Jerry Fowler, director of the Committee of Conscience, hosts a panel on the role of justice and accountability in resolving conflicts, with a focus on the former Yugoslavia.
JEROME SHESTACK: Good evening. Welcome to the Holocaust Memorial Museum. My name is Jerry Shestack. I’m a member of the Council of the Museum and chair of the Committee on Conscience. The objective of the Committee on Conscience of the Museum is to address issues of genocide and related crimes against humanity and, hopefully, to be able to arouse a national conscience in anticipation of these events, to play a role in preventing them and so that we can truly say never again with respect to genocide and the horrendous crimes against humanity.
Tonight, we deal with events in the former Yugoslavia, which has had a profound effect on our society. In the post-World War II world where human rights began to have a foundation and, one by one, the authoritarian and totalitarian dictatorships of the world in Latin America, some in Africa, and in Eastern Europe began to fall. And then we had the horrendous situation in Rwanda, then Bosnia, Croatia, and the areas of the former Yugoslavia.
Tonight, we address some of the questions of what is the justice that emerges from the tragedy that we have all witnessed in the past few years? It’s a profound question. The International Criminal Court, which has now been endorsed by nearly 100 nations around the world and is not yet ratified by all, is not yet in force, but will likely be in force, deals with the problems of how you achieve justice and deterrence, vindication for the victims, and start the process of healing and reconciliation. That is one of the issues we’re going to deal with tonight in terms of Mr. Milosevic.
We have addressed these issues in the Museum before in various of our programs, but it is always a challenge or a frustration to find that when you address issues of trying to prevent genocide, again and again you come up with situations where genocide still looms on the horizon and we have yet to be able to prevent it or even to identify it coming early enough.
Tonight’s panel, which deals with the role of justice and accountability, is indeed a very distinguished panel. Our moderator will be Jerry Fowler from the executive staff of the Museum and the Committee on Conscience.
And our three panelists are Ms. Sonja Biserko, who’s a senior fellow in the United States Institute of Peace. She is also head of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia and a member of the Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, which did so much to promote human rights during all the conflicts and preceding that in Eastern Europe. Ms. Biserko’s recent work has focused on refugee resettlement efforts to promote dialogue between the Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo and to document war crimes that were committed in Bosnia. She was a founding member of a European movement in Yugoslavia, the Center for Anti-War Action in the Belgrade Forum for International Relations. And she was a diplomat in the former Yugoslavia for over 20 years and holds a degree in economics from the University of Belgrade. So let’s welcome Ms. Biserko to begin with.
Justice Richard Goldstone is a personal hero of mine, but he is a hero for many around the world and all who believe in human dignity and worth and human rights. He is indeed a hero. I first met him in the 1980s, in the dark days of apartheid of South Africa, when he came to the United States to attend a conference on human rights along with federal judges. He is certainly one of the world’s leading authorities on constitutional law, human rights, and war crimes.
He was a leading voice against apartheid in South Africa and chaired the Commission of Inquiry regarding public violence and intimidation. It was known as the Goldstone Commission. President Nelson Mandela appointed him to the Constitutional Court of South Africa in 1994, a position which he now holds. He served as the first prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, paving the way for what the tribunal did after that and setting the standards that are now observed.
He received the International Human Rights Award of the American Bar Association in ceremonies at the Supreme Court in 1994. He served as chair of the international independent inquiry in Kosovo and is the author of For Humanity: Reflections of a War Crimes Investigator. He has numerous honorary degrees, but the title of his book, For Humanity, is one that really exemplifies him. Please welcome Justice Goldstone.
Our third panelist, Ambassador Milan St. Protic, is a newcomer to the post of ambassador in Yugoslavia to the United States, but not a newcomer to the United States. He had studied at Santa Barbara and spent many years studying and teaching history in Southern California. Then he was called back to Yugoslavia. He is the grandson of Stojan Protic, who was the prime minister of the newly-formed kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929, went to law school in Belgrade, and has been deeply involved in the fortunes of his nation ever since he was a student at Belgrade.
When he returned to Yugoslavia, he was one of the anti-Communist intellectuals who was in the forefront of the anti- Milosevic movement. And on that tense night of October 5th, with the uprising of the citizens against the totalitarian government, he was there in the streets counseling against violence and praying for what would happen.
When it did happen, his father said to him at the end of that night, I’ve been waiting for 60 years for this to happen. Didn’t ask him how he was, but there he was. And now he is the ambassador from Yugoslavia. Shortly after he came here he predicted that there would be an arrest of Mr. Milosevic, and that happened. He is very welcome in this nation for his history, for his brilliance, and for his understanding of the cause of justice. Please welcome Ambassador Protic.
We are delighted at such a welcoming audience and one that I’m sure will benefit from tonight’s colloquy. And now I turn the meeting over to Jerry Fowler.
JERRY FOWLER: Thank you very much, Jerry, and thank you -- all of you -- for coming. I apologize for our somewhat tardy start, but we’ll move things right along now.
Before I turn to our panelists, though, I need to address a couple of preliminary issues. First, I would like to extend our profound thanks to Suzy Blaustein, to Nina Bang-Jenson, and the Coalition for International Justice for their assistance in organizing tonight’s program. We’re very grateful and we wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.
We’re going to ask each of our panelists to speak for about 15 minutes and then we’ll have time for questions from the audience. When you came in, you should have received an index card which you can use to write down any questions that you have. Then when the panelists have all finished their presentations or opening remarks, museum staff will collect the cards with your questions.
You also should have received an evaluation form for tonight’s program. And if you could fill that out at the end and give it the staff on your way out, it would be greatly appreciated.
Well, the devastated background for tonight’s discussion is well-known to everyone here. As Jerry mentioned, the situation in the former Yugoslavia has been of continuing concern to the museum and the Committee on Conscience over the past decade. Tonight, we’re focusing in particular on the judicial fate of Slobodan Milosevic.
As you know, on May 24, 1999, he was accused by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia of planning, instigating, ordering, committing, or otherwise aiding and abetting in a campaign of terror and violence directed against ethnic Albanian civilians living in Kosovo in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
The ICTY’s indictment charged Milosevic with the crimes against humanity of deportation, murder, and persecution on political, racial, and religious grounds, and with the war crime of murder. The current prosecutor for the ICTY, Carla Del Ponte, has said that she is preparing a new indictment that would charge Milosevic with offenses arising out of the war in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995. Deposed by a popular uprising last year, Milosevic was arrested at the beginning of this month by Yugoslav authorities and charged, as I understand it, with corruption and abuse of power, including an allegation that he conspired with others to steal public money from the Yugoslav treasury. In a statement made after his arrest, Milosevic denied these charges saying that the money was not used for his personal gain, but for support of paramilitary groups in Bosnia and Croatia.
