• RSS icon
  • Share icon
  • Printer-friendly version

Slobodan Milosevic

Last modified 27 April 2013.

First published 5 July 2001. Reviewed 18 June 2006

AKA 'Butcher of the Balkans'.

Country: Serbia.

Kill tally: Up to 230,000 killed and three million displaced.

Background: The southern Slavic states of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Macedonia begin to merge as a single nation following the First World War. But the legacy of a 400-year occupation by the Islamic Ottoman Empire and traditional tension between Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians frustrate attempts for unity. Following the Second World War, Yugoslav communists led by Marshal Josip Broz Tito take control of the government, declaring the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia on 29 November 1945.

The veneer of Yugoslav stability begins to crumble when Tito dies on 4 May 1980. The prosperous northern states of Croatia and Slovenia start to agitate for autonomy. Macedonia and the Muslim majorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Serbian province of Kosovo repeat the call. Serbia has political power under the federation and does not want change. The poorer southern state of Montenegro supports the centralised federation and backs Serbia. More background.

Mini biography: Born on 20 August 1941 in Pozarevac, 60 km southeast of Belgrade, in Serbia, Yugoslavia. He is the second son of a former Orthodox priest from Montenegro and a Serbian communist schoolmistress. Both parents commit suicide, his father in 1962, 15 years after abandoning the family to return to Montenegro, and his mother in 1973. An uncle, his mother's brother, also takes his own life.

While attending high school in Pozarevac Milosevic meets his future wife, Mirjana Markovic. A doctrinaire Marxist who comes to be known as the 'Red Witch' and the 'Lady Macbeth of the Balkans', Markovic has family connections to the upper echelons of the Tito government. She will be a driving force behind her husband. The couple marry in 1965. They will have two children, Marija and Marko.

1959 - Milosevic joins the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, renamed the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (LCY) in 1963. He becomes increasingly politically active while studying for a law degree at the University of Belgrade, earning the nickname 'Little Lenin' during his time as the head of ideology section of the Communist Party branch at the university.

1964 - He graduates from the University of Belgrade with a degree in law and begins a career in business administration, becoming head of Technogas, the state-owned gas company, in 1968. In 1978 he is appointed as president of Beobanka, the United Bank of Belgrade, where he serves until 1983. While with the bank he travels to Paris and New York and learns to speak English.

1974 - Changes to the Yugoslav constitution loosen the grip of the federal government on the constituent republics, which become de facto sovereign states. The Serbian provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo (where the majority of the population are ethnic Albanian Muslims) are given autonomy.

In response to the loosening of the federation Serb minorities living in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Kosovo claim they have been denied national rights, left unprotected and singled out for unfair treatment.

1984 - Milosevic enters politics fulltime, becoming leader of the local Belgrade Communist Party. His direct style and advocacy of Serbian nationalism appeal to the Serbian public.

1986 - He is elected leader of the League of Communists of Serbia (LCS). Pursuing his nationalist agenda, he calls on the federal government to restore full Serbian control over the Vojvodina and Kosovo and advocates the retention of the centralised federal political and economic system. He is reelected leader of the LCS in 1988.

Behind the scenes he begins to fill key positions in the LCS and the media with his supporters.

1987 - On 24 April Milosevic travels to Kosovo to hear the grievances of the Serb minority living there. When he tells a gathering of Serbs in the small town of Kosovo Polje, "From now on, no one has the right to beat you," he becomes almost overnight the recognised spokesman for nationalist Serbs across the federation.

Kosovo Polje is close to the battleground at Gazimestan where the Serbs were defeated by the Ottomans in 1389. Proximity to the battleground, which is considered by Serbs to be a sacred site, amplifies the nationalist resonance of Milosevic's statement. The Serb nationalist rhetoric, and Milosevic's profile, is further heightened by media coverage and rallies organised by his supporters.

In September Milosevic uses a meeting of the LCS to purge the party of his rivals, including his former mentor and Serbian President Ivan Stambolic. Further purges of dissenting voices in the LCS and the media entrench his control.

