Year
2002
Month Day
February 12

Former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic goes on trial for war crimes

On February 12, 2002, former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic goes on trial at The Hague, Netherlands, on charges of genocide and war crimes in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo. Milosevic served as his own attorney for much of the prolonged trial, which ended without a verdict when the so-called “Butcher of the Balkans” was found dead at age 64 from an apparent heart attack in his prison cell on March 11, 2006.

Yugoslavia, consisting of Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia, became a federal republic, headed by Communist leader Marshal Tito, on January 31, 1946. Tito died in May 1980 and Yugoslavia, along with communism, crumbled over the next decade.

Milosevic, born August 20, 1941, joined the Communist Party at age 18; he became president of Serbia in 1989. On June 25, 1991, Croatia and Slovenia declared their independence from Yugoslavia and Milosevic sent tanks to the Slovenian border, sparking a brief war that ended in Slovenia’s secession. In Croatia, fighting broke out between Croats and ethnic Serbs and Serbia sent weapons and medical supplies to the Serbian rebels in Croatia. Croatian forces clashed with the Serb-led Yugoslav army troops and their Serb supporters. An estimated 10,000 people were killed and hundreds of Croatian towns were destroyed before a U.N. cease-fire was established in January 1992. In March, Bosnia-Herzegovina declared its independence, and Milosevic funded the subsequent Bosnian Serb rebellion, starting a war that killed an estimated 200,000 people, before a U.S.-brokered peace agreement was reached at Dayton, Ohio, in 1995.

In Kosovo, a formerly autonomous province of Serbia, liberation forces clashed with Serbs and the Yugoslav army was sent in. Amidst reports that Milosevic had launched an ethnic cleansing campaign against Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians, NATO forces launched air strikes against Yugoslavia in 1999.

Ineligible to run for a third term as Serbian president, Milosevic had made himself president of Yugoslavia in 1997. After losing the presidential election in September 2000, he refused to accept defeat until mass protests forced him to resign the following month. He was charged with corruption and abuse of power and finally surrendered to Serbian authorities on April 1, 2001, after a 26-hour standoff. That June, he was extradited to the Netherlands and indicted by a United Nations war crimes tribunal. Milosevic died in his cell of a heart attack before his trial could be completed.

In February 2003, Serbia and Montenegro became a commonwealth and officially dropped the name Yugoslavia. In June 2006, the two countries declared their independence from each other.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

The NAACP is founded

On February 12, 1909, the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth, a group that included African American leaders such as W.E.B. Du Bois and Ida B. Wells-Barnett announced the formation of a new organization. Called the National Association for the Advancement of Colored ...read more

Last emperor of China abdicates

On February 12, 1912, Hsian-T’ung, the last emperor of China, is forced to abdicate following Sun Yat-sen’s republican revolution. A provisional government was established in his place, ending 267 years of Manchu rule in China and 2,000 years of imperial rule. The former emperor, ...read more

Congress enacts first fugitive slave law

Congress passes the first fugitive slave law, requiring all states, including those that forbid slavery, to forcibly return slaves who have escaped from other states to their original owners. The laws stated that “no person held to service of labor in one state, under the laws ...read more

Release of U.S. POWs begins

The release of U.S. POWs begins in Hanoi as part of the Paris peace settlement. The return of U.S. POWs began when North Vietnam released 142 of 591 U.S. prisoners at Hanoi’s Gia Lam Airport. Part of what was called Operation Homecoming, the first 20 POWs arrived to a hero’s ...read more

Abraham Lincoln is born

Future president Abraham Lincoln is born in Hodgenville, Kentucky on February 12, 1809.  Lincoln, one of America’s most admired presidents, grew up a member of a poor family in Kentucky and Indiana. He attended school for only one year, but thereafter read on his own in a ...read more

Actor Sal Mineo is killed in Hollywood

Actor Sal Mineo is stabbed to death in Hollywood, California. Mineo was parking his car behind his apartment when neighbors heard his cries for help. Some described a white man with brown hair fleeing the scene. By the time they reached Mineo, he was almost dead from a deep wound ...read more

Ethan Allen dies

On February 12, 1789, Vermont Patriot Ethan Allen dies of a stroke at age 52 on his Winooski River homestead. Allen is best remembered as the patriotic leader of the Green Mountain Boys, who took the British fort at Ticonderoga with Benedict Arnold in May 1775. He also had a ...read more