Former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic wants to force former US president Bill Clinton, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to testify in his war crimes trial.
The three were among nearly 1,400 witnesses the former Serbian leader said that he wanted to call in his defence case, to start on July 5.
United Nations judges at the Yugoslav tribunal at The Hague, in the Netherlands, did not immediately rule on the request, but asked for justification for the subpoenas.
“In effect, you are asking us to subpoena those persons. You will have to produce, in writing, reasons for the issuance by the chamber of that subpoena,” presiding judge Patrick Robinson said.
Milosevic said he would call the Western leaders to testify about the “war waged against Yugoslavia” and pressed for a quick decision. The three headed their governments during the period of Milosevic’s indictment in the 1990s.
“Clinton has to appear here. Schroeder, Blair, others, too,” Milosevic said at a procedural hearing yesterday, appearing energetic and characteristically defiant despite his frail health.
“The reasons for which Mr Clinton should appear here are quite clear. He decided upon many matters which had to do with Yugoslavia. He uttered a series of lies as a pretext to the bombing of Yugoslavia. He gave the orders,” Milosevic said.
Clinton was president during a 78-day Nato bombing campaign of Yugoslavia in 1999 that forced Serbia to end its crackdown on the ethnic Albanian population of the southern Serbian province of Kosovo.
The court set a four-hour limit for Milosevic’s opening defence statement and reaffirmed he would have 150 trial days to present his case. The judges said they would not limit the number of witnesses Milosevic called, as long as he remained within that time limit.
The court will consider his request that the court seek intelligence service documents from Britain, Germany and the United States.
Milosevic said he has 1,631 witnesses in mind and has presented the names of nearly 1,400 of them to the court. Among other names submitted to the court were long-time West German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Wesley Clark, the former Nato commander.
“The most terrible accusations have been uttered here,” Milosevic told the court. “The most flagrant lies have been spoken here as well, and the only means to fight that is to present the truth.”
Wearing a black pinstripe suit and a bright red tie, Milosevic showed no sign of the ailments that have delayed the trial by months. The 61-year-old defendant has a weak heart and high blood pressure, and has repeatedly complained of fatigue and stress.
Milosevic is representing himself against 66 charges of war crimes filed by prosecutors, including genocide, during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
He has had nearly three months to prepare his defence since prosecutors completed their case in February. He is assisted by several Belgrade lawyers.
During the prosecution case which began in February 2002, nearly 300 witnesses were called and thousands of documents were presented into evidence.
The judges rejected Milosevic’s request for an extra month to interview witnesses.
On Wednesday, the three-judge tribunal dismissed a mid-trial motion filed by three independent lawyers to drop the genocide charges. The judges dismissed the argument by the lawyers, appointed by the court to ensure fairness, that the prosecution had failed to provide sufficient evidence to support the charges.