Milosevic Arrest: A Dictator's Nightmare

By Siahyonkron Nyanseor

The Perspective

July 11, 2001

In a rapidly changing world, the rights of humankind and the sanctity of mankind is not only interwoven and inseparable, but are the cornerstones of what the world expects of those who shall govern it. The old millennium was noted for its pogroms, holocaust, genocide and mass killing, but the new millennium seems destined to end thess horrible human tragedies and create a better world.

As evident of this, on Tuesday, July 3, 2001, the former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was arraigned before the War Crimes Tribunal for abuses he committed against Kosovo Albanians in May of 1999. Carla del Ponte, chief prosecutor of the UN war crimes tribunal hailed Slobodan Milosevic's indictment and extradition by Serb officials as a "turning point" and called for the arrest of others indicted for masterminding the bloodshed in the Balkans.

In an opinion piece, which appeared in the Monday edition of the Wall Street Journal, former United Nations Ambassador Richard Holbrooke said "even though Milosevic has been indicted only for events in Kosovo, it is 'virtually certain' he will be charged by the U.N. court with crimes committed in Bosnia and Croatia between 1991 and 1995."

While Milosevic's successor, Vojislav Kostunica, had resisted extraditing the former president, in the end, the government had to bow to international demands ­ the price it had to pay for millions of dollars in aid needed to repair the misery left by Milosevic's misrule. Regarding this, the Prime Minister, Zoran Djindjic said, "there was no choice but to surrender Slobodan Milosevic or face international isolation and a freeze on financial aid, leading to 'unprecedented humiliation.'"

But unlike the UN Court in The Hague, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was established to unravel the truth of gross human rights violations under apartheid - based on the rationale that once the full truth is told, real reconciliation between blacks and whites will occur was not organized to have people tried for crimes they committed. While this approach may have for now prevented all-out violence between blacks and whites, critics opposed to this approach contend that there is no clear-cut distinction between those who struggled against apartheid, for example, the African National Congress (ANC) and those who resisted change and wanted to preserve white only privileges.

But in the June 14, 2001 edition of the Atlanta Constitution guest column, Khathu Mamalla, a senior political writer for The Star in Johannesburg wrote, "The commission has been largely successful. This is despite the fact that some former leaders, such as former President P. W. Botha, remained defiant and refused to testify before the commission. Repeated pleas by the commission chairman, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, fell on deaf ears. And that "hundreds of perpetrators who appeared before the commission were granted amnesty. Those who were in jail freed."

Regarding such crimes, there should be no exceptions. Those leaders or individuals who committed crimes against humanity, need to realize by now, that true power does not lie in the use of violence, but rather power is the hallmark of true leadership, which include compassion, understanding and providing the basic needs for society; and that leadership also requires of the individuals who occupied the role to really place "Above all else, the people." Hence, a leader must also fight against the temptations of lust, bribery, corruption, financial greed or gluttony. More so, leaders must realize that it is not in every situation that the sword or the gun is the mightiest but that the final decision rest with the people, and that no amount of force or violence can withstand the people's power.

"Justice delayed is like a dream deferred," says a Liberian human rights activist. And based on recent events by the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, justice will no longer be the elusive privilege of the rich and powerful. For now, or so it seems, the world has finally come to realize the fact that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Therefore, this new approach should serve as a clear message to those leaders who commit heinous crimes against their own people. This is all the reason why, the world community must continue to send a unanimous message to leaders who commit crimes against their people, including President Taylor and his collaborators that the civilized community will not accept dictatorial, undemocratic and criminal behaviors of rogue regimes.

In short, Milosevic's trial and finally, his conviction will send a clear message to dictators and tyrants everywhere that we are in a changing world, and that no one will commit war crimes and crimes against humanity with impunity.

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