1988 - Milosevic organises "rallies of solidarity", uses the media to promote his nationalist agenda, and conspires to have the ethnic Albanian leaders of Vojvodina and Kosovo driven from office by violent Serb nationalist protests (in October and November respectively). His popularity climbs.

Meanwhile, the Federal Cabinet is unable to cope with a worsening economy and the rising push for autonomy from the Yugoslav republics and their provinces. The entire Cabinet resigns in October. In January 1989 the LCY votes to end its political monopoly, allowing multiparty elections across the federation.

1989 - The leadership of Montenegro is deposed in January. Milosevic is elected president of Serbia on 8 May, remaining in the position until 1997. He immediately acts to oppose the movement for autonomy and to subvert the multiparty system. The Serbian constitution is changed to curtail the independence of the Kosovo and Vojvodina provinces. Both provinces are reabsorbed into Serbia.

On 28 June Milosevic returns to Kosovo Polje to commemorate the 600th anniversary of the 1389 battle at Gazimestan. Addressing a crowd of hundreds of thousands of Serbs he says, "Once we were brave and dignified. ... Six centuries later we are again in battles and quarrels. ... They are not armed battles, though such things should not be excluded yet."

Serbs from minority enclaves throughout Yugoslavia are recruited to push the Milosevic line. The media is muzzled and opponents intimidated. Tensions rise.

Anti-Serb sentiments begin to grow in the other republics, which accuse Milosevic of plotting to build a "Greater Serbia" encompassing the Serb enclaves. His popularity at home reaches its zenith.

1990 - The LCY relinquishes power at the federal level, splitting into separate party organisations in each of the republics. Milosevic transforms the LCS into the Socialist Party of Serbia on 16 July and is elected as its leader.

In multiparty elections held in December noncommunist groups win government in both Croatia and Slovenia while Milosevic is returned to office in Serbia with a huge majority. He is reelected Serbian president in 1992.

1991 - On 9 March Milosevic sends tanks into the streets of Belgrade to end a student demonstration against his government. In June, after autonomy negotiations with Milosevic and Serbia break down, Slovenia and Croatia unilaterally declare their independence. The Federal Government orders the Serb-dominated army to suppress the secessionists.

Behind the scenes Milosevic promises the Slovenes that they will be allowed to secede if they do not oppose his plan to annex Serb-dominated areas in Croatia. After a 10-day war the federal forces withdraw from Slovenia. Up to 100 have died and hundreds have been injured in what has essentially been a sham conflict.

The war in Croatia is fought in earnest over seven months, ending in January 1992 with a cease-fire. About 20,000 die and hundreds of thousands are driven from their homes. Croatia loses more than one-third of its territory and famous ancient cities such as Dubrovnik are largely destroyed. Macedonia declares its independence in September 1991.

It is later reported that at secret talks held during the year Milosevic and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman have agreed to carve up Bosnia-Herzegovina between their respective nations.

1992 - Bosnia-Herzegovina's Muslim and Croatian majority vote to secede from the federation. The country is proclaimed an independent republic on 3 March. The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, now comprised of only Serbia and Montenegro, has effectively come to an end. On 27 April Serbia and Montenegro formally agree to unite as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Bosnian-Serb minority, who boycotted the secession vote, rebel. With Milosevic's backing and the aid of Yugoslav Army troops, Bosnian-Serb militias, led by Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, begin to forcibly seize territory, eventually taking control of two-thirds of the state. The conflict soon spills into Croatia.

The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia will last for three years, causing devastation in those countries and deprivation in Serbia, which suffers from trade sanctions applied by the United Nations (UN).

As the war escalates the Bosnian-Serb militias attempt to expel Bosnia's Muslim and Croat population from the Serb-held territories in an orchestrated program of "ethnic cleansing."

Muslims and Croats are either forced into exile as refugees, held as hostages for use in prisoner exchanges, or placed in concentration camps. Many are summarily executed. An estimated 20,000 Muslim women and girls are thrown into rape camps.

