The former President of Serbia and Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic, died last Saturday and currently lies in state at the Revolution Museum in Belgrade.
Who cares about a washed up dictator near the end of a 3-year trial (and 5 years in prison) for war crimes? We all should. First of all, the world was robbed of the ability to hold a leader responsible for his vicious and dehumanizing actions, not terribly unlike the situation with Hermann Goering in the Nuremberg Trial, as Milosevic was only about 50 hours of testimony away from the case being sent to a tribunal of judges for a final decision. A properly-held, public trial is one of the best ways to assert that a set of actions was wrong and should not have happened, and many of Milosevic’s war crimes were beyond dispute.
Milosevic’s death before a judgement in his trial prevents us from publicly reviewing why he was considered such a bad man and a flawed person, one that acted according to his nature upon being placed in power. So, in a small way, I thought it might be a good idea to go over some of his most noteable acts:
- Milosevic deposed and eventually murdered (using secret police) his own primary political patron, Ivan Stambolic, in order to claim the Serbian Presidency.
- Milosevic headed the Serbian government during the Srebrenica massacre, directing his generals to take part in the massacre and worked extensively to cover it up. (If you want to view something really sickening, watch the execution video of these 6 men [RealPlayer link – go to the 2:35 mark in the video], which occured during Srebrenica.)
- Milosevic led his country into crippling sanctions, hyperinflation, and “a drastic worsening of living standards.”
- Milosevic took part in a joint criminal enterprise for the “forcible removal of the majority of the Croat and other non-Serb population from the approximately one-third of the territory of the Republic of Croatia that he planned to become part of a new Serb-dominated state through the commission of crimes”.
- Milosevic provided “financial, material and logistical assistance to local Croatian-Serb bodies, including paramilitary groups.”
Well, the list goes on and on. There is no way that I can list all of the major charges here. There simply isn’t time.
On a personal note, I know that, unlike most of the other despots around the world, I was directly impacted by the policies of Milosevic on two different occasions. First, while travelling on a bus through Sarajevo with my friend Dave Hanson in 1995, we were pulled off of the bus by Serbian policemen and had our belongings throughly searched, simply because we were Americans travelling (legally) through the former Yugoslavia. After not finding anything, the policemen verbally abused us and finally let us back on the bus.
The second time was almost much more serious. While on our honeymoon in July 1997, Kath and I were on a train from Prague to Istanbul when we go the word, while changing trains in Budapest, that Milosevic had closed the border to Americans (as retaliation for Clinton’s recent bombings of key Serb military targets). It was a Friday evening, and if we had not gotten this word, we probably would have been stuck at the border for the entire weekend. In order to dodge Serbia, we threw away the rest of our tickets and got on a train for Romania, which eventually took us to Bulgaria, where we got a bus (and a ride by a guy named Jonis) into Greece.
Of course, nothing I’ve experienced is even remotely close to the thousands and thousands that died from direct actions due to Milosevic’s policies. However, I’m no less sad to see him go. I only wish he could have stuck around to allow for some semblance of justice. But, I guess that was never his style…