The trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has ignited the smoldering passions evoked from the still unresolved Balkan turmoil and threatens to personally involve some of the most important past and present leaders in the Western world.
Carla del Ponte, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, is considering the possibility that “some incumbent or former heads of state” will be called as witnesses for the defense in the Milosevic trial, according to official Yugoslav sources.
Milosevic is considering calling some 30 witnesses, including former U.S. President Bill Clinton, French President Jacques Chirac, British Prime Minister Toby Blair and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, stated Zdenko Tomanovic, one of Milosevic’s lawyers.
The statements were carried on the Internet site of Radio Yugoslavia, the official broadcasting service of the Yugoslav government.
The summoned statesmen “would have to explain the content of talks with Milosevic and why they had offered him support for eight years – only to claim it had been a time of genocide and crime,” Tomanovic asserted.
The case has been contentious from the beginning, with Milosevic refusing to recognize the validity of the tribunal’s authority, and continues to be fraught with controversy.
At the beginning of his defense, Milosevic showed a German-produced documentary entitled, “It Began with a Lie,” which questioned the pretext used by NATO for its bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.
The editor in chief of the film, Joerg Schoenenborn, lashed out against Milosevic, however, and branded Milosevic’s presentation as a “shameless performance,” declaring that “even the filmmakers have no doubt that Milosevic is a war criminal,” according to a report from the independent Yugoslav news source B92 News.
Passions continue to run high in Serbia regarding Milosevic’s ultimate fate. A prominent critic of Milosevic’s rule, Borka Pavicevic, the director of the Centre for Cultural Decontamination in Belgrade, has received several death threats following her televised comments, B92 News stated.
One threat stated that Pavicevic would be executed “within 24 hours.”
Moscow remains supportive of Milosevic, although its criticisms so far have been restrained.
The Voice of Russia World Service, the official broadcasting service of the Russian government, described Milosevic’s trial before the tribunal as “very sad” and disputed both the validity of the charges and the right of the tribunal to judge Milosevic.
Moscow referred to the “so-called case” of Milosevic at the tribunal.
The Voice of Russia also reported the remarks of an individual described as a female listener from Serbia who e-mailed VOR branding the tribunal as an “illegitimate body,” and challenging the United Nations Security Council’s right to establish a “judicial or investigative agency.”
In a highly unusual step, Moscow extensively quoted the female listener and did so without comment, leaving its audience to accept the listener’s statements as consistent with the views of the Voice of Russia World Service.
The “Serb listener” condemned the tribunal as “anti-Serb” and declared that the United States was behind an attempt “to destroy the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.”
The U.S., according to the Voice of Russia’s listener, was involved in “orchestrating internal conflicts in the war between the former [Yugoslav] republics,” which, “when America saw it was not enough, they finished by 78 days of bombing.”
Milosevic “never intended to do any ethnic cleansing in Kosovo,” the Serb listener contended, but he “had a duty to defend our people against terrorism that came from all sides.”
Seeking to make a connection between Kosovo in 1999 with present concerns about international terrorism, Moscow’s Serb listener stated that Milosevic “only sought to fight against vicious Albanian ideologies supported by the outside forces the United States is fighting today.”
While assessments on Milosevic, NATO’s bombing campaign and the aspirations of militant Islamic groups in the Balkans remains profoundly divided, observers are able to readily note at least two undeniable facts.
First, the bloodshed in the Balkans continues, although at a much lower level, and the question of the fate of some 1,300 Serbs who have been missing since NATO took control of Kosovo remains unanswered.
The new chief of the U.N. Civil Mission in Kosovo, Michael Steiner, stated that he would be “seriously engaged in shedding light on the fate” of the missing Serbs, according to Radio Yugoslavia’s Internet site.