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Milosevic Handed Over to the Hague

Milosevic Handed Over to the Hague

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During a June 28, 2001, news report, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Wesley Clark comments on the Serbian government's handover of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to the U.N. war crimes tribunal for alleged Kosovo atrocities.

The player

Slobodan Milosevic is machismo incarnate a strutting, fleshy, imperious, table thumping ex-dictator who grew up in a society where men are "real men" and women are traditionally relegated to the role of long-suffering sidekicks expected to know their place. But ironically it was a woman, Madeleine Albright, America's waspish former secretary of state, who arguably did more than anyone else to bring about his dramatic fall from grace.

And as Milosevic languishes in his overly comfortable cell in the Hague he will know that if it wasn't for Albright, America's first female foreign secretary, he might still be living in his Belgrade villa with impunity, immune from prosecution for the war crimes he allegedly committed in Kosovo, Bosnia and Croatia.

It was Albright who first threatened to deprive Yugoslavia of millions of dollars of US aid if Belgrade did not deliver Milosevic up to the Hague and she who insisted from day one that there would be no immunity for him. "We are not negotiating" were her final words on the matter and because she held what is arguably the second most powerful job in the world's only superpower what she said counted.

Her successor in the Bush administration, Colin Powell, may have added to the pressure in recent months by telling Belgrade that he, too, would cut off aid if it did not cooperate with the Hague but the original policy and resolve was hers. Albright had loosened the lid of the proverbial jar and applied such enormous pressure that it was only a question of when, rather than if, the lid flew off. She, therefore, deserves most of the credit for the extradition.

As Ivo Daalder, a Balkans expert at the Brookings Institution and co-author of Winning Ugly, a book on Nato's war in Kosovo, says: "Albright won the debate in that she made Milosevic the problem."

Her resolve was all the more impressive because it was contrary to at times fierce behind-the-scenes pressure from some EU states such as Italy to grant Milosevic immunity.

Known to her detractors as "not-so-bright", Albright was also a great proponent of active US engagement in European affairs and did a great deal to persuade isolationist-minded Americans that Milosevic was a global problem with which Washington should grapple. Albright is not, however, universally popular for her Balkan policymaking. She faced a barrage of criticism at the time for being too hawkish about Kosovo and critics claimed she presented Milosevic with conditions for peace which were so tough as to make them meaningless.

But when the man known to the rest of the world as the butcher of Belgrade was handed over to the Hague last week, her comments were typical of her trademark "tell it like like it is" style. It was, she said, "a good day for the Serb people, for Europe and for humanity" and at least Milosevic would get a fair trial "which is more than his victims got".

Born Marie Jana Korbel in Prague in 1937, the daughter of a Czech diplomat, Albright has always had a special interest in her native Europe and a far better appreciation of its politics and culture than the average American. Fluent in French and Czech, she has spent years studying international relations and the politics of central and eastern Europe.

The fact that her family was forced to flee from first the Nazis (her father was posted to London as a diplomat during the war) and later the communists, who passed a death sentence on her father in his absence, gave her an unusual appreciation of Europe's history as a naturalised American citizen.

It was only relatively recently, however, that she discovered that she is also Jewish. Her parents had converted the family to Catholicism to conceal their Jewish background while living in London in 1939, before emigrating to the US in 1948. Her Jewish roots and the fact that many of her relatives were killed in the Holocaust only came to light when the Washington Post published a front page story in 1997. The revelation apparently came as a surprise for Albright herself although some commentators claimed she had deliberately hidden the truth in order to mediate more effectively in Middle East peace negotiations.

Her public persona as secretary of state may have always been that of a hard-bitten, outspoken operator but she did not get to the top by shooting her mouth off. Her ascent was not without its problems. According to Michael Dobbs, one of her biographers, Albright was in fact a consummate "player" who only became the strident schoolmarmish figure known to the wider world in later life when she knew she could get away with it.

"She first had to rise through the ranks of Washington society and win the confidence of its power brokers. She did this with tools this town finds reassuringly familiar: using political and social connections, networking relentlessly, volunteering for everything from school boards to Democratic party causes, creating a foreign policy salon at her house and finding a spot in the academic think-tank world."

She worked hard to get a PhD in international relations from Columbia University before going on to lecture students on diplomacy. And then she began to climb the slippery pole that is US politics in earnest, advising senior Democrats on foreign policy, until being finally appointed US ambassador to the UN in 1992. Four years later she was sworn in as America's 64th secretary of state.

A close friend of the singer Barbra Streisand, she has a love of witty one-liners and jewellery (earrings and brooches) which she always changes to reflect her shifting moods.

A watershed in her professional life came, she admits, with her divorce from Joseph Medill Patterson, a scion of one of America's best-known newspaper families. In 1982, after 22 years of marriage, Patterson, with whom she had three children, declared he was in love with another woman and left. Years later when she was safely ensconced at the state department, she would acknowledge how significant this was. Had it not been for the divorce, she said, "I would not be sitting here now. It was a huge turning point."

Albright, now 64, is busy penning her own version of her stellar career and heads up the National Democratic institute for international affairs, which aims to foster US-style democracy throughout the world.

Colin Powell claims almost to have had an aneurysm during an argument with Albright over US policy in former Yugoslavia. "What's the point of having this superb military you're always talking about if we can't use it," she is reported to have asked the general.

Albright's contribution to world affairs is such that she is likely to go down in the history as someone who made a qualitative difference and as someone who couldn't abide dictators, particularly communist ones. "Biology works. Some day Castro will be gone," she said recently.

Milosevic in The Hague

Courtesy Reuters

October 30, 2002, is just another day in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic. A stocky former Serb intelligence agent, Slobodan Lazarevic, is testifying against his erstwhile boss and former political idol. Lazarevic had planned to testify in secret, as witness C-001. (He is so smooth on the stand that the Serbian press corps dubs him "Agent 001, License to Kill.") Milosevic, serving as his own counsel, asks, "Based on my information . your wife's name is [deleted]?" As the prosecution objects furiously, pointing out that Lazarevic is in a witness relocation program and demanding that his wife's name be stricken from the record, Milosevic adds, "His wife worked as a [deleted]." It is a blatant attempt at intimidation: you mess with me, I mess with your family. Even behind bulletproof glass, the former strongman still aims to be dangerous.

The world has looked away just as the Milosevic trial has gotten really interesting. In February 2002, raging against NATO conspiracies and victor's justice, the ousted Yugoslav leader was hauled into court in The Hague. This was an amazing triumph for the human rights movement, but at the same time the realization of a nightmare that had haunted the Allied officials who planned the Nuremberg tribunals nearly 60 years ago. They had worried that Nazi leaders would be able to use those trials as a forum to justify their actions and present themselves as martyrs to subsequent generations. Milosevic has tried to do the same and, slowed by his antics, the trial has now entered its second year with the prosecution still only partway through its case.

As the most important moment for international justice since the trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1961, Milosevic's trial is a possible watershed. Charged with committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Bosnia and crimes against humanity in Kosovo and Croatia, he is the first former head of state to land in the dock of an international war crimes tribunal. The trial's success or failure will therefore shape all future efforts at punishing the world's bloodiest war criminals -- including those at the International Criminal Court (ICC) that started up in March, and any postwar tribunals in Iraq. International justice must not only be done, but also be made to look useful and appealing so that future politicians will decide, in the phrase of the late political theorist Judith Shklar, to choose "justice, as a policy."

The Bush administration, desperate to avoid giving encouragement to the ICC, has essentially ignored the trial rather than seize the opportunity it affords to remind Muslims worldwide of how U.S. power was used, albeit belatedly, to save Muslim lives in the former Yugoslavia. But those who see the Milosevic case primarily in terms of its role in the progressive evolution of an international legal order -- whether supportive human rights lawyers or nervous sovereignty-minded American officials -- are missing the point.

