Slobidan Milosevic found dead in War Crimes Tribunal cell in Hague
UN detention unit at Scheveningen, outside The Hague. During World War II, members of the Dutch resistance were kept there.
One trigger of World War One was that Russia has historically extended its political power and protection throughout the Balkans and all Slavic-speaking Orthodox Christian parts of Europe. Seven decades of official Soviet state atheism did not disrupt this historical pattern, which traces back to St. Cyril bringing Greek Orthodox religion and culture (and alphabet) from Constantinople north to Slavs and Russians. The Russian Orthodox Church considers itself "the Third Rome" -- the rival center of true historic Christianity.
When Russian leaders have perceived a tug of war in the Balkans between their interests and the interests of Western Europe, they have not been shy about escalating their intrigues from diplomacy and economics to military aid, or marshalling troops on the borders.
Though Tito's Yugoslavia was nominally allied with the Soviet bloc, Tito maintained a high degree of political independence from Moscow, and his economic policies were often more closely allied with the interests of the USA and its European allies than with Moscow. Since his death in 1980, Moscow has taken its opportunity to return to its historical pattern of influencing events in the Balkans.
Milosevic had been a senior Communist official under Tito. Though his policies shifted 180 degrees opposite Tito's policy of suppressing all ethnic and religious nationalism, Tito's Yugoslavia gave Milosevic and other "ethnic cleansers" their start and platform on the post-Tito political stage. Tito also left powerful military structures in their hands.
Notice the members of Milosevic's family who have exiled themselves to Russia, and that Milosevic asked for medical treatment in Russia -- promising to return to resume his trial in the Hague / den Haag afterwards. (During Milosevic's Serbian regime, his brother was Serbian ambassador to Russia.) Moscow continues to act the role of the post-colonial capital of the Slavic world, like Paris, London, Brussels and Madrid in post-colonial Africa.
Since the wars of the 1990s ended, everyone has breathed a sigh of relief that the Balkans have stabilized politically, and everyone has assumed that the future of the Balkans would be a future largely reflecting the interests of Western Europe, and less and less influenced by Russia. Western Europe pays much better and more regularly.
But if Milosevic is perceived throughout large regions of the Balkans as a Martyr, an eruption of anti-Western nationalism could trump the EU's sweet and soft promises of future prosperity and peace. Even the Netherlands during the past few years is having trouble maintaining its dreams and policies of multi-ethnic, multi-religious coexistence.
It will be interesting -- and frightening -- to see if Milosevic's death re-ignites seven centuries of Russian-flavored ethnic and religious nationalism. Will Milosevic's perceived martyrdom "grow legs," will it spontaneously ignite pan-Slavic nationalism and large government-toppling demonstrations? How cautious and restrained will Russia be about taking this moment to cast its shadow over the Balkans?
This would be a very instructive time to re-read Barbara Tuchman's "The Guns of August."
Saturday 11 March 2006
The Associated Press
Found Dead in Cell
Former Yugoslav Leader
Found Dead in Cell
in the Hague, Apparently
of Natural Causes
by ARTHUR MAX
The Associated Press
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- Former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic, the so-called "butcher of the Balkans" being tried for war crimes after orchestrating a decade of bloodshed during his country's breakup, was found dead Saturday in his prison cell. He was 64.
Milosevic, who suffered chronic heart ailments and high blood pressure, apparently died of natural causes and was found in his bed, the U.N. tribunal said, without giving an exact time of death.
He had been examined by doctors following frequent complaints of fatigue or ill health that delayed his trial, but the tribunal could not immediately say when he last had a medical checkup. All detainees at the center in Scheveningen are checked by a guard every half hour.
The tribunal said Milosevic's family had been informed of his death, which came nearly five years after he was arrested, then extradited to The Hague.
His wife, Mirjana Markovic, who was often accused of being the power behind the scenes during her husband's autocratic rule, has been in self-imposed exile in Russia since 2003. His son, Marko, also lives in Russia, and his daughter, Marija, lives in the Serb-controlled half of Bosnia.
Borislav Milosevic, who lives in Moscow, blamed the U.N tribunal for causing his younger brother's death by refusing him medical treatment in Russia.
"All responsibility for this lies on the shoulders of the international tribunal. He asked for treatment several months ago, they knew this," he told The Associated Press. "They drove him to this as they didn't want to let him out alive."
