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Jela Jovanovic 
Humiliation and Absolution in the Balkans
                             George Szamuely

              The arrest of former President Slobodan Milosevic
              revealed the caliber of the men the United States
              installed to run Yugoslavia. A Government that timidly
              asks NATO’s permission to send a few hundred lightly
              armed men to fight KLA terrorists in Southern Serbian
              sends thousands of heavily armed men wearing ski
              masks and stockings over their heads to storm a family
              home in suburban Belgrade. Faced with such a
              terrifying show of force Milosevic, his family and
              friends responded the way most people would. They
              tried to defend themselves. After all, they had no idea
              whether this armed detachment had been sent to
              arrest Milosevic, to kill him or to kidnap him on behalf
              of Carla del Ponte. The regime responded in character
              by adding yet further charges against Milosevic. With
              typical gallantry it also announced that it intended to
              prosecute Milosevic’s wife as well as his daughter who,
              if media stories are to be believed, was so distraught at
              her father being hauled away to prison, most probably
              for the rest of his life, that she fired her gun into the air
              several times.

              Milosevic was arrested just as the March 31
              deadline supposedly stipulated by Serbia
              Democratization Act 2000 was expiring. By this
              date, according to the legislation, the
              Administration had to certify to Congress that
              the Belgrade regime was sufficiently in
              compliance with Washington’s demands that it
              merited $50 million in aid. This in fact is yet
              another lie. The Serbia Democratization Act
              does not condition the release of $50 million on
              Yugoslavia cooperating with the Hague
              Tribunal. It is only the continued imposition of
              sanctions, particularly membership in the
              international financial institutions, that
              depended on how Belgrade comported itself
              towards Carla del Ponte. Moreover, the March
              31 deadline was completely arbitrary. The
              legislation makes no mention of this date. Yet,
              as usual by dint of repetition, the story of the
              looming March 31 deadline became the stuff of
              high drama. Even so, Serbian Prime Minister
              Zoran Djindjic showed his usual shamelessness
              by denying that the timing of Milosevic’s arrest
              had anything to do with the deadline.
              "Conditioning of that kind is unacceptable for a
              sovereign country," he declared. Of course it is.
              No doubt when Djindjic was in Washington a
              few days before the arrest US officials must have
              reassured him that they would not seek to get
              their money’s worth from the bought and paid
              for Belgrade politicians. Yet two days after the
              arrest Djindjic was positively salivating at the
              prospect of millions of dollars pouring into
              Yugoslavia. "We do cooperate with The Hague,"
              Djindjic boasted to Reuters. "Our government
              has met all the criteria stipulated by the US
              Congress law." 

              The United States Government responded
              entirely in character. Having caused billions of
              dollars of damage during NATO’s 1999
              bombing, US lawmakers patted themselves on
              their backs for their unparalleled generosity in
              forking over a measly $50 million. The US
              Government shelled out $1 billion for tiny
              Montenegro last year alone as it sought to
              detach it from Yugoslavia as part of its
              anti-Milosevic campaign. Washington’s
              response to Milosevic’s arrest was even less
              generous. Having humiliated the
              Kostunica/Djindjic regime by making it clear
              that there would be no flexibility on deadlines
              US officials turned around and announced that
              Belgrade’s record of compliance was only
              adequate so far and that it would have to do a lot
              better in the future if it wanted more money.
              Secretary of State Colin Powell declared that US
              support for a forthcoming international donors
              conference depended on Yugoslavia’s "full
              cooperation" with Carla del Ponte’s Tribunal.
              According to a UPI story, "State Department
              officials privately told United Press
              International they believe Belgrade is
              foot-dragging on cooperation with the tribunal."

