Trying Times

Missed most of the first half of Milosevic’s trial?

Since the case began in February 2002, a tangle of bureaucratic setbacks has mired the trial in costly delays. Milosevic is accused of 66 counts of human rights abuses, from violations of the “customs of war” to genocide. After 298 witnesses, 30,000 pages of documents and millions of dollars, the case will reach its halfway point this week ? a level of inefficiency that has strained the patience of even the trial’s most ardent defenders.

So writes Mary Bridges in the Los Angeles Times (free registration may be required). And it may be about to get worse.

When the trial resumes July 5, its credibility will face even greater strains. Milosevic has announced his intent to call a staggering 1,631 witnesses, including U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former President Clinton, in his defense.

To finish in the 150 days he has been allotted, Milosevic would need to question 10 witnesses a day, a pace that would turn the courtroom into a revolving door of diplomats, dignitaries and press.

The trial of Saddam Hussein is likely to cause just as many headaches.

Of course art was there long ago. In 1992, Julian Barnes wrote about the trial of the former Communist dictator of a fictional country that bears a strong resemblance to Bulgaria. The book, The Porcupine, covers the whole territory of trying former heads of state. Read the novel, skip the newspaper reports.

This entry was posted in A Fistful Of Euros, Transition and accession by Doug Merrill. Bookmark the permalink.

About Doug Merrill

Freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, following stints in Atlanta, Budapest, Munich, Warsaw and Washington. Worked for a German think tank, discovered it was incompatible with repaying US student loans. Spent two years in financial markets. Bicycled from Vilnius to Tallinn. Climbed highest mountains in two Alpine countries (the easy ones, though). American center-left, with strong yellow dog tendencies. Arrived in the Caucasus two weeks before its latest war.

2 thoughts on “Trying Times

  1. It’s worth noting that it took less than a year to mete out justice to two dozen leading Nazis at Nuremberg — and that was before the advent of the Information Age.

    What makes the handling of this trial especially ridiculous is the fact that the verdict is a foregone conclusion. No one in their right mind thinks that Slobo is going back to Belgrade a free man. (Regardless of the prosecution’s long-winded failure to find a “smoking gun.”) I appreciate the fact that they want to give the appearance of a fair trial, but they’re not really fooling anyone — neither his enemies nor his supporters.

  2. The key date to look out for here is January 2006 – by my reckoning that will be when the trial has taken longer than the wars (July 1991 – June 1995) it was designed to investigate.

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