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Autori: Subjekti: Milosevic And Seselj \'Not Yet History\'

Postuar mė 1-1-2004 nė 12:54 Edit Post Reply With Quote
Milosevic And Seselj 'Not Yet History'

Western Press Review: Milosevic And Seselj 'Not Yet History'
By Don Hill

Prague, 30 Dec 30 (RFE/RL) -- The results of Sunday's (28 December) parliamentary elections in Serbia captures the attention of a number of Western newspapers today.


Vanora Bennett, writing in Britain's "The Times," summarizes the issue in five short words: "They are not history yet."

She is referring to former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and fellow war crimes indictee Vojislav Seselj. Bennett writes: "Yesterday, Serbia's two scariest bogymen signaled their return from the political dead. Even though [Milosevic and Seselj] are on trial at The Hague war crimes tribunal, they will have been rejoicing to see their extremist followers win nearly one-third of the votes in the parliamentary election back home in Serbia. That result gives the pair a ghostly future in domestic politics. Until Mr. Milosevic and Mr. Seselj are found guilty, they can become [deputies] in the Belgrade parliament, if their followers so choose, and reassert their influence on external events, at least from a distance."

The commentary concludes: "Convicted criminals cannot hold seats in parliament. Although tribunal officials are determined to stop Mr. Milosevic and Mr. Seselj [from] exercising long-distance power from their cells, it would be better still to complete the trials of all the suspected war criminals. That means speeding up the remaining arrests and handovers to The Hague -- something Serbia's democratic rulers have been squeamish about, fearing they might provoke an ultranationalist backlash.

"There is no time left for such squeamishness. If Serbia's reformers want to move forward, they must deal with their demons and confront this issue. If some combination of reformers manages to form another government, the last war crimes suspects must be bundled off at once to The Hague. The forces of darkness still threaten the Balkans; it is time to banish them for good."


Britain's "The Daily Telegraph" places the Serbian results in the context of what the newspaper calls a "swing to the nationalists in former Yugoslavia." It continues, "It began in Bosnia and Herzegovina in October 2002 and continued last month in Croatia."

The editorial concludes: "Blame for the swing to the right also lies with the [Serbian] pro-reform camp, which was seen as corrupt and fell apart after the assassination of its leader, Zoran Djindjic, the prime minister, last March. Those failings and the hopeless nostalgia of the extreme nationalists are pushing Serbia towards sullen isolation fueled by an apparently limitless capacity for self-pity. This is a bleak climax to the string of sobering election results over the past 14 months."


Britain's "The Guardian" says that the election results, looked at clearly, show that Serbia's reformers have, in the words of an editorial, "survived a scare." The newspaper urges the fragmented election "victors" to bury their differences and work for the country.

The editorial says: "State socialism held on longer and with much greater ruthlessness in Serbia than in any other European country. It did so by throwing in its lot with the militant nationalism that has never been far from the dark heart of Serbian politics. So it is hardly surprising that this dangerous but charismatic alliance has emerged as the big winner from an election caused by the collapse of the riven and failed coalition of reformists that replaced Slobodan Milosevic three years ago.

"Sunday's Serbian elections should not, however, be seen as a defiant popular endorsement of the corrupt ex-dictator's politics in the face of his continuing trial for war crimes in The Hague. The tribunal process may not please the majority of Serbs, but this did not translate into a re-embrace of the country's former strong man. Mr. Milosevic's Socialist Party obtained just 8 percent of the seats in the new parliament in Belgrade, coming sixth of the six main parties in the election. That is not comeback stuff."


"The Independent" takes a contrary tack. "The reformist parties," it editorializes, "have been warned."

The British newspaper says: "The key to the depressing turn of events in Serbia [seems to be] the failure of the post-Milosevic reformers to deliver economic progress. Gangsterism and assassination are emblems of political and economic weakness. Serbs simply became fed up with waiting for their depressed living standards to rise. Serbia has the potential to be a prosperous nation. Its people know that, and find it frustrating that, on top of the perceived national humiliations over Bosnia and Kosovo, they see so little sign of the material improvement now coming about in much of Eastern Europe.

"In such circumstances it was sadly inevitable that the rabble-rousers would make gains. There is no reason to dispute, for example, the explanation for his party's success proffered by the Radical Party's deputy leader, Tomislav Nikolic, that the citizens of Serbia wanted 'jobs, peace and security.' It is nonetheless unfortunate, and disquieting, that they turned to ultranationalists in order to make their protest. The reformist parties, a coalition of which will continue to try to govern Serbia, have been warned."


"The Wall Street Journal Europe" refers to the Serbian election results as "Slobo's moral victory." In an editorial, the paper says: "Serbia's violent nationalists owe the UN's war crimes tribunal at The Hague a debt of gratitude for their resurgence in Sunday's parliamentary elections. For the rest of the world, the election outcome illustrates that among the other shortcomings of the United Nations, it is not very effective at meting out justice. We say that with sadness, because we had hoped that The Hague tribunal would quickly punish the Serbs most responsible for the 'ethnic cleansing' in Bosnia and Kosovo.

