U.S. committee formed to defend Milosevic

U.S. National Section of the International Committee to Defend Slobodan
Milosevic Press Release #1
September 13, 2003

Telephone: 212-726-1260
Email: icdsm_us@yahoo.com

For Immediate release:



Today some two dozen writers, academics, attorneys and peace and human rights activists announce the formation of a new organization to fight for an immediate end to the disgraceful show-trial of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.

The new committee shall be known as the U.S. National Section of the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic, and it shall work in full cooperation with the leadership of the ICDSM in Belgrade and Europe as its official representative in the United States. The Chair of the Committee is Dr. Michael Parenti of Berkeley, California a leading international scholar and the author of To Kill A Nation: The Attack on Yugoslavia.

The U.S. Section of the ICDSM rejects the legitimacy of this trial and that of the ICTY as well. But at the same time we cannot stand by without protesting the gross violations of fundamental legal, democratic and human rights visited upon Mr. Milosevic by this court. We view this trial as an act of political warfare against the people of Serbia and against the basic democratic rights of the whole of humanity that cannot be allowed to succeed.

The U.S. Section of the ICDSM charges the ICTY and the American government with falsifying war crimes charges against President Milosevic solely for the purpose of manipulating public opinion against the people of Serbia and justifying NATO's barbaric 78-day campaign of terror against Yugoslavia in 1999, as well as to deflect attention from the real crimes against the people of Yugoslavia committed by the US and its NATO allies over the course of the last thirteen years. These include but are not limited to the break up of Yugoslavia and the imposition of neo-colonial regimes in each of the former republics. The ICTY represents a continuation of this policy of aggression and occupation and a dangerous precedent for all nations who dare to oppose U.S. or Western foreign policy.

As its first act the US Section of the ICDSM is issuing this urgent public protest against the ICTY's most recent violations of the norms of international law and human rights.

In recent weeks the ICTY has flagrantly violated some internationally accepted legal norms by failing to provide adequate medical attention for President Milosevic, by denying visitation rights to President Milosevic's closest advisors, and, most recently, by denying Mr. Milosevic's request for a two year break in the trial for adequate preparation for his defense. In all three of these cases, the actions of the tribunal are designed to prevent President Milosevic from conducting his defense.

Above all the ICTY has deliberately undermined the health and physical capacity of President Milosevic by refusing to grant adequate medical assistance and an adjournment. The past two years of imprisonment have severely damaged his health and threatened his very life. In addition, the tribunal's persecution of Mr. Milosevic's family and his forced isolation from them is an outrage that must end.

By not granting Mr. Milosevic an adjournment and adequate medical care the tribunal has exposed its own brutality while violating fundamental norms of international law such as the presumption of innocence and due process. Article 9 (3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states: "It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should occasion arise, for execution of the judgment." And in regard to due process, Article 9 (1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states: "No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law."

The recent decisions of the ICTY also disregard the principle of "equality of arms," a fundamental norm of international law that is intended to create credible conditions for the defense. According to Article 14 (3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR):

A defendant is entitled (b) to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence and to communicate with counsel of his own choosing; (d) to be tried in his presence, and to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing; to be informed, if he does not have legal assistance, of this right;  and  to have legal assistance assigned to him, in any case where the interests  of justice so require, and without payment by him in any such case if  he does not have sufficient means to pay for it; (e) to examine, or have  examined, the witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him."

The ICTY at The Hague makes a mockery of such standard international legal principles in its total disregard of President Milosevic's ill health and request for an adjournment.

Basic decency and justice demands that the U.S. Section of the ICDSM call upon those orchestrating the tribunal's process against President Milosevic to adjourn the process for a period of at least two years and end the ban on visitation rights. But above all the U.S. section seeks the immediate release of President Milosevic from his unlawful imprisonment and an end to the sinister proceedings organized by the ICTY show-trial at The Hague. The ICDSM calls upon the citizens of all nations concerned with the violation of human rights to join in this protest. The U.S. National Section of the ICDSM shall, in the near future, publish a pamphlet on the illegitimate and sinister nature of The Hague tribunal, hold press conferences, and create a website to educate and engage the American public about the outrages of this court funded by U.S. taxpayers' dollars.

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