Milosevic�the butcher of the Balkans�dies at 64

 A.H. Jaffor Ullah

Published on April 02, 2006

Bright and early on March 11, 2006, we learned that the prime architect of genocide in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo, Slobodan Milosevic, passed away in custody while a trail was being conducted by the tribunal at The Hague since 2002. The charges were serious. In a few months time, Milosevic could have received a verdict of guilty for committing crime against humanity. But that did not happen. The ex-president of Serbia was chronically ill with heart ailment and hypertension. His family asked the tribunal to send him to Russia for treatment but the request was declined. Consequently, before a judgment could be handed down to him, he passed away. And along with it, a dark chapter of human history will remain closed at least for the time being.

Why should the world be so concerned with the news of his passing away now that the condemned Serbian politician awaited a trail at The Hague? Lest we forget, Slobodan Milosevic was the villain whose meteoric rise to power in Serbia in late 1980s and early 1990s had changed the course of history of Balkans as Russian Empire in Eastern Europe came crumbling down at that time. Influenced by the rhetoric from Serbian president, Milosevic, Bosnian Serbs planned to massacre Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995. Under the growing world opinion against the Bosnian genocide, the NATO ordered air strikes against Bosnian Serbs; only then did Milosevic join the presidents of Bosnia and Croatia in peace agreement at US-sponsored talks at Dayton, Ohio.

Milosevic was no ordinary Serbian politician. Yugoslavia broke up into 7 smaller nations, namely, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia, when he was at the helm in Belgrade. It was a difficult and turbulent time for the people Balkans. Add to this misery, the genocide against Kosovo�s Albanians and Bosnia�s Muslims. You get the picture�an ugly one. Many political observers at the time thought that Serbians did the killing in Kosovo and Bosnia while Russians tacitly approved the killing. Moscow could have exerted its influence by telling Milosevic to stop the genocide. However, that did not happen. Because of the negligence of the West and Russia many innocent lives were lost in the hands of Serbian soldiers. Should Milosevic be blamed for all the killings? Let the experts speak on the issue.

It is appropriate here to discuss the rise and fall of Slobodan Milosevic now that he has gone to the other world. His name will certainly go down in the history as the person under whose leadership a full-scale genocide was perpetrated by Serbs in Kosovo and Bosnia. The term �ethnic cleansing� was coined to highlight the plights of Kosovo�s Albanian majority and Bosnian-Herzegovina�s Muslims. We learn from history textbook that Serbs moved to these areas during seventh century. The ethnic strife had existed in these two provinces for a long time. The breakup of Yugoslavia in late 1980s and early 1990s ignited the pre-existing ethnic feud to a new height. President Milosevic acted as a catalyst to reignite the ethnic hatred that lead to a full-scale genocide in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The twentieth century should go down in the history as the time when much genocide was perpetrated. To name a few, I would list the following: 1. The Armenian genocide (done by Turks from 1908-1912); 2. The Russian genocide (done against Russian Gypsies and political dissidents by Joseph Stalin�s army in 1930s and 1940s); 3. The Holocaust (done by Hitler�s army against the Jews in Europe from 1939-1945); 4. The Bangladesh genocide (done by Pakistani army against Bengalis in 1971); 5. The Chilean genocide (done by Chilean military against socialists under the leadership of Gen. Augusto Pinochet from 1973-1978); 6. The Cambodian genocide (done by the Pol Pot regime during 1975 through 1979); 7. The Rwandan genocide (done by Hutu against Tutsi in mid 1990s); 8. The Kosovo-Bosnia genocide (done by Serbs against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and Bosnian Muslims in 1990s); 9. The Kurdish genocide (done in early 1990s by Saddam�s army against Kurdish people of Iraq); 10. The Darfur genocide (done by Sudanese militia against indigenous African tribal people in 2003 through now).

The life of ex-Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic should be analyzed to understand why the certain unstable parts of the world fall victim to ethnic strife that eventually leads to genocide or democide, a term coined by Prof. Rummel, to denote �the murder of any person or people by a government, including genocide, politicide, and mass murder.� By analyzing genocides of recent time one could certainly find a villain who is a megalomaniac of sort directing the killing of mostly innocent people. History is not kind to these people. A short list of such villainous leader would be Joseph Stalin, Hitler, Mao Tse-tung, Gen. Yahya Khan, Gen. Augusto Pinochet, Saddam Hussein, and Slobodan Milosevic.

Slobodan Milosevic rode a wave of nationalistic fervor as the Balkan wars erupted in late 1980s. In 1987, Milosevic's popularity skyrocketed in Serbia as he defends protesters from allegedly being beaten by predominantly ethnic Albanian Kosovo police. In 1988, after purging Serbian Communist Party and media he ousted Serbian state President Ivan Stambolic. He promoted Serbian nationalism and was elected president in Serbia�s first multi-party election since World War II. In 1991, Yugoslavia, the union of Balkans states, started to disintegrate; Croatia and Slovenia proclaim independence. In Bosnia, Muslims and Croats vote for independence in referendum boycotted by Serbs. The EU recognizes Bosnia�s independence; consequently, war breaks out between Bosnian government and local Serbs, who start 1992-1995 siege of capital Sarajevo. In 1993, Bosnia peace efforts failed, war breaks out between Muslims and Croats, previously allied against Serbs.