"Instead, the leisurely pace of Hague tribunal procedures has given its prisoners, including former [Serbian] leader Slobodan Milosevic, a platform for preaching to followers back home that they are victims of an international hate-Serbia cabal. They are, after all, being tried in a Dutch courtroom before a Jamaican judge by a Swiss prosecutor, in full sight of [Serbian] TV viewers. In the eyes of ardent Serbian nationalists, these once-disgraced hoodlums have become martyrs."

The editorial says: "Serbian nationalism wasn't born at The Hague, of course. The popularity of extremist parties reflects the failure of the current crop of leaders to address the legacies of the Milosevic era, poverty and corruption. But all the people now demanding that Saddam Hussein face an international or UN court ought to visit Belgrade to see why domestic trials are, whenever possible, preferable."


The "Financial Times" lines up with those commentators who urge Serbia's moderate parties to minimize their differences and maximize unity. The newspaper editorializes: "The democratic parties' immediate challenge is to overcome their deep divides. Vojislav Kostunica, the conservative head of the Democratic Party of Serbia, is emerging as a possible prime minister. But to form a government he must cut deals with the Democratic Party, the grouping of Zoran Djindjic, the assassinated former prime minister. With support from smaller parties, a Kostunica-led coalition could secure a parliamentary majority."

The editorial continues: "Having wasted three years on useless squabbling, Serbia's democrats must now pull together. The West must give them strong support. Three years ago, the United States and the [European Union] contributed to Serbia's problems by backing the pragmatic Mr. Djindjic and cold-shouldering Mr. Kostunica, who prevaricated over cooperating with the war crimes tribunal. In retrospect, the West should have put a higher priority on stabilizing Serbia."

The "Financial Times" concludes: "Now the EU and the United States must accept that, while Mr. Kostunica may not be an ideal partner, he has the best chance of creating a workable government. He deserves aid plus a chance to negotiate an EU stabilization agreement, a first step towards membership."


Marcus Tanner is the author of "Croatia -- A Nation Forged in War." "The Independent" publishes his commentary under the headline, "Serbia Might Once Again Cause Balkan Strife."

Tanner comments pessimistically on calls for reformers to take control of Serbia. Tanner writes: "The electoral triumph of Serbia's ultranationalists led by Vojislav Seselj leaves Western strategy in the Balkans in ruins. Bang go any hopes of integrating the former Yugoslav republics into the European Union. Ditto The Hague tribunal's hopes of getting hold of the two most-wanted war criminals of the 1990s, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic."

The writer says: "We can now expect the chancelleries of Europe to press the smaller parties into forming a coalition to keep Seselj out. Even if they succeed, this will be a government composed of many whose instincts are closer to Seselj than to his opponents. From his Hague cell, Seselj will use his control over votes in parliament to block every useful reform, ensuring that Serbia staggers into a fresh election within months in a worse state.

"By then the reformists will be even more discredited, Seselj's Radicals may win outright and the Balkans could be in for turbulence. A Seselj-run Serbia could find plenty to occupy itself in Kosovo, Macedonia and Bosnia. The Hague tribunal could forget about extraditing Messrs Mladic and Karadzic in such an eventuality."

Tanner concludes: "Western leaders may wonder if time and the prospect of power have not moderated Seselj's hatred, but there is no evidence that Serbia's military debacle in 1995 fazed him; on the contrary it gave him a new cause -- revenge. 'France waited 47 years to recover Alsace-Lorraine,' he boasted to the Belgrade weekly magazine 'Vreme' in 1996, 'but history is getting faster and faster. We won't wait as long as the French did.'"

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Postuar mė 31-8-2004 nė 22:30 Edit Post Reply With Quote
Making a Spectacle of Himself:
Milosevic Wants a Stage, Not the Right to Provide His Own Defense
By Michael P. Scharf, The Washington Post, 8/29/04

Almost everyone knows the old legal saying: "He who represents himself has a fool for a client and an idiot for a lawyer." The trial of former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic suggests a related adage: "A judge who permits a rogue leader to represent himself in an international war crimes trial is just as misguided."

On Tuesday, Milosevic's trial -- more than two years old and counting -- is scheduled to resume before the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague. The opening act of the trial's new phase will be the judges' announcement of their decision on whether to allow Milosevic to continue acting as his own lawyer.

At the start of the trial in February 2002, the original presiding judge, Britain's Richard May, ruled that "under international law, the defendant has a right to counsel, but he also has a right not to have counsel." Virtually everything that has gone wrong with the Milosevic trial can be traced back to that erroneous ruling.

The decision has caused the trial to drag on twice as long as anticipated. Because of concerns about Milosevic's high blood pressure (240 over 120), the judges have had to scale back the length and frequency of the proceedings to ensure that the former leader is not "tried to death." As a result, the trial takes place only three times a week as opposed to the standard five; the number of hours per day has been reduced from eight to four; and there are frequent lengthy recesses to allow the defendant-lawyer to regain his strength. These delays have taken their toll on justice. Judge May recently died of cancer and a replacement had to be found; witness memories are fading; and the international community is losing interest.

