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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    MON, 12 FEB 1996 21:44:54 GMT

    Belgrade and the Hague Tribunal

    AT ZERO REFERENCE POINT

    AIM Belgrade, February 9, 1996

    Who knows to how many things American Secretary of State Warren Christopher won over Serb President Milosevic during his last week's visit to Belgrade? As a capital accomplishment he made it public that the two of them had agreed to have the Office of the Hague Tribunal for war crimes opened in the capital of Yugoslavia. Neither during the visit, however, nor after it, did Milosevic say a word about the agreement. Perhaps it suited both men best to have the matter announced in this way: spokesman Christopher would win a point or two at home for it, and his taciturn interlocutor, will not lose any points, also at home. Men from Milosevic's administration are equally tight-fisted - federal Prime Minister Radoje Kontic, for instance, on his return from Davos on Wednesday evening, uttered something quite vague and evasive about the topic. Silence, or speaking through clenched teeth testify that Christopher did force the approval out from Milosevic, if there was any. But, the baby was born, now it must be rocked.

    Belgrade is, therefore, going to continue to struggle with the problem of the Hague Tribunal, although it should be admitted that it has gone a long way. In the beginning, so typical for the Serb regime, there was total ignoring of the Tribunal. Then, pressure followed exerted from various sides, which bore very little fruit, until Dayton came, which more resolutely brought up the issue of cooperation and linked it to suspension of the sanctions. Mr Christopher actually did primarily refer to Dayton when he demanded that further fooling around with the international community stop, and now, as we can see, he wishes that official Belgrade changed its position from the one of an ignorer to that of a cooperationist. The Americans like to use the word "to encorage" in their diplomatic games, so they say that they have "encouraged" Milosevic to show his knowledge and the already verified skill in this new sphere of exposing and prosecution of war crimes and criminals, and give his contribution which is expected from him. Reports from the field, from the region of Srebrenica and other places of execution, should also play an important role in it. If evidence turned out, along with everything else, it is expected that the attitude will be completely changed.

    In the course of its adjustment concerning this issue, the official Belgrade is at the moment at zero reference point tending to go up. Refusal has been abandoned, at least rhetorically, but cooperation has not been established yet. A radical shift is necessary for that, which the regime does not seem to be ready for. This is, after all, its characteristic position: not to do anything until it is absolutely necessary. Noone is as mighty as this regime until it is absolutely necessary; and when it turns out that it is absolutely necessary, noone is as submissive as it is. Between these two extremes, concerning cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, there was, also so typical, hedging. Since last June, Kontic's cabinet has been working with the Hague Tribunal on opening of the Office of the Tribunal, but nothing was actually done. First a long and intricate procedure was elaborated, then there was the proposal that the service of the Hague Tribunal operate within the UNPROFOR, various limitations for its operation were prescribed, and finally a visa and accreditation for its operation promised, but in fact nothing happened before Mr Chrisopher arrived in Belgrade.

    Among numerous excuses, legislature of Yugoslavia was mentioned as the most founded one. Allegedly, our Constitution bans extradition of its citizens, and similar. "This is just partly true", Dr Vladan Vasilijevic, expert for these issues, says for the AIM. "Paragraph 3 of Article 17 of the Constitution of the FRY says that there can be no extradition to another state, but it does not mention that it is impossible to do it in relation with an international institution. And the Tribunal in the Hague is such an institution", Dr Vasilijevic says. He also adds that the entire issue of relations with the Hague Tribunal cannot, should not and must not be reduced to the problem of extradition of those charged with war crimes in order to be brought to trial in the Hague. The spectrum of possible cooperation is much broader, divers and heterogeneous.

