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Milosevic loses court challenge

THE HAGUE, The Netherlands -- Slobodan Milosevic has lost the first round in his attempt to get his war crimes case at The Hague thrown out.

Lawyers for the former Yugoslav president had tried to get the charges against him dropped on the grounds that the international war crimes tribunal is illegal.

They said the court, set up by an United Nations security council resolution in 1993, had no jurisdiction on Dutch territory because it did not have the vote of the whole general assembly.

They also argued that Milosevic had been "kidnapped" and taken to the court in the Netherlands against his will.

Lawyers for the defence said that Milosevic had recognised the tribunal when he signed the 1995 Dayton peace accords ending four years of wars in the Balkans.

The Dutch district judge Roel Paris rejected the argument, saying in a written statement that the war crimes tribunal was both "independent and impartial."

After a week's deliberation, the judge said: "National and international law recognises that within Dutch law the tribunal has the exclusive authority to decide to detain suspects ... and that this is not The Netherlands' affair."

He added: "The plaintiffs claimed that the tribunal was not independent and impartial ... but the European Court of Human Rights already ruled that the court provides all protection of the rights of suspects, including impartiality and independence."

Milosevic's lawyers said they would go to a higher court to appeal against the ruling.

The decision, announced in Milosevic's absence on Friday, was the second blow to the 60-year-old in the space of a couple of days.

He is expected to be indicted by the U.N.'s chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte with the charge of genocide in Bosnia and Croatia.

Milosevic already faces three charges of crimes against humanity, including mass murder and deportation, and one of violations of the laws or customs of war during Serb "ethnic cleansing" against Kosovo Albanians in 1999.


• International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

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