SLOBODAN Milosevic's contemptuous defiance of the United Nations tribunal at his arraignment for crimes against humanity was effective theater.
It will play well with some Serbs back home, notably Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, who echoed him. It will find sympathy from some American apologists for his policies and critics of the NATO bombing of Serbia.
Mr. Milosevic claims that the tribunal has no legitimacy and that its only purpose is to justify the war crime of NATO bombing. Mr. Kostunica denounces the prosecution as selective and the chief prosecutor, the Swiss lawyer Carla Del Ponte, as unprofessional.
But this pose will get Mr. Milosevic only so far. And then he had better heed the advice of the British presiding judge, Richard May, to avail himself of counsel. The evidence that Ms. Del Ponte is amassing will take over.
Pressure remains on Serbia, having delivered its former dictator, to produce records of his communications.
Croatia, anxious to speed its own entry into European good standing, has promised to cooperate, which means not only providing evidence but also turning over its own indicted war criminals and evidence of their deeds.
Mladen Ivanic, prime minister of the Serbian half of Bosnia, which is called Republika Srpska, promised that it will cooperate when legal forms are completed. That remains to be seen.
It would entail turning over the elusive indicted war criminals, former political leader Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic, who commanded Croatia's Serbs in one war and Bosnia's Serbs in another. They are charged with acts of genocide, more serious than the crimes against humanity Mr. Milosevic is charged with, but might, in their own defense, provide evidence.
Ms. Del Ponte is planning to expand the indictment of the former Yugoslav strongman to include atrocities committed in the earlier wars in Croatia and Bosnia as well as those in Kosovo.
Just some of the promised cooperation would strengthen her case.
The noose is tightening around Mr. Milosevic.
In his defiance, he ignored the greatest asset the United Nations tribunal has. That is his own involuntary presence in the dock in the Hague.
Showmanship may do at arraignment. Mr. Milosevic will need all the legal assistance he can obtain when they begin producing evidence.