    Article 29 of the Tribunal Statute defines a series of process operation which precede a trial, and of course, extradition is among them. The interlocutor of AIM sees the possibility of cooperation for competent Yugoslav agencies not only in prosecution of "our own" criminals, but in helping reveal and punish crimes perpetrated against the Serbs. The Tribunal did somewhat "disturb" classical relations and forms of offering criminal and legal assistance among states, and state legislatures needed certain amendments. Many countries have done it without hesitation, as soon as the Hague Tribunal began operation. Among those especially concerned, Bosnia adopted a regulation with the force of a law, Croatia promised the world that it would adopt a law next month which would enable full cooperation with the Tribunal. Only Yugoslavia is not budging on this matter, although it has made itself liable to do it, not only by signing the Dayton agreement. When Security Council reaches a decision - and it did concerning establishment of the Tribunal - it is obligatory even for countries which are not members of the UN.

    It is true that the deputies of the Serb Revival Movement (SPO), with the expert assistance of Dr Vasilijevic himself, has submitted a Draft Law on cooperation with the international criminal tribunal to the federal parliament. The Draft Law could enter the procedure in the course of this month, after certain technical adjustments, but its final destiny is quite uncertain. This will certainly be a fundamental challenge for the ruling parties (Socialists of Serbia and Montenegro), but before they decide to adopt such a law, with the present constalletion of forces in the federal assembly, it simply cannot be adopted. The effort made by the SPO will have only a moral meaning until that happens.

    It is characteristic, though, that in the past few days, Vojislav Kostunica, leader of the Democratic Party of Serbia, also spoke about the necessity of initiating the process of cooperation with the Hague Tribunal. We are mentioning him only because as a politician and a leader of a hard-core nationalist party, for a long time he represented the type of public opinion which considered that refusal of cooperation was a question of national honour and sovereignty. Kostunica who primarily recognizes the aspect of cooperation with the Tribunal which refers to revealing crimes committed against the Serbs, now says that the world and the tribunal "must be accepted for what they are worth". Some Serb intellectuals, however, have not reached such a level of awareness, and they have gathered and operate in a committee which wishes to create a front for defence against the Hague Tribunal. The fact that Mirko Jovic, leader of an aggressive, but marginal party from Stara Pazova, a village on the road between Belgrade and Novi Sad is at its head, perhaps speaks best about its public significance. Some lawyers are also active in it, such as Dr Smilja Avramov, who otherwise, in their professional work, are in favour of what the dominating faction of Serb legal theoreticians prefer - predominance of international jurisprudence over domestic. With an enormous quantity of arrogance, Seselj's Radicals also refuse cooperation with the Tribunal.

    It is certainly interesting to note that Nikola Koljevic expressed his consent with the agreement between Christopher and Milosevic to have the Office of the Tribunal opened in Belgrade. This is obviously more than plain support. What did his comrades, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, think about and how did they assess his stance?

    Pressures of all kinds at home do not fascinate Milosevic, as could be seen so far. To what extent Mr Goldstone of Mr Caseze, who are pulling out a threat from the Hague every day, including those about possible reintroduction of the sanctions, will intimidate him remains to be seen. So far they have obviously not succeeded, because not even after a week since Belgrade's approval to have the Office of the Tribunal opened, nothing has happened.

    However, premises in one of the buildings of former Federal Executive Council (which is now rented and used by UNPROFOR) are expecting new tenants. They have, in fact, been ready for six months already, and it is even known who the new tenant will be. The Hague Tribunal has determined that their head man in Belgrade office will be Dejan Mihov, the former coordinator of civilian affairs of UNPROFOR in Sarajevo. Those well informed who are acquainted with the Bulgarian lawyer, describe him as an expert in the field who successfully cooperated with both the regime in Pale and the Government in Sarajevo. It is an establshed fact known to everyone that that is not easy, so the very fact that he is obviously a skillful and patient man makes him sufficiently qualified for the job. Connoisseurs who AIM talked to claim that this time passing without any visible effects will not last: Mihov is expected to arrive in Belgrade "quite soon". Namely, according to their opinion, the issue at stake is not whether Milosevic will yield, but only - when will it happen.

    (AIM) Radivoj Cveticanin