THE DEATH OF SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC - 15 YEARS TOO LATE
By John Peter Kraljic
The death of Slobodan Milosevic brought the expected platitudes concerning his trial. Though the amateurishness of the ICTY and its prosecutor dwarfs anything we saw in the O.J. Simpson trial, we heard many lament about how Milosevic’s trial ended so close to a verdict. Carla del Ponte herself pontificated about how the proceedings would have ended within the next few months. Most reporters accepted her claim at face value.
But such acceptance is inexcusable in light of del Ponte’s lack of credibility. This is the same person who claimed that General Ante Gotovina had been hiding in Croatian monasteries and had been assisted by the Vatican, claims proved false once Spanish authorities arrested the General and discovered his passport. Del Ponte has also continuously predicted at various times that the turn over of Karadzic and Mladic to the ICTY was imminent, prognostications which have always proven wrong.
May be the bookmakers in Las Vegas will start taking bets on whether a prediction made by del Ponte will prove to be right. The odds would definitely favor the house.
We should not mourn the fact that Milosevic had not been subject to a verdict. What would should mourn is the fact that he died 15 years too late.
Even in jail Milosevic continued to be a dangerous man. As we saw in the expressions of sympathy emanating from Belgrade prior to and during his funeral, Milosevic remained a lightning rod for the same forces which supported his rise to power, forces which continue to publicly call for the annexation of Croatian and Bosnian territories into a Greater Serbia.
With Milosevic off the stage, these forces will not disappear, just as they did not disappear with the defeat of the Chetniks and Draza Mihailovic at the end of World War II. However, without a living martyr in The Hague, modern-day Chetniks can only rely on fast fading memories of their hero rather than on a stream of statements, accusations and lies that would have come from Milosevic’s jail cell.
A number of victims of Milosevic’s military campaigns appeared on our TV screens bemoaning Milosevic’s early death and the lack of a verdict. I certainly understand such need for some people. Had Milosevic suddenly died a decade ago, I would have shared the same sentiment.
However, the ICTY has taught us that the outcomes of its proceedings are completely irrelevant. Indeed, while Croatian journalists reported on the Milosevic trial, it remained, for the most part, not front page news. This has proven to be the case not just with Milosevic but with every other Serb indictee.
An analysis made by Vitomir Miles Raguz in his recent book, Da nije bilo Oluje - Who Saved Bosnia, offers some insight as to why the ICTY’s proceedings have been so anti-climatic for Croats and probably for Bosniaks and Albanians as well. Raguz writes that the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina have been structured in such a manner as to result in the alienation of Croats from that state and its future.
A similar analysis can be applied to the ICTY. Proceedings at the ICTY are exclusively controlled by persons who have no “stake” in the outcome of any trial, other than as a means to advance their own professional careers. The Croats, Bosniaks and Albanians play no visible role at the ICTY other than as witnesses (and sometimes as defendants and defense counsel).
Moreover, the ICTY has had little visible effect on the main perpetrators of the crimes, the Serbs. To the contrary, Greater Serbian nationalism remains politically potent.
If Milosevic’s demise proves anything, it is that the ICTY is a bankrupt institution. Whatever importance the small caste of international bureaucrats attach to its proceedings, the ICTY has neither provided a sense of justice to victims nor assisted in the de-Chetnikization of Serbian society.
Serbia today is a defeated nation but it has not suffered the defeat and renaissance of post-World War II Germany, Italy and Japan. Instead, the Serbia of today is akin to the defeated Germany after World War I, Weimer Germany. The extreme right in Serbia, as in Weimer Germany, remains strong. The death of the “Butcher of the Balkans” will hopefully strengthen those forces in Serbia which seek to live in peace with their neighbors at the expense of those wanting more war.