Appeals judges at the U.N. war crimes tribunal ruled Monday that former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic will regain the right to defend himself, but said he must accept a standby attorney in case he becomes ill.
The written ruling by the five-judge panel reversed a decision by trial judges to impose a court-appointed attorney on Milosevic. "When he is physically capable of doing so, Milosevic will take the lead in his case," the appeals panel said.
But the ruling said an appointed attorney must remain on standby if Milosevic's "health problems resurface with sufficient gravity."
Milosevic is charged with war crimes and genocide in connection with the wars in Bosnia, Croatia and the Serbian province of Kosovo during the 1990s.
He defended himself during the first 21/2 years of his trial. But persistent health problems -- he was often ill with the flu or suffered symptoms of high blood pressure -- caused frequent postponements of courtroom sessions.
In September, the trial judges, citing Milosevic's deteriorating health, appointed British lawyer Steven Kay to defend him, a move that Milosevic protested. But the system proved all but unworkable when Milosevic refused to speak to Kay or participate in the proceedings.
Kay could only find four defense witnesses willing to testify. Almost all of Milosevic's other scheduled witnesses refused to come to The Hague unless the former president was allowed to defend himself.
In October, Kay asked to quit, saying it was impossible to defend a hostile client. People were "kidding themselves, making believe that what is happening here is a proper defense," Kay told appeals judges.
Prosecutors had argued that Milosevic's politicized statements showed he was unfit to act as his own counsel and that his reappointment would lead to more delays because of his ill health.