Milosevic Refuses to Enter Plea on War Crimes

Still defiant after four months in jail, former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic refused to enter a plea Monday to new charges at the U.N. war crimes tribunal for more deaths, sexual assaults and mass deportations in Kosovo in 1999.

Milosevic also faced a new indictment for alleged atrocities in Croatia dating to 1991, early in the Balkan wars after the breakup of former Yugoslavia.

As in two previous hearings, British presiding judge Richard May cut off Milosevic's microphone when sought to make a statement instead of entering a plea.

"We are not here to hear arguments at the moment. The only matter is for you to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty," May told the defendant, raising his voice. May then registered an innocent plea on his behalf.

"Mr. Milosevic, will you be quiet please," May told him when he continued to argue in Serbian.

Milosevic stripped off the jacket of his dark business suit. His face flushed red and he wagged his finger, repeatedly calling the case against him a "false indictment."

Milosevic lost his first legal skirmish of the day when the court allowed the prosecution to include new charges of war crimes in Kosovo two years ago.

"This flood cannot cover the truth," Milosevic asserted, reiterating his claim that the war in Kosovo was to defend against "terrorism" by ethnic Albanians. "The truth cannot be sunk by any flood of false accusations."

Among the new charges were sexual assaults against Kosovar women when Yugoslav forces cleared villages of their residents, and details about the transfer of bodies from Kosovo to mass graves in Serbia. It added a fifth count of persecution, and raised the number of alleged deportations to 800,000.

In the assault on Kosovo, soldiers separated men and women and forced prisoners to strip naked, the indictment says. Women were detained at holding centers where many were tortured, raped and murdered.

Milosevic's forces "systematically shelled towns and villages, burned homes and farms, damaged and destroyed Kosovo Albanian cultural and religious institutions," the indictment says. One-third of the Albanian population was deported, and an even larger number displaced, it said.

The initial indictment had charged Milosevic with responsibility for the murders of more than 600 people and the displacement of 740,000 ethnic Albanians. The crackdown in Kosovo was brought to an end by a 78-day bombing campaign by NATO forces.

An indictment confirmed Oct. 8 accuses him of responsibility for the murder of hundreds of civilians and the expulsion of 170,000 non-Serbs in Croatia.

Prosecutors said they plan to file a third indictment against Milosevic next week, including the most serious offense of genocide, for the mass murder of Muslims in Bosnia. They will later seek to merge the three into one definitive document.

Milosevic was extradicted to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia last June 28. He is being held at a U.N. facility here, along with 47 other inmates.

Milosevic also protested the appointment of three lawyers from Britain, the Netherlands and Yugoslavia as "friends of the court," assigned to protect his interests because he refused to name a defense attorney or cooperate with the court.

"I have nothing in common with them," Milosevic said, after listening to their arguments on his behalf.

"You have added a new concept, because now we are in a situation where two teams are working for the cause of the same party. So this could now be termed: 'The Hague fair play,"' he said with sarcasm.

Dutch attorney Michail Wladimiroff urged judges to consider Milosevic's claim that the tribunal lacks jurisdiction, and to seek an opinion from the World Court.

British barrister Steven Kay asked for a review of Milosevic's clams that the tribunal is prejudiced and that his arrest violated Yugoslavia's sovereignty.

It was clear that Milosevic believes "this tribunal is incapable of giving him a fair trial," said Kay.