VARIOUS: Reactions as Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic dies in jail as trial neared end
- Title: VARIOUS: Reactions as Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic dies in jail as trial neared end
- Date: 11th March 2006
- Summary: (FLASH) BELGRADE, SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO (MARCH 11, 2006) (REUTERS) WIDE SHOT BELGRADE STREET PEOPLE WALKING ON THE STREET
- Reuters ID: LVA7YL6H6UHUUMAOOXR6NRZSJIIX
- Duration: 00:00:05
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- Topics: International Relations
- Story Text: Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has died, the U.N. tribunal said on Saturday (March 11), just months before his trial for genocide and war crimes in the Balkans wars in the 1990s was expected to conclude.
The U.N. court said a medical officer confirmed Milosevic was dead and the Dutch police and a Dutch coroner were called in and started an inquiry. A full autopsy and toxicological examination had been ordered and Milosevic's family informed.
Milosevic, 64, rose to the top of Yugoslav politics in the power vacuum left by the 1980 death of post-World War Two Yugoslav dictator Marshal Tito. Elected Serbian president in 1990, he ruled with an iron grip until his overthrow in 2000.
"With the death of Milosevic, one of the main actors, if not the main actor, in the Balkan wars of the late 20th century has left the scene," French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told reporters, adding Milosevic had died of natural causes.
Milosevic was charged with 66 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in complex indictments covering bloody conflicts in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo as Yugoslavia imploded in the 1990s. He had declined to enter a plea.
Serbia-Montenegro Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic said it was a pity former President Slobodan Milosevic had not been tried in his own country.
"Milosevic organised many many assassinations of people of my party, of people of my family... He ordered a few times assassination attempts against my life," Draskovic told reporters at a European Union foreign ministers' meeting.
"What can I say? I can say it's a pity he didn't face justice in Belgrade," he said.
Milosevic suffered a heart condition and high blood pressure which had repeatedly interrupted his trial in The Hague that started in February 2002 and had been expected to end this year.
Residents of the capitol of former Yugoslavia, Belgrade, expressed sadness of the demise of their former leader and now accused of war crimes.
"I am sorry. He was a great man despite everything," said one lady.
Some also hinted strongly at the conditions in the Hague prison.
"I was surprised but it could have been expected considering the treatment he and the others had in the Hague. In any case for all those who are in the Hague it is a salvation compared to the sentence they are sure to get." says the student Ivan.
A tribunal spokeswoman said she could not comment on the cause of death until the autopsy was completed, but added: "We have no indication that it was suicide."
Cardiologists treating Milosevic in The Hague had warned he was at risk of a potentially life threatening condition known as a hypertensive emergency, when surges in blood pressure can damage the heart, kidneys and central nervous system.
Last month, the tribunal rejected a request by Milosevic to travel to Russia for specialist medical treatment, noting that his trial -- that has already lasted four years -- was in the final stages and he might not return to complete it.
Milosevic was the highest profile suspect at the Hague tribunal, which is still hunting six accused, among them former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander Ratko Mladic, both charged with genocide.
Looking pale and with his shock of white hair swept back, Milosevic said last month his health was worsening and he was hearing noises in his head. A lawyer by training, Milosevic was defending himself. He was sent to The Hague in June 2001.
Milosevic had used up more than four-fifths of the 150 days allotted for his defence, suggesting the case could have been wrapped up in the next few months barring any new delays. Judges would then need several months to deliberate before a verdict.
Last week, former rebel Croatian Serb leader Milan Babic committed suicide at the tribunal's detention centre. Babic had testified against Milosevic and was in The Hague to appear in the trial of another top Croatian Serb.
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