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Arrest and Transfer

On 27 May 1999, Prosecutor Louise Arbour announced that arrest warrants had been issued against Slobodan Milošević and his four co-perpetrators - President of Serbia Milan Milutinović, Yugoslav Army Chief of Staff Dragoljub Ojdanić, Serbian Interior Minister Vlajko Stojiljković and Federal Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Šainović - for crimes committed in Kosovo.

The ICTY does not have an armed force that can enter a sovereign country and execute an arrest warrant. At the time, Yugoslavia was in a state of war, and the Prosecution alleged that Slobodan Milošević, then its President, commanded both the army and the police forces. With Milošević controlling the levers of power, who would be able to execute the arrest warrants and transfer the accused to The Hague?

When she announced the indictment, Prosecutor Arbour called on all the accused to surrender voluntarily, and in the event that they did not, for the Minister of Justice to provide for their arrest and transfer.

At a minimum, the arrest warrants made it impossible for Slobodan Milošević to leave Yugoslavia. The Tribunal served arrest warrants against him and his co-accused on every UN Member State, together with orders to search for and freeze all of their assets so that they could not use them to evade justice.

None of the accused surrendered or were arrested. But a change in the political scene following the September 2000 presidential elections and mass street protests in October 2000 led to Milošević's ouster from power. Soon after, in December 2000, Serbia’s reformist alliance won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections and opposition leader Zoran Djindjić became Serbia’s new Prime Minister. In January 2001, the new Serbian authorities placed Milošević under round-the-clock police surveillance in Belgrade, and began investigating allegations that he had misused state funds and abused his office. They later imprisoned him and charged him with misappropriation of state funds and abuse of power.

Throughout this time the Tribunal urged the new authorities in Belgrade to transfer Milošević into its custody to stand trial. The ICTY President and Prosecutor insisted that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had an international obligation to transfer Milošević to The Hague. Supporting the Tribunal and the rule of law, the United States made US government aid to Yugoslavia conditional on Milošević’s handover to the ICTY.

In June 2001, ahead of an international donors’ conference to collect pledges of financial assistance for Yugoslavia, reformist ministers in the Yugoslav government pushed through a decree paving the way for the transfer of war crimes suspects to the Tribunal. On 28 June 2001, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjić authorised Milošević’s transfer to The Hague.

In the early morning hours of 29 June 2001 Slobodan Milošević was transferred into the custody of the UN Detention Unit in The Hague.

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