hammer1.gif (1140 bytes) People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Vol. XXV

No. 27

July 08, 2001


Shameless Sale of National Sovereignty in Yugoslavia

Prakash Karat

SLOBODAN Milosevic, the former president of Yugoslavia, was spirited away from a jail in Belgrade to The Hague in the Netherlands on June 27. The Serbian government took this decision despite a decision of the Yugoslav Constitutional Court suspending a decree of the cabinet to hand over Milosevic to the adhoc "war crimes tribunal" at The Hague.


The price of national sovereignty and the illegal extradition of a former head of state was only 1.25 billion dollars. This is precisely the amount the United States and its NATO allies promised the current rulers of Yugoslavia if they would hand over Milosevic by June 29. On that day in Brussels, a meeting of the donors of Yugoslavia was to be held. The Bush administration had threatened to boycott the conference if Milosevic was not handed over for trial as a war criminal.

To comply with this outrageous demand, the Serbian government broke all the laws, violated the Constitutional Court's decision and handed over Milosevic to the NATO prosecutors. This is the first time a person who was a head of state is being made to stand trial in another country for "crimes" committed within his own country.

The International Criminal Court, set up by the UN Security Council in 1995 at the initiative of the United States, had served an indictment on Milosevic for "crimes" committed against the people of Kosovo which, till recently, was a province of Serbia within federal Yugoslavia. Now that Milosevic has been handed over, the prosecutor is adding a list of other "crimes" committed in Bosnia and Croatia.


Slobodan Milosevic became the president of Serbia and later Yugoslavia. He rose to power as Yugoslavia disintegrated, with Germany and the United States playing an active role in its dismemberment. Milosevic represented Serbian nationalism. Among the leaders of the various nationalities which emerged as states with the break-up of Yugoslavia, he alone refused to bow to the dictates of the US and its western allies. Milosevic symbolised the new assertive nationalism of the Serbs just as the divisive ethnic nationalisms of the Croats and Bosnians emerged. One of the western favourites, Tudjman, a former president of Croatia, had the worst record as a fascist nationalist. In the climate of mutual suspicion and hatred, Milosevic was as much responsible for the conflicts which broke out as the leaders of other nationalities. But the United States targetted Milosevic alone as he refused to accept the American grand plan for the Balkans.

In the course of the tragic conflict which engulfed Yugoslavia and the Balkans, the United States and the NATO found it convenient to paint Milosevic as the main villain. In March 1999, the NATO began its brutal and indiscriminate bombing of Yugoslavia on the plea of protecting the Kosovo people. After the aggression, the United States concentrated on destabilising Milosevic. A year later, after millions of dollars had been pumped into the "democratic opposition" in Serbia, Milosevic and the ruling Socialist Party were unseated.

The new federal president, Kostunica, was not prepared to hand over Milosevic to the "war crimes tribunal." But the Serbian government, dominated by the pro-western elements, was bent upon handing over Milosevic and get generous western handouts in return.

During the last year of the Clinton presidency, the Americans moved single-mindedly to get Milosevic arrested and extradited. After causing widespread destruction through the bombing, the United States then declared that it would extend financial assistance to reconstruction only if Milosevic is declared a "war criminal" and handed over for trial.


The current president, Kostunica, decided to arrest Milosevic on charges of corruption and abuse of office. He was arrested in April this year and lodged in jail for facing trial in Belgrade. Kostunica was opposed to the hand-over of Milosevic to stand trial outside Yugoslavia.

The pro-western elements in the Yugoslav cabinet were, however, not prepared to accept a domestic trial for Milosevic. They tried to get an act of parliament passed for the extradition to The Hague. In parliament, they failed to muster a majority as their allies from Montenegro (the only other republic surviving in the federation) refused to support such a move. In such a situation, the Yugoslav cabinet passed a decree for extraditing Milosevic, which was patently illegal.

Milosevic's lawyers appealed to the Constitutional Court which suspended the decree and asked the government not to effect the extradition for three weeks. In brazen violation of the court order, the cabinet decided by a majority to hand over Milosevic on the same day to the NATO authorities.

This blatant surrender to US blackmail has led to the collapse of the Yugoslav government. The Socialist People’s Party of Montenegro has walked out of the ministry in protest. The future of the federation is also at stake with the possibility of Montenegro breaking away.

Milosevic is guaranteed a conviction by the tribunal. The "war crimes tribunal" is financed mainly by the Americans. It has also been funded by the international financier George Soros. The Soros foundation which has been active all over Eastern Europe and Albania to promote "democracy" and "free markets" is financing a number of lawyers working for the tribunal. Produced before the tribunal, Milosevic has declared that he does not recognise it and considers it an illegitimate court.


The western leaders have hailed the extradition of Milosevic. The United States, which has become the champion of "humanitarian intervention," is now demanding that other Serb leaders be also arrested and extradited. Tony Blair, the British prime minister whose government showed great solicitude for General Pinochet's health and sent him back to Chile when a Spanish judge demanded that he be extradited to Spain to face trial for mass murders of Chileans, has expressed delight at Milosevic's detention at The Hague.

The abduction of Milosevic to The Hague is a telling example of how international justice would be administered under the new imperialist order. Countries which are unwilling to bend before the United States’ hegemony, will be branded as "rogue states" and their leaders will be declared war criminals. Saddam Hussain is one such "criminal" who has eluded western ‘justice’ so far.

The hypocrisy and double standards cannot be more glaring. Israel, one of the closest allies of the United States, has a prime minister, Ariel Sharon, who was the military general responsible for the massacre of thousands of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatilla camps in 1982. Since Israel is the most durable ally of the United States and the Palestinians have been fighting imperialism and zionism, there is no question of arraigning Sharon before any international tribunal. By the standards applied to charge Milosevic, a number of American presidents would have been fit to be arraigned as war criminals for their actions in Vietnam, Iraq, Cuba, Guatemala and Yugoslavia. Thousands have been massacred in order to uphold Pax Americana. Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton would all have had to face similar charges.

What has happened in Yugoslavia is of great relevance for India. The Vajpayee government, which has now embarked on a career of being a faithful junior partner of the United States, should ponder over the fate of Yugoslavia and its leadership. If the price of sovereignty is so miserably cheap once a country succumbs to imperialism, the warning cannot be ignored by the people in India. Accepting the embrace of the predatory hegemony will one day cost the country and its sovereignty heavily.

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