The tribunal's most important impact will be not in the legal sphere but in the political one. Success will be measured by how much the enterprise helps sideline dangerous leaders, shame perpetrators and bystanders, and soothe victims. The ultimate objective -- which is still in doubt -- is less to create some dazzling supranational legal precedent than to demonstrate that administering justice can contribute to reconciliation and moderation, in the Balkans and, by extension, elsewhere as well.

War crimes tribunals often do not work. Despite the shining example of Nuremberg, the history of international justice is full of failure. Allied efforts to prosecute German and Ottoman war criminals after World War I resulted only in failed trials and nationalist backlash. The UN’s tribunal for Rwanda is regularly criticized as ineffectual by the Rwandan government. Without the kind of total victory achieved by the Allies in World War II, imposing justice after a war is always difficult.

That is why the tribunal in The Hague dealing with the former Yugoslavia had such a rocky start. The ad hoc court was created by a UN Security Council resolution in 1993, as Serb nationalists besieged Bosnia's non-Serb civilians. It seemed a token gesture: the world would not stop war crimes while they were actually happening, but it would prosecute them afterward. And even that commitment was halfhearted, since the tribunal started off without adequate funding, robust political support, or major suspects in custody. It could do little to make the war in Bosnia less brutal. The tribunal reached its nadir in July 1995, when Serb forces led by General Ratko Mladic slaughtered some 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in the UN "safe area" of Srebrenica. Mladic and his political chief, Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, have been indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity, but remain at large.

When NATO finally struck against the Bosnian Serb army and oversaw the Dayton accord that ended the war, the tribunal still had to wait almost two years, until July 1997, for NATO troops to begin arresting war crimes suspects in Bosnia. Even then, the nationalist regime in Croatia and Milosevic's regime in Serbia excoriated its efforts and frequently refused to cooperate. It was only in 1999, during NATO's second Balkan campaign, over Kosovo, that Milosevic himself -- the prime mover in the wars of Yugoslavia's disintegration -- was finally indicted. And it was not until after the 2000 democratic revolution in Serbia that he was shipped off to The Hague.

In terms of big-name suspects brought to court, the tribunal has made huge strides over time. Its first trial, which opened in May 1996, was of a mere pawn, a concentration camp sadist. Since then it has snared vastly bigger fish, including a Bosnian Serb general who helped organize the Srebrenica massacre, leading Serb and Croat nationalists who were involved in the slaughter of Muslims, and senior Milosevic aides such as the chief of staff of the Yugoslav army. In one of the biggest victories to date, Biljana Plavsic -- a wartime Bosnian Serb leader so delusionally nationalist that she once told a senior UN official that Serb babies were being fed alive to the animals in the Sarajevo zoo -- expressed remorse and pleaded guilty to one count of crimes against humanity.

The prosecutions themselves constitute the most basic success of the tribunal, even though Karadzic and Mladic -- the most important war criminals in Bosnia -- have so far escaped its clutches. To put it simply, rather than whipping up more nationalism back in the region, several major malefactors in the Balkan wars are now behind bars. (Several others, meanwhile, have died -- including Croatia's wartime president, Franjo Tudjman, from cancer the Serb paramilitary leader known as Arkan, from assassination and former Serbian interior minister Vlajko Stojiljkovic, from suicide.) The Milosevic case is a perfect example of how useful the tribunal can be. "The process itself is a success," says Mary Robinson, the former UN high commissioner for human rights. "He is no longer a respected figure in Serbia." Even if his trial turns out to be a minor train wreck, the prosecution has managed to get him out of Balkan politics once and for all.

After Milosevic fell from power, the real question was not whether he would be held to account for his crimes, but which court would try him. The Hague was and is clearly the best choice. In a perfect world, it would have been better to put Milosevic on trial in a Serbian court in Belgrade, just as it would have been better to put the top Nazis on trial before a German court in Berlin. This point is clear even to many officials at the tribunal. "It's a message that can only be put across in Serbian," says Jean-Jacques Joris, the diplomatic adviser to Carla Del Ponte, the tribunal's Swiss chief prosecutor. But a Belgrade trial would have helped matters only if it were a real war crimes trial -- one that produced the kinds of revelations about Bosnia and the self-styled Krajina Serb republic that are emerging now in The Hague. But Vojislav Kostunica, Yugoslavia's president after Milosevic and a committed Serb nationalist, has a fierce contempt for the tribunal, and thus at first said that he would haul Milosevic up merely on charges of corruption and electoral fraud. Even if war crimes had gradually made their way onto Kostunica's agenda for a Milosevic trial, such an effort would never have been accepted in Bosnia and Kosovo. It might have wound up like the 1921 trials at Leipzig -- a hopelessly botched effort after World War I, in which a German high court either acquitted or glancingly punished German soldiers, to French and Belgian fury. As it was, putting Serb nationalists in charge of Milosevic's trial would have risked disaster.

That the international tribunal is the least bad option available for dealing with problematic figures such as Milosevic would be enough to justify its existence. But the current trial is increasingly offering more. After an inauspicious start with the Kosovo charges, as the prosecution's case moves to Croatia and Bosnia, it has begun to offer an unparalleled window into how one of the most murderous regimes on the planet really worked.

Watching the proceedings, Milosevic sits with his familiar white hair swept back, and on good days (when not complaining of heart trouble), he has color in his thick cheeks. He seems alert and quizzical, and rarely blinks. He has a way of wearing his Balkan politician's clothes -- dark suit, blue shirt, red-and-blue rep tie -- that makes them look sloppy, with the tie wrinkling up at his gut as he sits, the suit jacket bunched up as he flings his plump left arm around the back of his baby-blue UN chair. He knits his eyebrows toward each other and wrinkles his brow, or pulls back the corners of his mouth. He shows no particular curiosity when a new witness appears.

Since Milosevic is not accused of hands-on homicide and cannot be put away simply for espousing unusually loathsome politics, any conviction will have to rest on demonstrating his command responsibility. The prosecutors must prove that he ordered killings, or that he knew about slaughter and chose not to stop it. But the prosecution wants more than that. For a real success, the court must convict Milosevic of being not merely the end of the Serb military chain of command, but actively in charge.

For that outcome, the best witnesses are former Serb officials. Because many Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia feel betrayed by Milosevic thanks to actions he took during in the mid-1990s, the prosecutors have managed to assemble a formidable lineup of insiders willing to testify against him. Lazarevic, the former intelligence agent, was among the first of these, and he painted a damning picture of the densely interlocking links among the various Serb nationalist forces in the former Yugoslavia and the government in Belgrade. Another insider identified the voices on a Bosnian intelligence intercept as Milosevic talking to Karadzic. The courtroom listened in as the two discussed uniting the Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia, and Milosevic told Karadzic to get weapons from a Yugoslav National Army (JNA) garrison inside Bosnia. On the intercept, the judges heard Milosevic telling Karadzic in July 1991, as Tito's Yugoslavia crumbled, "Take radical steps and speed things up, and we shall see if the European Community is going to fulfill their guarantees, if they are going to stop that violence." A JNA general in charge of military counterintelligence, Aleksandar Vasiljevic, has testified about Milosevic's responsibility for the war in Croatia. During Vasiljevic's testimony, the prosecution introduced a smoking-gun letter from June 1993, in which a leader of the Krajina Serbs asked Milosevic to "put pressure" on the JNA to help him in his fight against the Croatian government -- the kind of letter one sends only to the man in charge.

The result is a grand history lesson, meant to change minds. Bogdan Ivanisevic, a Human Rights Watch researcher in Belgrade, says,

The insider witnesses usually include a narrative about Milosevic betraying the Serbs. . What insiders say is not just that the JNA and [the Krajina Serb army] and [the Bosnian Serb army] were one army, but that in 1995 [when the Croatian army reconquered the Krajina, sending some 100,000 Serb refugees fleeing,] the army didn't even try to protect Serbs, that Milosevic had some deal with Tudjman that let the Serbs become refugees, that the government did not welcome them. This is very credible. This segment of testimony turns many Serbs against Milosevic and makes them more willing to accept the testimony about crimes against non-Serbs.

