www.slobodan-milosevic.org - April 20, 2005


Written by: Andy Wilcoxson


On Wednesday April 20, 2005, Mr. Kosta Bulatovic, a defense witness at the Milosevic trial, was officially charged with contempt of court. And another defense witness, Dragan Jasovic, is refusing to testify unless Milosevic is present and allowed to conduct his own defense. Jasovic refused an invitation from Mr. Kay to testify in Milosevic’s absence.


Mr. Bulatovic began his testimony last week, but refused to continue his testimony yesterday when the ICTY Registrar blocked Slobodan Milosevic from attending the trial.


Milosevic wanted to attend the hearing, but the Registrar said that his blood-pressure was too high and would not allow him to attend the proceedings.


The trial chamber ruled that the trial could be conducted in absentia. They based their ruling on the November 1, 2004 ruling of the appeals chamber, which states that “the presence of Assigned Counsel will enable the trial to continue even if Milosevic is temporarily unable to participate.”


Notice that the word they chose was PARTICIPATE. The Appeals Chamber said nothing about continuing the proceedings if Milosevic was unable to ATTEND. To continue a trial without an accused being present is a clear violation of Article 21.4 (D) of the Statute of the Tribunal.


Mr. Bulatovic refused to give evidence in Milosevic’s absence, and so today he was charged with contempt of court for refusing to answer the questions put to him in the absence of Milosevic.


The contempt charges against Mr. Bulatovic are completely baseless. He did not refuse to answer questions; he insists that he will gladly answer questions if Milosevic is present. Mr. Bulatovic was not disrespectful towards the tribunal, in spite of the fact that the prosecution and the bench, particularly Judge Bonamy, were very disrespectful and insulting towards him.


Today Mr. Bulatovic’s lawyer argued that his client could not be subjected to contempt charges because the trial chamber had no right to ask him to give any evidence in the absence of Milosevic. He argued that the trial chamber has no jurisdiction to conduct a trial in absentia.


Trial in absentia is a flagrant violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 14.3 (D) of the covenant gives everyone the right “to be tried in his presence, and to defend himself in person.”


If Mr. Bulatovic had agreed to continue his evidence in the absence of Milosevic, then he would have been participating in a gross violation of Slobodan Milosevic’s rights.


The trial chamber had absolutely no right or legal basis to order the trial to continue without Milosevic being present.


Not only was the trial chamber in violation of international law, it was in violation of the tribunal’s own statute. Article 21.4(D) of the tribunal’s statute gives Slobodan Milosevic the right “to be tried in his presence, and to defend himself in person.”


To continue the trial without Milosevic is a violation of the statute. Kosta Bulatovic was not contemptuous. The trial chamber did not have the right to continue the trial in Milosevic’s absence; therefore Mr. Bulatovic was under no obligation to participate in the illegal proceedings.


It is the trial chamber, not Mr. Bulatovic, who is in violation of the statute. If anybody should be subjected to criminal prosecution for violation of the rules it should be Mr. Robinson, Mr. Kwon, and Mr. Bonamy.


Kosta Bulatovic’s courage is to be commended. He is a frail old man who walks with a cane, and he is heroically refusing to cave-in to the pressure that the tribunal is exerting on him, they are threatening him with criminal prosecution. Contempt carries a punishment of a large fine and a prison sentence.


A lesser man would have agreed to violate Milosevic’s rights, and testify in his absence. All Mr. Bulatovic had to do was testify and none of this would have happened to him. Nobody would have thought less of him if he had testified. He is an old man and a refugee from Kosovo, who would have expected a man in his position to stand-up and fight against this massive evil machinery?


Kosta Bulatovic is a hero. Men like him are what make Serbia great. Some men only sing “Ko to Kaze Ko to Laze Srbija je Mala,” while great men like Kosta Bulatovic prove that the words are true.


The main trial is adjourned until Monday, April 25th, and Mr. Bulatovic’s contempt hearing is adjourned until Thursday, May 5th.

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