony relating to events surrounding the alleged Racak ‘massacre’, initially claimed that Serbian security forces had opened fire first. However, later in his testimony when explaining the KLA’s actions, he testified that his own forces had merely fired warning shots into the air so as to alert their colleagues of the approaching Serb forces. Mr Milosevic seized on this discrepancy and pointedly asked the witness, ” Why, if it was true that the Serbian security forces had fired first, was it necessary to fire warning shots into the air?” A quite reasonable assumption one would have thought. If you are under attack there is no need for any colleague of yours to fire shots in the air warning you of an approaching enemy. Mr Milosevic attempted to drive home the significance of this discrepancy at which point, with the witness clearly in trouble, Judge May intervened and instructed, “Move on Mr Milosevic, you have laboured this point enough. Go on to another question.” Mr Buyo was off the hook.
A further witness, who admitted his brother was a member of the KLA, claimed he was an eyewitness to a ‘massacre’ of civilians in his village near Bella Surka. He testified that Serb forces had entered his peaceful village, separated the women and children from the men and proceeded to execute seventy men, women and children.
In his cross-examination (time limit imposed) Mr Milosevic asked why, if they killed seventy men, women and children so indiscriminately, would they bother separating them in the first place? After a lengthy silence from the witness Judge May interjected, “I don’t think you can expect the witness to know that.”
The witness’s credibility was further undermined when he denied any knowledge of the KLA kidnapping of both Serb and Albanian residents in his village just a few weeks earlier, claiming he must have been away at the time and upon his return no villagers mentioned it to him. Up to that date the kidnapping was the biggest event to occur in his village for years, yet, as a life long resident there, he had never even heard about it.
Proceedings were taking a predictable course. It didn’t take much insight to grasp the following:
A) The witnesses told a well rehearsed story.
B) If the witnesses got into difficulties during the cross-examination the Judge would intervene.
This observation was further confirmed with the appearance of one Mr Ian Robert Hendry, a member of the London Metropolitan Police who had been seconded to the OSCE and was part of the verification mission in Racak headed by William Walker.
Mr Hendry told of his observations while he was touring the Racak ‘massacre’ site, using several photographs that he had taken personally. Under cross-examination, when asked if he toured the site alone, or if somebody had showed him around, he replied that the latter was the case. “Who showed you around the site?” enquired Mr Milosevic. “I don’t know” was the astonishing response. So here was a member of the verification team who could not even verify who it was that told him about the ‘massacre’ and showed him the supposed evidence. Mr Hendry was in trouble. Judge May instructed the defence to move to another question. However the other questions got Mr Hendry into deeper trouble. He could not explain why his photographs showed only patches of blood and not pools as would be expected. Nor could he explain why no person’s blood had spilled onto another person’s body, which it was logical to assume would have been the case if all these bodies, densely packed together, had all been killed simultaneously at this one specific place. Enter Judge May. “The witness is not a forensic expert and cannot be expected to know these things.” Comments such as this, which pepper the trial every day, can be expected from the prosecution, but from a supposedly neutral trial Judge?
When asked by the defendant if he had ever heard of the ‘paraffin test’, (a test which can determine if a person had recently handled a firearm), Mr Hendry didn’t answer but left it to Judge May to announce that, “This test has been discredited” to which Mr Milosevic added with a touch of sarcasm “But only in the USA, not in Yugoslavia.”
Mr Yemeni was the last prosecution witness I observed during my June visit. In his statement he claimed to have witnessed the killing of civilians in his village in Kosovo. He was hiding in his attic from where he claimed to have witnessed the ‘killings’ and also overheard Yugoslav commanders communicating on mobile phones and comparing the number of dead with the number of dead at Racak. Mr Yemeni, at the age of twenty-four, was Mayor of his village.
Below I paraphrase excerpts of the cross-examination:
Mr Milosevic. “Are you a member of the KLA?”
Mr Yemeni. “No.”
Mr M. “Are you a member of any political party?”
Mr Y. “Yes”
Mr M. “What is your party called?”
Mr Y. “The Democratic Party”
Mr M. “Who is the leader of your party?”
Mr Y. “Mr.Thaci.” (Mr Thaci was a leader of the KLA in 1999).
Mr M. “When did you join this party?”
Mr Y. “I don’t know.”
Mr M. “You don’t know when you joined? All right. Approximately when did you join?”
Mr Y. “I don’t know”
Judge May. ” Mr Milosevic, move on, it is not relevant when he joined the party.”
Mr M. “It is very relevant. However. How is it that you were Mayor of your village at such a young age, this is very unusual?”
Mr Y. “I was Mayor because I represent modern civilisation, unlike the backward Serbs. Modern civilisation that we are now building in Kosovo needs leaders like myself to take them out of the backwardness that Serbs kept them in. We are building a civilisation that is modern and we need intelligent people like me.”
Judge May allowed this racist diatribe to go on without comment.
Mr M. “I didn’t know I was talking to an intellectual. However, let me ask you about the conversations that you say you overheard between commanders. Where were you when you overheard these conversations?”
Mr Y ” Hiding in the attic of my house.”
Mr M. “And what was the position of the soldiers who were using their phones?”
Mr Y. “On the balcony of a house facing my attic window.”
Mr M. “Which is how far away?”
Mr Y. “Fifteen metres.”