"It's the revenge of the Krajina Serbs," says one tribunal official of this phase of the trial.

To undermine Milosevic's claims of powerlessness, the prosecutors have to show exactly how his regime in Belgrade controlled the entire Serb apparatus of ethnic murder and expulsion. This means looking at the inside details of whose palms were greased, where the killers came from, how the different Serb nationalist units outside Serbia's borders coordinated their attacks, how they negotiated in bad faith, how they gulled the UN and the world, how deniability was supposed to be preserved, what lies were fed to whom -- and how it was all done on orders from the top.

The operational details of Serbian expansion, as they spill out day after day, are lessons in applied thuggery. According to Lazarevic, who was assigned to the Krajina in 1992, the Serb army there had a special "antiterrorist unit" attached to each of its corps, made up of "40 to 45 young men generally with extensive criminal records," in charge of harassing or killing civilians and other "dirty jobs" that regular JNA officers might refuse. The Krajina Serbs also supplied hundreds of muscular enforcers to handle anti-Milosevic demonstrators back in Belgrade: "They were selecting really huge blokes, anything over six-two, to assign them to Belgrade and deal with the demonstrators, and most of them actually were joking, like, they're going to go over there and beat the living" -- Lazarevic paused for a beat, remembering he was in court -- "daylights out of the anticommunist demonstrators."

At one point Lazarevic told of organizing a one-for-one exchange of 100 dead with the Bosnian army. Since the Serbs had only 90 Bosnian corpses ready at hand, he went to the secret police "because there [were] some dead bodies kind of buried around." Two Croat prisoners were forced to start digging, but ran into difficulties:

They did dig out four bodies. The problem that I had with them, first they were in a high state of decomposition, so it was not something that happened recently in a combat situation. Obviously they were there for a considerable number of months. And the second even more worrying thing was that all four bodies had their hands tied with wire up front, which would suggest they were executed, that they did not actually die in a combat situation. But being pressed for the bodies, nevertheless I took those four, removed the wire, and put them in the body bags.

To fill out his quota, Lazarevic was directed to an officer of Arkan's Tigers, the bloodstained Serb paramilitary group: "[He] calmly said he doesn't have any dead bodies, however he does have six live ones and I can have them if I need them badly enough." The next morning, "there were six dead bodies lined up which appeared to be very freshly killed."

From the proceedings, the contempt that Serb nationalists had for the West becomes clear. Serb convoys would declare themselves humanitarian while actually carrying automatic weapons. When the un-sponsored Vance Plan required the demobilization of the Krajina Serb army, Lazarevic testified, "What we did, we changed the uniform overnight from military olive-green into the police blue and within a very short period of time, I'd say within ten hours, we have repainted all the military vehicles." At four international peace conferences, the Krajina Serb delegation got its instructions from Serbian officials in Belgrade, up to the rank of Milosevic's cabinet: "The idea was not to agree on anything. That was very simple to follow." "Slobo" or "the boss" is described as wanting peace talks to fail.

Chilling as all of these details are, what is most important is the testimony about the chain of command. At the trial, Milosevic is clinging to the claim that the JNA, for which he was officially responsible, was barely involved with the wars in Bosnia and Croatia. But Lazarevic, speaking about the JNA and its Krajina Serb and Bosnian Serb counterparts, testified, "We are not talking about three different armies. We are talking about one and only one army. . [A]ll the supplies and the finances would come from Yugoslavia, Serbia." For important military matters, the Krajina Serb military reported to JNA chief of staff Momcilo Perisic in Belgrade. JNA officers would commonly serve a six-month stint with the Krajina Serb forces. The corridor connecting Belgrade and the Krajina Serbs was called the "jugular vein" -- "if you cut that one off, the life is gone." And beyond military matters, Lazarevic's testimony was just as damning on Belgrade's control of Serb secret police forces.

It is too much to say that Milosevic is defeNDIng himself. The judges regularly have to remind him to stick to the case ("Avoid narratives and concentrate on asking short questions," says one), with presiding judge Richard May of the United Kingdom maintaining steely politeness in the face of harangues and tangents. The prosecution lawyers are obviously unafraid of Milosevic's legal skills. But Milosevic is anything but stupid, and he must understand the trap that Del Ponte's office is laying for him. So he tries to undermine the insider testimony about the chain of command.

Milosevic swings back and forth between two modes: thundering defiance, like Hermann Göring in Nuremberg, and evasion of responsibility, like Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. In his defiant mode, Milosevic's preferred theme is the enduring infamy of the familiar villains of his former state-controlled media: "the revamped Ustasha movement" among Croats, foreign mujahideen abetting "Islamic fundamentalism" among Bosnia's Muslims, and NATO imperialists. The war's atrocities, Milosevic repeatedly insists, were faked. The Srebrenica massacre, he says, was the work of French intelligence. Commenting on the 1991 massacre of 200 Croats in a Vukovar hospital, for which The Hague has iNDIcted three senior JNA officers, Milosevic said, "Ustashas . withdrew after the surrender of Vukovar and dressed into medical staff clothing in order to portray themselves as the medical staff and the wounded." He explained that "this practice of killing their own people . was typical for the Muslim side during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina." For Milosevic, international condemnation of atrocities is just an anti-Serb plot: "Whatever the Serbs do, they commit a crime."

His chances of acquittal, however, lie not in defiance but in his Eichmann-style claims that he was just a normal civil servant who displayed no particular initiative. At these times Milosevic casts himself as a cross between Eichmann and Serbia's answer to the queen of England. He was, in this view, almost a nominal figurehead during the wars, a president who somehow seems to have been out of the loop on every major decision taken throughout the slaughters that raged from 1991 to 1999.

But the self-important strongman in Milosevic's psyche finds it hard to hold the cringing Eichmann pose for long. Thus he clamors for his old Scotch-drinking buddy Richard Holbrooke, the former U.S. assistant secretary of state, to come to The Hague and testify that it was Milosevic who reined in the Bosnian Serbs in 1995, paving the way for the Dayton accord. This is true -- U.S. diplomats secretly called it "the Milosevic strategy" -- but it is also counterproductive vanity. Milosevic is inviting Holbrooke to testify that the Serbian leader could turn off the bloodbath when he wanted to, proving that he was in control and therefore guilty as charged.

Similarly, Milosevic conducts much of his defense using information fed to him by Serbian security services that still cling to him. And he cannot resist producing letters from loyal supporters in the region that nastily accuse the witness of the day of a wide range of treasons. Yet this implicitly strengthens the prosecution's case, since the more Milosevic can produce secret files or obviously stage-managed letters from toadies swearing they never took orders from Belgrade, the more obvious it is that he was and is their boss.

During his cross-examination of Lazarevic, Milosevic's most basic trick was to just call the witness a British spy or a liar, which he did repeatedly and with gusto. (Although there were some inconsistencies in Lazarevic's testimony, Milosevic never managed to catch the former spy in a major falsehood.) When this tack seemed not to be working, he attacked the accusations of command responsibility. For example, after Lazarevic testified that the Krajina Serb army was supplied and funded by Serbia, Milosevic tried to wave that away, appealing to the long-suffering Judge May: "Economic aid has nothing to do with commanding, Mr. May, and you should know this."

With the vanity of a former head of state, Milosevic could not hide his contempt for a low-level spy such as Lazarevic. He rudely told him that the tribunal's interpreters speak much better English than Lazarevic does. And he boasted that "Several other million Serbs . call me Slobo . which I hope you know." "Well," Lazarevic zinged back, "usually it was in a very negative context when they called you Slobo. . I'm surprised that you brought that up" -- a reference to the revolutionary slogan of 2000, "Slobo, Slobo, save Serbia and kill yourself."

When Lazarevic said, "Mr. Milosevic, you were at the head of the army at that time [in the 1990s] and you know that full well," Milosevic, demonstrating that he understands the legal stakes perfectly, replied, "That's what you claim, and you're claiming that in order to, how shall I put it, support this false iNDIctment." Milosevic asked, "You mean that Belgrade wishe[d] to expel the Croats from their homes?" "'Belgrade' was synonymous with you, Mr. Milosevic," said Lazarevic. "'Belgrade' meant you." "Oh, I see," Milosevic replied sarcastically. "That's rather a large synonym."

