Milosevic's extradition to the Hague has made him a Serbian martyr. He should have been tried in Belgradeby Aleksa Djilas / August 20, 2001 / Leave a comment
When on 28th June the government of Serbia, led by the hyper-pragmatic prime minister Zoran Djindjic, extradited Slobodan Milosevic to the Hague war crimes tribunal, many in the west acclaimed the Serbs for rejoining the European family of nations. But this compliment did not make me happy.
Western Europeans have never had much interest in Serbia, the Balkans or indeed eastern Europe. Most associations they do have are negative ones. Only experts on the region know that Serbian frescos are an integral part of European medieval art or that Serbian epic poetry is a worthy heir to Homer. Nor am I optimistic about the future: it will be a miracle if Serbia joins the EU in less than 30 years.
I do not doubt Milosevic’s responsibility for war crimes. But his extradition was very bad news for the establishment of the rule of law in Serbia and Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav constitution prohibits the handing over of our citizens to foreign countries. The law to amend it was proposed to the federal assembly. When the parliamentary majority rejected it, the government of Serbia passed a decree allowing extradition. But it was in turn declared unconstitutional, both by the constitutional court and by 51 professors at the Belgrade Faculty of Law.
Under Milosevic, many of these professors had defended both the rule of law in and the opposition. But this did not deter Djindjic’s cabinet from sending the special police to the central Belgrade jail to tell Milosevic, who had been there since 31st March on corruption charges, to pack his suitcase.
Vojislav Kostunica, the still popular president of Yugoslavia who defeated Milosevic in last autumn’s elections, was opposed to the extradition. He accused the Hague tribunal of “selective justice.” Why only Serbian, and not also Croatian, Muslim and Albanian leaders? No Croat has yet stood in front of the Hague tribunal for crimes committed against the Serbs in Croatia, of whom half a million were expelled. But Kostunica’s party was too isolated inside the ruling coalition, and Serbia too weak to resist western pressure, so he decided not to mobilise his supporters against the extradition.
It was made abundantly clear that without delivering Milosevic we would not be granted aid, that we would have to pay our huge foreign debt under a particularly severe regime and that even private investors would be discouraged. In Serbia, an average monthly wage is…