“On May 22, I presented an indictment for confirmation against Slobodan Milošević and four others charging them with crimes against humanity – specifically, murder, deportation and persecutions, and with violations of the laws or customs of war. The indictment was confirmed by a Judge of this Tribunal on May 24.”
Prosecutor Louise Arbour, announcing the indictment against Slobodan Milošević for crimes committed in Kosovo, 27 May 1999.
The indictment against Slobodan Milošević for crimes committed in Kosovo was the first against a sitting head of state ever to be issued by an international tribunal. On 8 October 2001, soon after Slobodan Milošević had been transferred to the Tribunal’s custody, the Office of the Prosecutor also indicted him for crimes committed in Croatia, and on 22 November 2001 for crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Altogether, Slobodan Milošević faced 66 counts for crimes committed against many thousands of victims.
In Kosovo, Slobodan Milošević, then the President of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, was alleged to have led a conspiracy to expel a substantial part of the Kosovo Albanian population in order to ensure Serbian control over the province. The indictment alleges that forces under his command expelled some 800,000 Kosovo Albanian civilians, murdered hundreds of Kosovo Albanian men, women and children, sexually assaulted many women, and destroyed and looted Kosovo Albanian property. The indictment also alleges that forces under Milošević’s command perpetrated these crimes in a systematic manner all over Kosovo.
In its indictments against him for crimes in both Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Prosecution alleged that Slobodan Milošević, then the President of the Republic of Serbia, led a similar conspiracy to expel non-Serbs from large areas of both countries. The indictments allege that forces under his command attacked and took control of villages, towns, and entire municipalities in Croatia from August 1991 to June 1992 and in Bosnia and Herzegovina from March 1992 to December 1995. They then established a system to persecute non-Serbs in order to drive them from these territories. Men, women and children were forcibly expelled from their homes, rounded up and held in inhumane conditions in camps, sexually assaulted, beaten, tortured and many thousands were killed, as well as having their property and cultural institutions destroyed.
The Prosecution supported their allegations regarding crimes in Kosovo with evidence submitted to a Tribunal judge on 22 May 1999. This supporting evidence was handed over to Slobodan Milošević after he arrived in the Tribunal’s custody on 29 June 2001.
The judge confirmed the indictment on 24 May 1999, and it is as of that date that it became an official court document. Because at the time there were still UN staff in Yugoslavia, Prosecutor Arbour asked the judges to seal the indictment for several days, to permit them to evacuate and thus avoid possible retaliation. It was thus that Prosecutor Arbour announced the indictment several days after its confirmation, on 27 May 1999.
At that time, the conflict in Kosovo was still raging, with Yugoslav and Serb forces battling the Kosovo Liberation Army on the ground and NATO forces that were bombing from the air. The media speculated about the impact the indictment could have on ending hostilities.
Prosecutor Arbour stated that she was confident - as was the Security Council in creating the Tribunal and calling on it several times in 1998 and 1999 to address crimes being committed in Kosovo - that the indictment would contribute to lasting peace in both Kosovo and the region. “No credible, lasting peace can be built upon impunity and injustice,” she said. “The refusal to bring war criminals to account would be an affront to those who obey the law, and a betrayal of those who rely on it for their life and security.”