Milosevic's ultimate audience is not the judges (who have clearly had a bellyful of his poor courtroom etiquette), but the Serbs. Since he denies that the "false tribunal" has any legitimacy, to him the trial is just a colossal paid advertisement for his fiery brand of Serb nationalism. In his rants against the non-Serbs, NATO, and the tribunal at The Hague, Milosevic is still trying to stir up trouble. A lot of people, he says, see Yugoslav affairs his way, and "when I say a lot of people, I mean millions."

This is nonsense. Despite his courtroom theatrics, Milosevic remains consistently and intensely unpopular at home. A November 2002 survey by the International Republican Institute found that Serbian views of Milosevic were essentially unchanged since May 2001 (when the tracking poll started, with Milosevic in a Belgrade cell waiting to be shipped to The Hague): 66 percent unfavorable to only 17 percent favorable. These are the figures not of a hero, but of a man who lost an election, tried to rig the results, was overthrown in a popular revolution, and finally was arrested and deported by his successors.

Despite occasional press reports about Milosevic's gala performance in the dock, the opening of his trial in February 2002 gave his popularity only a small and temporary boost, from 16 percent favorable in January to 21 percent in March, falling back to 17 percent by June. "His conspiracy theories still resonate pretty well here," says Ivanisevic of Human Rights Watch. "When he is unfriendly to Kosovar witnesses, they [Serb nationalists] may relate to this, because of the strong anti-Albanian sentiment that existed here. On the other hand, objectively speaking, he did destroy their lives."

To be sure, many Serbians despise both the defendant and the tribunal. "There was a near consensus of indifference to crimes against non-Serbs" throughout the 1990s, says Ivanisevic. A May 2002 poll by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) found that 30 percent of Serbians thought the tribunal was conducting a fair trial but 57 percent thought it was unfair. In another poll, only 32 percent of Serbians supported cooperating with the tribunal in The Hague, while 47 percent said they would prefer to address war crimes only in Yugoslavia's own courts and 13 percent said they would suspend war crimes investigations altogether.

In a bizarre irony, Milosevic's most powerful implicit defender is Kostunica, the man who overthrew him. In October 2000, during his first state television interview after the revolution, Kostunica denounced the tribunal in terms not much different from those Milosevic himself now uses: "The Hague court is not an international court, it is an American court and it is absolutely controlled by the American government. It is a means of pressure that the American government uses for realizing its influence here." According to Joris (Del Ponte's diplomatic adviser), Kostunica's "position is a matter of conviction: this place [the court] is evil. He's always been a nationalist. He was a vocal advocate of Greater Serbia, but not of rape and 'ethnic cleansing.' But he never wanted to see the consequences of that policy. To him, Bosnia was a civil war, with deaths on all sides."

Kostunica's government accordingly resisted cooperation with The Hague. Prosecutors complained that over half of their requests for documents went unanswered. Two JNA officers, indicted for the 1991 Vukovar massacre that Milosevic denies ever happened, are still on the loose. Prosecutors are particularly frustrated that Ratko Mladic -- twice indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity, the second time for personally overseeing the Srebrenica massacre -- is still at large, despite the pleas of Del Ponte and even UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Mladic, arguably the most hated man in Bosnia, is seen as a war hero by many in Serbia. Until March 2002, Joris says, he "was staying in military facilities. Top members of the Yugoslav armed forces are organizing Mladic's protection."

Kostunica's actions have solidified preexisting Serbian resentment of the tribunal at The Hague. Even Zoran Djindjic, the recently assassinated reformist and pro-Western Serbian prime minister who sent Milosevic to trial, argued for cooperation with the tribunal primarily as a way to get Western economic aid. Only Goran Svilanovic, the human rights activist turned Yugoslav foreign minister, makes a case for extraditing war criminals on principle.

As the Milosevic trial has turned to insider testimony dealing with Croatia and Bosnia, many tribunal officials are worried that their message is not yet getting through. The tribunal's press office complains that some Serbian media outlets -- even the relatively liberal ones -- cover the trial too narrowly, framing the story in terms of Milosevic's day-to-day courtroom performance rather than the broader pattern of atrocities in the former Yugoslavia. Prosecutors complain that even after Plavsic contritely pled guilty to crimes against humanity in October 2002, there was little soul-searching among Serb nationalists. "Most Serbs have a position," says Liam McDowall, the chief of the tribunal's regional outreach program. "It's preconceived ideas. And then people cheer or pooh-pooh."

Other tribunal-watchers see more progress, however slow. Human Rights Watch's Ivanisevic argues,

Even though they have resistance to hearing non-Serb witnesses, people do take into consideration what they hear. The trial has caused reduced myth-making in Serbia. You don't hear, as you did prior to the trial, . that Srebrenica didn't happen or that the Muslims killed themselves. I wouldn't minimize this reduced space for rewriting history. As for acknowledgment of our side's crimes, it's a psychological barrier too difficult [to cross -- admitting] that the policy we supported was criminal. It will take time. It may take a new generation that was not implicated.

Indeed, even Nuremberg's success (at least within Germany) was largely a matter of time and generational change. The trial opened many minds, but some unrepentant Nazis would never accept the court -- even though they might be cowed into keeping their mouths shut in public. But their children took Nuremberg to heart. The new, post-Nazi generation held war crimes trials of their own: in 1963-65, the Frankfurt trials for the men who ran Auschwitz, and in 1975-81, the Dusseldorf trials for those who ran Majdanek.

One can see the possible stirrings of a similar process in Serbia today. The young there are noticeably more reformist than their elders (although there are plenty of young nationalists too). Among Serbians aged 18 to 30, 40 percent support full cooperation with The Hague for those 30 to 44, the figure falls to 38 percent for those from 45 to 59, it drops to 28 percent and for those over 60, to 24 percent. The NDI poll found that Milosevic's biggest fans remain what it called the "angry old" -- Serbians who long for the past. More reform-minded Serbians, especially what the NDI calls "new Serbia" -- youthful and Western-oriented voters -- have nothing but contempt for him. Education and gender play roles too university-educated women are probably the least nationalist people in Serbia. There are competing visions of what Serbia could become, not just Kostunica's nationalist view.

If the Serbs constitute a prime audience for the Milosevic trial, they are not the only one. The tribunal was meant to nurture not only repentance among perpetrators, but also forgiveness, or at least some measure of solace, among victims. It is too early to see whether this will work for the people of Bosnia and Croatia, whose sufferings the court is just beginning to review. But surely it will give them some satisfaction. And it should have a broader significance as well, showing that there can indeed be a middle path for post-atrocity societies somewhere between lasting communal blood feuds and shameful silence.

For all the tribunal's frustrations, there was and is no real alternative. Its mission is profoundly important and could not have been accomplished better in some other way. Now that Milosevic is out of Serbian politics, he is on his way to becoming a nobody his people are no longer interested in him. Only 16 percent of Serbians say they are following the trial "very closely," with an additional 35 percent saying they are following it "somewhat closely." These people may watch with resentment, or with opening minds, but few really care. The Serbian public is vastly more concerned with the country's decrepit economy, crime, and corruption than with Milosevic's fate. The tyrant has become irrelevant.

For the first time since becoming president of Serbia in 1989, Milosevic is being treated as yesterday's man. He suffers a host of courtroom humiliations. When Stjepan Mesic, the reformist president of Croatia, testified against him in October 2002, the current head of state needled his deposed counterpart, addressing him as "Mr. Accused." Paddy Ashdown, a former leader of the United Kingdom's Liberal Democrats, reminded Milosevic that he had been put on notice back in 1998, as Serb forces ratcheted up their repression in Kosovo: "I warned you that if you took those steps and went on doing this you would end up in this court. And here you are." Even worse, by his lights, Milosevic is stuck confronting people and accusations that he clearly thinks beneath him. But unable to draw on the full apparatus of state power, he often takes a drubbing.