In the opening months of the war 100,000 or more people are killed and up to three million are dispossessed. Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, is placed under siege, with Serbian artillery positioned in the surrounding hills bombing the city's streets and marketplaces while Serbian snipers target the unlucky and unwary.

Croatian forces attempt to take advantage of the situation and seize territory in Bosnia. They are resisted by the Bosnian-Muslims. Meanwhile, the Serbian economy undergoes a rapid collapse, with inflation skyrocketing out of control.

1994 - In March Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia reach an agreement to form a joint federation and end their hostilities. The Croatian and Bosnian-Muslim forces join in opposition to the Serbs, launching an offensive in April and May.

In December the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) forces a cease-fire in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the withdrawal of Serbian artillery. The cease-fire holds until March 1995.

1995 - The Serb militias are brought to a standstill in Bosnia. To the west, they are overwhelmed by the Croatian Army and driven, along with almost the entire Serbian-Croat population, out of Croatia.

In May NATO launches air strikes against Serb targets after the Serb forces refuse to comply with a UN ultimatum to remove all heavy weapons from a 12-mile exclusion zone around Sarajevo. Joint Croatian-Bosnian operations and further air strikes in May, August and September eject Serbian forces from large areas of western Bosnia.

In the east of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bosnian-Serb militias aided by Yugoslav Army troops take the UN "safe area" of Srebrenica in July. Over 40,000 Bosnian-Muslims who had sought safety there are expelled. Between 5,000 and 8,000 are executed, allegedly on the order of Ratko Mladic.

The siege of Sarajevo ends in mid-September when the Bosnian-Serbs agree to withdraw their heavy weapons. Approximately 10,000 people have been killed in Sarajevo during the siege, including about 1,500 children.

On 21 November Milosevic, Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman ratify the Dayton accord for peace in Bosnia. Radovan Karadzic is forced to accept the accord when Milosevic closes the border with Bosnia-Herzegovina and turns his back on the Bosnian-Serbs.

Under the accord, Bosnia-Herzegovina is divided into a Muslim-Croat federation and a Bosnian-Serb mini-state (the Republika Srpska) under a unified presidency but with separate governments. The trade sanctions against Serbia are lifted.

The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina has cost up to 200,000 lives. As many as three million have been driven from their homes and tens of thousands are missing.

1996 - Criticism of Milosevic begins to grow in Serbia. When he overturns opposition victories at local elections held in November large protests break out and he is almost deposed. Milosevic backs down and agrees to respect the election results.

1997 - Constitutionally barred from a third term as Serbia's president, Milosevic becomes president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) in July, serving until 2000, when he is forced to step down. As president he is also commander-in-chief of the federal armed forces.

1998 - Ethnic Albanians living in the Serbian province of Kosovo recommence their campaign for independence. The situation quickly degenerates into armed conflict between federal security forces and the guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

In September the UN Security Council adopts a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in Kosovo and the commencement of talks. When NATO authorises air strikes against Serb military targets Milosevic relents and agrees to withdraw some of the Serbian forces from Kosovo.

1999 - In March Serbia refuses to sign a peace deal giving autonomy to Kosovo and launches a major offensive against the KLA. On 24 March NATO responds, beginning a prolonged campaign of air strikes against targets inside Serbia. Milosevic counterstrikes by ordering a program of ethnic cleansing of the Kosovo-Albanians. Hundreds of thousands are forced to flee as refugees.

In May the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia at The Hague indicts Milosevic for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Kosovo.

The NATO bombing continues for 78 days until Milosevic capitulates in early June. Serb forces withdraw from Kosovo and UN peacekeepers are sent in. Up to 10,000 have died, thousands are missing and 740,000 ethnic Albanians have been forced into exile.

Milosevic clings on to power in Serbia, despite mounting protests and the extension of trade sanctions. Montenegro, meanwhile, begins calling for greater autonomy within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

In July it is reported that United States President Bill Clinton has authorised the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to initiate covert and overt measures to topple Milosevic. According to 'Time' magazine, these measures could include the "disruption" of Milosevic's private financial transactions and the fomenting of greater anti-Milosevic sentiment within Yugoslavia.