In 1995, the NATO air strikes against Bosnian Serbs were started thus forcing Milosevic to join the presidents of Bosnia and Croatia in peace agreement at US-sponsored talks at Dayton, Ohio. A year later Serbian opposition supporters, accusing government of election fraud, marched in Belgrade in a campaign to oust Milosevic. Still then, in 1997, Milosevic was elected Yugoslav president by federal parliament after junior federation partner Montenegro thwarts his plans for popular ballot. Milosevic steps down as Serbian president after serving maximum two terms. Political problem still continued in Kosovo until 1999. The NATO planes started the second round of bombing in 1999 to end Serbs-led ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and other war-torn places in former Yugoslavia.

In 1999, the UN war crimes tribunal confirms it has indicted Milosevic as war criminal. In 2000, Milosevic sets presidential, parliamentary and local elections for September 24. A lack of transparency marred the election. The opposition began campaign of strikes and civil disobedience to force Milosevic to step down.

In 2001, Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic placed the ex-president under round-the-clock police surveillance. He was arrested after a 36-hour stand off. Milosevic pleads not guilty to charges of diverting state funds and is remanded in custody for a 30-day investigation period. In the meantime, the UN chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte says she has prepared a second arrest warrant for Milosevic on charges of war crimes in Bosnia. The Serbian government did not hand over Milosevic to the U.N. official who wanted to bring him to The Hague International tribunal. Finally, under Western pressure ahead of a June 29, 2001, donors� conference, reformist ministers in the Yugoslav government pushes through decree paving way for the transfer of war crimes suspects such as Milosevic to the UN tribunal.

In 2002, Milosevic goes on trial charged with 66 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo. On top of it, the Croatian President Stjepan Mesic accuses Milosevic of engineering the breakup of Yugoslavia and using the army to seize Croat land in his pursuit of a Greater Serbia. The tribunal at The Hague was slow; it took 2 years for the prosecutors to call 290 witnesses before they could rest their case against Milosevic.

As expected, Milosevic launches his defense case, branding his war crimes trial a �distortion of history� and he blamed the West for fuelling Yugoslavia�s eventual collapse. Milosevic wins back right to lead his own defense on appeal after the tribunal appointed lawyers to run his case to prevent delays due to his ill health. In his defense, Former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov tells court Milosevic was a peacemaker who did not want to fight for a "Greater Serbia", while an anti-Serb West stoked the bloody collapse of Yugoslavia.

In 2005, prosecutors show court a video of Serb paramilitary soldiers murdering six Bosnian Muslim youths near Srebrenica (Bosnia). For a speedy trial, the tribunal decided against splitting off the indictment on the 1999 Kosovo conflict so that part of the trial can be concluded. This year, the tribunal rejected Milosevic�s request to travel to Russia for specialist medical treatment. Milosevic said he would appeal against the decision, saying his health was worsening. He died on March 11, 2006.

Milosevic was a complex politician who came into the forefront of politics in former Yugoslavia as the country was preparing for eventual implosion and dismemberment. He had a dream to keep the provinces under �Greater Serbia� wherever Serbs lived. Thus, Serbia wanted to keep part of Croatia, Kosovo, and Bosnia-Herzegovina to make it possible for a �Greater Serbia� after the demise of Yugoslavia. Interestingly, Russia had given their approval to Milosevic�s proposal. Sadly, as Serbian soldiers perpetrated genocide in Croatia, Kosovo, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Russia remained silent as the ethnic cleansing flared up in these provinces of former Yugoslavia.

It is a great loss for the world as the International Tribune in the Netherlands failed to bring a judgment against Slobodan Milosevic. Empowered with fervor of ultra nationalism, the Serbs perpetrated ethnic cleansing under the leadership of Slobodan Milosevic. He was brought to trial at The Hague tribunal for war crime but due to complex nature of the case against Milosevic the accused died before a verdict come from the judge. Even a symbolic punishment could have done the justice. The world never saw a repentant Milosevic. A megalomaniac of his stature never does see the world from the perspective of an ordinary human being. Or else, he would have seen the vile nature of actions by Serbian soldiers against innocent Kosovo, Bosnians, and Croats, tantamount to crime against humanity. Milosevic�s mind was clouded with ultra-nationalism; thus, he thought that materialization of his dreamland �the Greater Serbia� is more important than tens and thousands of ethnic Bosnians and Kosovo lives. Throughout the trial, he thumbed his nose by pointing out that he had a sacred mission to serve the interest of his people. No wonder, ultra nationalism is a potent opiate that could cloud a normal human mind. It is too bad that Slobodan Milosevic did not quite understand the disease that afflicted his mind.

Dr. A.H. Jaffor Ullah, a researcher and columnist, writes from Ithaca, New York.


  Subject Author Date
31686 Re: Milosevic
... Milosevic ...
mehul kamdar
8:51 pm
31678 Re: Milosevic
... Milosevic ...
7:27 pm
31633 Milosevic
... Milosevic ...
Sankar Kumar Ray
Mar 15, 2006
7:10 pm