After Lazarevic's testimony, the former tyrant stayed in his cell for a week, complaining of exhaustion. Cross-examining his accuser, he had said, "So this is another untruth, Mr. Lazarevic, spread out by you. Is that right or not?" Lazarevic snapped back, "Mr. Milosevic, you are starting from an unbelievable position, which is that the whole world is lying and that you are the only one telling the truth."

The Fall of Milosevic

Yugoslavia disappeared from the map after 83 years of existence. The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia broke up into constituent republics. The final two remaining republics, Serbia and Montenegro, proclaimed the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in April 1992. In 2003 it was finally renamed and reformed as the state union of Serbia and Montenegro until 5 th June 2006 when Montenegro declared its independence. And finally the autonomous province of Kosovo subsequently declared their independence from Serbia in 2008.

The death of Yugoslavia is only one of many momentous changes that have occurred since the end of the Kosovo conflict.

In 1998 Serbian action against the Kosovo Liberation Army in Kosovo escalated into armed conflict. By 1999 NATO airstrikes were deployed against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro). It ended with the withdrawal of security forces from Kosovo and the deployment of international security forces. During the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in May 1999, Milosevic was indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection to the wars in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Slobodan Milosevic lost the presidential election in 2000 and was defeated by opposition leader Vojislav Kostunica, who held just over 50% of the vote. Milosevic refused to accept the result claiming that no one held the majority, but was forced out of office by strikes and street protests, which concluded in the storming of parliament, in what became known as the Bulldozer Revolution. Eventually Milosevic met with Kostunica and publicly admitted defeat, allowing Kostunica to assume his position as Yugoslav President on 7 th October 2000.

Milosevic was arrested by the Yugoslav federal authorities on 31 st March 2001 on suspicion of corruption, abuse of power and embezzlement although no official charges were made. The United States put pressure on the Yugoslav government to extradite Milosevic to the ICTY, threatening the loss of financial help. Newly elected Yugoslav President, Kostunica, was not in favour of extradition as it violated the Yugoslav constitution yet Prime Minister Dindic recognized that there would be negative consequences if the government did not cooperate and voted to issue the decree of extradition.

By 28 th June 2001 Milosevic was handed over to a UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, and put on trial for 66 crimes against humanity including genocide.

The trial began on 12 th February 2002 at The Hague. From the beginning Milosevic denounced the Tribunal as an illegal entity as it was not established with the consent of the United Nations General Assembly. As a result, he refused to appoint a counsel for his defence and defended himself during the five-year trial that ended without verdict when he died of a heart attack in The Hague in 2006.

In 2007 the International Court of Justice cleared Serbia under Milosevic’s rule of direct responsibility for occurrences of crime committed during the Bosnian war. Yet Milosevic remains a controversial figure in the Balkans due to his abuse of power, particularly during the elections of 2000 and previously in 1997 and his leading role in the outbreak of the Yugoslav wars.

It is hard to do justice to Milosevic’s crimes. He abused state money, got into bed with murderers, plotted with enemies such as with Tudjman in the carving up of Bosnia, and cast aside friends such as Ivan Stambolic, former friend and political ally, who were no longer needed. Whilst much of the Serb carnage was organised locally, it is hard not to see that Milosevic endorsed it all. And yet, to what end? Whilst he remained in a position of power until 2000, every war he sanctioned left the Serb people in a worse position of poverty, loss of territory and excluded from international society.

Milosevic: a lust for power driven by medieval savagery

Slobodan Milosevic finally faced justice for his role in three Balkan wars yesterday as United Nations prosecutors pledged to hold him to account for ethnic cleansing and genocide committed in the name of naked power.

Impassive and silent in the dock at the Hague tribunal at the start of his historic trial, the former Yugoslav president scribbled notes and watched selected film highlights of a career which, the court alleged, included mass expulsions, mass murder and other crimes against humanity.

"Some of the incidents revealed an almost medieval savagery and a calculated cruelty that went far beyond the bounds of legitimate warfare," the chief prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, said in her 30-minute opening statement.

Presiding over the world's most important war crimes case since Nazi leaders were tried at Nuremberg more than 50 years ago, Judge Richard May of Britain ensured that the first day's proceedings were calm, orderly and polite.

But there was no mistaking the raw brutality of what was being described in the tribunal's court number one as the long-awaited case - IT-02-54 - began under heavy security and with the public and press gallery overflowing.

Ms del Ponte, a dogged Swiss attorney who has previously taken on the Mafia, told the court Mr Milosevic "pursued his ambition at the price of unspeakable suffering imposed on those who opposed him or represented a threat to his personal strategy of power".

"Beyond the nationalist pretexts and the horrors of ethnic cleansing, behind the grandiloquent rhetoric and the hackneyed phrases, the quest for power is what motivated Slobodan Milosevic," she said.

Briton Geoffrey Nice, the deputy prosecutor, prefaced a long account of the former president's career with brief but chilling descriptions of men shot, children burned alive and women thrown down wells by Serb troops - a foretaste of more to come.

In one incident, in a house soaked in petrol before being set alight, "a baby's screams were heard for two hours before it too succumbed", he said. Accounts of torture, beatings, killings, forced labour and sexual assault would also be heard.

Video clips, maps, photocopies of documents and organisational flow charts - screened on overhead TV monitors - placed the defendant at the centre of a decade of bloody conflict, which killed tens of thousands, starting in Croatia in 1991, when the Yugoslav federation began to disintegrate, and ending in Kosovo in 1999.

The effect was a macabre version of This is Your Life, but without the grinning friends. Yet the defendant, a study in immobility flanked by UN guards, almost looked pleased, a hint of a smile or flicker of recognition crossing his basilisk features as some of his bigger moments were replayed.

It was a sweeping history lesson replete with difficult but familiar Balkan names: Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader still at large and wanted for genocide the paramilitary chief Zeljko Raznatovic, better known as Arkan, later murdered and foreign envoys such as Cyrus Vance, David Owen and Lord Carrington, who tried to intervene but failed to stop the killing.

In one curiously intimate moment, Mr Milosevic was clearly heard in an intercepted telephone conversation discussing weapons deliveries to Bosnian Serb forces with Mr Karadzic, who described the man in Belgrade as "the Boss".

Tracing Mr Milosevic's story, the prosecution zoomed in on archive footage of him in April 1987, as Serbian communist party chief, telling cheering Serbs in the Albanian-majority province of Kosovo: "Nobody will be allowed to beat you."

"It was that phrase," said Mr Nice, "that gave this accused a taste of power. It gave him an opening.

"The evidence will show that the accused had a central role in the joint criminal enterprise" to create a greater Serbia. "This trial is about the climb of this accused to power, exercised without accountability, without responsibility or morality." Mr Milosevic "did not confront his victims", but "was able to view events from high political office. He had these crimes committed for him by others.

"In these days when press, radio and television bring wars into our homes as they occur, he cannot not have known."

Mr Milosevic has refused to appoint counsel since being handed over to the tribunal by the reformist government in Belgrade last summer. But he used a mid-morning break to pass a note to one of three lawyers appointed as amici curiae or "friends of the court" to ensure he has a fair trial.

Zdenko Tomanovic, one of his two Yugoslav legal advis ers, quoted his client as saying: "Do you hear this rubbish? How can you not react?"

After lunch, Mr Milosevic briefly nodded off during a long passage about the role of the Yugoslav army in Bosnia, before jerking awake.

He is expected to give a lengthy opening statement today or tomorrow, arguing the trial is inherently unfair and that the tribunal, set up by the UN in 1993, is illegal and biased in favour of his Nato enemies.

Prosecutors face a difficult task in drawing a direct link be tween Mr Milosevic and crimes committed by Serb forces against Croats, Bosnian Muslims and Kosovo Albanians.