Opposition groups within Serbia receive substantial funding from the US and a US$5 million reward is offered for information leading to the arrest or conviction of anyone indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal, including Milosevic.

Meanwhile, a CIA psychiatric profile of Milosevic concludes that he has "a malignant narcissistic personality ... strongly self-centred, vain and full of self-love."

2000 - Milosevic strikes back at his opponents. He amends the constitution to enable him to serve two more terms as president and makes the position subject to direct election. However, he has miscalculated.

In presidential elections held on 24 September Milosevic is defeated overwhelmingly by the Democratic Opposition of Serbia, a coalition of 18 parties led by Vojislav Koštunica. Milosevic refuses to accept the results and calls for a run-off election.

The Democratic Opposition turns to the people, urging them to force Milosevic to respect the result. The country is brought to a standstill by mass demonstrations led by the student organisation Otpor and a general strike led by coal miners. On 4 October convoys of Serbs from around the country descend on Belgrade en masse, breaking through police blockades to gather in front of the parliament. When the security forces at the parliament ignore orders and step aside, the people take over the building.

Faced with this situation and with Russia's backing of Koštunica, Milosevic finally agrees to step down. Koštunica becomes president on 7 October. In elections for the Serbian Parliament held in December, Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) wins only 14% of the vote.

2001 - Milosevic is arrested and imprisoned by the Serb Government on 1 April on charges of abuse of power and corruption. He is accused of smuggling gold bullion out of the country and of having arranged the assassinations of political opponents.

On 28 June, the anniversary of the 1389 battle at Kosovo Polje, he is extradited to The Hague to face the UN Criminal Tribunal for his role in the atrocities committed by Serbian forces during the Kosovo conflict. He is charged with the murder of 900 Kosovo-Albanians and the deportation of 740,000 more. He is the first head of state ever be brought before an international war crimes court.

At the end of November the indictment is extended to include acts of genocide committed during the war in Bosnia.

Milosevic is allowed two rooms at The Hague, one a three by five metre cell in the high-security men's prison, where he sleeps, and the other an "office" at the tribunal where he receives visitors and interviews witnesses. He is allowed a fax machine, a telephone, a printer, and a computer, but is denied access to the internet.

2002 - Milosevic's trial at The Hague begins on 12 February. He faces a total of 66 counts for crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and regulations of war in Croatia (1991), Bosnia-Herzegovina (1992-95) and Kosovo (1999), including one count of genocide and one of complicity in genocide for the Srebrenica massacre. The indictments are merged to allow one continuous hearing, with those relating to Kosovo to be heard first. Link to trial website.

Most of the alleged crimes carry a life sentence, but there is no death penalty. Milosevic has a right of appeal and is entitled to full and advance disclosure of all prosecution evidence.

A panel of three international judges will hear the trial. There is no jury.

Milosevic, who holds a law degree but has no prior courtroom experience, refuses to enter a plea and insists on conducting his own defence. He dismisses the charges against him as politically motivated lies and says that he does not recognise the court.

The trial judges enter a plea of "not guilty" on Milosevic's behalf and appoint three international lawyers as 'amici curiae' (friends of the court) to help ensure that he gets a fair trial.

On 25 July The Hague reveals that two doctors appointed by the tribunal have found that Milosevic suffers from high blood pressure and a heart condition. The trial will subsequently be interrupted on numerous occasions because of Milosevic's ill-health. On 30 September 2003 it is further slowed when the tribunal judges agree to reduce the number of sittings to three half-days a week due to concerns about the defendant's health.

However, despite his health problems, Milosevic continues to smoke and takes little exercise. He is also reluctant to take prescribed drugs to control his blood pressure, saying they make him drowsy.

2003 - On 19 January Milosevic is reelected as president of the SPS, even though he remains in custody in The Hague and had requested that someone else be given the post.