We’ve posed the specific questions who should try Milosevic and for what crimes? But we’re trying as well to get to the larger issues of how newly democratic societies should account for egregious human rights violations, including crimes against humanity, and the interaction between national and international mechanisms of justice.
And in discussing Milosevic in particular, we should not forget that he did not act alone. Indeed, four other men were named along with him in the May 1999 indictment, all of whom remain free. Other international indictees also are at large in Yugoslavia and their fates are implicated in these larger questions.
So without further delay, I’d like to turn the floor over to Sonja Biserko.
SONJA BISERKO: Thank you. Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, I’m honored to be able to participate in today’s event. I’m also humbled by deep feelings this great memorial evokes in me and I believe it is the same for all that visit and spend some time here.
It is more than symbolic that our meeting takes place here and today, almost on the eve of the annual Remembrance Day. This memorial and the forthcoming Remembrance Day reminds us the darkest time in the history of humankind.
They remind us not to forget and to do everything to prevent the recurrence of terror, suffering, and injustice in the future. They remind us that we all have to speak out and speak out all the time against hatred, intolerance, and bigotry that so often plague our world, although we thought that humankind would do better and know better after the horrible crimes of the Holocaust.
It also inspires one to speak out on the behalf of those who are not able to speak out, on behalf of the innocent victims of the greatest crime, the crime against humanity. It is of utmost importance that such crimes be prevented and when we fail to do so, and this is, unfortunately, why we are gathered here today, and we must see that the perpetrators of such crimes are brought to justice.
This is our responsibility towards the victims and our responsibility towards the very essence of the museum’s message to the world. We know the name of the perpetrator. We have to ask the two questions: For what crimes should Slobodan Milosevic be tried and where should he be tried?
His major crimes list as follows. Slobodan Milosevic is responsible for the implementation of Greater Serbia project. To achieve it, he waged a war which, at its core, relied on ethnic cleansing, genocide, mass rape, wanton destruction as weapons of war. The project based in crime proved to be a fallacy. The complex history of the Balkans and its multi-ethnic character demonstrated no such project was possible even at the cost of the mass suffering of the peoples in the former Yugoslavia, including Serbs.
Slobodan Milosevic appeared on the Soviet scene in a political vacuum after the collapse of the communist system after the death of Josip Broz Tito. He obviously was eager to become a new Tito. Unfortunately, he overlooked the changed historical circumstances, the new Yugoslav context, and the urgent need for the rearrangement of the Yugoslav Federation through dialogue in order to accommodate the interests of all nations. Instead, he refused the ultimate solution offered by The Hague Conference. His arrogance was based on brute power.
In his attempt to reshape Yugoslavia to his liking, he won full support at home. The Yugoslav army took his side and waged four wars, which affected millions of people, forced hundreds of thousands to leave their homes forever, displacing as many of them, sending thousands to camps, massacring and mutilating tens of thousands. Ruthlessly, he destroyed the efforts and achievements of generations of people in the region and took the Balkans essentially back.
Slobodan Milosevic started a war in Slovenia with the aim to push it out from the former Yugoslavia so as to have free hands in Croatia and Bosnia. The so-called People’s Army occupied almost 30 percent of Croatian territory, claiming it to be Serbian land. All Muslims were systematically cleansed, some 12,000 people were killed, hundreds of thousands became refugees overnight and many of them still are.
The city of Vukovar was destroyed, the kind of destruction that has not been seen since World War II. Dubrovnik, one of the most beautiful cities in the world cultural heritage was shelled for 3 months. Destroying the cultural heritage, Slobodan Milosevic tried to wipe out the cultural and national identity of its people. The nation’s cities were looted and burned, together with industry and infrastructure, fertile plains were mined so that hidden killers would maim and hurt people over decades to come.
The invasion and war against Bosnia- Herzegovina brought even greater horrors. Crimes committed there brought back the horrors of Auschwitz. Their names in Bosnia are Kereterm, Kozarac, Omarska. The new Serbian entity, Republika Srpska, was created after a total cleansing, ethnic cleansing of Muslims and Croats. It is still forbidden land for Muslims and Croats as only a handful of them have managed to return so far. Muslims were victims of genocide in Srebrenica, Prijedor, Foca, Bijelina, and many other places.
Srebrenica is perhaps the most poignant reminder of these deliberate killings, but also of unprecedented UN moral complicity in the mass murders. It has become a moral issue for the whole world since. Some were held hostage for 4 years without electricity, water, or food. Snipers from the hills killed, this time indiscriminately, some 12,000 people, including children.
In his pursuit of a Greater Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic unscrupulously manipulated Serbs in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and finally in Kosovo. He is responsible for the exodus from Krajina after having prevented northern Serbs from negotiating with the Croatian side. He is also responsible for the exodus of Sarajevo because he tried to blackmail the international community by always creating a new reality on the ground. He’s equally responsible for the disastrous refugee plight in Serbia.
In the period from ’95 to ’99, Slobodan Milosevic refused to end repression against Kosovo Albanians, thus contributing to the radicalization and abolishment of a peaceful resistance policy. To that he responded by retaliating against the civilian population, the method in which he was a master of. One of his collaborators testified recently that there was a plan before the intervention to expel Albanians so as to bring their number well below a million. Tens of thousands of Albanians were killed, thousands of houses destroyed, almost a million people expelled.
Slobodan Milosevic led Serbia into that intervention with an aim to humiliate the international community once again and, thus he allowed destruction of his own country. The last 2 years of his regime will be remembered for the repression of his own population, suppression of media, purging of judiciary and university. He initiated and furthered rampant corruption.
Serbia is now one of the most corrupt countries in the world. It is an economically devastated country, too. The society has collapsed together with its institutions, a massive brain drain has taken place, the economy’s ruined, people are depressed and confused. These are the consequences of Milosevic’s reign. It will take decades to restore Serbia to its normalcy.
However, ladies and gentlemen, Slobodan Milosevic is not the only man who is responsible for all these crimes. A Greater Serbia project was supported and actively promoted by leading power structures, including the army, the church, and the intelligentsia.
We should not forget the role of the leading writer and politician Dobrica Cosic, whose entire work has been devoted to the myth of Serbs being victims throughout history. This gave more fodder to the idea that the victim can perpetrate any crime. The Serbian political elite had its own role in the implementation of the regime’s policies where many of the opposition parties, in fact, supported Milosevic.
Who should try Slobodan Milosevic? The arrest of Slobodan Milosevic is an important step, but it is only a step in a long and a painful process of catharsis. Slobodan Milosevic has been indicted by The Hague Tribunal for crimes against humanity. Charges were brought against him by Belgrade regime cannot compare in gravity to the allegation of crimes against humanity and genocide being pursued by the International Tribunal.
The Hague Tribunal was founded by the UN Security Council as an international court for the crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia. Full cooperation with the ICTY is obligatory for all states. It applies to the Belgrade new government, too, the crimes that he has been charged with go against the fundamental principals of a civilized world. They go against the very essence of humankind.
