Slobodan Milosevic cheats fate

This March 12 piece by Nerma Jelacic from The Guardian reflects our sentiments precisely.

Even in death, Milosevic wins again
The death of Slobodan Milosevic has put a smile on many Bosnian faces, but I am sad. Not because the man, whose actions earned him the title ‘the butcher of Belgrade’, has my sympathy, but because he has not lived to be punished in a court of law. Because he will not answer for his crimes and because thousands of victims will not get the long-awaited sense of closure on their usurped lives. They will not see justice done.

This is why I cannot share the elation of my countrymen. Their reaction is confusing, especially when their ecstatic messages and calls to me came from the UK, the US, Germany, the Netherlands, the countries they have had to make their new homes because of this man’s politics .

The same man’s official and paramilitary forces expelled me from my home in Visegrad, the town which borders what at the time was Milosevic’s Serbia. I was 14 when I was ethnically cleansed. But before I fled, I watched my country being ravaged, my people killed by his thugs. I was robbed of my childhood by, among others, the Yugoslav National Army, the same men I had been taught in whose trust I should place my safety and my life.

The strategy was replicated throughout eastern Bosnia in 1992. It continued in other parts of the country for three more years, culminating with the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica.

Milosevic’s actions in what was a bloody decade scarred me and my people’s lives at regular intervals. When I was 10, he started inciting ethnic hatred in Kosovo; by my 13th birthday, the Yugoslav army was destroying Vukovar and the monuments of Dubrovnik. When I turned 14, his troops made my family stateless. When I reached my 21st birthday, it was only to read about the dead of Kosovo. Aged 25 I, alongside millions of Bosnians, Croats, Kosovars and Serbians whose lives he ruined, finally got to see him in the dock, at the war crimes tribunal in the Hague.

The final chapter had been opened by the Hague prosecutor’s office and we were all waiting for its conclusion, a conclusion which would have put three trump cards in our hands: truth, justice and reckoning.

But Milosevic’s trials showed that truth was slippery, justice slow and the reckoning evasive. Ever the showman, even in the dock, he refused to play the game by the rules. He was good at it. As he settled in for the second year of his life in the Hague’s comfortable detention unit, I returned to Bosnia to find a country struggling to patch itself up after the force he unleashed on it.

While the world’s leading doctors checked out his failing health in the Hague, I met thousands of refugees who were not able to afford food, let alone basic medicines. I befriended survivors of the most abhorrent crimes imaginable struggling to live on for one reason only … to find the bones of their children, husbands, parents.

Although he was not the one who pulled the trigger on their families, all of them held Milosevic responsible for their ruined lives. For it was he who rallied the masses, blinded them with hatred and encouraged the animal within to wreak havoc.

He seemed invincible. Instead of being toppled and arrested, he played the peacemaker. He shook hands with the leading politicians of the world, then moved on to start another war. Milosevic did not know how to lose. The fact that the survivors will never get to see justice makes him a winner again. History will not be honoured.

Nerma Jelacic is a director of Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Bosnia-Herzegovina

See our last post on ex-Yugoslavia.

  1. This editorial is pretty hy
    This editorial is pretty hysterical even for you. Nothing here about the role played by the US, Germany,or even Tudjman, Izetbegovic and any other Yugoslav leaders. It’s all purely Milosevic and the Serbs who ruined Yugoslavia in this State Department Balkan fairy tale. But even Jelacic virtually admits in her own way that the tribunal was coming up with nothing:”But Milosevic’s trials showed that truth was slippery, justice slow and the reckoning evasive. Ever the showman, even in the dock, he refused to play the game by the rules. He was good at it. As he settled in for the second year of his life in the Hague’s comfortable detention unit, I returned to Bosnia to find a country struggling to patch itself up after the force he unleashed on it.”
    A lot of evidence came out at that trial about crimes committed by the other sides (Croat,Bosniak,KLA and NATO) and the ICTY’s paymasters didn’t like that. They weren’t happy about having their claims challenged either. In the media or a blog or their various reports the official line folks can say what they want but when it gets to court, even a miserable kangaroo court like the ICTY, things aren’t quite that simple. Witnesses are challenged, their inconsistencies are revealed, people have to face the accused not just tell lies to the nearest reporter. Most importantly the other side gets to speak. Even if the trial is kept in virtual media blackout or distorted beyone belief by the likes of IWPR, SENSE and the CIJ. Even if the judges grossly restrict the defense’s examination and cross-examination time. Even if the verdict is preordained and the trial is a travesty of justice.

