- The Washington Times - Friday, March 30, 2001

Milan Protic led the storming of the Yugoslavian parliament building in Belgrade last October as he and his fellow Serbs forced dictator Slobodan Milosevic from office. As much as his country has changed since that historic night, when he also became Belgrades mayor, the man who led Serbias campaign of "ethnic cleansing" against the ethnic Albanians still roams free. The United States will take that into consideration by tomorrow, when it must decide whether his country should receive certification. The Bush administrations decision would determine whether the Belgrade government has reformed enough to be eligible to receive $100 million in U.S. aid. For the sake of reformers like Ambassador Protic and more than 100,000 of his countrymen who helped make the overthrow of Mr. Milosevic possible, the country should be certified. But the certification, which would also assist Yugoslavias relations with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, should come with strings attached.
The criteria for certification requires that the government of Yugoslavia cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia at The Hague in surrendering indictees or assisting in their arrest. It also requires that the government implement minority rights policies and end its control of some institutions in the independent Serbian republic in Bosnia (Republika Srpska). In a legal sense, it seems the March 31 deadline has concentrated the governments mind on fulfilling its obligations.
Since October, about two-thirds of the minority political prisoners in Serb jails have been released, Mr. Protic told this page in an interview. Preparations are being made to suppress Serbian dominance by stopping payments to soldiers in Republika Srpska. By mid-March, the first indicted war criminal had been extradited to the tribunal at The Hague. On March 21, U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said that good progress had been made to assist future cooperation at The Hague. And by Monday, seven allies of Mr. Milosevic had been arrested.
But the arrest of Mr. Milosevic himself is not something the Serbs have even tried. Serb officials blame The Hague for not providing them with the proof they need to incriminate Mr. Milosevic. They also say their position is difficult because the dictator could only be charged for abusing power as a commander rather than carrying out the crimes. Because he didnt leave his fingerprints on the crime scene, they say, they dont have enough proof now to try him. Besides, they argue, they should be the ones to try the man who caused his own peoples suffering.
"His first accountability is to us, not to others," Mr. Protic said. The people were tired of Milosevics "dictatorial neo-communist type of rule," he argued. "He was a detriment to everybody and everything." If that is so, there should be more than one witness to the dictators abuse of power, and those witnesses should come forward as soon as possible.
As of March 12, $10 million had been disbursed to Yugoslavia, according to a State Department official. While the Bush administration has reason to certify that Yugoslavia is reforming, the United States should reserve the right to halt approval for the release of those funds if Serbs do not step up their effort to arrest Mr. Milosevic. Their status with international lending and other organizations should also be tied to their continued cooperation with The Hague and commitment to international treaties. Until Mr. Milosevic is arrested, the people of Yugoslavia wont be able to reconcile themselves to their past or secure their future.


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