They concern not only Serbia, they concern the international community as a whole. And only the international community can guarantee that Slobodan Milosevic will face justice, a justice that will vindicate innocent victims and offer a way out from the moral and political quagmire in the Balkans. It will also show a way to the Serbian people towards reckoning their recent past without which there can be no stable peace and security in the region.
No reconciliation is possible without The Hague deliberations and it is essential for these deliberations to be successful, that Slobodan Milosevic is brought to justice in this court.
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: What I would like to do as briefly as I can is to look at the question of the judicial fate of Slobodan Milosevic in three different contexts: Firstly, in the international context; secondly, in the context of the Balkans, the Balkan region; and thirdly, in the context of Serbia. It’s a long agenda and I’m going to have to do it a little bit telegraphically.
From the international perspective, one must see the question in the context of the weakening of national sovereignty in relation to serious human rights violations and particularly serious humanitarian law violations since the Second World War.
It is more than appropriate that this discussion should take place in the particular museum because the weakening of national sovereignty is a consequence, a direct consequence, of the Holocaust. It was the shot to the conscience of humankind that led to the concept of crimes against humanity being added to the lexicon of war crimes, the idea that some crimes are so huge or so egregious that they’re crimes not only against the immediate victims, they’re crimes not only against the people in the country where they were committed, but they are truly crimes committed against the whole of humankind.
And the consequence of our national sovereignty began to weaken in the face of such crimes is that it was recognized and is recognized today in international law that any people, anywhere, have the right and the duty to prosecute people who commit crimes against humanity wherever they may be committed and, notwithstanding the absence of a connection between the courts of the country, bringing such a person to trial, and the country where the crimes were committed.
One of the other results of this weakening sovereignty is universal jurisdiction, the idea that in respect to these huge crimes that people can be brought to court in a country that has no connection with the place or the people who were affected by the commission of the crimes themselves.
The Geneva Conventions of 1949 were the first means of international recognition of this universal jurisdiction, obliging all nations that ratified the Geneva Conventions to bring to trial people who commit grave breaches of those conventions. And the establishment of the two United Nations War Crimes Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and then, in 1994, for Rwanda in the face of the terrible genocide there, is a further marker on this road towards universal jurisdiction and the weakening of national sovereignty.
The Security Council, acting under Chapter 7, which, as Ms. Biserko has indicated, bounds every member of the United Nations. Every member is obliged by the United Nations Charter to comply with Chapter 7, Resolutions of the Security Council. Those powers were used to set up the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
So it’s against that background that one must ask and answer the question as to what the judicial fate of Milosevic will be.
There’s a clear legal duty on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, on Serbia, to hand Milosevic over for trial. That there can be no doubt about. And in addition to the international legal obligation, there was the additional obligation that the FRY undertook when Slobodan Milosevic signed on behalf of his country, as its head of state, the Dayton Agreement in 1995.
Finally, as far as the international context is concerned, it should not be left out of the cart that the whole question as to what will happen and whether or not Milosevic will face trial in The Hague is very relevant to the future of the International Criminal Court, which will certainly be underway by the end of next year.
Twenty-nine countries have ratified it; it needs another 31 before the court will be underway. It’s obviously not the time and there’s no time to talk about the great regret that all of us who support that court have for the negative attitude towards it of the United States government and particularly the Senate.
Let me turn to the Balkan context. There’s clearly a welcome process of democratization underway in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Croatia, and more recently, since the accession to power, of President Kostunica, in Serbia. With regard to the International Criminal Tribunal, there has been more compliance than there has been until now by Croatia.
Bosnia-Herzegovina, generally speaking, has always been extremely cooperative with regard to assisting and responding positively to requests from the prosecutor and the judges of the International Tribunal.
Clearly in the Balkan area, serious problems still remain to be resolved: Kosovo, in particular, and also Montenegro. Until they’ve been resolved there’s going to be no lasting permanent peace in the Balkans.
In addition, clearly Serbia wants to and needs to rejoin Europe and to rejoin the international community. I would suggest that they’re not going to be able to do that until there has been full compliance with international obligations under the United Nations Security Council statute in relation to the Yugoslavia tribunal.
Perhaps most importantly as to this question is the fact that the major victims of the regime of Milosevic are not in Serbia. The victims are in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. Over 200,000 people killed, murdered, during the four wars that he was responsible for initiating and losing. Many tens of thousands of women raped; many millions of people forced from their homes into refugee status or displaced persons.
Finally, the Serb context. And obviously I hesitate to deal with the Serb context because I’m very aware as a South African of the danger of people from far away coming into South Africa, or even from afar proscribing solutions. But I hope that what I’m going to say is common cause and based on fact, for the most part.
Firstly, the question of extradition. President Kostunica and some of the members of his cabinet have talked about the inability of his government to send Milosevic to The Hague because of the constitution prohibiting extradition. Well, as the federal justice minister of Grubac has stated that’s not correct.
To send Milosevic to The Hague is not extradition. Extradition is sending somebody from one country to another country for a criminal trial. The International Criminal Tribunal, set up by the United Nations Security Council, is not a country. The tribunal is as much a part of Serbia as it is part of the United States or South Africa or the other 189 members of the United Nations.
Secondly, one of the objections raised by President Kostunica is following the footsteps, unfortunately, of Milosevic himself and members of the former government criticizing the tribunal for being biased or being anti-Serb. Well, I can state, because I worked there for 2-1/4 years, I’ve had a long association with my successor, Louise Arbour. I’ve only met Carla Del Ponte once, but I certainly keep contact with people I worked with in The Hague Tribunal.
Let me not only deny categorically that there’s any anti-Serb feeling in that tribunal, because it simply is not true, but let me say, too, that if there was, it would become public and patent within a day. In the Prosecutor’s Office there are, today, over 300 professional people working. They come from over 40 nations, from Russia, from India, from Pakistan, from just about every Western European country, from the United States and Canada, and China. If there was any political agenda, any dishonesty, inappropriate political agenda, it would be reported within 24 hours. The sort of people working in the Prosecutor’s Office are not the sort of people who would make themselves party to any inappropriate agenda.
It’s one insurance that the international community has and it’s an insurance that the United States government I’m afraid hasn’t realized when they talk about rogue prosecutors and rogue judges in the international criminal court. It simply cannot work that way. You cannot get people, professional people of that caliber, whether they’re lawyers, computer technicians, investigators, you name it. They are not going to become party to that sort of politically dishonest or biased endeavor.
There are a number of possibilities. I can understand without any question the desire of the present government of President Kostunica and the people of Serbia wanting Slobodan Milosevic to stand trial for crimes committed against his own people because that he committed serious crimes against his own people is patent. And such a trial certainly should and no doubt will take place. But there can be no question that that is in no way inconsistent with a trial before the International Tribunal in The Hague, either before or after he has faced trial at home.