In April Serbian police charge Milosevic with "inciting" the murder of former Serbian President Ivan Stambolic in August 2000 and "organising a criminal group" that attempted to kill the opposition leader Vuk Draskovic in June of the same year.

Milosevic suffers another set back on 20 May when the tribunal gives the prosecution 100 extra days to present its case, ensuring that what has now become the longest war crimes trial in history will extend well into 2005.

Meanwhile, Croatia and Serbia-Montenegro move towards reconciliation on 10 September when the presidents of both countries apologise to one another for "all the evils" done by their countries in wars. The following month, during a visit to Sarajevo, the president of Serbia-Montenegro, Svetozar Marovic, apologises for the abuses committed during the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"I want to use this opportunity to apologise for any evil or disaster that anyone from Serbia and Montenegro caused to anyone in Bosnia-Herzegovina," Marovic says. "There were injustices, evil and killings, but we both need to be brave to say that we are ready to forgive and to go forward."

Back at The Hague, the tribunal hears damning evidence against Milosevic when retired US General and former NATO Commander Wesley Clark provides testimony in closed sessions conducted on 15 and 16 December.

Recalling an exchange with Milosevic on the massacre at Srebrenica, Clark says, "I simply asked him. I said, 'Mr President, you say you have so much influence over Bosnian-Serbs, but how is it then, if you have such influence, that you allowed General Mladic to kill all those people in Srebrenica?' And Milosevic looked at me and he paused for a moment. He then said, 'Well, General Clark,' he said, 'I warned Mladic not to do this, but he didn't listen to me."

According to Clark, this admission "to me was so stunning at that point that I then recall telling the delegation later about this, because I viewed that as an admission that he had foreknowledge of Srebrenica. And what I could not tell was whether or not he was telling the truth when he said he told him (Mladic) not to do it and he didn't listen. But I did take it as an acknowledgement of foreknowledge of what was going to happen at Srebrenica."

Clark also provides testimony on a conversation with Milosevic concerning Kosovo. "President Milosevic was musing philosophically about this," Clark says, "And he turned to me and said, 'General Clark,' he said, 'We know how to handle these murderers, these rapists, these criminals.' He said, 'We've done this before.' I said, 'Well, when?' He said, 'In Drenica in 1946.' And I said, 'What did you do?' He said, 'We killed them.' He said, 'We killed them all.' I was stunned at the vehemence with which he spoke, and I just looked at him."

As the year draws to a close it is announced that despite his being on trial, Milosevic intends to run as the principal candidate for the SPS in elections to be held in Serbia on 28 December. While convicted prisoners are banned from contesting elections in Serbia, suspects or those who have served their jail terms can stand for parliament.

The SPS wins 22 seats in the election, which sees a general swing to nationalist candidates and the removal of the pro-Western Democratic Party from government. However, the SPS decides not to protest Milosevic's trial by allocating him a seat, pledging instead to make room for him "as soon as he returns from The Hague."

2004 - On 12 February the tribunal hears testimony from the commander of UN forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina during 1992 and 1993, retired French General Philippe Morillon.

"They were in this hellish circle of revenge," Morillon says of the relations between the ethnic groups in Bosnia-Herzegovina. "It was more than revenge that animated them all. Not only the men, the women, the entire population was imbued with this. It wasn't the sickness of fear that had infected the entire population of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the fear of being dominated, of being eliminated. It was pure hatred."

The case for the prosecution against Milosevic finally concludes on 25 February after receiving evidence from about 290 witnesses over 300 trial days.

Following the wind-up of the prosecution case, chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte concedes that her team has not produced a "smoking gun in the count of genocide", but insists that the "fact" that genocide occurred has been proven.

"Genocide needs a specific intent, it is a subjective element, and it is very difficult to prove if you don't have a guilty plea or witnesses," she says.

Del Ponte later says that the prosecution will maintain the count of genocide. "We insist that the evidence we have collected and will present in court is enough to obtain the conviction of Milosevic for genocide, but of course it will be the judges who decide on that," she says.

