Friday, February 27, 2009

ICTY Acquits Former Serbian President in Kosovo War Crimes Case

On Feb. 26, 2009, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) acquitted the former Serbian President, Milan Milutinovic, of charges of war crimes stemming from Milutinovic's role in the Serbian campaign of violence in Kosovo in the late 1990's. The ICTY held that it was the former Serbian leader, Slobodan Milosevic, who directed and orchestrated the violence in Kosovo, and that Milutinovic was nothing but his straw man, who had no direct power or control over the region (click here to read ICTY judgment: The ICTY prosecutors, although disappointed by Milutinovic's acquittal, scored a victory nonetheless in the tribunal's guilty verdict of five other Serbian commanders in Kosovo: the former Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic, ex-Yugoslav Army Chief of Staff Dragoljub Ojdanic, former army generals Nebojsa Pavkovic and Vladimir Lazarevic, and Serbian police Gen. Sreten Lukic. Reactions to these convictions were predictably mixed. Most Kosovar Albanians welcomed the ICTY's willingness to punish those proven to have committed war crimes, but most Serbs interpreted the verdict as yet another indication of the anti-Serbian political inclination of the tribunal.
Who is right? Do the Serbs have any ground to feel victimized by the ICTY and singled out as culpable ones by the world community, when almost all other ethnic groups within the former Yugoslavia committed similarly reprehensible crimes? Maybe. The ICTY, since its inception, has indicted 161 suspects and most of them are Serbs. The ICTY did try the former Kosovo Prime Minister, Ramush Haradinaj, but acquitted him of all charges, in a direct blow to the Serbs who viewed Haradinaj as a war criminal and proponent of terrorist tactics against the Serbian population of Kosovo. According to Ivica Dacic, the current Serbian Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, the verdicts have confirmed that "this entire process was political." While I do believe that the ICTY correctly convicted most of the indicted Serbian war criminals, I also think that in order to appear more neutral and credible toward all parties involved in the former Yugoslavian civil war, the ICTY should have indicted and convicted more individuals from other ethnic groups, such as the Croats, the Bosnian Muslims, and the Kosovars. Blind justice should be blind toward all, including the Serbs.

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