Primary Navigation

About Us


Teacher Horizontal Photo

The Milošević Trial: An Autopsy

Milošević, pictured behind a broken wall

About the Conference

February 18-21, 2010
Indiana University Maurer School of Law
211 South Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, Indiana 47405

The conference is co-sponsored by Indiana University's Russian and East European Institute and Center for West European Studies.

Additional support has been provided by Indiana University's Multi-Disciplinary Venture Fund; Office of the Vice-President for International Affairs; School of Journalism; International Studies; departments of Anthropology, History, and Slavic Languages and Literatures; Indiana Democracy Consortium; and Columbia University's Harriman Institute of the School of International and Public Affairs.

Contribution to Scholarship and Policy

It has been four years since the longest and most prominent war crimes trial of the modern era was brought to an abrupt halt by the defendant's death - leaving the court, the peoples of the former Yugoslavia, and the world community without a definitive legal resolution. Precisely because the trial ended without final judgment, its meaning and value are especially contested: for some, the indictment and trial of a sitting head of state reaffirmed the importance of international criminal law as a robust response to state criminality; for others, the collapse of this sprawling case proved the insufficiency of judicial responses to complex mass violence.

The Indiana University Maurer School of Law, in cooperation with the Russian and East European Institute and the Center for West European Studies, will conduct an autopsy of the Milošević trial — a clinical evaluation of the trial and its termination — and a biopsy of the institutional context in which the trial played out, as well as a prognosis for its legacy and impact.

It is an opportune time to consider both the full course of the Milošević trial and its developing impact on global efforts to regulate mass violence and war. Serious scholarship on the trial is now beginning to appear, clarifying the lines of contestation about what the trial meant and what lessons we should draw from it. Looking forward, the ICTY is nearing completion of its work, and legacy issues involving the trial - including how to dispose of the enormous archive of evidence - are increasingly on the agenda. The International Criminal Court (ICC) and other ad hoc tribunals need to take the lessons of Milošević into account in designing their own trials and institutions. A comprehensive, interdisciplinary examination of the Milošević trial's impact is therefore well-positioned to make an important contribution to both academic study and policy consideration of international criminal law's role in post-conflict justice.

What the Conference Will Address

Key issues this conference will address include:

  • determining the proper role of historical truth-telling in war crimes trials;
  • measuring the impact of trials in affected communities;
  • refining prosecutorial and judicial strategy in designing war crimes trials;
  • devising case management and institutional design lessons for complex leadership trials;
  • regulating access to trial archives by historians, victim communities and other courts;
  • and considering the relationship between formal, legal processes and broader post-conflict transitional justice initiatives.

We envision an arc in the conference's deliberations from past to future: from initial panels evaluating the course and context of the trial itself, though a speculative investigation of how the trial might have ended, to the final panels considering its potential impact of the future development of post-conflict justice. Was the trial on track to conviction - and on what counts? What effect would judgment have had? Why was the trial so long - what strategic and design choices affected the process? Most importantly, what is its legacy - for the ICTY, ICC and international criminal law more broadly, and for our understanding of intervention in and after conflict?

Conference Participants

Dejan Anastasijević
Vreme, Belgrade
Florian Bieber
University of Kent
David Binder
formerly with the New York Times
Lea Brilmayer
Yale University
Nancy Combs
College of William and Mary Law School
David Crowe
Elon University School of Law
Caroline Davidson
Willamette University College of Law
Filip Erdeljac
Ph.D. student, New York University
Alexander Greenawalt
Pace University School of Law
Florence Hartmann
former spokeswoman for the Office of the Prosecutor
Robert Hayden
University of Pittsburgh
Kevin Jon Heller
University of Melbourne, and
legal advisor to Radovan Karadzic
Gregory S. McNeal
Pepperdine University
Christian Axboe Nielsen
Aarhus University
Marko Prelec
International Crisis group, former member of Office of the Prosecutor
Sanja Popović
Associate, Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP
Yuval Shany
Hebrew University; Visiting Professor, Columbia University
Ljiljana Smajlović
President, Serbian Association of Journalists
Veton Surroi
KOHA Media Group
Zdenko Tomanović
Law Office Tomanovic, Milošević's legal advisor
Frances Trix
Indiana University, Department of Linguistics and Anthropology
Tibor Várady
Central European University; Professor of Law, Emory University
Timothy Waters
Indiana University, former member of Office of the Prosecutor

Conference Schedule

The schedule presents an outline. See the complete abstracts.
View the detailed schedule.

February 18, 2010
7 - 10 p.m.

Casual Drop In Dinner

Drop in dinner in the "Hump Room" of Nick's English Pub

February 19, 2010
8:30 - 9 a.m.
3rd Floor Lobby

Continental Breakfast

9 - 9:30
Conference Room


  • Dean Robel
    Dean and Val Nolan Professor of Law
  • Maria Bucur-Deckard
    Director, Russian and East European Institute, and
    Associate Professor of History
  • Lois Wise
    Professor and Director, Center for West European Studies and European Union Center of Excellence
  • Timothy Waters
    Associate Professor of Law
9:30 - 12
Conference Room

Panel I: Causes of Death

Milošević's death was the formal cause of the trial's termination, but is that what killed the trial? Was it murder, suicide, or a preventable accident? This section examines why the trial developed as it did: What strategies were adopted by the prosecution, defense and judges? What role did Milošević's self-representation play? Was the Prosecution justly criticized for attempting to 'tell the story of the whole war.' Did the ICTY's design and norms contribute to the ultimate demise? Was the trial fair — and to whom?

