Milosevic’s death

After five years on trial in The Hague, Slobodan Milosevic died in his cell earlier today. On trial for genocide and war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia, he is probably the highest profile individual to be put before an international tribunal. Now, despite the thousands of hours in court, the funds expended, and the various difficulties overcome, there will probably never be a verdict.

Of course, it may seem superfluous to deliver one after the death of the man on trial. In this case, however, I don’t think that would be true. It is important to show that these kinds of tribunals are capable of dealing with crimes of the extent Mr. Milosevic is accused of committing. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the equivalent ad hoc tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) were the precursors to the International Criminal Court (ICC), a body that is in need of establishing itself as an effective mechanism both for deterring crimes against humanity and for punishing those who violate international law in such egregious ways.

There seems to be no evidence, at present, that Mr. Milosevic died of anything other than the high blood pressure and heart condition that had previously served as the justification for an attempt to have him sent to Russia for treatment. It was a request that was not ultimately complied with. Mr. Milosevic died six days after Milan Babic, a fellow Serb prisoner, committed suicide.

Despite the length and expense of these trials, they serve an important documentary role: providing extensive evidence of what took place in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo during the 1990s. They also allow us to look back on choices like the NATO decision to employ a bombing campaign against Serbia with the benefit of better information than we had at the time. To some extent, that uncovering, sorting, and verifying of information has already taken place for the series of wars embodied by the Srebrenica massacre. Hopefully, even without the conviction of Mr. Milosevic, that will serve to make us collectively wiser in the future.

3 thoughts on “Milosevic’s death”

  1. “For those who remember how many Serbs revelled in the fleeting Greater Serbia that Mr Milosevic and his men carved out from the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, the idea that his intentions were noble seems absurd. And yet, to judge from the reactions from across the region on Saturday, few are happy that he has gone. Rather, there is anger that he has evaded justice through death. It ensures that for many Serbs he will remain a virtual saint who set out to save them from their foes. And it means that now there will never be a judgment from outside the region which former Yugoslavs might one day be able to view as impartial.

    Yet in the short term, the death of Mr Milosevic will make little difference. Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro and other parts of the former Yugoslavia will go on struggling with the legacies of the wars of the 1990s, both political and economic, with or without the former Serb leader. The international status of Kosovo and Montenegro also remains to be settled, probably this year. Mr Milosevic’s passing will have no effect on the outcome.”

  2. The United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague formally closed the case against Slobodan Milosevic today. The tribunal expressed regrets that the victims of the Balkan wars will be deprived of a verdict

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