Milosevic asked the court in December to let him go to Moscow for treatment. But the tribunal refused, despite assurances from Russia that Milosevic would return to finish his trial.
Borislav Milosevic also told the AP his family does not trust the U.N. tribunal to conduct his brother's autopsy impartially.
Milosevic has been on trial since February 2002, defending himself against 66 counts of crimes, including genocide, in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo.
He was accused of orchestrating a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing against non-Serbs during the collapse of the Yugoslav federation his attempt to link Serbia with Serb-dominated areas of Croatia and Bosnia to create a new Greater Serbia.
Milosevic spent much of the time granted for his defense fighting allegations of atrocities in Kosovo that took up just one-third of his indictment. He also faced charges of genocide in Bosnia for allegedly overseeing the slaughter of 8,000 Muslims from the eastern enclave of Srebrenica -- the worst massacre on European soil since World War II.
The trial was recessed last week to await his next defense witness. Milosevic also was waiting for a court decision on his request to subpoena former President Clinton as a witness. He was due to complete his defense this summer.
The hundreds of witnesses included former U.S. Gen. Wesley Clark, the NATO commander during the Balkan wars. Milosevic also tried to subpoena former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former German Chancellor Gerhard Shroeder and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Steven Kay, a British attorney assigned to represent Milosevic, said Saturday the former Serb leader would not have fled and was not suicidal.
"He said to me: 'I haven't taken on all this work just to walk away from it and not come back. I want to see this case through,'" Kay told the British Broadcasting Corp.
Milosevic's death came less than a week after the star witness in his trial, former Croatian Serb leader Milan Babic, was found dead in the same prison. Babic, who was serving a 13-year prison sentence, committed suicide.
His testimony in 2002 described a political and military command structure headed by Milosevic in Belgrade that operated behind the scenes.
Milosevic's death will be a crushing blow to the tribunal and those looking to establish an authoritative historical record of the Balkan wars.
"Justice was late," said Hashim Thaci, the leader of ethnic Albanian insurgents against Milosevic's forces in 1998-1999 in Kosovo's capital, Pristina. "God took him."
Though the witness testimony is on public record, history will be denied the judgment of a panel of legal experts weighing the evidence of his personal guilt and the story of his regime.
"It is a pity he didn't live to the end of the trial to get the sentence he deserved," Croatian President Stipe Mesic said.
The European Union said Milosevic's death does not absolve Serbia of responsibility to hand over other war crimes suspects.
The death "does not alter in any way the need to come to terms with the legacy of the Balkan wars," Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, whose country holds the rotating EU president, said in Salzburg.
Milosevic, a figure of beguiling charm and cunning ruthlessness, was a master tactician who turned his country's defeats into personal victories and held onto power for 13 years despite losing four wars that shattered his nation and impoverished his people.
Milosevic led Serbia, the dominant Yugoslav republic, into four Balkan wars during the 1990s. The secret of his survival was his uncanny ability to exploit what less adroit figures would consider a fatal blow.
He once described himself as the "Ayatollah Khomeini of Serbia," assuring his prime minister, Milan Panic, that "the Serbs will follow me no matter what." For years, they did through wars that dismembered Yugoslavia and plunged what was left of the country into social, political, moral and economic ruin.
But in the end, his people abandoned him: first in October 2000, when he was unable to convince the majority of Yugoslavs that he had staved off electoral defeat by his successor, Vojislav Kostunica, and again on April 1, 2001, when he surrendered after a 26-hour standoff to face criminal charges stemming from his ruinous rule.
Bosnia also has sued Serbia, accusing it of genocide in the first case of a country standing trial for humanity's worst crime.
Milosevic was born Aug. 20, 1941, in Pozarevac, a drab factory town in central Serbia best known as the home of one of the country's most notorious prisons.
His father was a defrocked Orthodox priest and sometime teacher of Russian. His mother also was a teacher. Both committed suicide.
In high school, he met his future wife, the daughter of a wartime communist partisan hero. Markovic also was the niece of Davorjanka Paunovic, private secretary and mistress of Josip Broz Tito, the communist guerrilla leader who seized power in Yugoslavia at the end of World War II.
Milosevic became president of Serbia in 1989 elections widely considered rigged. His rise alarmed the other peoples of former Yugoslavia Slovenes, Croats, Macedonians, Albanians and others who feared that the hard-line nationalist would allow Serbs to dominate the country.
