Milosevic in Detention at The Hague

ByABC News

June 28, 2001 -- Former Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic is in detention at a prison in The Hague, where he will face trail for alleged atrocities committed in Kosovo.

Milosevic, who would be the first former head of government to be brought before the International War Crimes Tribunal, arrived by helicopter at the Scheveningen jail around 1:15 a.m. Friday local time. A Hague spokesman confirmed Milosevic was in the detention unit.

His journey started earlier today when Yugoslav officials turned Milosevic in to tribunal officials.

"The former Yugoslav president was handed over to The Haguetribunal," Yugolsav government spokesman Nemanja Kolesar said in a brief statement.

Milosevic was indicted on charges that he orchestrated atrocities committed in Kosovo during the crackdown he ordered on the province'sethnic Albanian population. The crackdown ended after NATO's 78-day bombing campaign.

He was flown to a NATO military base in Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina, on a Serb aircraft. According to a senior Pentagon official, Milosevic was set to be picked up by British aircraft, with security from The Hague, and transported to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia at The Hague in the Netherlands.

NATO security at the Tuzla base was considerably beefed up in preparation for the arrival of the former Serb strongman, ABCNEWS has learned.

During the course of his 13-year authoritarian reign, Milosevic fomented a reawakening of Serb nationalism that saw his country through crippling wars in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo and the rending of the old state of Yugoslavia along ethnic lines.

After a Fight

Today's dramatic move came hours after Yugoslavia's highest court temporarily suspended a government decree intended to pave the way for Milosevic's extradition to The Hague.

The constitutional court said it wanted time to evaluate an appeal by Milosevic's lawyers against the decree, which was issued by the Yugoslav government last week.

The court's decision came a day after the United States rewarded Belgrade for its recent efforts to extradite Milosevic by agreeing to attend Friday's donors' conference in Brussels, Belgium.

Washington has maintained it would commit itself to aid — desperately needed in the war-ravaged country — only after Yugoslavia established that it was serious about handing over the man once known as "the Butcher of the Balkans" to an international war crimes tribunal.

Promises to Deliver Milosevic to The Hague

The decision to release Milosevic into the hands of the tribunal would likely have come from the government of Serbia, which together with Montenegro makes up the Yugoslav federation.

Senior Serbian officials, including Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, had earlier promised that Milosevic would be delivered to the U.N. tribunal no matter how the courts ruled.

Milosevic has been held in Belgrade's Central Prison since April while authorities were investigating allegations of corruption and abuse of power during his tenure. He was ousted last fall in a popular uprising.

Under the current leader, President Vojislav Kostunica, the government had been preparing the people for a extradition, using the media to inform Serbs about the crimes allegedly carried out by their former president.

In recent weeks, the media has aired Serbian police videos showing the excavation of three mass graves just 10 miles from Belgrade. Serb police say the bodies of 2,000 ethnic Albanians, mainly women and children, were transported from Kosovo two years ago and burned or buried on Milosevic's orders.

Milosevic was indicted by the tribunal in The Hague in May 1999, charged with crimes against humanity and accused of responsibility for atrocities committed during the Kosovo conflict.

Tribunal prosecutors have said they also plan to charge him for war crimes committed in Bosnia and Croatia.

At The Hague, Milosevic is expected to reside in a single-room cell like other detainees. Although the prosecution team has said it is ready to go to trial, the defense team is expected to take a few days before it makes its case.

Milosevic faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

ABCNEWS' Barbara Starr in Washington contributed to this report.

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