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Crisis 1999
Opinions Archive 1999
The International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague
and the indictment of Milosevic

When Louise Arbour, main prosecutor of ICTY in The Hague, today announced the name of Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic as one of the accused for war crimes in Kosovo, it was an event that each democratically oriented citizen of Serbia longed for. The responsibility has been personalized and the process of punishing the real perpetrators finally began, instead of punishing the whole nation, as was the case so far. Still, this may be the single positive note in this decision, which will, at this moment and in these circumstances, quite certainly open new dimensions of peril for exactly those common people of Yugoslavia.

First, it must be stressed that the idea of an international tribunal, which would deal with punishing those who committed war crimes is an extraordinarily humanistic idea. This way, various dictators of the world would not be able to hide behind the sovereignity of their states. But, the trouble with the practical implementation is the requirement for a court, which deals with such delicate matters as neglecting of sovereignity of independent states is, to be absolutely unbiased. There is but a thin line between the humanistic idea of prevention and punishing the crime, and the political instrumentalisation of the court in disputes between the mighty and tiny countries. It is exactly the absolute independence ot such a court that stops this line from being crossed, and the noble idea of establishing responsibility for the crimes from being compromised and reduced to a political instrument of the countries who founded and who finance the court, against the others. So, does this specific international court in The Hague satisfy thus defined conditio sine qua non of absolute independence?

The answer is short, tragic and pathetic: NO. The ICTY in The Hague has so far managed to do only half of its job. The score is not that bad, until the distribution of this half is observed. Unfortunately, the aforementioned half is completely focused to only one of the warring sides. Anyone who has origins here, with additional requirement of being immune to nationalistic propaganda of his own side, will witness that the atrocities were performed by all against all others. This simple truth, though, has not achieved much popularity with media houses like CNN or Sky. It's far easier to depict the matter in the traditional black-and- white manner, so simple and comprehendable for the target group of average audiences.

What is substantial here? Naturally, Milosevic is responsible for the situation on not just Kosovo, but the areas of former SFRY as well. Naturally, the responsibility needs to be personalized and he needs to go to prison for his crimes. But, naturally as well, following the same criteria on the same atrocities (organized manslaughter of civilians targeted to break the morale, performing mass retaliations on the whole nation of Yugoslavia), the command structures of NATO and the politicians, who ordered these atrocities, must equally be held responsible. Is there any difference between firing remote missiles on Zagreb, that Milan Martic (ex- president of Serbian enclave in Croatia) was accused for at the Hague tribunal, and shelling Nis with cluster bombs, as performed by NATO? Yes there is. The only difference is that nobody died in Zagreb, and 20 people got killed in Nis. Does the statement by NATO generals that the attack on Nis was a mistake (sic!) constitute a sufficient reason for not raising an indictment? If this is taken as a valid defence, no mass killer will be prone to be convicted. Stating that he aimed something else and that there was a mistake should keep him safe from court.

It is quite understandable that it is very difficult to charge, try and convict your employer. That is the exact position of the prosecutors and judges of the ICTY in The Hague. Still, this understandable fact pulls hard consequences against the credibility of this court. It, simply, doesn't exist. This is the very reason why the people of Yugoslavia perceive this court as a great injustice and doesn't go substantially wrong at that. What other name can be given to a situation where the laws apply only to the poor, while the rich and the mighty are above them? The situation irresistibly resembles the courts in dominions in the times of great colonial powers. The law applied to the natives only, while the citizens of the empire were in no way restricted.

Sadly, the injustice of this double-key concept is not the sole and not the worst consequence of this specific indictment against Milosevic in The Hague. It suffices to notice the moment when it was published, and it will become clear how the prosecution of this international tribunal agreed to exchange the credibility of the complete court for a political favor to certain centers of power, which can't be said to represent the international community, but are influental to NATO command structure. They find this war, as much as Milosevic does, completely suitable. The indictment was read at the moment when a political solution to the crisis was visible on the horizon, on the very day when international envoys should have come to Belgrade for a final settlement. Someone is obviously keen on creating a situation where Milosevic would not accept any compromise, because the settlement includes recognition of ICTY in The Hague. Milosevic, always lacking responsibility, is now stimulated to fight to the ned. To go until the complete breakdown, trying to protect himself from the trial. The price will be, naturally, paid by common citizens, which will be dying and losing limbs in a total war. The frequent question from the West - why doesn't the people stand up against this - reflects the complete naivety and substantial misunderstanding of circumstances an ordinary citizen lives in. Rebelling against the dictator, who has all the means of opression by a blindly loyal police, in the time of declared state of warfare, buys him a sure one way ticket - to the Heaven.

In the end, what to say? It is sad to see immoral people compromise the deeply moral ideas, as the international crime court was. It is sad to see these universal ideas stained by dragging them through the mud of daily political interests of circles who prosper in each war by killing the weak and innocent. It is sad that the world's media are in general so much financially dependent on these circles, that the editors of these (let's call them) junk-media are openly mocking the concepts of truth and complexity in reporting. Still, all of this is not enough to bring amnesty to the responsible for the crimes. Whatever side they be, whichever circles they may be protegees of. It is time for politicians with a visions, in all world, to win over the image-pursuing politicians, who are irresponsibly endorsing the public opinion, while killing and destroying in the name of alleged great causes, at the same time treading over all the norms of humanity.

For us in Yugoslavia it is probably too late. We are all already taken off from the count, and condolescences have been sent in advance. Still, there may be some time left for the world.


Source: Free Serbia

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