Slobodan Miloević (20 August 1941 11 March 2006) was the president of Serbia and later Yugoslavia from 1989 to 1997 for the former and 1997 to October 2000 for the latter. Miloević is probably known as one of the most controversial presidents in the latter half of the 20th century, his presidency marked by the breakup of Yugoslavia and the subsequent Yugoslav Wars. Miloević's reign was marred by controversy regarding the incredible amount of allegations of human rights abuses and genocide that occurred in the wars in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo. Finally, NATO spearheaded an effort against Yugoslavia, leading to a series of bombings. In the midst of the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, Miloević was charged with war crimes including genocide, and crimes against humanity in connection to the wars, the first sitting President ever to be indicted in this manner. Miloević eventually resigned the Presidency in October 2000, due to massive protests throughout Serbia, and was arrested in March 2001 on suspicion of corruption, embezzlement and fraud. Miloević found himself indicted to International Court to stand trial for war crimes, where he conducted his own defense. After five years, the trial ended without verdict when Miloević died in his cell from complications related to his heart.
Miloević was born in Poarevac, four months after the Axis invasion of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia to a Serb Orthodox priest who later committed suicide, and was raised during the Axis occupation of World War II. Miloević went on to study law at the University of Belgrade's Law School, where he became the head of the ideology committee of the Yugoslav Communist League's (SKJ) student branch (SSOJ). While at the university, he befriended Ivan Stambolić, whose uncle Petar Stambolić had been a president of Serbian Executive Council (the Communist equivalent of a prime minister). This was to prove a crucial connection for Miloević's career prospects, as Stambolić sponsored his rise through the SKJ hierarchy.
Miloević began his political career as the economic adviser to Belgrade's mayor. He would later marry his childhood friend Mirjana Marković, who later became the leader of Slobodan's junior coalition partner, the Yugoslav Left. Miloević was later able to become the head of Beobanka, one of Yugoslavia's largest banks. A rising star in Yugoslavian politics by 1987, he soon found himself a popular candidate as he declared support for the Serbs in Kosovo who claimed oppression from the ethnic Albanians. Miloević railed against Albanian abuse of power and supported ethnic Serbs first and foremost. Miloević took steps to consolidate power by expelling members of his party who criticized his Kosovo stance. After quietly replacing their supporters with his own, Miloević's ascent to the presidency was assured.
Shortly after taking power, Miloević clamped down hard on civil and constitutional rights. Free media was mostly co-opted by the government, and free speech was restricted enormously. Miloević continued to utilize the Serbian nationalist agenda publicly, while allegations later followed that he had sent aid to 'freedom fighters' in Balkan conflicts. For more information on the conflicts, see The Yugoslav Wars.
During the Kosovo War, Miloević was indicted for crimes against humanity. Finally, he was defeated in an election by the opposition and was forced to concede power at last. Miloević was later apprehended and forced to stand trial before the Hague, where, as mentioned previously, he died five years into his trial, leaving behind a controversial legacy.