Witnesses will include the Kosovan leader, Ibrahim Rugova, and the former US head of the Kosovo peacekeeping mission William Walker. But many others are to appear as protected witnesses, their identities shielded.

"Many victims cannot come before you because they did not survive," Ms Del Ponte said. "I am confident that the prosecution will present a full picture of the circumstances of crimes and of their impact on the people against whom they were directed."

Richard Dicker, an observer from Human Rights Watch, said he was impressed by the prosecution. "So much has been said about 'insider witnesses', but what's striking is that they have introduced a couple of documents that were very compelling in the clear linkage between Belgrade and the Bosnian Serb military and Croatian Serbs and military," he said. "Its very impressive in terms of specific links."

Vladimir Krsljanin, a mem ber of Mr Milosevic's Socialist party, monitoring the trial, said the prosecution portrayed "an absurd picture of Milosevic's career and placed totally outside the historic context. It's a desperate attempt to prove what is unprovable."

The trial's opening phase, likely to continue until the summer, will focus on the murder charges of hundreds of Kosovo Albanians and the expulsion of some 800,000 people from their homes in 1998-99.

One year since Milosevic's death

Milosevic had been in power for eleven years during the 1990s. The period is seen as one of the most violent times in the history of the Balkans. Over eight years the region saw a succession of violent conflicts. Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia and Kosovo went through spasms of bloodletting, which left tens of thousands killed. Many Serbs now blame Milosevic for both instigating the wars and failing to stop them.

In 2000 he was voted out of the office in the election and nine months later was arrested by the Yugoslav authorities. Later he was handed over to the Hague tribunal charged with war crimes and genocide. That's where he died on March 11 2006 some 50 hours prior to the trial's verdict. A heart attack was the official cause, while his supporters say that he was poisoned.

Milosevic's role is being strongly debated now in Serbia, with less people supporting him every day. Seven years on without him, Serbia has become a different state. And while the majority is criticizing Milosevic for the problems the country is now facing, like the Kosovo dispute and Serbia's struggle for the EU accession, some continue seeing him as the great leader. His socialist party is still winning seats in the parliament in every election.

During Slobodan Milosevic's rule, his brother Borislav was the Yugoslav ambassador to Russia.

In an exclusive interview which he gave Russia Today, Borislav Milosevic said the time was right to dismiss the International Criminal Tribunal against the former Yugoslavia.

&ldquoThey [in the Hague] proved nothing. Former Russian Prime minister Evgeny Primakov said the Hague tribunal on former Yugoslavia is insolvent. The tribunal accused Slobodan of genocide. But the UN international court, that was founded in 1946, declined (maybe disproved?) all the accusations of genocide. Back in 2000, the current Russian foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the Hague tribunal was politicized from the very beginning. That it tries to blame only one nation for all crimes, the Serbs. That it adapts international law to the wishes of its founders. And it's being financed not only by the UN, but also from private sources, for example, by George Soros. The tribunal accused the Serbian people, the Serbian academy of sciences, and even the Serbian Orthodox church of intending to create &rdquoGreater Serbia&ldquo. It's time to dismiss the tribunal. But it survives thanks to the efforts of some countries. Because it works for them, as an instrument,&rdquo stressed Borislav Milosevic.

Milosevic Handed Over to the Hague - HISTORY

By Daniel Simpson
September 12, 2002

When Slobodan Milosevic was handed over to The Hague war crimes tribunal last June, most Serbs breathed a sigh of relief.

All but an outspoken few in Serbia, the dominant republic in what remains of Yugoslavia, were happy to see the back of the man who led them into a decade of conflicts with their neighbors. Most regarded him as a tyrant who had impoverished his people while a coterie of shady businessmen and gangsters got rich.

But a war criminal? The majority were unconvinced. And nothing has changed their minds during the first six months of Milosevic’s trial, which was supposed to force them to confront the atrocities committed in their name.

Instead, pressure on the Serbs to reassess the recent past — and hand over more suspected war criminals — as a condition for international aid is often interpreted to mean that their whole nation is on trial, as Milosevic has repeatedly asserted from the dock.

This has disturbing consequences. The two most wanted men in the Balkans after Milosevic — Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his top general Ratko Mladic — remain at large. Both have become increasingly idolized as national heroes since the hunt for them was stepped up, reflecting an enduring “pro-Serb, anti-world” outlook among some sections of society.

When international donors responded to Milosevic’s extradition by pledging more than $1 billion to help rebuild Yugoslavia, many Serbs hoped this latest chapter in their turbulent history was closed. After being ostracized by the outside world for a decade, they are aggrieved to discover they will have to do more to win international acceptance.

Politicians in Belgrade grudgingly accept the need to cooperate with The Hague tribunal, but do not challenge the widespread belief that it is biased against Serbs, who are deemed no more to blame than their adversaries for the 250,000 lives lost in the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

Desperate for financial assistance from abroad, the government presents its cooperation as a quid pro quo for Western aid, which is expected to top $800 million both this year and next.

Meanwhile, the work of persuading Serbs to examine what happened to their society is left to a handful of human rights activists, who are frequently demonized as traitors by Serbian media, and the tribunal, which got off to a dismal start.

Although the Milosevic case was billed as the biggest war crimes trial since Nuremberg, prosecutors in The Hague appeared to have little concern for how it was perceived by Serbs watching the proceedings live on television.

The indictments against Milosevic cover alleged genocide in Bosnia and crimes against humanity in Croatia and Kosovo. But for procedural reasons, the court is not hearing these in chronological order, wasting an opportunity to open people’s eyes to how the wars started.

By beginning the trial with events in Kosovo, dear to Serbs as the heart of their medieval kingdom and national mythology, prosecutors handed Milosevic an opportunity to rail anew against the retaliatory NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999.

Although the prosecution has presented extensive evidence that Serbian forces engaged in the systematic murder and deportation of Kosovo Albanians, there is still no “smoking gun” linking these actions to orders from the top.

Many observers have relished the sight of their former president conducting his own defense with a defiance that runs strong in Serbian history. Barely 18 months after half a million demonstrators packed central Belgrade demanding Milosevic’s resignation, he was suddenly more popular than Serbia’s prime minister, Zoran Djindic, the man who sent him to The Hague.

Consequently, war crimes issues are matters of acute political sensitivity for the government, particularly given the ongoing battle for supremacy between Djindjic and President Vojislav Kostunica, his chief rival among the reformers who toppled Milosevic.

Kostunica, a self-styled moderate nationalist, has publicly said the tribunal “makes his stomach turn”. Even Djindjic, whose greater pragmatism and stronger commitment to free-market reforms make him more popular in the West, says it is unrealistic to expect him to court unpopularity by speaking out in support of the tribunal and its goals.

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up to draw conclusions about responsibility for the past decade of bloodletting is starved of resources and lacks the power to subpoena witnesses. The new body is not expected to provide definitive answers and Serbs, encouraged by Milosevic to view themselves as history’s perpetual victims, are not in any mood to hear them.

It took Germans a generation to confront their Nazi past, even though vast amounts of American aid had helped to revive their wrecked economy, Djindjic contends. How can Serbs, who survive on average monthly salaries of $150, be expected to do the same in less time when hundreds of thousands of them remain refugees from conflicts that still fester long after the shooting stopped?

Even if Milosevic is convicted, as most observers expect, his trial is unlikely to alter the mindset of many in Serbia. Unless they can be convinced that it is in their own interests to dig deeper into the past, Serbs will continue to feel unfairly judged by the rest of the world.

Daniel Simpson is a Belgrade-based journalist who covers the Balkans for THE NEW YORK TIMES.


THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- Bowing to powerful pressure from the United States and other nations, the Serbian government handed over former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on Thursday for a trial on war-crimes charges that could result in a life sentence.

Milosevic, 59, the first former head of state to face trial before a U.N. war-crimes tribunal, was flown from a prison in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, to the United Nations International War Crimes Tribunal jail at the seaside suburb of Scheveningen adjoining The Hague, ending months of international efforts to bring him to justice.