  2. Anything you guys disagree with is “hysterical”
    Unfortunately, the entire left media is parroting your malarky. Typical is this post-mortem from Jeremy Scahill on, “Rest Easy, Bill Clinton: Milosevic Can’t Talk Anymore.”

    It is ironic that Milosevic’s last legal battle was an attempt to compel his old friend-turned-nemesis Bill Clinton to testify at his trial. If successful, Milosevic would have grilled the man who was U.S. president through the entire Yugoslav war in what would have been a fiery direct examination. Clinton and Milosevic were once pals who talked collective strategy in the 1990s. Milosevic had many damning stories to tell and, without a doubt, uncomfortable questions to ask Clinton. The judges in Milosevic’s case clearly worked to keep those moments from ever happening, and the U.S. government made clear its forceful opposition to such subpoenas of U.S. officials, even considering invading a country that would put a U.S. official on trial. With or without Clinton, Milosevic’s defense would have brought to light some serious documentation of U.S. war crimes, but he died, muzzled, before he really got started.

    Little attention, therefore, has been paid to Milosevic’s long-term efforts – which predated 9/11, the 1999 NATO bombing, and his own trial – to expose the presence of al-Qaeda in the Balkans, from Bosnia to Kosovo. With 9/11, Milosevic’s talk of al-Qaeda was easily dismissed as laughable, pathetic opportunism. But those who followed Milosevic’s career and more importantly the events of the 1990s in Yugoslavia know it was not. Those allegations were based on events the U.S. does not want discussed in an international court. Following the defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, many mujahedin eventually turned their sights on Yugoslavia, where they went to fight alongside the Bosnian Muslims against the Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats. Once again, the U.S. and bin Laden were on the same team. To this day, there are reports of training camps in Bosnia, which remains under occupation. It is also a likely training ground for future blowback.

    This is typical of the blather the left has always run on Milosevic. A half-hearted concession that yeah, he was a war criminal—and then we move on to glorifying him for raising the alarm about al-Qaeda in the Balkans. And of course al-Qaeda never carried out any acts of terrorism in the Balkans. When Bush and Blair kill Muslims to retaliate for real al-Qaeda terror, we are supposed to oppose it. When Milosevic killed Muslims to retaliate for imagined al-Qaeda terror, he gets a pass. What abhorrent garbage.

  3. Del Ponte pissed
    Speculation that Slobo consciously cheated fate by taking his own life. From The Australian March 12, emphasis added:

    FORMER Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic may have committed suicide as a last act of defiance to the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague, the court’s chief prosecutor said in an interview published today.

    “He could have done it as a last act of defiance towards us. Perhaps he did commit suicide,” chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said in an interview in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

    She said Milosevic would have not been the first war crimes suspect from the Balkans to take his own life before the UN court could judge him.

    Milosevic, who was found dead in his cell at the UN detention centre in The Hague yesterday, suffered high blood pressure and heart problems.

    Ms Del Ponte said it was strange the doctors at the tribunal, who regularly checked the former Yugoslavia leader’s health, had not reported a sudden deterioration in his condition.

    “It’s odd, although naturally it is possible, that he died unexpectedly without the doctors noticing that his health had suddenly worsened,” she said.

    She said it was possible Milosevic might have killed himself because he had used up all but 40 of the 360 hours he had been allotted to defend himself against the charges of genocide, other war crimes and crimes against humanity he faced over the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

    “After that I would have made my speech. The trial would have been over before the summer. Our calculations were that he would have been given a life sentence. Perhaps he wanted to avoid all that,” Ms Del Ponte said.

    She denied any responsibility in Milosevic’s death, which some Serbian papers described as murder, saying that on the contrary she was “furious” about it.

    “I can’t believe that all these years of work, energy, meticulous investigations and perpetual obstacles to overcome can just have vanished into thin air. It just disappeared in a flash. There was no more Milosevic trial.

    “As the prosecutor, I realised I would not be able to complete the most important trial of my life,” she said.

    “As the representative of thousands of victims who for years have been demanding justice, I found myself empty-handed.

    “For me, Milosevic’s death represents a total failure.”

