Milosevic Judge Is Tough and Fair, Colleagues Say

The presiding judge in the Slobodan Milosevic trial has a reputation as a tough but fair former British prosecutor who colleagues say will not be swayed by politics as he oversees the U.N. war crimes tribunal's most important case.

Judge Richard George May, 62, already is heading the panels hearing the cases of two other high ranking civilian defendants, and has pronounced decisions in other cases that could prove important in the trial of the former Yugoslav president.

Alongside May at Milosevic's arraignment Tuesday will be Judge Patrick Lipton Robinson of Jamaica and Judge Mohamed El Habib Fassi Fihri of Morocco.

Howard Morrison, a British lawyer and a former colleague, said May will pursue justice, no matter how large the challenge.

"He won't bow to political pressure," Morrison told The Associated Press. "He will do what he thinks is right and won't do something because it's popular."

May, the father of three children, graduated from Cambridge in 1964 and joined the South East circuit court in England as a barrister the next year. He had 12 years experience as a criminal prosecutor before joining the bench, and has written books in the field of evidence procedure and criminal law.

He was elected by the U.N. General Assembly to a four-year term with the Yugoslavia tribunal in 1997 and was reelected in March.

Morrison, who has represented suspects at both the tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, said May was a determined and driven man who would "give Milosevic a fair trial."

Since he joined the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, May has been appointed to the court's highest profile cases. They include those against Bljana Plavsic, the former Bosnian Serb president, and Momcilo Krajisnik, a close ally to wartime Bosnian leader Radovan Karadic. Neither trial has begun.

May also presided over the case earlier this year of Dario Kordic -- the most senior Bosnian Croat civilian in U.N. custody. Kordic was sentenced to 25 years in prison for authorizing murders and crimes against Bosnian Muslims.

But in a ruling that Milosevic's lawyers may want to look at closely, May acquitted Kordic on some counts of command responsibility for the actions of subordinates.

"The Chamber holds that great care must be taken in assessing the evidence to determine command responsibility in respect of civilians, lest an injustice is done," May's three-member tribunal ruled.

But in another case, May showed his tough side when he presided over a five-member appeals chamber. Last year Zlatko Aleksovski, a Bosnian Croat prison commander, appealed his 1999 conviction and sentence to 2 1/2 years imprisonment. Rather than merely reject the appeal, May said the trial court had been too lenient and increased Aleksovski's sentence to seven years.