His hand-over represents a major legal precedent, making it clear that other dictators around the world cannot expect to carry out violations of the rules of war and of human rights with impunity. It also will bring renewed pressure for the arrest of other Serbs indicted on war-crimes charges, such as former military commander Gen. Ratko Mladic and former Bosnian-Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, both now in hiding.

The independent Belgrade radio station B92 reported Thursday night that three more Serbian war-crimes suspects were arrested after Milosevic was flown out of Belgrade.


The Serbian government defied Yugoslavia's Constitutional Court, made up of Milosevic appointees, which earlier in the day had suspended a government order for the former president's extradition pending a ruling on its constitutionality. The government argued the decision had no legal force because the court consisted of Milosevic's cronies.

The government also defied President Vojislav Kostunica, who said he learned of the extradition from the media, then went on television to declare that "it cannot be considered legal and constitutional. This is a serious breach of constitutional order in our country."

Kostunica, a Serbian nationalist, has resisted a war-crimes trial for Milosevic in The Hague since he replaced the disgraced former leader last fall. But the Serbian government was guided, above all, by its need for international aid to stave off national bankruptcy.

The United States has said repeatedly that no money would be forthcoming until authorities in Belgrade took the necessary legal steps to extradite Milosevic. An international donors conference for Yugoslavia will be held today in Brussels, Belgium, and the United States confirmed Wednesday that it would attend, a tacit acknowledgement that it was prepared to release an expected $100 million in aid to Belgrade.

The Serbian government is hoping for a $1.3 billion package to speed reconstruction of facilities destroyed or damaged in the NATO bombing campaign against Serbia two years ago and to revive an economy shattered by sanctions. Sanctions were imposed after Milosevic launched wars against the former Yugoslav republics of Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia in an attempt to create what he called a Greater Serbia.

President Bush issued a statement applauding the hand-over of Milosevic, and other world leaders voiced similar views, saying the action would enable Yugoslavia to end its isolation.

In Belgrade, about 2,000 Milosevic supporters gathered to denounce his extradition, shouting "Treason, treason" and "Mutiny." They called for people from across Serbia to converge on Belgrade this evening for an even bigger demonstration at which they will demand new elections.

The crowd turned on foreign TV crews, beating at least one journalist and destroying a car belonging to an American crew.

Milosevic fell from power last autumn after losing an election he had confidently expected to win. Although he had sworn never to be taken alive, he was captured April 1 after a standoff at his residence in which he threatened suicide at one point. He was then charged with abuse of power and financial corruption.

Milosevic seized power in Serbia in 1987 and had ruled with an iron hand, crushing all opposition and muzzling the media. He became Yugoslav president in 1997 but had long been the effective ruler of the country.

Milosevic jailed in The Hague

A helicopter arrived in the Netherlands shortly before 1.30 a.m. (2330 GMT) local time on Friday as Western officials gathered to discuss aiding the battered country that extradited him.

The helicopter landed at the facility that houses the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Western governments blame Milosevic for a decade of ethnic strife that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. An indictment in 1999 holds him responsible for the killings and expulsions of thousands of ethnic Albanians in the Serbian province of Kosovo.

"This tribunal was set up to investigate and prosecute as high up the chain of command as the evidence will allow, and I think this is the ultimate case," said Jim Landale, a spokesman the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

The campaign against Albanian separatists in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo by the Serbian-led Yugoslav army and security forces prompted NATO countries to launch a three-month campaign of aerial bombardment against Yugoslavia in 1999.

Milosevic's transfer to the Hague comes on the eve of an international conference of donors for Yugoslavia in Brussels, sponsored jointly by the European Union and the World Bank.

Years of international sanctions and the U.S.-led air campaign devastated the country's economy and infrastructure, and Yugoslav officials hope to raise $1.3 billion at the conference for their war-torn country.

Donor nations and top lending institutions had put the Yugoslav government on notice that it would not receive the funds if it did not cooperate with the tribunal.

The international community on Thursday welcomed Milosevic's extradition, but it was greeted with shock and anger in Belgrade.

The announcement that Milosevic was in U.N. custody came after a day of drama that began when Yugoslavia's Constitutional Court suspended the decree allowing his extradition.

Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic called the court's ruling "worthless" because it was made up of Milosevic appointees. Djindjic argued that international law required him to hand Milosevic over for trial.

A crowd of several hundred people gathered late on Thursday in the city's Central Square and outside the prison where Milosevic had been held since April. Even Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica called the move illegal and unconstitutional.

"This could be interpreted as a serious jeopardising of the state's constitutional order," Kostunica said in a televised address.

Milosevic has been under arrest since April, facing possible charges of corruption and abuse of power during his 13 years in power.

Yugoslavia's Cabinet approved a decree last week allowing suspects to be handed over to the U.N. tribunal. On Monday the government of Serbia -- the larger of the two remaining Yugoslav republics -- launched extradition proceedings against him. Milosevic had asked the country's Constitutional Court to rule to declare the extradition unconstitutional.

The charges of crimes against humanity stem from actions by the Serbian-led Yugoslav army in Kosovo. They include charges of murder, deportation and prosecution of people on political, racial and ethnic grounds. If convicted, the 59-year-old Milosevic could be sentenced to life in prison.

Among the allegations is that Milosevic ordered the bodies of ethnic Albanians killed by Yugoslav security forces in Kosovo brought to Serbia for burial in an attempt to avoid war crimes charges.

Leaders of the countries that went to war against Yugoslavia praised the arrest of Milosevic. U.S. President George Bush said it showed Belgrade was moving "toward a brighter future as a full member of the community of European democracies." British Prime Minister Tony Blair called it "thoroughly a good thing."

The tribunal's chief prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, has said she intends to seek additional indictments against Milosevic. There was word Thursday the charges might be expanded to include genocide.

Kostunica criticised Milosevic's extradition in a televised speech

"That here we see one of the most powerful men in the Balkans today in the hands of the Hague should go to show all leaders who are bound to abuse their power that in today's world, the people in the international community demand and will ensure that impunity is not allowed to stand," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Thursday.

A spokesman for The Hague said the normal procedure is for an indicted suspect to "enter a plea" at an initial appearance within four days after arriving.

On the other hand, observers said, it could take up to a year of pre-trial proceedings and challenges to the charges against Milosevic before the case comes to trial.

Yugoslavia: Milosevic Transferred To The Hague To Face Charges

Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic arrived by helicopter early this morning at the UN war crimes tribunal prison in The Hague. If convicted, the 59-year-old former head of state faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life behind bars.

Prague, 29 June 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The timing could not have been more appropriate.

June 28 is Vidovdan, or Saint Vitus Day -- one of the most significant days in the Serbian calendar. It marks the anniversary of the 1389 Ottoman Turkish defeat of Serb-led Christian forces at Kosovo Polje, the Field of Blackbirds. It also marks the day when a Bosnian Serb, Gavrilo Princip, assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand -- the heir to the Austro-Hungarian crown -- in Sarajevo in 1914, touching off World War I.

Vidovdan was also the day in 1989 when Slobodan Milosevic made a history-changing address to more than one million enthusiastic Serbian pilgrims gathered at Kosovo Polje for the 600th anniversary of their forbearers' defeat.

"Today, six centuries later, we are again engaged in battles and stand before battles, not armed battles, although such things cannot yet be excluded. But regardless of whether they are [armed], the battles cannot be won without determination, bravery, and self-sacrifice -- without these qualities which so long ago were present on the Field of Blackbirds."

Two years later, on Saint Vitus Day 1991, Yugoslav tanks rolled into Croatia in what was to become a three-and-a-half-year failed attempt to crush Zagreb's drive for independence while trying to create a Greater Serbia.

And finally, shortly before dusk on Saint Vitus Day 2001, Serbian authorities placed Milosevic in the custody of tribunal officials in Belgrade who whisked the former Yugoslav president by helicopter to the US/SFOR airbase at Tuzla.