Meanwhile in Serbia, the trial of Milosevic and eight others for the murder of former Serbian President Ivan Stambolic begins on 23 February, although Milosevic's case is put aside until his trial in The Hague concludes.

On 25 March the international anticorruption organisation Transparency International (TI) places Milosevic at fifth on a list of the world's most corrupt political leaders of the past two decades. According to TI, Milosevic is alleged to have embezzled US$1 billion from Yugoslavia.

The TI estimate is later quoted in a report by the Stolen Assets Recovery Initiative, a joint venture of the World Bank and the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime.

On 30 March the nationalist-controlled Serbian Parliament votes by 141 to 35 in favour of a bill providing Milosevic and all other Serbian war crimes suspects on trial in The Hague with benefits including payment of legal fees and compensation for lost salaries.

The bill also provides help to spouses, siblings, parents and children for transport and hotel costs, telephone and mail bills, visa fees and legal costs.

The next day the US suspends aid to Serbia-Montenegro worth US$25 million because of its failure to hand over war crimes suspects, including Ratko Mladic.

In the middle of April Milosevic submits a list of the 1,631 witnesses he wants to call in the case of his defence, almost six times more than the number called by the prosecution. Included on the list are former US President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook.

Milosevic will have just 150 scheduled trial days to question the witnesses.

On 19 April the Criminal Tribunal at The Hague rules in a separate case that the massacre at Srebrenica was an act of genocide. "The appeals chamber calls the massacre at Srebrenica by its proper name: genocide," says the tribunal's president, Judge Theodor Meron.

"Those responsible will bear this stigma, and it will serve as a warning to those who may in future contemplate the commission of such a heinous act."

On 11 June the Srebrenica Commission releases a report that establishes the "participation of (Bosnian-Serb) military and police units, including special units" in the massacre. The 42-page report also implicates Serbia in the killings, noting that Serbian police units were ordered to participate.

Composed of Bosnian-Serb judges and lawyers, a victims' representative, and an international expert, the seven-member Srebrenica Commission was formed in 2003 by Bosnia's international administrator, Lord Ashdown, to investigate who was involved in the massacre and where victims' bodies are buried.

In The Hague, Milosevic begins his defence on 31 August. "Accusations levelled against me are an unscrupulous lie and also a tireless distortion of history," he says in his opening statement. "Everything has been presented in a lopsided manner in order to protect those who are truly responsible."

Among those "truly responsible", Milosevic lists the US, the European Union, Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright, Tony Blair, former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the Vatican, fascists, neo-Nazis, the "Croatian Ustashe", "Albanian terrorists", "Bosnian Islamic fundamentalists", the mullahs of Iran, the Hezbollah of Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia.

"The Serb people, the Serb leadership and I personally made every attempt to preserve the Yugoslav community. We were on the side of the law," Milosevic says.

"Yugoslavia didn't simply disappear into thin air. It was destroyed violently by a plan and by a war that is still being waged. ... The war in Yugoslavia was not started by Serbs or in Serbia. It was started by Ustashe, neo-Nazis, Islamic fundamentalists, and Albanian terrorists. It is not hard to prove. ...

"A multi-ethnic, multi-confessional state was destroyed ... this constitutes the gravest international crime," he says. "Hundreds of thousands of people were wounded and maimed. Thousands of people fled their homes, mostly Serbs."

According to Milosevic, the tribunal has been established "with the sole purpose in mind of covering up the mistakes of failed Western policy."

"The fratricidal war in Yugoslavia was instigated and supported precisely by those who established this court of yours. ...

"They call themselves the 'international community', but in the territory of Yugoslavia - Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo - they supported a totalitarian chauvinist elite, terrorists, Islamic fundamentalists, neo-Nazis, whose objective was an ethnically pure state. That is to say, a state without any Serbs."

