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July 03, 2001

THE HAGUE CHRONICLE

The first 11 minutes

Special FreeSerbia.org Correspondent
Mone Slingerland

Slobodan Milosevic
(photo: Reuters)

The Scheveningen prison is known in the Netherlands as the Orange Hotel, (Het Oranje Hotel), because it housed many imprisoned leaders of the Dutch resistance movement during World War Two.

At 7:15 A.M. the former Serbian and Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic left his present address: Pompstationsweg 32, Scheveningen, Den Haag, for a morning trip. His present address is a U.N. jail known in the Netherlands as the Orange Hotel, ("Het Oranje Hotel"), because it housed many imprisoned leaders of the Dutch resistance movement during World War Two. These resistance fighters against nazi occupation spent their last nights in the building before they were executed in the dunes across the road.

Nowadays the penitentiary houses persons who aren't exactly considered to be war-heroes by international standards-they are indicted war-criminals waiting to be tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY). Neither do they have to fear execution. Their prospect is an elaborate trial by a panel of international judges with opponents such as chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte. In the worst case, they will be sentenced to lifelong imprisonment.

Milosevic arrived at the court around 7:30 A.M., which quite early since his initial appearance would be no sooner than 10:00 A.M. Tribunal spokesman Christian Chartier later explained that the early arrival is a normal procedure and that in the meantime the accused consult their lawyers. Milosevic, however, refuses any legal counsel for the moment.

(photo: AP)

Awaiting him in front of the courthouse were hundreds of television crews, photographers and journalists from all over the world. About thousand journalists had requested to be present in the courtroom during Milosevic's initial appearance. As only hundred requests could be accredited, the majority of the media-circus needed to follow the case on monitors in a press center across the street. Anger took hold of the pressroom when the audio-cable carrying the voice of Chief Judge Richard May failed. The audio-cable which carried Milosevic's voice, however, was audible to all.

For some journalists Milosevic's initial appearance was just another story on the decade-long saga of the former Yugoslavia, albeit quite an important one. For others it was an extremely emotional experience. "His worst nightmare has come true," said Gjeraqina Tuhina, journalist of Radio Television Kosova. "He has said that he didn't want to be alive in The Hague and now he is here. The person who created so many nightmares to us is now living a great nightmare himself." Miodrag Vidic, a reporter from Belgrade-based Radio B92 and correspondent in Brussels for SENSE news agency, was very moved by witnessing the former president stand trial in front of the U.N. court. "Milosevic has ordered his police to beat me up. He has shut down my radio several times," explains Miodrag. "And today I see him who listened to nobody except for his wife, being told by a judge: 'Mr. Milosevic this is not a time for speeches.' This must be one of the strongest experiences in my life." Miodrag characterizes Milosevic' general behaviour as being autistic. "He is not fully in touch with reality. He expressed this even in the court today, by denying its existence."

(photo: AP)

Although Milosevic seemed rather uncooperative during his 11 minute long appearance, the director of the U.N. prison in Scheveningen, McFadden, stated to Dutch television that Milosevic's behavior was "pleasant, respectful and compliant when he returned to prison." According to McFadden "he understands clearly that he is in detention and that there are certain rules with which he has to comply."

Once the hearings start taking place on a regular basis Milosevic will probably be detained in a house-prison nearer to the courtroom, to minimize the risk of escape during his transport from the jail to the courtroom.

Because Milosevic did not care to have the indictment being read to him, his initial appearance was the shortest one in the history of the Tribunal until now.

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