by Stephen Gowans
Former Yugoslav President Slobodan
Milosevic, under detention at the Hague in connection with murder,
deportation and genocide charges, says he’s under drastically increased
pressure to recognize the Hague Tribunal.
In three appearances before the
tribunal, Milosevic refused to plead to the indictments against him, and
refused to appoint lawyers, arguing the tribunal, and his detention, are
And now Milosevic’s Belgrade lawyer,
Dragoslav Ognjanovic says that strong spotlights have been left on all
night in Milosevic’s cell, a subtle form of torture.
Why is Milosevic being deprived of
And why is the former Yugoslav
president denied access to the media? After doing an interview with
American media, Milosevic was reprimanded by Hague authorities, and
warned against further breaches of rules that prevent the former
president from talking to the press.
Why won't the Hague Tribunal allow
Milosevic to conduct his own defense?
And why is Milosevic's microphone
cut-off when he appears before the tribunal?
The usual reply is that Milosevic
would make a mockery of the proceedings. And if given access to the
media he would have a platform to spout nonsense. But surely, if it’s
nonsense he’ll spout, let him. Nonsense will be obvious for what it is,
and the press will soon grow tired of it. But another answer seems more
likely: Maybe it’s not nonsense Milosevic has to speak. And maybe
Milosevic’s being allowed to conduct his own defense would expose the
tribunal for what it is -- a mockery of justice.
Augusto Pinochet, dictator, murderer,
goes free. Ariel Sharon, architect of the Sabra and Shatilla massacres,
ethnic cleanser, and war criminal, presides over the commission of fresh
war crimes as prime minister of Israel. War criminals Henry Kissinger
and Bill Clinton make a king's ransom from speaking engagements.
Meanwhile, we're showered with absurdities from the US foreign policy
establishment connected Human Rights Watch about war criminals having
nowhere to hide, Milosevic being the signal case.
The hypocrisy is plain, if the case
is made, but who makes the case? People on the margins, heard by few.
But what if someone like Milosevic, who, if allowed to speak to the
media, reached countless numbers? He’d have a platform to make the case,
if the tribunal’s rules didn’t gag him. And maybe that’s why he’s
Washington and London have always
been afraid of their own people hearing the other side. During NATO’s
78-day terror campaign against Yugoslavia, Serb Radio-TV, which carried
a different view of the bombing than delivered by the complicit and
tightly controlled Western press, was deliberately bombed, a blatant war
crime. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said that Milosevic’s
propaganda machine had to be taken out. What he meant was that NATO had
to control the public relations agenda.
Weeks ago, US bombers took out Al
Jazeera in Afghanistan, for the same reason -- it threatened
Washington’s control over what the public saw and heard and understood.
Al Jazeera offered something other than the tightly controlled and
scripted US take on the war against Afghanistan. Control the story, and
you control the hearts and minds of the public. Give people like
Milosevic and the Afghans carried on Al-Jazeera a platform, and the
carefully crafted complex of lies may fall apart.
As to the nonsense about war
criminals having nowhere to hide, they do. Behind a Security Council
veto, for one. And behind a compliant press, whose deafness, dumbness
and blindness owes much to Chauvinism, and the fact that letting the
White House, State Department, and Pentagon write your copy is a good
business model. Keeps cost down.
Up to now, Milosevic has been under
indictment for murder and deportation, in connection with events in
Kosovo. The White House and State Department and Pentagon, and yes, the
media too, tried, and convicted Milosevic of committing genocide in
Kosovo. There were 100,000 missing and presumed dead. Then 10,000. Then
forensic pathologists turned up only 2,000 corpses, none in mass graves,
their identities (were they ethnic Albanian Kosovars?) uncertain. Then
doubts arose about the authenticity of the Racak massacre, the casus
belli for terrorizing Yugoslavia with bombs for 78 days. And then the
indictment came, and with it, no charge of genocide.
Now, in new indictments, Milosevic is
charged with genocide in connection with earlier wars in Croatia and
Bosnia. It’s as if the tribunal had come up with the charge first and
has worked backwards from there. Now that we’ve made the charge, we’ll
need the evidence to make it stick.
Genocide? In what connection has that
word been uttered before? East Timor. That genocide was carried out by a
pal of Washington’s, the dictator Suharto, right under Washington’s nose
and with its full approval. Nothing as insignificant as genocide was
going to stand in the way of US businesses turning handsome profits in
an Indonesia known as an "investor's paradise," "hell" being more
frequently uttered by those who have to work there. And yet there was no
indictment. Earlier, Suharato had arranged for the systematic killing of
between 500,000 and one million communists, while Washington checked off
the names. No indictment for that crime either.
Iraq. Over the last decade, US
enforced sanctions of mass destruction have killed over one million
Iraqis. That’s a genocide. Will the perpetrators be held accountable?
No. They wield a Security Council veto.
The Security Council set up the Hague
Tribunal, which means Security Council members, some of which committed
brazen war crimes in their 78-day terror campaign against Yugoslavia,
will never be indicted, unless you assume the tribunal’s prosecutors are
going to indict their bosses who appointed them.
An International Criminal Court,
which would obviate the Security Council striking tribunals, and allow
anyone to be indicted, won't do the trick either. Washington won't agree
to it, unless Americans are given blanket immunity from prosecution, or
Washington controls who’s indicted.
And it also means that war crimes,
crimes against humanity, and genocides, committed by permanent members
of the Security Council and their allies, will never be the subject of a
tribunal. Handy, isn't it?
So, this is what we get as justice.
Washington backs fascist elements in Croatia and Islamists in Bosnia and
Kosovo connected to Osama bin Laden, the Yugoslav federation spins apart
under the pressure of the centrifugal forces nurtured by Security
Council members, and the Serbs, at the center of the opposition, are
branded the new Nazis, and are brought before a Security Council created
tribunal to answer for crimes against humanity by the very forces that
set in motion the descent into war and terrorism and chaos, and now,
Justice? How about its very
Mr. Steve Gowans is a
writer and political activist who lives in Ottawa, Canada.