Meanwhile, on 14 November the Norwegian News Agency publishes a report stating that research done by the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has concluded that about 103,000 people were killed during the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

According to the report, the researchers found that 55,261 civilians and 47,360 soldiers died as a direct result of the conflict. Of the civilians, about 38,000 were Muslims and Croats and about 16,700 were Serbs. Of the soldiers, about 28,000 were from the mostly Muslim Bosnian Government Army, about 14,000 were from the Bosnian-Serb forces and about 6,000 were Bosnian-Croat troops.

The estimates exclude those who died from indirect causes such as starvation, cold and lack of medical care.

In June 2007 the Sarajevo Research and Documentation Centre reports that at least 97,207 people were killed during the war. Of this number, 39,684 were civilians and 57,523 military personnel, the report states. About 66% of the victims were Bosnian Muslims, 26% were Serbs and 8% were Croats. However, the figures in the report also exclude those who died from indirect causes.

2005 - Delays to Milosevic's trial continue due to his ill-health. In April the prosecution asks Milosevic to speed up his case and requests that the court work longer hours.

On 1 June the tribunal is shown a videotape of six prisoners from Srebrenica being executed by members of the 'Skorpions', a police commando unit tied to the secret service branch of the Serbian Ministry of Interior. The tape is considered to provide incontrovertible proof that Serbia was involved in the massacres at Srebrenica.

Milosevic denies that the Skorpions were under his control and questions the authenticity of the videotape. "This footage has no connection with Srebrenica at all," he says. "It is obvious that the Skorpions were not a part of the Serbian police force in 1995."

Meanwhile, on 9 June the Bosnian daily newspaper 'Oslobodjenje' reports that the Bosnian-Serb Government has admitted that police from Serbia did take part in the massacre at Srebrenica.

According to the paper, the admission is contained in the latest report by the Srebrenica Commission. "The Bosnian-Serb Interior Ministry in cooperation with the panel has confirmed the involvement in the Srebrenica massacre of joint forces of the Serbian Interior Ministry," the paper quotes the report as saying.

On 18 July the Special Court in Belgrade convicts Milosevic's paramilitary commander, his secret police chief and five others for the murder of former Serbian President Ivan Stambolic in 2000. The seven are sentenced to jail terms of between 15 and 40 years.

According to Chief Judge Dragoljub Albijanic, Milosevic ordered the deaths of Stambolic and then opposition leader Vuk Draskovic because he believed they threatened his grip on power.

Milosevic's trial for his part in the murder is not set to begin until the proceedings at The Hague conclude.

On 13 November 'The New York Times' reports that a medical assessment of Milosevic has found that because his condition is "unstable" and further "complications" might arise he required complete rest "for a minimum of six weeks."

The assessment was conducted by three international doctors at the request of Milosevic's legal team.

2006 - On 27 February the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also know as the World Court, begins hearings in a case of genocide that was brought against Yugoslavia by Bosnia-Herzegovina in March 1993.

The ICJ was set up after the Second World War to deal with disputes between states. The court has the authority to order Serbia-Montenegro (the successor state to Yugoslavia) to pay damages if it is found responsible for acts of genocide that occurred in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the 1992-95 conflict.

It is the first time a state has been brought to court to face a charge of genocide.

Milosevic's trial comes to an abrupt halt on the morning of 11 March when he is found dead in his cell. He has died in his bed from heart failure at some time between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.. There are no suspicious circumstances.

His trial is officially terminated on 14 March. After 467 days of sittings it ends without a verdict.

Milosevic's body is returned to Serbia but is denied a state funeral. The coffin is placed on public display in the Museum of the Revolution in Belgrade before being transported to Milosevic's home town of Pozarevac for burial on 18 March.

The funeral procession stops in front of the Parliament in the centre of Belgrade for an unofficial ceremony that is attended by more than 50,000. At dusk Milosevic is buried under a tree in the back garden of his family home.

Neither his wife, who is in self-imposed exile in Russia and faces charges of abuse of power and fraud if she returns to Serbia, nor his two children attend the funeral.