              Djindjic was soon reassuring Washington
              lawmakers by saying the sorts of things they
              want to hear. Yugoslavia’s new government, he
              said, was determined to confound the
              expectations of foreigners about Serbs being
              reluctant to confront the abuses of the past. "We
              must try to organize some therapy," he declared.
              He knows his public. Djindjic also declared that
              the Belgrade regime intended to press war
              crimes charges against Milosevic. The truly
              creepy Serbian Interior Minister Dusan
              Mihajlovic announced that Milosevic could face
              the death penalty. He could be tried for inciting
              an armed rebellion, murder, even treason. "We
              have indications that Milosevic was also
              involved in serious crimes which carry the death
              penalty. But we are talking about investigations,
              we need proof," he said. The United States
              Government invariably works with the lowest
              kinds of people. Only low people are prepared to
              turn their country over to the control of foreign
              powers for a few miserable dollars. Mihajlovic
              throws out accusations and then lamely adds:
              "we need proof." In a particularly nauseating
              touch he suggested that Milosevic might prefer
              to be tried at The Hague so as to avoid the death
              penalty he would face at home. "Also the
              prisons in Serbia are far from being very
              comfortable," he sniggered. No, they are not like
              the luxury suites laid on at The Hague. 

              President Vojislav Kostunica also conducted
              himself entirely in character. His first act was to
              be out of the country when the first attempt at
              arrest was made. The military, fearing a setup,
              refused to cooperate with the police until the
              President himself signed off on the arrest. Thus
              a meeting was hastily arranged between
              Kostunica, Djindjic and General Nebojsa
              Patkovic, the Army Chief-of-Staff. Kostunica,
              unable to perform his usual "No one tells me
              what’s going on" routine had to step forward
              and admit that he had authorized the arrest. "In
              order for the state to survive, no one must be
              untouchable," he declared. "Whoever shoots at
              the police must be apprehended. Whoever has
              been subpoenaed by a judge must answer those
              summons. Whoever hinders the law must bear
              responsibility regardless of his rank or official
              status. The law applies to every citizen." Yet in
              no time at all Kostunica was distancing himself
              from the arrest. He said he himself had only
              been told about the operation after it had
              started. The police action was "clumsy and not
              well thought out," he announced. Transferring
              Milosevic to The Hague was not "his
              government’s immediate priority." This is
              standard Kostunica evasiveness. Interviewed by
              the New York Times, Kostunica sounded more
              categorical. Milosevic would not be handed
              over. "It should never happen," he explained.
              Even Djindjic was opposed to Milosevic’s
              extradition. This is yet another lie. Djindjic has
              never expressed any opposition. Kostunica
              demonstrated his usual slipperiness by also
              announcing his approval of a draft law on
              cooperation with the Tribunal that would allow
              Yugoslavia to extradite anyone sought be Carla
              del Ponte.

              Kostunica then went into his "Serbian
              nationalist" routine and launched into familiar
              complaints about the Tribunal. It had not
              indicted leaders of other former Yugoslav
              republics. It had not indicted any of the leaders
              of the NATO countries involved in the bombing
              of Yugoslavia. "If that would come about," he
              declared, "we could start thinking of the validity
              of cooperation with The Hague tribunal." This
              seems bizarre even by Kostunica standards.
              Carla del Ponte herself has expressed her
              satisfaction with Belgrade’s cooperation with the
              Tribunal. It is noteworthy that no one in the
              world seriously doubts that the Kostunica
              regime will not hand Milosevic over to The
              Hague – probably within the next couple of

              All this will be for very little. The financial aid
              supposedly heading Belgrade’s way from the
              financial institutions is a pittance. There is talk
              of a $260 million loan from the IMF. But far
              more important is the small matter of
              Yugoslavia’s $12.2 billion external debt.
              Yugoslavia owes some $5.0 billion to the Paris
              Club and around $3.0 billion to the London
              Club. The creditors want their money back.
              That’s what the IMF is there for: to make sure
              bankers and financiers are taken care of. 

              As for Milosevic himself, he will remain in
              detention indefinitely. Evidently, one of the
              things the United States does not export is the
              Fifth Amendment right against
              self-incrimination. The basis of any justice
              system is that a defendant does not have to talk
              to prosecutors if he does not want to. Moreover,
              there is also the right to a speedy trial. A
              fundamental protection against arbitrary
              government is that one cannot be arrested and
              then be detained in prison while prosecutors
              take their time to look for the evidence. But no
              one cares. Milosevic’s arrest and imprisonment
              without trial serves one purpose only: to absolve
              the true instigators of the carnage in the
              Balkans of any responsibility for their actions. 

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