by Srdja POPOVIC
The so-called friends of the Court - Stephen Kay, Branislav Tapuskovic and Timothy McCormack - submitted a claim to the Hague Tribunal on March 3, 2004, asserting that the Tribunal cannot try Milosevic for crimes committed before the war in Croatia acquired the character of an international conflict, i.e. before Croatia became an independent and sovereign country. The war in Croatia, in other words, was a civil war, which is what Mr Draskovic asserts too. In their view: "The prosecutor insists that the armed conflict in Croatia became an international conflict on October 8, 1991 [when Croatia formally declared independence]. The friends of the Court argue, however, that the armed conflict became an international conflict only at some point between January 15, 1992 [when the EU recognized Croatia] and May 22, 1992 [when Croatia became a member of the United Nations]".
Article 72 of the Republic of Serbia's 1990 Constitution states: "The Republic of Serbia organizes and secures the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Republic of Serbia, and its international status and relations with other states and international bodies", as well as "the defense and security of the Republic of Serbia". Article 83 of the same constitution states that the "President of the Republic of Serbia is the supreme commander of armed forces in peace and war". In accordance with this, Article 135 paragraph 2 of the constitution removes Serbia from Yugoslavia's legal system: Yugoslavia's laws no longer apply to it. This article envisages Serbia's right to "respect" the federal laws only when "this is in its own interest". This legal device is known as si volam, i.e. "if I wish", and acts so as to annul every obligation adopted under this condition. It is obvious that if I have the right to behave as "I wish", then I have no obligation at all.
Serbia soon afterwards enacted a number of laws which up to that time had been the prerogative of the federal bodies, i.e. laws in regard to credit and monetary policy, price control policy, the right to impose duty on goods imported from abroad (including from other Yugoslav republics), the right to collect excise, etc. According to the Yugoslav laws allegedly defended by Milosevic, both the Serbian constitution and the subsequent legislation represented grave criminal acts. By adopting this constitution, however, Serbia became sovereign and independent, hence outside Yugoslav jurisdiction, so that its deeds could not be subject to legal action by Yugoslav bodies.
This issue apart, a most unbelievable legal curiosity also deserves mention here, as an illustration of the acrobatic and illusionist "legal" voluntarism of Milosevic and his "legal experts", who viewed and used both constitution and law as little more than weapons of propaganda. Article 135 of the Republic of Serbia's 1990 constitution declares that Serbia - despite its independence - will continue to realize "its rights in the federation in accordance with the federal constitution". What can this possibly mean? An independent Serbia, which as we have seen has no duties towards the federation, assumes "rights" within a federation from which it has legally separated itself by proclaiming independence. Serbia thus reserved the "right" to delegate its representatives to the presidency of another state (i.e. Yugoslavia), a presidency that would act as "supreme commander" of the army of that other state!
How could something like this be realized? It was made possible by a conspiracy hatched between the Serbian political leaders and the Yugoslav People's Army command, which committed the latter to removing non-Serbs from its ranks and placing itself at the disposal of the Serbian leadership in return for being paid and maintained with money stolen from the federal treasury. It was possible to realize this, in other words, because this whole constitutional nonsense was upheld by a big stick. The other republics were forced to tolerate this legal nonsense out of fear of the big stick, and to send their representatives to the so-called Presidency of the so-called Yugoslavia for another year, thus practically accepting that an independent Serbia could continue by way of the "Presidency" to govern the "territory of Yugoslavia", i.e. also their own republics. They accepted this imposition in the illusory hope that the big stick would not be used. Legal experts will amuse themselves with this state-legal curiosity for a long time to come.