There are other possibilities, too, that in my view should be investigated. The statute of the International Tribunal makes provision for trials to be held outside The Hague with the consent of the president of the tribunal. It seems to me that it would be worth investigating a trial by The Hague Tribunal of Slobodan Milosevic in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Clearly there are security problems and clearly there are other logistical problems that would have to be worked out. And of course, as I’ve mentioned, it would need the agreement and consent of the president of the tribunal.
But certainly it’s been my experience that the closer to home that trials take place, the better. It’s very important for the people who have suffered at the hands of a criminal to be able to witness it firsthand the meting out of justice to such a person.
Whether the order is home trials first and international trials second or vice versa, what would be fundamentally important would be a quickly resolved undertaking, a firm undertaking by the present government of President Kostunica to hand Milosevic for trial to The Hague Tribunal, as I say, in The Hague or in Belgrade or elsewhere in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
I have no doubt that symbolically it would be important and essential for Milosevic to appear in The Hague and to plead to the charges against him there.
As Mr. Fowler mentioned, Carla Del Ponte is talking about further charges being added arising from the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s a matter of regret to me that an indictment arising out of Operation Storm has been so long in coming because clearly serious war crimes were committed against Serbs by the Croatian army in the Krajina. Part of the delay, without any question -- and again, I know this from firsthand, part of the delay has been the result of non-cooperation by the Milosevic government with the tribunal and the refusal to give access to the victims of Operation Storm.
Let me conclude by saying that I have no doubt -- and, again, I speak from some experience in my own country in South Africa and the work I’ve done in Rwanda, to know that the crimes which were committed by the Milosevic security forces, by the Milosevic government, fundamentally important that the details should be known by the people of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, by the people of Serbia.
They, more than anybody else, need to know the truth, they need to face it, and it’s not going to come out if Milosevic simply stands trial in Serbia before local judges for crimes of extortion, election frauds, and crimes of that sort which will completely leave out of the count and ignore the many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of victims in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina and other parts of the Balkans.
MILAN ST. PROTIC Thank you very much. I cannot but notice that probably the most visible constant remark or feeling that people have or some people have towards the democratic forces in Serbia and Yugoslavia is skepticism. They were, most of them, most skeptical about our chances to win elections in September and eventually in December.
A lot of people doubted the democratic forces in Serbia are worth any support and trust because they, and I quote, “proved to be inefficient and unable to unite in order to overthrow Milosevic’s government through elections.” Well, we proved them wrong and with a decisive force, I may add.
A lot of people were also skeptical, very much so, about the prospects of Milosevic’s arrest. And I remember vividly, and probably some of you do, too, just a couple of weeks ago, or maybe a little more, we had a sequence of panels similar to this one where the major topic was the arrest of Milosevic and skepticism towards the new government in Belgrade and its readiness to do the necessary thing.
When I said pretty clearly and openly that that’s going to happen very soon, that was, in a lot of ways, accepted as a -- my diplomatic inexperience. Well, we proved them wrong, too.
Now there’s the new kind of skepticism going around, that Milosevic is not going to be tried for all that he is accountable for, but that the Serbian government is going to limit itself or the prosecutor is going to limit itself only to corruption, financial fraud, and abuse of power. That was just the beginning. We needed firm grounds to be able to put Milosevic in custody.
All we could get hold of at that point was his implications and his role in financial fraud, but the indictment is still not repaired and finished. And almost on a daily basis we see back home that Milosevic’s responsibility is becoming more and more serious. He is already being very much proven to be involved in serious assassination, attempts and assassination, unfortunately, successes organized in Yugoslavia. And I’m pretty sure the next step is going to be his role in all that happened in former Yugoslavia.
All we need is a little patience, a little trust in what we are doing back home, and a little less skepticism. There’s been enough of skepticism.
I believe that we have proven so far that we are a responsible democratic government who is prepared to do all of this stuff not because someone from the outside world, from the international community, is pressing us to do so, but because we believe in justice, we believe in democracy.
We believe that everyone who is found accountable for serious crimes should pay for it. We are the ones who fought against Milosevic for 10 years. We were the ones whose lives were at stake out there.
Let me add a little note there. Even at times when the international community was ready to compromise with Milosevic, sign agreements with him, labeling him a major factor of peace and stability, we were still against him, despite the willingness of the international community, or better to say major powers, to deal with Milosevic, out of conviction, not because we want to please anybody.
What happened in our country last fall and the tremendous uprising of our nation against the local -- our -- dictator, I believe gave us the right to face Milosevic ourselves. Crimes that he is allegedly accountable for were committed in our name, in the Serbian name, and we felt very much offended by that.
And we believe that it’s up to us to clarify what really Milosevic’s regime was; do it in our own country, in our own way. And if the expectations of the international community and The Hague Tribunal are not met by what we are going to do back home, then we can go further.
That, of course, does not mean that both the Serbian and the Yugoslav government are not ready to cooperate with The Hague Tribunal and especially with the Prosecutor’s Office. We’ve been already doing that in a number of elements, including the preparation of the draft on legislation which is going to enable full cooperation between our authorities and The Hague Tribunal. That draft has been already prepared and should be passed by the federal parliament by the end of May.
In the meantime, we have done a number of steps in order to establish cooperation within the limits of our existing legislation, sometimes even overpassing it.
Now one more thing, we do consider Milosevic and his associates most responsible for the misfortunes, injustices, and crimes committed in former Yugoslavia. But we also strongly believe that those people are not the only ones.
Justice Goldstone mentioned the responsibility for the Storm operation, but we believe that there are much more people who are responsible for crimes committed against the Serbs, not only in Croatia, but also in Bosnia and especially in Kosovo since NATO and the international forces got in. People are being -- civilians are being killed there on a daily basis. Just maybe a little more than a month ago, a bus full of civilians was blown up, and that’s happening almost every day.
Our military and security forces who enter the security ground zone Presevo Valley, due to the decision of the NATO headquarters, are being shot at every day. Even soldiers of KFOR have been killed in and around Kosovo. Just yesterday, a Russian soldier was killed.
So there’s a lot of things going on that someone should be taken responsible for. We, in Serbia and in Yugoslavia, and I can assure you of that, are going to do what we have to do, but I don’t know about the others.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
JERRY FOWLER: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. Now my colleagues will proceed along the aisles to collect the index cards. And while they’re doing that, I thought we would go through and have a round of response from the speakers in the same order.
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Just a couple of comments. The first is I think that the Ambassador and I agree that the people Serbia are entitled to face their own former leader who’s committed terrible deeds at the cost of his own people.
