WED, 19 JUN 1996 19:59:49 GMT
Milosevic and the Hague
If Serbian President Milosevic decides that there are any war criminals in Serbia, he will certainly not seek them among the five men whose extradition the Hague is demanding. "If there should be any at all", he will pick them among the still nameless mob which, mentally deranged by low impulses and brandy rushed to plunge into the myth of "protectors of Serbdom". Both Milosevic and the "world" are for the time being interested to let it be
AIM Belgrade, June 13, 1996
The President of the International Tribunal for War Crimes, Antonio Cacese, returned from an official visit to Belgrade having completed his task only partially. He had reached an agreement with official Belgrade on opening of the office of the Hague Tribunal, but was denied answers to two essential questions. The first is why the procedure for adoption of a law on cooperation with the Hague Tribunal has not been initiated, and the other is whether three officers of the Army of Yugoslavia (VJ) susprected of war crimes will be extradited to the International Tribunal.
The three officers are Veselin Sljivancanin, Mile Mrksic and Miroslav Radic who are indicted for crimes in Eastern Slavonia, and against whom, as one of the hosts said, Chairman of the Chamber of Citizens of the Assembly of FR Yugoslavia, Radoman Bozovic, that the Federal Military Court had instituted an inquiry. This court would, Bozovic added, decide what would happen with these gentlemen. If Mr Cacese, after departure from Belgrade, had not known the answer to the question whether the "mentioned court" will extradite these three to the Tribunal, he could have read it last Monday in the weekly Spiegl which published an interview with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in its latest issue. "Anyone responsible for war crimes who happens to be found on the territory of Serbia will be brought to justice, but war criminals from Serbia, if there should be any, will not be tried outside Serbia", declared Slobodan Milosevic to the German journal.
The President of Serbia, therefore, still is not sure whether there are any war criminals in Serbia. First, he needs to establish whether there are any, and then "should there be any"... he will do something about it, but far from the international institutions for administering justice and as far from the eyes of the international public as possible.
However, as matters stand now, "should there be any", war criminals will not be sought among the three high officers of the Army of Yugoslavia who the Hague Tribunal is indicting for crimes committed in Croatia. "Should there be any", they will be picked among the still nameless mob which, mentally deranged by low impulses and brandy, rushed into the myth of "protectors of Serbdom", which was cruelly and shamelessly constructed by Serb propaganda.
There are a few reasons for such developments. Among the first is that by an investigation among the personnel of the Army of Yugoslavia (VJ), or in other words, with an investigation among the remains of the former Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), Milosevic would just deepen the gap between the authorities he personifies and the army. Members of the VJ are dissatisfied with the outcome of the war, many are dissatisfied even with the objectives of the war - some think that the army should have immediately "taken positions on the Serb borders", or the borders of the SFRY, but almost none of the professional soldiers are satisfied with their material position and status. Officers of the VJ nowadays work as cheap and good house-painters, as plumbers, their wives sell odds and ends in flea markets and green groceries behind stalls in markets... After moving from the war in Slovenia to the war in Croatia, then to the war in Bosnia & Herzegovina, they are living in barracks, army clubs, military hostels... For their military defeat, but also for their material poverty and social marginalization, the military personnel blame the political structure which is symbolized by the only remaining member - Slobodan Milosevic.
The threshold of endurance of the officers of the VJ turned out to be very high. The question is how much longer they can endure. Handcuffing Sljivancanin, Mrksic and Radic could be the one drop which would spill the cup. Belgrade philosopher Slobodan Inic mentions that further confrontation between the army and Milosevic could revive the tradition of the "black hand", of the well-known conspiratory "institution" in Serbia from the beginning of the century, when the army issued the command "at ease" to itself and took matters of state into its hands. Nevertheless, news leaked from military circles that the highest commanding officers of the Army discussed the possible destiny of the three of its members and decided to wait for the decision of the political leadership about it and reached the conslusion that "relevant commanding structures should prepare for the most unfavourable outcome".
"The most unfavourable outcome" for the officers could by no means be "a favourable outcome" for the Serbian President, both for the already mentioned reasons and because the three officers, as defendants may at the same time become witnesses against those who had sent them to war. And according to the testimony of the former president of the presidency of SFRY Borisav Jovic, who published his diary under the title "Last Days of the SFRY", the most prominent among those who had sent the army to war were the author of the diary himself, Slobodan Milosevic, and the commander-in- chief of the JNA general Veljko Kadijevic. Every eminent passenger from the Serb side who travels to the Hague, therefore, disturbs peaceful dreams of these three.
Sljivancanin, Radic and even general Mrksic, although men of confidence of the JNA and persons who used to be in direct contact with its highest command, they are nevertheless witnesses who belonged to a level of command which was far from Milosevic and which could be brought into connection with him only indirectly, that is, only in case a legal institution decided to unravel things to the end. Even then, the Serbian President would be considerably well protected, because his competences were formally much lower than those of the already mentioned Bora Jovic, Veljko Kadijevic and several other tragicomical and very dangerous personalities. Only they would be unpleasant witnesses both for themselves and for Milosevic in a process carried out "to the end", because they would have to prove that they were obeying orders from a lower instance, although they were formally higher authorities. However, noone has threatened to take them to court yet.
Therefore, the most unpleasant witnesses for Milosevic, those who could infallibly pave the road to the Hague for him, are still President of the Republic of Srpska (RS) Radovan Karadzic and general Ratko Mladic. They were his direct subordinates and they testified about it in a series of interviews. Speaking of the pressure exerted on Milosevic by the international community to get rid of Karadzic, Stojan Cerovic, the lucid commentator of the Belgrade weekly Vreme, writes that noone "knows better than these two how untrue and unjust it is that the world makes such a distinction between them and treats one as a war criminal and the other as a factor of peace and stability".
The world has, nevertheless, accepted Milosevic as a factor of peace and stability. Among the last who resolutely said so was the head of German diplomacy, Klaus Kinkel, after his visit to Belgrade. If Milosevic extradited the first three, and then the latter two to international judiciary, the "world" would be deprived of that factor in the Balkans. Among other, perhaps one should recall, that a poll shows that nearly 80 per cent of the Serbs think that it is a "good" thing that the Serbian authorities did not arrest general Mladic when he was in Belgrade three weeeks ago at general Djukic's funeral. It is not hard to imagine to what extent credibility of the Serbian President would have dropped if he had ordered the arrest of the commander-in-chief of the army of RS.
In his answer to the question of the journalist of the Spiegl why he had not arrested Mladic, Milosevic said: "Not only in Serbia, but especially in Serbia, a funeral is a sacred day on which anyone can freely come and go. Even if Izetbegovic himself had come to the funeral, he would not have had anything to fear".
Of course, this is the least convincing reason due to which Milosevic is not arresting one of those the Hague Tribunal wants. But, in conserving the case of "wanted Serbs", right now his interests coincide with those of the West. On this occasion, we should be reminded of a bizzare case. At the height of his conflict with the Serbian President, leader of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) Vojislav Seselj, the man who had organized and sent paramilitary units to the territory of Croatia and Bosnia, demanded to be issued an entrance visa to the Netherlands, as he himself said, in order to "point out to the fact that it was not Karadzic and Mladic who commanded military operations but Slobodan Milosevic himself". He did not get the visa with the explanation that for that he needed to be summoned by the Tribunal first. Having in this way established that this proved that even he could not be classified among war criminals, the leader of the SRS said: "There is no way for me to get that visa. They have closed the circle".
(AIM) Perica Vucinic