  4. Suicidal pattern?
    Investigators have supposedly ruled out suicide in Milosevic’s death, but interesting that it comes on the heels of this. From Radio Netherlands, March 6:

    The former leader of rebel Serbs in Croatia, Milan Babic has committed suicide in his cell in Scheveningen – the detention centre for suspects from the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Mr Babic was due to return to court today to give evidence in the trial of Milan Martic, another Croatian Serb leader.

    In January 2004, Mr Babic pleaded guilty to crimes against humanity during the war in Croatia and was eventually sentenced to 13 years in jail. He then became the first person convicted by the tribunal to give evidence against fellow suspects, including former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic.

    This week he was due to continue being cross-examined in the trial of Milan Martic. Janet Anderson of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting says his evidence has already been crucial:

    “Babic does stand uniquely because of his willingness to keep coming back to the tribunal and keep testifying about what happened at the time. Each time he’s come, he’s said constantly how sorry he is, how much remorse he has for what happened, but also at other times, he says he’s received a lot of threats against his life and that he was very concerned for the safety of his family.”

    “[…] He’s been giving huge amounts of details at the trial of Milan Martic, another president of the rebel Serbs in Croatia. And you can only imagine the kinds of pressure he may have felt that he was under, giving so much detail about what happened at the time.”

    In 2002, Milan Babic contacted the tribunal and said he was willing to testify against former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic. The two had once been allies. Mr Babic was president of the self-proclaimed Serb republic of Krajina – an area which covered a third of Croatia – from May 1991 until February 1992. With the backing of Mr Milosevic, Milan Babic armed and mobilised rebel Serb fighters and began the ethnic cleansing of Croats and other non-Serbs from the Krajina area.

    Later in 1992, though, he was sidelined and replaced as head of the rebel Serbs. That may give a clue as to why he was later prepared to give evidence against his one-time mentor, Slobodan Milosevic.

    Key witness
    The death of Milan Babic will be a blow to the tribunal in The Hague, with many trials still ongoing or yet to be heard in which Mr Babic could have been called as a witness for the prosecution. Janet Anderson of IWPR says the investigation into his death needs to be thorough:

    “This is the kind of event that no courts, no tribunals in the world want to see happen and I’m sure that they will want to try to protect any inmates or any witness from coming under whatever mental pressure he came under that drove him to this desperate state.”

  5. Idiot left hails Milosevic
    From Workers World, March 21 (emphasis added):

    Hundreds of thousands march at funeral
    Hundreds of thousands of people gathered for Slobodan Milosevic’s funeral in Belgrade on March 18. Cathrin Schuetz, a leading member of Milosevic’s defense committee (ICDSM) from Germany, said, “The view from the podium was impressive. People filled the main square and the side streets as far as the eye could see.” (Junge Welt, Jan. 20)

    From the time Milosevic’s body was flown from The Hague to Belgrade on March 15 to his burial in his nearby hometown of Pozarevac, the corporate media in Western Europe and the United States attempted to minimize the number of mourners. First reports put them at “hundreds,” and later ones claimed they were all older, retired people.

    Schuetz made it clear that not only was the funeral march massive—one Belgrade radio station said 500,000 were present—but that it was made up of people of all ages who expressed both sorrow at Milosevic’s death and rage at those who persecuted him.

    Among the international delegation from the ICDSM were former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Velko Valkanov from Bulgaria, Aldo Bernardini from Italy, June Kelly from Ireland and a member of the political bureau of the Communist Party of Greece. Russia sent a delegation, in which all parliament parties were represented, among them Konstantin Satulin of President Vladimir Putin’s party, Sergei Baburin, vice-speaker of the parliament, chairperson of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation Gennadi Zyuganov and retired Gen. R. Leonid Ivashov.

    The pro-Western government in Serbia prevented Milosevic’s closest family members from attending the funeral, including his widow and political comrade of almost five decades, Mira Markovic, and their son Marko Milosevic, because criminal charges in Serbia—widely recognized as trumped up and political in nature—hang over both of them.

    Clark had visited Yugoslavia with a delegation from the International Action Center twice during the U.S.-NATO 78-day bombing attack in 1999. Speaking at the funeral ceremonies, he concluded, “History will prove Milosevic was right. Charges are just that, charges. The tribunal did not have facts.”