The judges have given Milosevic wider latitude than an ordinary defendant or lawyer. Normally, the accused addresses the court only when he takes the stand to give testimony, and he must take an oath to tell the truth. Moreover, he is limited to offering evidence that is relevant to the charges, and is subject to cross-examination by the prosecution. By acting as his own counsel, Milosevic was able to begin the trial with an 18-hour-long opening argument, which included Hollywood-quality video and slide-show presentations showing the destruction wrought by the 1999 NATO bombing campaign.

As his own defense counsel, Milosevic has been able to treat the witnesses, prosecutors and judges in a manner that would earn ordinary defense counsel a citation or incarceration for contempt of court. In addition to regularly making disparaging remarks about the court and browbeating witnesses, Milosevic pontificates at length during cross-examination of every witness, despite repeated warnings from the bench. Milosevic, who spends his nights at the tribunal's detention center, has no incentive to heed the judges' admonitions.

Milosevic's caustic defense strategy is unlikely to win him an acquittal, but it isn't aimed at the court of law in The Hague. His audience is the court of public opinion back home in Serbia, where the trial is a top-rated TV show and Milosevic's standing continues to rise.

Opinion polls have reported that 75 percent of Serbs do not feel that Milosevic is getting a fair trial, and 67 percent think that he is not responsible for any war crimes. "Sloba Hero!" graffiti is omnipresent on Belgrade buses and buildings. Last December, he easily won a seat in the Serbian parliament in a national election.

In creating the Yugoslavia tribunal statute, the U.N. Security Council set three objectives: first, to educate the Serbian people, who were long misled by Milosevic's propaganda, about the acts of aggression, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by his regime; second, to facilitate national reconciliation by pinning prime responsibility on Milosevic and other top leaders and disclosing the ways in which the Milosevic regime had induced ordinary Serbs to commit atrocities; and third, to promote political catharsis while enabling Serbia's newly elected leaders to distance themselves from the repressive policies of the past. May's decision to allow Milosevic to represent himself has seriously undercut these aims.

May felt he had no choice in the matter because the tribunal's legal charter stated that the defendant has the right "to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing." But some experts -- and I'm including myself -- are now arguing that May got the law wrong.

The language from the Yugoslavia tribunal statute originally comes from a human rights treaty known as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The negotiating record of the International Covenant indicates that the drafters' concern was with effective representation, not self-representation. In other words, the drafters felt that a defendant should have a right to either be represented by a lawyer or to represent himself; they did not state that each defendant must be asked to choose between the two. Unlike Britain and the United States, most countries of the world do not allow criminal defendants to represent themselves under any circumstances, and this has been deemed consistent with international law by the European Court of Human Rights.

Even if May was correct in his reading of the law as providing a right to self-representation, he was wrong to treat that right as absolute. As authority for his position, May cited the U.S. Supreme Court's 1975 ruling in Feratta v. California, which held that there was a fundamental right to self-representation in U.S. courts. But the high court also added a caveat, which May overlooked, stating that "a right of self-representation is not a license to abuse the dignity of the courtroom." U.S. appellate courts have subsequently held that the right of self-representation is subject to exceptions -- such as when the defendant acts in a disruptive manner, when self-representation interferes with the dignity of the proceedings or when the issues in the case are too complex for a defendant to represent himself adequately.

Milosevic's antics and poor health have repeatedly disrupted the trial, justifying appointment of counsel to represent him in court for the remainder of the proceedings. There's precedent for taking such a step: In the trial of former Serbian paramilitary leader Vojislav Seselj, the Yugoslavia tribunal required Seselj -- over his objection -- to accept "stand-by counsel," ready to step in as soon as the defendant became disruptive or the issues became too complex.

In a sense, the tribunal has already appointed standby counsel for Milosevic in the guise of Stephen Kay and the other amicus ("friends of the court") counsel. While not bound to follow the defendant's directives, their job has been to ensure that legal arguments favoring the defense are presented to the judges. It would be a small step to transform the amicus counsel into a full-blown defense team, and instruct it to represent Milosevic for the rest of the trial. The lawyers are already intimately familiar with the case and are willing to take on such a role. And unlike Milosevic, they will be bound to play by the rules.

If, on the other hand, the tribunal rules that Milosevic still has a right to represent himself, the precedent will affect other international cases. Saddam Hussein, whose war crimes trial is set to begin later this year, will be able to argue that he, too, has a right to represent himself before the Iraqi Special Tribunal.

If Hussein were allowed to follow Milosevic's playbook -- using the unique opportunity of self-representation to launch daily attacks against the legitimacy of the proceedings and the U.S. invasion of Iraq -- this would seriously undermine the goal of fostering reconciliation between the Iraqi Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis. The historic record developed by such a trial would forever be questioned. And the trial would transform Hussein and his subordinates into martyrs, potentially fueling violent opposition to the new Iraqi government.

Justice demands that Milosevic and Hussein be given fair trials. That can best be guaranteed by appointing distinguished counsel to defend them, not by permitting them to act as their own lawyers.

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