It simply would not be possible in my view to have a full trial of Milosevic for crimes committed in respect of Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Croatia in Belgrade. To expect witnesses -- to expect Kosovar Albanians to go and give evidence in Belgrade is simply not realistic. To expect people from Bosnia to go and give evidence in Belgrade, I don’t believe is realistic. But charges are being prepared and, as I’ve said, in any event, there’s an international obligation to allow those crimes to be tried by the International Criminal Tribunal.
I must say the statements that I’ve read from Carla Del Ponte have not expressed satisfaction at all with the cooperation from the president -- from the present Belgrade government. If it’s coming, three cheers, indeed four. If it’s going to come, so much the better. But why the attack? Why the attack on the credibility and the honesty and integrity of the tribunal by the present government? This is something that seems to me is, as I’ve said, not only incorrect, but most unfortunate.
I’m not sure that there’s a great deal between us. It’s a question of priorities. It’s a question of recognizing international law. Ambassador Protic says that there is legislation coming in the Yugoslav parliament. Well, if the legislation comes and it’s carried out it will mean the handing over, certainly, of General Mladic, probably some 13 or 14 other Serb people who’ve been indicted. And I can see no reason in that respect for treating Slobodan Milosevic any differently.
SONJA BISERKO: I would like to add just two things. I have one problem with the state judiciary, which is corrupt as -- sorry. There are two objective, I would say, factors which are against the trial in Belgrade, in a wider context, because of the state of the judiciary. This is the first.
And the second is general denial of the crimes and what has happened in the former Yugoslavia and the relativization of the crimes. This is really something that would really affect the trial itself in Belgrade.
MILAN ST. PROTIC Again, I was talking about skepticism at the beginning, but it seems that it’s an epidemic that one tackles with a lot of difficulty. I came recently from Belgrade and my impression always was, especially recently, that our people are pretty much aware of most of the stuff that Milosevic is accountable for. And the surveys done in Serbia in the last few months pretty much prove that point. Even the attitude or the atmosphere in Serbia towards The Hague Tribunal has changed immensely in the recent months, after October. Now, about 60 percent of the population are in favor of full cooperation of our officials with The Hague Tribunal. In October, it was 90 percent of the population who were against it. Now someone has done something in order to change the opinion of the majority of the people.
Secondly, I have heard a lot of argument going around, especially within the international public opinion, talking about the necessity of the Serbs to face their own past. Well, isn’t it the best way to face our past to do it by home where our people can hear directly and within their own backyard what Milosevic and the others did in the past? If it’s done in The Hague, out of reach of most of the Serbian population, I don’t believe it’s going to do what some people believe should be done.
And finally, of course any kind of cooperation and understanding between our officials and The Hague Tribunal officials is welcome. And that’s exactly what we’ve been working on in the last couple of months. I believe that sometimes people, and I said that several times, give much -- listen too much to what our president is saying.
We have a parliamentary system in Yugoslavia where the president, of course, with his authority, moral authority, has the right to express his own opinions on a number of issues. But it’s not the system that you guys have here in the States where you have an omnipotent president who pretty much decides about things like that. In our country, it’s not the case. In our country, it’s the parliament who decides about extradition, for example, not the president. He does not have to certify or decide on that.
Secondly, on the federal level, we have a coalition government with Montenegrin socialists, former Milosevic associates, which is complicating our position. That was, unfortunately, the only way for us to get to power on the federal level due to Djukanovic’s boycott of the September elections, but that’s unfortunately or fortunately our political reality.
And in Serbia, our government has been in power only for 2-1/2 months. And what we have done so far, I believe should be a good basis for the positive expectations in the near future. And by the way, General Mladic is not -- from what we know and what our investigation has confirmed -- is not residing on the territory of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia anymore.
JERRY FOWLER: Well, we have quite a number of questions that I’m trying to sort into some general categories. One that has come up in several ways, this one’s directed to Justice Goldstone, but all of the panelists may want to engage on it, is focusing on this idea that there’s an imperative that the Serbian people be made aware of the atrocities committed by the Milosevic regime. Why not simply a Serbian Truth and Reconciliation Council instead of enforcing a more controversial solution upon the Serbian people, specifically the extradition of Slobodan Milosevic?
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: The question of truth commissions and criminal prosecutions, whether national or international, is a complex one. The South African model, so far, has been unique in grafting onto previous procedures adopted by truth commissions, grafting on amnesties in return for full confessions. Well, South Africa may just have got away with it for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the level of crimes committed, as serious as they were, pale into insignificance in comparison to the genocides and war crimes that were committed in the former Yugoslavia, that were committed Rwanda, in Iraq, various other horrible situations that we have witnessed over the last recent decade.
Secondly, a truth commission is not in any way inconsistent with criminal prosecutions. In fact, they’ve both gone on simultaneously in a number of countries, including South Africa. I support truth commissions in situations where it’s appropriate. To put Milosevic before a truth commission, of course, doesn’t make sense. What’s the point? What would be in it for him if he wasn’t going to be offered an amnesty? And to grant an amnesty for the source of crimes that we’re talking about, I think, would find revulsion in the minds and the hearts of any decent person anywhere, and particularly perhaps in Serbia.
So the truth commission is a difficult issue. I think it’s early days at the moment in Serbia. It may be a possibility right now in Bosnia. So it’s certainly no substitute, I have no doubt in the case of somebody like Milosevic, it’s no substitute for an appropriate war crimes trial.
JERRY FOWLER: Do either of the other panelists --
SONJA BISERKO: Yes, I think that I quite agree with Judge Goldstone because to have -- to go on with the truth commission it really needs the acknowledgement of the society or at least the elite, which is conducting it.
In our case, we have a truth commission set up by President Kostunica which didn’t come out with any paper or idea what it will be looking like, there is no mandate yet, so it’s very difficult to say what it will be. It came in the wake of the certification date and I think the arrest and all that was really hurried up because of the very heavy pressure on the government to deliver something with before the 21st of March.
And, unlike the ambassador, I think that the pressure from outside was the most important factor in bringing Milosevic to the prison.
And I think this is an important fact, as I have mentioned before: It’s psychologically very important for the society to see Milosevic somehow brought down and it has changed immensely the society.
But I don’t see yet the readiness really to acknowledge what really has happened. And I agree that people are more ready to cope with that than the elite itself. And this is really where we have wide difference because people are more focused on the existential problems, which are enormous, but that doesn’t mean yet that we have come to a situation that we really recognize as a society what has happened. It is, of course, a process, a very painful one. But I do advocate The Hague trial because I think it’s going to be additional in this process of maturing and bringing people in Serbia to face something, it is more serious, I would say, it’s more relevant on what has happened.
We have situations now that there was a trial on Foca, Srebrenica. Our media, which is a very important mechanism in sort of outreaching the people, have done very little and they’re informed about the trials in The Hague very selectively. So why would it be much better in Belgrade? So this is really the matter of acknowledging, again I say. And this is -- there was opportunity also to explain what Srebrenica was, what Foca was, but there was hardly any serious background information on these two trials, just small notices in the media which was hardly read by anybody because it was not attractive, it was not put in the way that people -- it would reach people.
