Court assigns lawyer to Milosevic

“It is plain from medical reports that the accused is not fit enough to represent himself and if he continues to do so it would cause further delays,” said presiding judge Patrick Robinson said.

“The trial chamber is satisfied… that the chamber is both competent to assign counsel to the accused and that it would be in the interest of justice to do so and we will do so.”

Milosevic immediately and vehemently rejected the ruling.

“I told you yesterday that I did believe and do believe now that the assignment of counsel directly violates my fundamental rights,” he said angrily.

The former leader is on trial for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from Balkan conflicts of the 1990s.

The court will now discuss how to appoint a defence lawyer and what its role would be.

Milosevic suffers from hypertension, a high blood pressure, which could develop “into a potentially life threatening situation”, the judges said.

His ill health has caused “major problems in the progress of the trial” which has already lasted over two and a half years, said Judge Robinson.

The prosecution case was interrupted over a dozen times and the start of the defence case was postponed five times because Milosevic fell ill.

“Based on the medical report there is a danger that the trial might last for an unreasonably long time or worse, not be concluded if the accused continues to represent himself,” the judges said in their ruling.

The former Yugoslav president faces more than 60 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the 1991-95 war in Croatia, the 1992-95 war in Bosnia and the Serb crackdown on Kosovo in 1998-99.

He has also been charged with genocide and complicity in genocide over the war in Bosnia, which left 200,000 people dead. He faces a life sentence if convicted.

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