Mr Milosevic holds up a photograph for the witness that shows the houses in question.
Mr M. “As you can see there is no balcony facing your attic. And the nearest house is more like fifty metres away. Is that right or not?”
Mr Y. “No.”
Judge May. “Move on Mr. Milosevic. The witness has told you his position.”
Mr M. “Very well. As there were no KLA in your village, as you say, and therefore the villagers saw no reason to flee, as you say in your statement, why then did you feel it necessary to hide in your attic?” A lengthy silence followed. Then the witness resumed his anti- Serb rhetoric of fighting for a modern civilisation against the darkness of the Serbs. At no point did Judge May direct the witness to answer the question or attempt to stop the racist language being used by Mr Yemeni.
Mr M. “All right. When the Security Forces were in your village what was the atmosphere like?”
Mr Y. “It was frightening. The Serbs were firing their guns into the air all the time and shouting and screaming at the civilians. They were like wild men.”
Mr M. “So above this frightening noise, above the firing of guns, above the shouts and the screams you were able, even from, as you insist, fifteen metres away, you were able to hear telephone conversations?”
Mr Y. “We represent a modern civilisation, that’s what intellectuals like myself are fighting for.” Mr. Milosevic repeated the question.
Judge May. “Have you many more questions for this witness Mr Milosevic?”
Mr M. “I have about forty more questions.”
Judge May. “Well I am giving you ten more minutes with this witness.”
Mr M. “That just shows the bias of this court as I have said previously.” Turning to the prosecution witness Mr Milosevic continued.
Mr M. “From what position did you observe the killing of the civilians?”
Mr Y. “From my attic window.”
Mr M. “All the killings took place outside your attic window?”
Mr Y. “I can observe all the town from my attic. I can move around.”
Mr M. “So with all this killing going on you felt secure enough, just fifteen metres away from the Security forces, to be able to move around your attic?”
Mr Y. “With all the noise no one could hear me so I was secure.”
Mr M. ” So the noise was so great that the Security forces could not hear you moving around, but the noise wasn’t loud enough to prevent you from listening to a telephone conversation at least fifteen metres away from your position. Is that right or not?”
Judge May. “Your time is up Mr Milosevic. Mr Yemeni, I would like to thank you for coming to give evidence to the International Tribunal and you are now free to go.”
THE SCALES OF JUSTICE
As I perused Courtroom One with its judges, lawyers, secretaries and legal clerks, I realised that these people, working for this particular Tribunal, had sold their dignity and the dignity of their profession to the New World Order.
The essence of this Tribunal is summed up perfectly by lawyer Christopher Black: “No citizen of any country in the world would consider themselves fairly tried before a court that was paid for, staffed and assisted by private citizens or corporations which had a direct stake in the outcome of the trial and who were, themselves, in practical terms, immune from that court. It is a well established principle of law that a party in a legal action, whether civil or criminal, is entitled to ask for the removal of any judge sitting on the case when there exists a reasonable apprehension of bias. In this instance, a compelling argument can be made that the bias is not only apprehended, it is real, that it is not of one judge but of the entire tribunal, that this is not a judicial body worthy of international respect but a kangaroo court, a bogus court, with a political purpose serving very powerful and identifiable masters. To be consistent with my thesis I will go further and say that as a political instrument designed to violate, to destroy the integrity and sovereignty of a country, its creation is a crime against peace under the Nuremberg Principles. Instead of resolving conflict as it claims, it is used to justify conflict, instead of creating peace, it is used to justify war and therefore is an instrument of war.”
During the trial session of Friday 7th June Mr. Milosevic complained to the court that he had not as yet received a copy of the statement made by William Walker, head of the OSCE and a vital prosecution witness. Mr Walker was due in court the following Monday. Judge May said he would look into this.
The prosecution has been preparing their case for years, their witnesses are well rehearsed, hearsay evidence is accepted, as is secret testimony, and cross-examination time is restricted. Yet, as if that wasn’t enough, witness statements are withheld from the accused until a few hours beforehand, giving little time for the defence to prepare the cross-examination.
Add to this the physical and psychological conditions that Mr Milosevic and other Yugoslav prisoners are subject to. They are treated as if they have already been convicted, being kept in cells and under constant surveillance, having their mail censored, family visits restricted, any communication with their families to be at their own expense, and restrictions on what they can see or hear on radio or television.
And, especially in the case of Mr Milosevic, a refusal to allow him to meet with the legal advisors of his choice. Several prisoners have already died while in custody and to the shame of organisations such as Amnesty International, no investigation into these deaths has been forthcoming.
Despite all this Mr Milosevic is bravely using the Tribunal as his battleground to defend his people and his country and expose the real culprits for the wars and break-up of the Balkans, Nato and the International Monetary Fund. He stated his position very clearly in his 11th December 2001 pre-trial appearance: “I can tell you that I am proud that I commanded the armed forces of Yugoslavia….I am here as a punishment for standing up against the danger of the biggest tyranny that has threatened mankind.”
The Milosevic trial is expected to last two years, yet no matter how long a trial takes, no matter how many well-rehearsed prosecution witnesses are wheeled in, if the outcome is predetermined, then it is a show trial.
The resistance shown by the former President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, against overwhelming odds, should serve as encouragement to all those who oppose the wars, poverty and suffering inherent in the New World Order – a euphemism for the good old, and scientifically correct, expression – imperialism.