So it needs really an organized strategy from the regime because we need all these state institutions, the media, to reach people and this is -- this, I don’t see it happening.
JERRY FOWLER: Mr. Ambassador.
MILAN ST. PROTIC Yes, just a couple of words. I believe that the -- some kind of truth commission is necessary in former Yugoslavia, probably for the entire region, but I don’t believe it should be a substitute for trials, and I would agree with Justice Goldstone.
I also think that a number of issues from our past must come to the surface and should be addressed in every single part of the Balkans because we have been haunted by the past. And a lot of stuff, bad stuff, that happened in the last 10 years came from the misuse of our history and the bad and incorrect perceptions of people of each and every one’s past.
So from that standpoint, I believe that we do need a truth commission which would involve experts from various fields. In a kind of mutual communication, they could come up with a kind of an answer or reconciliation type of agenda for the entire region. But people who are individually responsible for crimes should be tried for those, no question about it.
JERRY FOWLER: One questioner picked up on the suggestion by Justice Goldstone that the ICTY could hold some or all of the proceedings against Milosevic in Belgrade and wanted to ask the Ambassador what he thought of that and if that makes it more acceptable to have a trial, an international trial. And another questioner, just to wrap these together, wondered, for Justice Goldstone, how witnesses could feel more secure -- any more secure going to Belgrade for an international trial than they would for a trial under national auspices.
And I guess for my own purposes, I would add on to that how likely is it, if it were acceptable to the Yugoslav government, that the tribunal would be willing to entertain that prospect?
MILAN ST. PROTIC I cannot give you a straight answer because that overpasses my competencies. I can’t really decide upon those things, but I believe that the officials who are in charge of those types of decisions back home, including ministries of justice and the prime ministers and probably the presidents, but finally the parliaments of both Serbia and Yugoslavia, can decide on that. I don’t believe that it’s unfeasible to have a kind of a joint trial between The Hague Tribunal and maybe our domestic judges or prosecutors and find a compromise on those grounds, but that’s just my speculation.
What is important for us is, frankly speaking, to preserve our dignity. We’re a proud people and what we have done in facing Milosevic and defeating him in the elections and doing away with his regime goes to the credit of our people. And we cannot do anything which would in any way disappoint the expectations of the people who voted for us and who essentially overthrew Milosevic. Without them nothing of this would have been possible. We wouldn’t be here talking about it and I probably wouldn’t be here at all. So there is much more at stake for us as a nation here than maybe some of you really understand.
This is a historical moment. This is a crossroads of our existence. And dealing with Milosevic and the last 10 years of his rule and 50 years of communism, for us, has enormous importance and especially for the generations to come. And decisions to extradite Milosevic are not -- are, for us, much deeper, much more important, much more fundamental than to people who are concerned only about justice and peace and stability and those types of things. And that’s why I believe that it’s up to us to lead the way in this process.
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: I must say when I hear, with respect, the ambassador talk about just justice and just peace, that’s why I’m skeptical. It’s because justice is necessary for the whole region that an international trial before The International Tribunal is fundamentally important.
I think to answer the question that was put by somebody in the audience, I think there is a difference from the point of view of witness protection of coming to a trial before the United Nations International Tribunal held in Serbia in comparison to a local trial held in Serbia. Steps can be taken.
One’s got to look at the example of a trial taking place on foreign soil, and obviously I’m not suggesting that it’s an exact parallel, but there are ways it could be worked out. It may be that some witnesses would have to have the evidence heard in The Hague or elsewhere.
But there can be no reason, it seems to me, why certainly the evidence of and the defense case, whatever it may be that Mr. Milosevic wants to put, is not heard by the ICTY in Belgrade. I think that would be a very good thing and part of the whole catharsis that is so necessary in that area.
But it is a historical moment, but it’s a historical moment for the whole Balkan region and not only for Serbia. And I think that if that’s lost, then the prospect of lasting peace is not going to be with the Balkans for a long time to come.
SONJA BISERKO: I would like --
MILAN ST. PROTIC Just one more word on that just justice and just peace. There is something deeper than that. There’s something more important than justice and peace, something more fundamental than that.
SONJA BISERKO: And that’s it.
MILAN ST. PROTIC Disbelief. If you don’t believe then justice and peace and stability and truth, they become empty words. They have to believe --
SONJA BISERKO: They won’t.
MILAN ST. PROTIC -- in justice, in peace, in truth in order to achieve something. Other -- if not, that doesn’t mean much.
SONJA BISERKO: Well, I think that the separation or divorce from Milosevic will take years, maybe decades. And this is a process, but justice has to be -- needs to be -- has to be dealt separately from that. And I view it as an historical confrontation for Serbian people because they have missed a historical chance and they have somehow acted against the mainstream for a whole decade or more.
But I believe in justice, so this is why I think justice should be first and then we can, as a society, go through this very painful process. I think this is not wrong what you say, but I don’t think that the justice should be delayed.
JERRY FOWLER: Okay.
MILAN ST. PROTIC Justice is blind, unfortunately, if I remember correctly.
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: It’s supposed to be.
JERRY FOWLER: There are a number of questions on this same basic theme here, and that generally directed towards Justice Goldstone and Ms. Biserko. And it’s along the lines of if -- I guess I’ll use this one. If the ICTY is not anti-Serb biased, as Justice Goldstone claims, then how does he explain or justify the fact that the tribunal refuses to prosecute the war crimes of the enemies of the Serbs, notably NATO leaders who unleashed terror on innocent people with cluster bombs and depleted uranium?
And why does the ICTY not prosecute these crimes? There’s a reference, also, to leaders, including Tudjman, Bush, Kohl, again NATO. And the question of whether The Hague Tribunal indicted any Croat leader for the destruction of Mostar. It’s for the two of you.
SONJA BISERKO: Well, I think there are already many people brought to The Hague who are not Serbs and many more than Serbs. And I think there is some sort of sequence of events and it took 10 years to indict Milosevic or maybe more people will be coming. I wouldn’t -- and unfortunately, most of the crimes were committed by the Serbian side; unfortunately, I say. So this is not excuse.
And so far, the tribunal has proved to be impartial, even when they made mistakes, they released people, there was such situation as well.
So this is, I would say, wrong approach to this institution because, as Judge Goldstone has said before, there are 300 people who are from different backgrounds, from different countries who would react immediately. So this is not an argument for the anti -- to claim that the ICTY’s an anti-Serb institution.
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: And the question of the NATO -- alleged NATO war crimes, the prosecutor made public an opinion she received in-house from a committee of lawyers in The Hague Tribunal. Came to the conclusion that the NATO actions that were complained of, and particularly with the bombing of the bridge -- there was the bombing of the television studios, and there was the use of uranium-tipped ammunition and cluster bombs. In all of those cases, the committee advised the prosecutor that there wasn’t any crime -- any war crime to investigate and four reasons were given, and one can agree or disagree.
