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by Gary Hardy

The Descent of Slobodan Milosevic




 
Commentary

Slobodan Milosevic was extradited to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague this week by Serbian reformist government, provoking political and constitutional crises that could destroy the last vestiges of Yugoslavia.

For Slobodan Milosevic, a man who at the peak of his powers held sway over half the Balkans and won the adoration of millions of Serbs, it must have come as a sobering shock to be roughly bundled into a police van.

Failing to acknowledge the bind he was in until the very end, he had even refused to read the Hague War Crimes Tribunal's indictment wedged in the bars of his cell.

The charge sheet cites four counts in Kosovo during 1999. But Hague officials say further counts are expected. For Milosevic's millions of victims no punishment meted out by the United Nations court will be harsh enough.

In his cell he will be among the like-minded: other indicted war criminals from Yugoslav wars, some on remand, others in the process of being tried.

The former Serbian leader, who plunged the Balkans into a decade of war, was spirited out of his prison by helicopter.

He was reported to have been taken to the Tuzla air base in neighbouring Bosnia. From there he was to be flown to Holland in a British plane and was due in The Hague late on Thursday night.

The extradition is a triumph for international justice, setting the stage for the most sensational war crimes trial since Nazi leaders were tried in Nuremberg.

The next step is a first appearance in court. That usually happens within a week. He will be read out the charges against him and be asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.

When Milosevic appears before the judges the massacre at Racak will be one of the first charges he faces. For Serbs keen to distance themselves from the man so many once supported, it will be a sharp remainder of what was done in their name.

The Charges

The war crimes tribunal in The Hague indicted Siobodan Milosevic and four other senior Yugoslav officials on charges of deportation, murder and persecution, all crimes against humanity, and murder, a violation of the laws or customs of war.

They are accused of deporting 740.000 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo and of murdering 340 Albanians.

In part, the indictment, dated 24th May 1999 reads: "Beginning in January 1999 and continuing to the date of this indictment, Slobodan Milosevic (President of Serbia), Nikola Sainovic (deputy Prime Minister of Yugoslavia), Dragoljub Ojdanic (Chief of the Yugoslavia General Staff, ranked Colonel-General), and Vlajko Stojilkovic (Serbian Interior Minister) planned, instigated, ordered, committed or otherwise aided and abetted in a campaign of terror and violence directed at Kosovo Albanian civilians living in Kosovo in the FRY (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia). The operations targeting the Kosovo Albanians were undertaken with objective of removing a substantial portion of the Kosovo Albanian population from Kosovo in an effort to ensure continued Serbian control over the province.

"The forces of the FRY and Serbia have in a systematic manner forcibly expelled and internally displaced hundreds of thousands of Kosovo Albanians from their homes across the entire province of Kosovo. Beginning on or about 1st January 1999, and continuing until the date of this indictment, forces of the FRY and Serbia, acting at the direction, with the encouragement, or with the support of (the indicted) have murdered hundreds of Kosovo Albanians civilians."

These killings have occurred in a widespread or systematic manner throughout the province of Kosovo and have resulted in the deaths of numerous men, women, and children."

The indictment lists several cases of alleged mass killings.

The prosecutors at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague have been waiting for this day from the moment the court was established by the United Nations eight years ago.

One official involved in the tribunal was jubilant. "This is the crowning moment for us," he said.

For the first year of its existence, the judges, lawyers and clerical staff appeared to idle their time surrounded by empty cells and deserted courtrooms.

Meanwhile in the Balkans fighting raged. The worst crime of the Bosnian war, the killing of 7.000 Muslims by Serbs at Srebrencia in July 1995, took place while the court watched in virtual impotence.

At the end of the year, however, the tribunal shuddered into life.

The first war crimes indictment since Nuremberg and Tokyo trials was read out in October 1995.

Dusko Tadic, a Bosnian Serb Karate instructor who led a militia known as the "Blue Eagles", was accused of crimes against humanity for murdering and torturing prisoners in the Omarska concentration camp, the biggest and most notorious of the camps established by the Bosnian Serbs.

He went on trial in 1996 and was sentenced to 20 years in prison the following year. The conviction was upheld on appeal.

The pace picked up steadily after the Dayton accords ended the Bosnian war and Nato-led peacekeepers, especially British troops, began to arrest indicted suspects. The court has had to expand to cope with the number of cases.

Until now, 67 of the 100 people indicted for war crimes have remained at large, including key figures such as Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader, who is believed to be flitting between Montenegro and the Serb entity of Bosnia, and Ratko Mladic, his military commander.

Following the extradition of Miloservic, the days of many war criminals must be numbered

Milosevic's lawyer, Toma Fila, predicted earlier this year that the former Yugoslav dictator would never be seen alive in The Hague; he would rather take his own life than stand trial.

In the end, the man responsible for so much death and brutality lacked the nerve.

His new cell in The Hague, where he will share the prison with 38 other indictees, will be a comfortable room with en-suite shower, coffee-maker and television offering a range of satellite channels (including some from the Balkans).

He will be given a daily allowance of five guilders, which he can spend in the detention centre's shop offering snacks, cigarettes and telephone calling cards.
"It's not luxury," said a tribunal spokesman. "But this is a remand centre not a prison. These people are innocent until proved otherwise. Some of them have been in for a long time, so we try to limit the disruption."

Forty-one people are in various stages of legal proceedings at present. Nineteen people have been found guilty and two have been acquitted of all charges.

The arrival of Milosevic will be a boost for human rights campaigners who have been pressing for the creation of a permanent International Criminal Court to try all war crimes.

"This marks a very important moment in the life of this institution," said the tribunal's spokesman, Jim Landale.

That was an understatement typical of the tribunal, which has been slow but methodical and finally got its man.

Holidays 'Can Drain the Brain'

Limitation: Long, lazy holidays devoid of mental exertion lead to dramatic, if temporary, losses of intelligence and sluggish performance on return to work, a German psychologist has found. A three-week beach holiday would lead to a 20-point fall in IQ, says Dr Siegfried of Erlangen University. It can take up to four days to recover former performance levels when back at work. The ideal holiday should be neither all action or all sloth, he said.

Gary Hardy

garyhardy@liveibiza.com