David Galland: So Speaks Slobodan Milosevic

An ever defiant Slobodan Milosevic finally got the floor at the International War Crimes Tribunal's, convening last week. Milosevic is widely believed to be the sacrificial lamb served up to the International War Crimes Tribunal for promised international aid to The Former Yugoslavia. Most folks will recall how he was wisked away, shackled, in the dark of the night last summer, to wind up at The Hague, in pre-trial confinement. Slobodan Milosevic is the highest ranking diplomat, and head of state, to be confronted with war crimes since the Nurnberg trials. Milosevic vehemently defended himself last week. He cited his actions as that of a head of state defending his country and trying to preserve freedom for his people. Again, he went on to accuse the U. N. war crimes tribunal of an "evil and hostile attack" against him, culminated in what equates to a political kidnapping, last year. Milosevic was ousted from power almost two years ago and last summer he got the Yugoslav "bums-rush" to satisfy NATO and Carla Del Ponte, the Chief War Crimes Prosecutor. Del Ponte bears a personal grudge against Milosevic, that I have personally heard her announce to everyone who cared to listen. Now, the former Serbian President faces a litany of charges of war crimes, spanning nearly a decade of conflict in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. Milosevic appealed to the court for a provisional release from confinement while Del Ponte brandished her usual arrogant smirk, punctuated with giggling. The Ex-Serbian President assured the court that he would not consider escape and that he would be present at all future hearings. Stating that, "This is a battle I will not miss," Milosevic all but assured the tribunal, or gathering of legal masterminds if you prefer, that he would challenge their authority and fight to the end for what he feels he has done for his homeland. The Milosevic trial promises to be a who's who of complicity in the Former Yugoslavia, and indeed worldwide. One can rest assured that verbal indictments and accusations by the Milosevic defense team, in attempting to level the playing field, will be accusative toward many in the West who have, indeed, committed censurable acts against the peoples of Yugoslavia, et. al. It is difficult to believe that Milosevic had done so much wrong, since hobnobbing with the likes of NATO's, and the United States', best, brightest, and fairest only seven years ago at the Dayton Peace Accords, a concept that parches my comprehension of its purpose. Milosevic and Serbia are being held accountable for the gross failure of the Dayton Accords. Serbia has never been treated equally or received any material or financial aid as a result of the "Dayton Follies", and Milosevic, in his precarious position of a man-without-a-country, is going to "go-down" for what the Dayton Accords did not accomplish. You can bet that Richard Holbrook or Madeline Albright are not going to take blame for what they perpetuated. Holbrook was the mastermind of the Dayton Accords, but he is not standing up and taking any responsibility for its utter failure. Milosevic is much better suited for that. As is characteristic of the Milosevic style of gesticulations, he frequently waved, pointed accusatively, and jabbed defensively at the prosecutors and judges. Milosevic's tirade of aggressive and bold verbosity went on for the 30 minutes, that was allocated to the defense. The substance of this latest hearing was to determine whether the three indictments against him, totaling 66 offenses, should be joined in one trial. In all of his five earlier appearances before the tribunal, Milosevic was quashed each time as he opened his mouth. Justice Richard May simply turned the former Serbian President's microphone off while "goon-like" court officers transfixed their eyes on Milosevic. Like tightly wound springs in cheap watches, they stood ready to pounce and truncheon the rebellious ex-head of state, if necessary. Although Milosevic's trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 12, he did not address the motion that was actually before the court during this appearance. He did, however, seize the opportunity to give his view of the decade of tumult in the former Yugoslavia. He called the long record of charges against him "abnormal and nonsensical." Milosevic went on to declare that his goal was to protect Serbs and bring peace as soon as possible to the troubled republics of Yugoslavia. This assertion is, indeed, credible in theory, when one tallies up the amount of Serbs who were butchered-up, by whomever wished to do so, particularly Albanians and other forces and complications of NATO. The former Serbian President steadfastly asserts that his arrest, extradition, and trial constitute an evil and hostile attack aimed at justifying the crimes committed against his country. Milosevic argues that putting him on trial was "an attempt to turn the victim into the culprit." Slobodan Milosevic's "legal" predicament has attracted some of the most experienced and gifted legal minds in the world. On an almost daily basis, the rules are re-defined, in my view, to deny the accused the notion of fairness in mounting a defense. On numerous occasions, already the accused has rejected the court's legitimacy or its authority to try him, charging that the tribunal established in 1993 was a tool of the western NATO alliance that fought him and his people. Carla Del Ponte, the Swiss Jet-Setter sporting her latest "blonde in a bottle eminence", appealed to the appellate bench to reconsider the tribunal's refusal to hold a single trial on three indictments and she was ultimately successful, of course. This would undoubtedly make convicting Milosevic of everything he is charged, with certain mindset that thrive on consistency, much easier. All Del Ponte has to do is simply link all the charges in a chronological sequence, at a minimum, and she will have a much less seamless prosecutorial presentation. The prosecution convinced the court by indicating that it intended to call several former insiders of the Milosevic regime. Del Ponte declared that she feared that these officials would not be able to return to The Hague to testify more than once if the trials were held separately. I argue that this assertion is without substance. Let's not forget that this tribunal has the power to seize people in the dark of the night, whisk them away in shackles, and have them in another country at the far corner of the continent, in time for early morning coffee. The real reason is; once Milosevic challenges "certain insiders" as he clearly has the right to do, there ought to be "standing room only" in the accused box. Del Ponte obviously seeks to avoid this scenario, you know..... sharing collective guilt instead of dumping it all on an Ex-President. The line of demarcation between witness and complicit contributor is grossly blurred for the benefit of the prosecution. Even the deputy prosecutor Geoffrey Nice remarked about these so-called witnesses, "they are high-level witnesses who can give direct evidence of what he was doing". It is idiotic and an injustice to believe that Milosevic, as one man, is autonomously and collectively guilty for the rancor in Yugoslavia, and all these witnesses are the good guys in the white hats. In Del Ponte's closing dissertation she asserted that Slobodan Milosevic was the designer and the implementer of a plan to create a "Greater Serbian State" dominated by Belgrade. She argued that, "the core impetus of all these crimes was forced expulsion." In the implementation of that expulsion, resultant were the deaths of thousands and the uprooting of many more, all at the hands of Slobodan Milosevic. Let's face it, Slobodan Milosevic rose to power after Tito, to assume that he is a choir boy is ludicrous. But the world must understand that he had the approval and assistance of many, and not all were residents or partners of Milosevic in Yugoslavia, guilt goes far further than Carla Del Ponte wishes to expose on the world stage. As we turn approach the welcome of spring in Europe, which has traditionally signaled escalated military operations and death in the Balkans, we are tuned to The Hague. We wait, watch, and try to guess how this new chapter in international jurisprudence will be scripted in an attempt to convict Slobodan Milosevic of so many crimes. At the same time, with the wisdom of Admiral Nelson and his blind eye to the telescope, the conviction of Milosevic, shall absolve so many others of all complicity both from within, and external from, The Former Yugoslavia. Now, try to guess how this new chapter in international jurisprudence will be.

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