THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The opening chapter in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic will be played out in a compact chamber, where computer terminals and surveillance cameras will help justices weigh evidence of medieval brutality.
On Tuesday, the former Yugoslav president will be led into the chamber to a blue swivel chair, located in front of an interpreter's booth which is located to the right-front of the table where the presiding judge, Richard May of Britain, sits.
The man who wielded nearly absolute authority in Yugoslavia for more than a decade must stand when the judge enters the chamber and again when he is asked to enter his plea to each of four charges:
— deportation, a crime against humanity;
— murder, a crime against humanity;
— murder, a violation of the laws or customs of war;
— and persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds, a crime against humanity.
All four charges are based on atrocities committed by his forces during a crackdown on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo two years ago. The court must decide whether Milosevic bears responsibility for those atrocities.
Milosevic has refused to accept the authority of the court. So what happens if he refuses to stand? "That's up to the trial judge," said tribunal spokesman Jim Landale. "Judge May is an experienced trial judge."
If Milosevic refuses to enter a plea, the court will grant him 30 days to think about it. If no written plea is entered by then, the court will enter a "not guilty" for him so the trial can proceed.
The 60-foot by 25-foot simple courtroom is far removed from the rude Kosovo villages such as Racak, Velika Krusa and Izbica where the atrocities for which he is charged took place.
Prosecutors, the defense team and tribunal officials will sit along five brown wooden tables between the judge and about 130 spectators, who will watch Tuesday's arraignment from behind bulletproof glass separating them from the court itself.
Milosevic, like any defendant, is entitled to have family members among the spectators, but Landale said he has not asked to have them there.
The trial judge sits above it all at a long table flanked by blue and white U.N. flags. Three judges normally preside over trials and five for appeals. It will be up to Judge May whether he will preside alone at the arraignment. The trial itself is not expected to begin until next year.
Defense and prosecution tables are equipped with computer terminals, where lawyers can follow the proceedings by a real-time transcript, or use them to call up documents and other evidence.
A half dozen cameras are mounted on the walls and ceiling to record the proceedings.
In glass booths on either side of the courtroom, simultaneous interpreters will translate all proceedings in the two official U.N. languages — English and French — and Serbo-Croatian, the language of Yugoslavia.
Milosevic can follow the proceedings in English, which he speaks fluently, or in his native Serbo-Croatian using headphones.