This occurred allegedly without the knowledge of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica or the Yugoslav general staff. From Tuzla, the U.S. military flew Milosevic to Valkenberg air base in the Netherlands. A helicopter flew him the last 10 kilometers to the tribunal's fortress prison at Scheveningen near The Hague, where he arrived some six-and-a-half hours after leaving Belgrade's central prison.

The timing was not lost on Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, who said last night: "Exactly 12 years ago, on this very day, on one of the greatest Serbian holidays -- Saint Vitus Day -- Slobodan Milosevic called on our people to realize what he described as the ideals of heavenly Serbia. That brought 12 years of wars, catastrophes, and the destruction of our country." Djindjic pledged "to carry out the ideals of the down-to-earth Serbia, not only for us and our parents, but for our children."

But as appropriate as the date seemed, the timing of Milosevic's transfer yesterday had less to do with Serbia's troubled past and more with its potentially prosperous future. An international conference is being held in Brussels today at which 35 donor nations are expected to make pledges of aid totaling some $1.25 billion for next year. And Djindjic said Serbia could not risk the isolation that failing to transfer Milosevic might cause.

"The possibility that those pledges would be suspended indefinitely along with the decision on our cooperation with the Hague tribunal raises the risk of an unforeseen fiasco and the humiliation of our state, that. at the donors' conference a large number of countries would revoke their participation."

Milosevic is expected to be brought before the tribunal within the next few days to hear the charges against him of crimes against humanity in Kosovo. The charges are likely to be expanded to include crimes committed between 1991-95 in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

President Kostunica, an expert in constitutional law and a vocal opponent of delivering Milosevic to The Hague, was incensed, saying: "cooperation with the Hague tribunal was reduced to delivering suspects, without any protection of citizens or state interests, [or] even basic procedure."

"We are now facing problems that were unnecessarily and unwisely created. Tonight's extradition of the former president of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic, cannot be considered legal and constitutional." Kostunica added: "This can be interpreted as seriously endangering the constitutional system of the country. The rule of law [cannot] be built on injustice."

Earlier yesterday, the Yugoslav Supreme Court froze a decree that the government had issued on 23 June enabling Milosevic's transfer to The Hague. The Serbian government responded by going into an emergency session and deciding to circumvent the court ruling. Djindjic pronounced the court's decision invalid and alleged that it "endangers the survival of the country." He said the Serbian government agreed to "fulfill its obligations to The Hague."

Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Zarko Korac said: "For far too long, the specter of collective responsibility hung over us because of Milosevic." He added: "Milosevic, and not the Serbian nation, was the chief culprit. Now he'll have to account for his acts, and that will remove the smear from the Serb nation."

The Yugoslav military disassociated itself from the transfer. The state news agency, Tanjug, quoted unnamed officials at the Army General Staff as saying last night that the handover was up to the Serbian government and that according to the Yugoslav Constitution, the army "is not in any way connected with this."

Many Belgrade residents said they were relieved. Some said they believed Milosevic should have remained in Belgrade to face trial at home.

1st man: "It's the right thing, the right thing at the right time. He left us in a bad way and caused too much evil."

2nd man: "Now that it's all over we can live normally."

3rd man: "Bon voyage." (Good riddance.)

1st woman: "We -- our authorities, our state -- should have tried him."

4th man: "It wasn't necessary. It's a matter of honor."

5th man: "I think he should have been tried here."

6th man: "I think the transfer was correct. But I would have sent him already [last] October 5, [when he was ousted], to answer for his acts. Ten, 12 years has been enough. The nation is impoverished."

Milosevic's lawyer, Toma Fila, was outraged that he had not been informed of the transfer in time to react. Fila initially refused to comment and later told reporters that in a "normal country" the defense would be informed about the whereabouts of his client.

Another lawyer, Moma Raicevic, showed reporters what he said was a written statement signed by Kostunica, Djindjic, Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, and an official of the pro-democracy Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) at the time of Milosevic's arrest on 1 April, guaranteeing Milosevic would not be transferred to The Hague tribunal.

Some 200 Milosevic supporters rallied outside the central prison last night. And a crowd of some 2,000 angry Milosevic supporters gathered at Belgrade's Republic Square chanting "revolt, revolt" and "treason, treason" to denounce Djindjic and the DOS.

Milosevic's wife, Mira Markovic, said she was "appalled" by the transfer. The Montenegrin tabloid "Dan" quotes her as saying, "even little children know that according to the constitution the transfer and sale of our citizens is banned."

Zivadin Jovanovic, the deputy chairman of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia, or SPS, accused Kostunica and Djindjic of bearing responsibility for the handover.

Another SPS leader, Ivica Dacic, described the day as the most shameful day in Serbian history since Saint Vitus Day 1389.

"This is the day when Serbia overturned all the accusations of what has happened in the last 10 years. They want to say that we are war criminals, Milosevic too." (Crowd boos, whistles, chants "treason, treason.")

SPS has issued a statement accusing Djindjic's government of having suspended the constitution and undertaken a coup d'etat.

Serbian Radical Party or SRS leader Vojislav Seselj, who also addressed the rally, called for the formation of a government of national salvation and early elections.

The leaders of SPS and SRS have called a large demonstration for this evening (1800 Prague and local time) in front of the federal parliament building to protest Milosevic's handover.

Predrag Bulatovic, the head of DOS's Montenegrin partner in the federal government -- the pro-Milosevic Socialists People's Party (SNP) -- told a news agency (Reuters) in Podgorica last night that "this is the end of the coalition."

Yugoslav Prime Minister Zoran Zizic, also a member of Montenegro's SNP, called the handover of Milosevic "unconstitutional." He says it undermines the "very foundation of the Yugoslav federation" and said he would hand in his resignation at a cabinet meeting later today.

Zizic said late last year that he was only taking the post of federal prime minister to ensure that DOS would not transfer Milosevic to The Hague.

The Montenegrin government, which is no fan of Milosevic, may use the transfer as a pretext for dissolving the Yugoslav federation. Montenegro's Deputy Prime Minister Dragisa Burzan said the handover "now opens the door for [the] peaceful process for Montenegro to become sovereign."

In Kosovo, there was no comment from Ibrahim Rugova's mainstream Democratic League of Kosovo.

The deputy chairman of Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo, Hajredin Kuqi, says the transfer shows that justice prevails. "The transfer of Milosevic opens the way for the transfer to the Hague tribunal of the other indictees."

Kol Berisha, the deputy chairman of Ramush Haradinaj's Democratic Alliance, likewise welcomed the news.

"It is of immense significance for Kosovars because it represents satisfaction for all those families that suffered so much under the Milosevic regime."

Stipe Mesic, Croatia's president and the last prime minister of all Yugoslavia in 1991, said he had no regrets over the news of Milosevic's transfer.

"I told him [Milosevic] in [1991] that we would meet in court. He planned the war, and built into this plan war crimes and genocide causing harm to all, especially the Serbian nation."

In Bosnia, the international community's high representative, Wolfgang Petritsch, also welcomed the transfer. He specifically expressed appreciation of the Serbian government's difficult decision to make the transfer on the 12th anniversary of what he called Milosevic's "infamous speech in Kosovo, which many regard as the overture to the breakup of the former Yugoslavia."

Petritsch terms Milosevic "the main culprit of the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina." He says Slobodan Milosevic's appearance before the war crimes tribunal is crucial for the development of the peace process in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Petritsch said he expects that others like Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic -- Bosnian Serb leaders likewise indicted by The Hague tribunal for their role in Bosnia and Herzegovina's bloody war -- will also appear shortly before the international court.

And in Macedonia, government spokesman Milososki described Milosevic's delivery to The Hague as "good news for all democracies in the Balkans" and "bad news for all who like violence and weapons." The spokesman called Milosevic "the greatest but not the last tyrant in the Balkans," and added that he hopes The Hague tribunal will also eventually host "the leaders of the Albanian paramilitary formations, who like Milosevic threaten democracy and peace in Southeastern Europe."

Watch the video: Ράτκο Μλάντιτς: Ο αμετανόητος σφαγέας των Βαλκανίων (May 2022).