- The Washington Times - Friday, June 29, 2001

Many of Slobodan Milosevic's victims are not alive to see him tried for war crimes at Yugoslavia's International War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague. But for those in the Balkans who survived his atrocious campaigns of ethnic cleansing, the Serbian government's move yesterday to force the handover of the dictator to officials of the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal serves as a good first step toward putting the bloody decade in the past. The handover followed an executive order made last weekend to clear the way for his extradition. No small credit goes to the Bush administration and Congress for letting Yugoslavia know that the international trial of a dictator who has jeapordized the security of Europe and incited wars which led to the deaths of thousands was not optional.
Pressure on the Serbian government ahead of today's European Union (EU) donor conference, which determines the amount of financial assistance to be given to Yugoslavia, was a key factor in the Serbian government's decision to produce the executive order and the handover. "It is not a question of our preference," Yugoslavian Ambassador Milan Protic said in an interview yesterday. "It is a question of the expectations and the conditions that were set up for us by the international community, and especially by the American administration. So, yes, we would much rather have a trial in Belgrade, especially for Milosevic. And since we were not able to get that type of understanding on Milosevic, we had to change some of our priorities or reinterpret some of our priorities."
On the eve of the conference, the Yugoslav Constitutional Court, dominated by judges from the Milosevic regime, ordered a suspension of the extradition order, putting the country in a tenuous position ahead of today's meeting. But with millions of dollars depending on Belgrade's compliance with The Hague, the Serbian government decided to take matters into its own hands. Yugoslavia is seeking more than $1 billion at the EU conference. The money would help in reconstruction projects and economic stabilization of the country. The United States already certified in April that the Belgrade government had reformed enough to be eligible for $50 million in U.S. aid this year. However, this certification required that Yugoslavia cooperate with the tribunal by surrendering indictees or assisting in their arrest. Ironically, Mr. Milosevic was captured and put in a local jail just prior to the United States' certification deadline. To ensure that Yugoslavia knew that action was not enough, the United States waited until Wednesday to announce that it would even attend the conference, and made clear that a new pledge of around $107 million would hinge on Belgrade's actions. No wonder there was a re-evaluation of priorities.
Victims killed during the dictator's ethnic cleansing campaign continue to be found daily in mass graves in Serbia. Police have now admitted that Mr. Milosevic ordered top police and military commanders to remove all evidence of civilian corpses resulting from his attacks on Kosovo that could be subject to investigation at The Hague court. The result was a mass grave of up to 800 bodies of ethnic Albanians in a police training camp in Batajnica outside of Belgrade.
The Serb government should be commended for cooperating with the tribunal, and putting legal questions about Mr. Milosevic's legacy where they belong. But the constitutional court's ruling shows that Mr. Milosevic's influence on the country is still present and must be completely wiped out. The United States must continue to remind Belgrade that money is not earned through half-hearted justice.

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