Professor Cassese, the former president of the ICTY, has gone on public record criticizing that opinion and saying that, in his view, it is incorrect and that there were war crimes to be investigated in respect of some of those events.
My own view is that, you know, the prosecutor -- unfortunately, one has to recognize the tribunal have very limited resources. There are three courts. Happily now, there are going to be more. From November of this year, there are going to be 27 ad litem judges as they are called, an additional 27 judges from 27 different countries who will be available to sit in additional courts at the tribunal. But clearly there’s a problem of resources and my own personal view is that the -- if any war crimes were committed by NATO -- and these are difficult issues. I’ve looked at them and I’ve read the -- I’ve read what I can about it. On the evidence that there has been, the crimes that were committed and the number of people who were injured is really on a scale of 1 to 10 at 1 or maybe 2 in comparison to other war crimes, including war crimes committed against Serbs. There’s no question.
And I’m the first to admit that there are many indictments that should come out of the tribunal in that regard and I’m hopeful that they will.
What is happening in the tribunal? I can’t speak for it. I left 4-1/2 years ago and I’m not privy to anything that happens -- that has happened in that office since the end of September of 1996. But these are really not -- this is not evidence and it’s not a fact of any anti-Serb bias. Again, I can give that assurance.
I can understand the perception. I can understand the perception because it’s been mainly Serbs who have been indicted. But you know the reason for that is that the evidence has been available of Serb violations. It’s been difficult, as I’ve said, to get evidence from Serb victims because of their non-cooperation. And again, hopefully, that will improve. And I think if it does improve, then I think that a completely different perception will be created.
JERRY FOWLER: Did you have any comment? There were a series of questions on the -- for the Ambassador about the stance on handing over people other than Milosevic. And the names that were mentioned in particular were the other people indicted with him, Sainovic, Ojdanic, et al., as well as the Serbian officers responsible for the crimes in Vukovar. And there is also reference to Karadzic and Mladic, although I believe in your comments you said that they’re not in Yugoslavia.
MILAN ST. PROTIC It’s an additional issue, but too much to expect from our government after 2-1/2 months to meet all these expectations. There is quite a few of them, that’s number one.
Secondly, the situation in the country is still pretty volatile, really vulnerable. Some people seem to believe that like after everything that happened in the country, everything is at peace. We’ve got a new democratic government, like everything is la vie en rose, the French would say. Well, it doesn’t happen that way after changes like the one that we had in Serbia and in Yugoslavia. There are still very serious dangers.
The situation, as I said, is very delicate and sensitive, and within that type of environment some things have to be taken one step at a time. I can tell you that members of the Serbian government have been under such tremendous pressure since they were sworn in on January 25th that the new chief of the security police was shot at, minister of interior was shot at, the personal car of the speaker of the democratic forces in the Serbian parliament was blown up.
So there has been a lot of stuff going on which could undermine the whole process of democratization in the country. And we are still going forward with serious and fundamental, comprehensive reform.
The third point is that our governments cannot spend all day long only dealing with issues of expectations and demands of the Prosecutor’s Office of The Hague Tribunal, even though that is one of its priorities.
The situation, economic and social, in the country is so difficult, alarming I would say, that the very prospects of the survival of the new democratic government, both in Serbia and Yugoslavia, depend a great deal on their ability to make the everyday life and standard of living back home better than it was before. So our governments are faced with enormous amount of problems and expectations are pretty high. This is only one of them.
And we’ve got expectations from all over and everyone is being extremely impatient. Our people in Serbia are expecting economic reforms and better life overnight. Montenegrins say, well, we’ve got no time left; we want to go our own way and proclaim independent as soon as possible. Our neighbors are asking for us to deliver as soon as possible. The Presevo Albanians in southern Serbia are saying it’s now or never.
So we’ve been under a tremendous lot of pressure and we at least expected from the international community to have some understanding and some patience in what we have to do. But yet again, we come to Washington or some other places around the world and, again, we’re faced with lists of demands and expectations, all a little too much for a very short period of time.
But what I just said, if you take into account what we have done so far, there’s absolutely no need for that much skepticism and sometimes it even sounds like it’s ill-intentioned. I try to believe that it’s not, but it sometimes just sounds that way.
It seems to me that some people have a problem to cope with the fact that Serbia and Yugoslavia haven’t gone democratic once and for all. And that that’s one of the problems of misunderstanding that we have today in the region and, unfortunately, with some people in the international community just as well.
JERRY FOWLER: Okay. I think we’ve got time for two more questions and then perhaps wrap-up remarks by the panelists. For Justice Goldstone, the questioner wonders if General Pinochet was allowed to return home, why would Milosevic be different? And what effect will his -- would an international trial have on future crimes against humanity?
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Well, of course, it’s a completely different situation. General Pinochet was not charged by any international court. General Pinochet was sought by a Spanish judge for crimes committed against people in Spain when General Pinochet was head of state. And it was, of course, a landmark ruling by the British House of Lords, the highest court in the United Kingdom, which held that there was jurisdiction on the part of Spain to have General Pinochet sent there to face charges committed 20 years ago in Latin America.
A very interesting illustration of the universal jurisdiction to which I referred earlier: He’s arrested in London to be sent to Spain for crimes committed in Latin America. General Pinochet was sent home on grounds of health, on humanitarian reasons and not for any other reason. And it may be a good thing because it certainly has allowed a lot of outpouring from many victims who’ve had their mouths closed for more than 2 decades since the tortures of the Pinochet regime.
The position with Milosevic is different, clearly, because he’s being indicted by an International Criminal Tribunal set up by the Security Council of the United Nations. And that’s international law and it’s an international obligation on the part of the Belgrade government, which is the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as a successor to Yugoslavia, is a signatory to the United Nations Charter which is a super treaty, and that’s the international obligation. So really the legal requirement is without any question.
Certainly the ambassador hasn’t in any way sought to deny that. It’s a political question for the government of Serbia how it reacts and how and when it complies with that international obligation.
JERRY FOWLER: Did you have something?
SONJA BISERKO: I would say that the tribunal can immensely help society to come up to grips with the recent past, but also contrary to what the ambassador say, I think the international community is very inclined to help Serbia once it delivers in terms of its international obligations. And I think that should be a priority and, so far, it has proved to very helpful to Serbia.
They pay our bills, they keep the country running, otherwise it would have collapsed a few months ago. So nobody can say that the international community has been doing anything contrary to the interests of Serbia. So, I don’t think there is anti-Serb sentiment in that way. And I think there is a very positive international environment which should be used and, therefore, the tribunal is a way out.
