KOSTUNICA SHUTS DOOR ON HAGUE COURT: “IT IS NOT THE HOLY BIBLE”

Yesterday, President Vojislav Kostunica of Yugoslavia declared that while the future of ex-President Slobodan Milosevic is crucially important to Yugoslavia, he still feels this is an internal question to be resolved by the Yugoslavs themselves and not by any interference from abroad. Therefore he continues to be opposed to any extradition from Yugoslavia of Slobodan Milosevic to the Hague. After his meeting last week with the Chief Prosecutor of the International Penal Court of the Hague, Carla del Ponte, President Kostunica stated that he realised that Yugoslavia risked evoking pressure from NATO countries if Mr. Milosevic is not handed over. He even described the issue as “a question of life or death” for Yugoslavia, since such pressure could deprive Yugoslavia of much-needed aid to stimulate its economy. President Kostunica considers that the Hague Court is “political”, rather than judicial. “There are serious reasons for us to be critical in relation to the Hague Court... It is a reality for us but it is not the Holy Bible, it is an institution set up based on strange rules”, he said yesterday in Davos, where he was present for the World Economic Forum. Handing over Mr. Milosevic, according to President Kostunica, would create a martyr and a hero. “It is always better that national leaders assume their responsibilities in front of their own people”, he added. The Yugoslav newspaper, Blic, stated yesterday that when Carla del Ponte was in Belgrade from 23rd to 25th January, she handed formal extradition requests to the Yugoslav Justice Minister, Momcilo Grubac for two figures in Bosnia-Herzegovina: Ratko Mladic, the military commander and the politician Slavko Zupljanin. Vojislav Kostunica commented on this, stating that he is not convinced that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has any constitutional right or duty to intervene in the Srpski Republika in Bosnia, namely to extradite General Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, another political leader, former President of the SPS, sought by the Hague. The Hague Court is indeed a meddlesome organ, a puppet of NATO and an intrusive instrument which does nothing else than interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign states, like its master. If it paid more attention to law, which it is purported to represent, it would certainly generate more respect, since it is a court and not a parliament.

TIMOTHY BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.RU LISBON