The Milošević Trial: Lessons for the Conduct of Complex International Criminal Proceedings
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It was an event many never dreamed could happen. The possibility of Milosevic, a former head of state, being tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity engendered enormous expectations. His imminent trial also created much controversy in his native Serbia and beyond. Milosevic was the first former head of state tried for war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law, which is of itself an important precedent. Since then, Saddam Hussein and Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia, have also been arrested and face charges for atrocities committed on their watch.
Belgium has also issued an arrest warrant for Hissene Habre, the former president of Chad. With the establishment of the International Criminal Court, no government official, on the basis of his or her position, is beyond the law. The time when being a head of state meant immunity from prosecution is past.
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More trials of this magnitude will follow and the officials involved with these proceedings can learn from the experiences—positive and negative—of the Milosevic trial. The Trial Chamber in this case grappled with a number of novel issues, not least of which was managing Milosevic, a strong personality who insisted upon representing himself. How the court handled these issues, and how the prosecution prepared a case covering three conflicts spanning nearly a decade, provide useful lessons in preparing indictments and managing these sorts of trials in the future.
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This paper seeks to examine both evidentiary and procedural aspects of the Milosevic trial. Human Rights Watch has not undertaken an exhaustive review of the evidence, nor were we able to examine any of the material introduced under seal. However, we have sought to highlight some evidence from the trial relating to how the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Serbia gave material, financial, and administrative support to the Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia. Part Two of this report looks at some of the procedural issues, including the length of the trial and the management of the proceedings, for lessons that may be of use in other cases.
In addition, we interviewed a number of journalists who followed the trial closely over the years. Based on these interviews, we began to review transcripts and decisions available on the ICTY website. Reviewing the transcripts allowed us to create a lengthy list of exhibits and witness statements we wished to examine further. Our conclusions, both with respect to the evidence and the trial proceedings, are drawn from our interviews and our review of the evidence. About Authors Contact us.
Home Articles. Every war crimes tribunal prosecutor, defence counsel, and judge should have a copy of Dr Boas's book on his or her desk, as it is essential reading for those involved in complex international criminal trials.
By Marlise Simons
It displays a thorough command of the literature on international criminal courts and the jurisprudence of such courts. It investigates and analyses the Milosevic trial comprehensively and in the greatest detail. One hopes that the lessons drawn by Boas will be heeded by the judges of all international criminal tribunals.
His study is a product of considerable scholarship and experience, and distils important lessons for the conduct of future international criminal trials, particularly those involving obstructionist defendants keen to grandstand or politicise proceedings. It is to be hoped that those involved in the trial of Charles Taylor at The Hague pay careful attention Help Centre.
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Link Either by signing into your account or linking your membership details before your order is placed. Description Table of Contents Product Details Click on the cover image above to read some pages of this book! Industry Reviews ' Foreword p. In addition, the Taylor trial provides a strong model for other trials to draw from for witness management. The court handled complex logistics and sensitive arrangements for numerous witnesses who had never before left West Africa, insider witnesses who had admitted to extensive criminal activity, and victims who had suffered severe trauma.
Psycho-social support was made available both on and off the stand for witnesses.
At the same time, lessons should be drawn to improve future practice in similar types of proceedings with regard to trial management, representation of the accused, and interaction with potential witnesses and sources. Notably, the judges adopted practices that sought to prioritize efficiency but sometimes contributed to delays, such as the ambitious courtroom calendar in comparison to other tribunals and insistence on parties meeting certain deadlines.
More active efforts by the Trial Chamber and Registry to address defense concerns in the lead-up to the trial may have encouraged smoother proceedings.
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These challenges underscore the value of previous complex criminal trial experience among judges who adjudicate these cases. The three judges of Trial Chamber II, while experienced jurists, did not generally join the Special Court with such extensive experience. Finally, the provision of funds by the prosecution to potential witnesses and sources during investigations may be unavoidable, but was a contentious issue in the Taylor trial that should be managed more effectively in future proceedings. Our analysis of the conduct of the Taylor trial points to several important lessons that may be useful for similar types of trials.
These are:. The Challenges of Prosecuting the Highest-Level Suspects Trials of the highest-level leaders for serious crimes committed in violation of international law can be complex, lengthy, and fraught.