JERRY FOWLER: Okay, the final question and then we’ll have wrap-up remarks. The second half of Milosevic’s defense to the corruption charges is that the monies -- that money is still being used to support the SDS and the Republic of Srpska in Bosnia, and this was also reported by the International Crisis Group. What -- this is for the ambassador, what is your government’s position on increased transparency on the relations with the Serb Republic?
MILAN ST. PROTIC Well, first of all, Milosevic being in custody is using all the possible arguments to defend himself. So what he said in the -- during the interrogation that was done with him cannot be used as a firm evidence for whatever was said there. It is an unfortunate and uncomfortable statement by Milosevic, but we couldn’t expect anything better from him.
That proves our point that all that he did was against the interest of the Serbian nation and not in favor of it. And by his last statements, he is just proving that point. That gives us another reason for argument to try him ourselves, of course, in accordance and understanding of the Prosecutor’s Office of The Hague Tribunal.
But as far as I remember -- and some time ago, very many years ago, I studied law and graduated from law school, but I never practiced; good for the legal system in Yugoslavia and probably bad for Yugoslav diplomacy. Anyway, from what I -- if I remember correctly, the statements given during the interrogation cannot be used as evidence in another trial because he may have been lying, and we’ll see if that proves to be true or not. He is trying to clear his name at least for corruption.
And if he shifts the entire debate on who was supporting the “righteous” cause of the Serbs in Bosnia and in Croatia, then he is where he wants to be. But we strongly believe that all of that money was going to private parties and not to what he claimed he spent money for. But he will be taken accountable whichever of those two alternatives prove to be true.
JERRY FOWLER: Well, I think especially from that last answer that the -- you’re being too modest about the effect on the legal community your not practicing law. And I wanted just to kind of focus in on what was the second part of the question, which was your government’s position on transparency between your government and relations with the Serb Republic.
MILAN ST. PROTIC Well, we’ve got nothing to hide. We have just signed an agreement on parallel relations between Yugoslavia and Republika -- Serb Republic, Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina under the auspices of the high representative of the international community in Sarajevo.
We have offered to the Sarajevo government, the Serbian government has offered a treatment -- on a treaty on a free trade zone for entire Bosnia-Herzegovina and Yugoslavia; Croatia was also invited to join in. So we have established diplomatic relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the ambassadors are going to be exchanged. If they’re not -- these days it’s going to happen probably next week.
We have so many times since October 5th repeated our recognition of the independence and state sovereignty and integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. We have agreed with the military to cut off any kind of financial assistance to the military of Republika Srpska as of May 31st. So I believe that we have done a great deal, even though the demand was only to make it transparent. Well, we decided to cut it off.
And I can also tell you that the officials of the Yugoslav military were relieved once we decided to cut it out because their budget is very much limited for this fiscal year, and this was just another financial burden for them. So I believe that we have done more than was expected from us in terms of establishing new types of relations with Republika Srpska.
But since, of course, our people live over there, there are Serbs who are citizens of both the Republika Srpska and Bosnia-Herzegovina. We have the right and interest of establishing cultural, economic, and other relations between us. Of course, within the --
SONJA BISERKO: I go back to Republika Srpska because I think it is still seemed as a manned military booty of this war. And I’m afraid that President Kostunica is representing this continuing line with a former policy and he has been very clear about it. And there is no doubt that he’s seeing Republika Srpska as Serbian land to be united with Serbia. Therefore, there are -- there is ground to be skeptical about and although this -- I will say cosmetic move from the government, because it is under the pressure received from outside.
So there is much more to be shown that really Serbia has -- is not returning to Serbia because Republika Srpska is doing what it needs in that way. And that the -- Mladic and Karadzic be arrested as soon as possible and refugees be allowed to return to Republika Srpska because only a handful of them have returned so far.
So this is something that Serbia has to show willingness, but it is open for such a process which will really help reintegrate the whole region. As far as it’s only ethnically pure territory it is very highly -- it is hard to believe that a process will go along the lines that everybody is expecting.
So it’s not enough just to say -- give these statements because it was clear over the last 10 years that Republika Srpska Army and Republika Srpska Krajina, as long as it existed, was one army and its center was in Belgrade. Therefore, there has to be much more proof that this story’s over.
And I hope that the new government will come up with a clear line on Republika Srpska, on Montenegro and Kosovo, because as long as there is no definition on what Serbian borders are, I don’t see progress in the region. Thank you.
JERRY FOWLER: Justice Goldstone.
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: I’d just like to make one comment and that is not to forget the victims. The whole purpose of international justice is to bring justice to victims of terrible crimes. I repeat, the victims of Milosevic are not only -- and I stress not only -- in Serbia.
And the purpose of setting up the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was to bring justice to the whole of the former Yugoslavia, not only one area.
And of course, it’s to be welcomed and I think everybody in this room welcomes the democratic government that is now in -- ruling in Serbia. But it should not be forgotten that the crimes that were committed by the Milosevic regime were committed in the name of the Serb people, and Milosevic was voted into power by the Serb people.
And the victims are impatient. We’re talking about crimes committed by that regime and it’s army in ’91, ’92, and 1993. How much longer must they wait to get justice? The trial can commence and it seems to me that it’s in the interest of the whole region that sooner rather than later Milosevic should face trial in The Hague.
MILAN ST. PROTIC Excuse me, Justice Goldstone, but you had your chance in Dayton, but you haven’t done it. Now it’s up to us. Milosevic could have been apprehended in Dayton, but at that time, he was a pampered kid of the international community. Even though I agree with you that the crimes -- worst crimes were committed in ’91, ’92, ’93.
Sometimes, I ask myself, is Milosevic really indicted by The Hague Tribunal because he is accountable for war crimes or because he refused to sign the Rambouillet agreement?
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: It just -- it’s really, with respect, a ridiculous suggestion because the -- no indictment could have been prepared. Have you read the indictment against Milosevic?
MILAN ST. PROTIC Yes.
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: You think that takes 48 hours to prepare? And the indictment over Kosovo is a very complex indictment, it mentions -- and over 300 murders had to be separately investigated. Knowing the little bit I do about the way prosecutors’ offices work, that indictment took many, many months to prepare and began long before Rambouillet.
MILAN ST. PROTIC That tells you that it wasn’t prepared only to blackmail Milosevic and push him to sign the Rambouillet accord.
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Only -- that’s the politician, not the man.
MILAN ST. PROTIC No, no, no. You just tell me one thing now. You’re absolutely confident that Milosevic would have been indicted even if he signed the Rambouillet?
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Absolutely.
MILAN ST. PROTIC Absolutely?
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Absolutely.
MILAN ST. PROTIC Why wasn’t he indicted after the Dayton accords when you had your chance to find the evidence for ’91, ’92, ’93? I rest my case, Justice Goldstone.
JERRY FOWLER: I think with that spirited exchange we will bring the proceedings to a close. I thank very much our distinguished panel and I thank you for coming and I hope to see you again.