  • Marko Prelec

    Justice, Truth and Peace at the Hague Bourse

    Discussant: Alexander Greenawalt

  • Zdenko Tomanović

    Milošević's Day in Court

    Discussant: Christian Axboe Nielsen

12 - 2
Faculty Lounge


2 - 4:50
Conference Room

Panel II: Reporting the Demise

From its first day, impressions of the trial varied widely — from dramatic catharsis to the tedium of an actual trial in real time. This section examines the role of narrative and media in the trial. What role did media play in the public perceptions? How did the Tribunal's parties use or abuse public aspects of the trial? Did events in the courtroom shape attitudes in the former conflict zone? Were courtroom strategies themselves affected by perceptions in the former Yugoslavia? The section focuses particularly on public reaction in Serbia, but will also consider reaction in Bosnia and Kosovo.

  • Ljiljana Smajlović

    The View from Belgrade

    Discussant: Frances Trix

  • Filip Erdeljac

    From Corrupt Dictator to Self-Sacrificing Martyr: The Portrayal of the Milošević Trial in a Serbian Newspaper

    Discussant: Dejan Anastasijević

  • Florian Bieber

    The Show and the Trial: The Political Death of Milošević

    Discussant: David Binder

7 - 9:30


Uptown Cafe's Back Room

February 20, 2010
8 - 9 a.m.
3rd Floor Lobby

Continental Breakfast

9 - 11:50
Conference Room

Panel III. Final Examination

The Milošević trial was only 40 hours from conclusion, at least on the official calendar. So what would have happened? What would the prosecution and defense have said? What judgment would the court have issued? This section dissects claims about the cases for conviction or acquittal. Two chapters consider the important if contested interim decision issued at the end of the prosecution phase — the strategic uses to which this decision has been put and its uses as history. The third chapter sums the evidence against Milošević, especially in relation to charges of genocide, and considers what that evidence says about the tribunal and its place in history.

  • Timothy Waters

    Deploying the Rule 98bis Decision on the Motion to Acquit

    Discussant: Kevin Jon Heller

  • Christian Axboe Nielsen

    Can We Salvage a History of the Yugoslav Conflicts from the Milošević Trial?

    Discussant: Florian Bieber

  • David Crowe

    Slobodan Milošević: 'Desk Murderer,' 'Architect of Genocide,' or Victim of 'Victor's Justice'?

    Discussant: Yuval Shany

12 - 2
Faculty Lounge

Lunch and Plenary Speaker

  • Veton Surroi (KOHA Media Group)

2 - 4:50
Conference Room

Panel IV. Disposing of the Body

The purposes of international criminal law are as disputed as its processes and its decisions. The first two chapters in this section return the discussion to the effects of the Milošević trial and the ICTY: Is reconciliation an achievable purpose? What do international and local elites use the tribunal and its judgments to achieve? Then, in the third chapter, which provides a bridge to the next section, another historian considers what the body of evidence amassed by the ICTY could be used for, and what the obstacles to its use are, now that the ICTY's own demise is imminent.

  • Dejan Anastasijević

    Justice from Above: The ICTY as a Reconciliation Tool - Why Did It Fail?

    Discussant: Nancy Combs

  • Sanja Popović

    The Impossible Project: The Impact of the Milošević Trial on Reconciliation

    Discussant: Lea Brilmayer

  • Robert M. Hayden

    What's Reconciliation Got to Do with It? The ICTY as War by Other Means

    Discussants: Lea Brilmayer, David Crowe

7 - 9:30


Federal Room at the Indiana Memorial Union

February 21, 2010
8 - 9 a.m.
3rd Floor Lobby

Continental Breakfast

9 - 12:20
Conference Room

Panel V. Reanimation

For Milošević, the trial is over; for the rest of us, it lives on. Several of Milošević's codefendants have been convicted or acquitted, while the same crimes and claims alleged in Milošević's trial figure into cases before domestic war crimes courts in the former Yugoslavia. Farther afield, the trials of Saddam Hussein and Charles Taylor have been influenced by the experience of the Milošević trial. What role has his terminated trial played, and what role will it? What legacy and lessons does it hold for the design of justice in other courts and after other conflicts?

  • Yuval Shany

    The Uneasy Relationship between Individual and Collective Forms of Responsibility as Manifested in the Milošević and Bosnia Genocide Cases

    Discussant: Tibor Várady

  • Gregory S. McNeal

    An Analysis of Western Media Coverage of the Milošević Trial

    Discussant: Caroline Davidson

  • Florence Hartmann

    Abdicated Legacy: The Prosecution's Use of Evidence from Milošević

    Discussant: Marko Prelec

12:20 - 2




More Information

Faculty Organizers
Media Contact