Postscript

On 21 May 2006 Montenegro votes to split from the federation with Serbia. Montenegro formally declares its independence on 3 June.

In June Serbia's Supreme Court finds that Milosevic ordered the murder of Serb President Ivan Stambolic in August 2000.

"The primary court defined and showed, and the Supreme Court also accepts, that Slobodan Milosevic gave an order for the murder of Stambolic and (then opposition leader) Draskovic as his political opponents," the court finds.

On 26 February 2007 the ICJ hands down its ruling in the genocide case brought against Yugoslavia by Bosnia-Herzegovina. The court finds that while Serbia, the sole remaining successor of Yugoslavia, had not committed, incited or been complicit in genocide, it had failed to prevent what happened at Srebrenica despite its awareness of "a serious risk" of mass murder and its "known influence" over the Bosnian-Serb militia.

The court finds that "financial compensation is not the appropriate form of reparation." It calls instead for the arrest and delivery of Ratko Mladic to The Hague and a formal declaration from Serbia that it failed to prevent an act of genocide at Srebrenica.

On 17 February 2008 Kosovo unilaterally declares its independence from Serbia. The disintegration of Yugoslavia is now complete.

In May 2008 the ICJ begins to hear a second charge of genocide filed against Serbia, this time by Croatia. A judgement is expected later in the year.

Comment: From a commentary by Paddy Ashdown, Bosnia's international administrator, published in the 'Observer', 12 March 2006:

"I met Milosevic on many occasions and of course I gave evidence against him in The Hague. He was a tough, clever, charismatic leader. He was called a nationalist, but he wasn't. He was an opportunist who rode the nationalist bandwagon. There is no doubt he was personally responsible as the architect, along with Franjo Tudjman, of the Balkans tragedy of the Nineties. He had seductive qualities which were sufficiently powerful to seduce many Western states who for far too long believed him to be part of the solution rather than the problem. ... I think he will be remembered as an extremely malign influence - a clever man whose undoubted intelligence was put to malevolent effect - and as the architect not only of the humiliation of his nation, the great nation of Serbs, but also their shame and the deaths of tens of thousands."

From the 'Observer' editorial 12 March 2006:

"In the end, if there is a real lesson to be learned, it is about the seductive power of dictatorship. An unstable but charming killer fooled so many people. He seduced diplomats and wooed politicians. He beguiled the Serbian public. The international community will again need to confront charismatic leaders with inflammatory agendas. It will again be tempted to appease them. Milosevic's death is a timely reminder of the lesson burned into an older generation of Europeans scarred by genocide: never again."

From the 'Guardian' obituary by Ian Traynor, 13 March 2006:

"Before the wars started in 1991, Warren Zimmerman, the late US ambassador in Belgrade told me: 'Milosevic can utter the most egregious falsehoods with the appearance of the utmost sincerity. He is a Machiavellian character for whom truth has no inherent value of its own. It's there to be manipulated.' ... The other constant leitmotifs of the Milosevic career were treachery and betrayal on a grand scale ... from Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic ... to his patron Stambolic ... not to mention the Serbs of Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo whom he used and encouraged for the wars before simply dropping them when the going got tough."

From the 'Guardian' editorial 13 March 2006:

"Tactically shrewd, strategically inept and morally void, he went down the road to war without ever really considering why he was doing so, what the human costs would be, and whether there was any real chance of building an enlarged Serbia on the ruins of the Yugoslav federation. "

From 'The Washington Post' editorial 14 March 2006:

"He bombarded Serbs with lies and hateful demagoguery about their supposed victimisation at the hands of Croats, Bosnian Muslims and Kosovo Albanians, and he convinced them that the only solution was a Greater Serbia created through war and ethnic cleansing. ... More than is generally recognised, at least in his own country, he was personally responsible for the most destructive conflict, and the most terrible atrocities, recorded in Europe since World War II. There were other protagonists and other criminals, some of them Croatian, Bosnian and Albanian. But without Mr Milosevic the Yugoslav wars wouldn't have happened."