History, not justice: the unfinished trial of Slobodan Milošević

3 September 2015

On 11 March 2006, just two months before the end of his official trial, former Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević died in his prison cell. The entire body of evidence to have been collected by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia research team - of which Nina Tromp was a member - would no longer be needed. No verdict was issued. Tromp decided to use the evidence as a basis for her doctoral research, for which she will earn her doctorate from the University of Amsterdam on Friday, 18 September.

Tromp: ‘It was early Saturday morning, 11 March 2006. I was just finishing breakfast before leaving to spend yet another weekend in the office, when the telephone rang. On the phone was Geoffrey Nice, the Principal Trial Attorney in charge of the team – of which I was a part – that was prosecuting Slobodan Milošević at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Very calmly, he told me: “You won’t need to go into the office today. He’s dead. He died last night. There’s no need to do any work today, or any other day. That’s it. That’s the end of the trial.”’

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History, not justice

At the time, Tromp had been serving as a member of the Leadership Research Team - a part of the prosecutor's office responsible for heading the Milošević investigation - for six years. The team mainly consisted of non-legal experts and researchers brought in to provide information and expertise on historical, political and military issues.

Tromp assessed aspects of Milošević’s behaviour and statements during the hearings - in which he conducted his own defence - in combination with carefully selected documentary evidence from an immense archive known only to a select group of researchers.

The tribunal archive comprised an enormous volume of evidence on the political and criminal culpability of individuals for the collapse of the former Yugoslavia and large-scale atrocities carried out during this period. The trial lasted 467 days, generating 49,191 pages of transcripts. Over 400 witnesses were interviewed.  The prosecutors submitted 5,750 documents (150,000 pages) as evidence, while Milošević's legal defence team submitted a total of 2107 (25,00

Milošević's leadership

‘As a part of my analysis of the research materials, I studied the methods applied by investigators at Nuremberg, the post-WWII trial against prominent members of the Nazi regime. The Milošević trial centred around his leadership and the question as to whether he had or had not approved and carried out a criminal plan. I decided to focus on three key themes: the leader, the ideology and the plan,' Tromp explains.

The investigation forced countries such as Serbia and Croatia to provide access to their archives, enabling researchers to view documentation that had previously been restricted. Tromp: ‘Even though the trial wasn't completed and no justice was served, the large volume of transcripts, witness statements and restricted documents does offer a unique historical source for future historiography of the conflict. I wanted to make sure these materials didn't go to waste'.

The doctoral thesis will be published by Routledge Publishers in 2016.

Details

N. Tromp-Vrkić: The Unfinished Trial of Slobodan Milošević: Justice Lost, History Told. Supervisor: Prof. J. Th. M. Houwink ten Cate; co-supervisor: Prof. N. Adler.

Time and location

The graduation ceremony will take place on Friday, 18 September at 13:00.
Location: Aula, Singel 411 (on the corner of Spui square), Amsterdam.

Published by  UvA Persvoorlichting