In 1991, Croatia and Slovenia declared their independence from Yugoslavia. Milosevic sent tanks to Slovenian borders, triggering a brief war that ended in Slovenia's secession.
Serbs in Croatia, encouraged by Milosevic, took up arms. Milosevic sent the Serb-led Yugoslav army to intervene, triggering a conflict that left at least 10,000 people dead and hundreds of Croatian villages and towns devastated before a U.N.-patrolled cease-fire was arranged in January 1992.
Three months later, Bosnia-Herzegovina declared its independence, too. Milosevic bankrolled the Bosnian Serb rebellion, triggering an even bigger war that killed an estimated 200,000 people before a U.S.-brokered peace agreement was reached at Dayton, Ohio, in 1995 [the Dayton Accords].
During those conflicts, Yugoslavia was ostracized worldwide, and the United States called Milosevic "the butcher of the Balkans." Strict international sanctions and government mismanagement devastated the economy and left its people impoverished.
At Dayton, Milosevic accepted a deal that abandoned Croatia's rebel Serbs, who were driven from their homes when the Croatian army recaptured almost all the land the Serbs had seized there in 1991.
The Dayton agreement also meant giving up the nationalist goal of a Serb state in Bosnia. Nevertheless, it bought Milosevic time and transformed his image from Balkan villain to benign peacemaker.
Milosevic's term as Serbian president ended in 1997 and the constitution prevented him from running again. However, he exploited legal loopholes in the constitution to have parliament name him president of Yugoslavia, which by then included only the republics of Serbia and Montenegro.
It was the thorny problem of Kosovo, the majority Albanian province that served as his springboard to power, which finally set the stage for his downfall. In February 1998, Milosevic sent troops to crush an ethnic Albanian uprising there.
The United States and its allies responded by imposing sanctions that were lifted after the Bosnian war. In 1999, after Milosevic refused to sign a Western-dictated peace agreement at Rambouillet, France, NATO launched 78 days of punishing airstrikes against Yugoslavia.
Milosevic refused to back down and instead ordered his troops to crack down on Kosovo Albanians even harder. More than 800,000 Albanians fled into neighboring Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia before Milosevic finally accepted a peace plan and handed over the province to the United Nations and NATO in June 1999.
Before the conflict ended, the U.N. tribunal indicted Milosevic and four of his top aides for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Kosovo. Milosevic became the first sitting head of state ever to be indicted for such crimes. Later, they broadened the charges against him to include genocide.
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
a 2003 BBC account of conditions
in the War Crimes Tribunal's prison
in the Netherlands:
Thursday 20 February 2003
Prison conditions are
'comfortable and informal'
Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic enjoyed many of the comforts of home while he awaited trial at The Hague.
It is part of a working Dutch prison once used by the Nazis to detain Dutch resistance fighters.
Mr Milosevic and other indictees are housed in a special prison unit spread over four floors with 12 cells each, patrolled by UN guards.
Inmates in the UN wing each have their own cell of 15 square metres, equipped with modern conveniences. These include shower, toilet, washbasin and bed -- as well as a desk, a coffee maker, bookshelves, a radio set and satellite television.
Detainees spend much of their time outside their rooms, and have access to a fully equipped gym, an outdoor courtyard, a library, a recreation room, a prison shop and a religion room for prayer.
There are special family rooms to spend time with relatives. Inmates may telephone their families for seven minutes a day, cook for themselves, paint or play the piano or guitar.
The conditions at the detention unit are informal. The staff pride themselves on providing a good quality of life to the Serbs, Croats and Muslims who mix freely.
Their physical and emotional well-being is cared for by doctors and psychiatrists, and if someone needs a massage, that is provided as well.
Inside, Mr Milosevic will have met some familiar faces, including those of the only woman detainee, former Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic, and the former speaker of the Bosnian Serb Parliament, Momcillo Krajisnik.
Also detained is Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstic, accused of the genocide of Muslims at Srebrenica in Bosnia-Hercegovina.
One of the main concerns of the tribunal's Chief Prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, is the length of time that the suspects spend in detention.
Although the tribunal was set up in 1993, only four war crimes suspects are actually serving prison terms in Germany, Finland and Norway.
More than 20 new temporary judges are taking on some cases, which will speed up the trial process. In September, the tribunal will be able to hold six trials simultaneously instead of the current three.