by Ljliljana SMAJLOVIC
The word "defiance", as a noun, a verb and an adjective, was used with unprecedented frequency. The word is the one generally offered by Serbs to visitors from the West who insist on as close as possible a translation of our favorite and frequently used Turkish word "inat" (spiteful defiance). There is hardly a reporter in the West who during the past ten or so days has not explained Slobodan Milosevic in terms of defiance: last week he was the Balkan leader who defied NATO and this week he is the defendant who is defying the Hague tribunal, refusing to recognize either its legitimacy or legality.
On the other hand, the word most frequently used in connection with those who extradited Milosevic to the Hague tribunal, that is, the domestic government in Serbia, these days in the foreign media is "compliance" rhymes with defiance but means exactly the opposite: agreement, yielding, obedience. The extradition of Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague was celebrated in the West as the triumph of international law over the sovereignty of individual states and as a triumph of "the long arm of justice" over crimes but also as a triumph of the American policy of conditionality over those who desire American assistance but draw back from meeting all the political demands that America poses as conditions for its economic assistance.
The London "Guardian" cites Ivo Daalder, an expert at the Brookings Institute, who claims that Milosevic's extradition is proof that Madeleine Albright won: conditioning aid was the right thing to do and the debate in Serbia has been to reduced to: do we want Milosevic or money? "The Washington Post" on the same day, June 29, the day after the "transfer", thundered: "This was an unbelievably effective example of wisely applied pressure. Pressure doesn't always work and some don't like it as a matter of principle but here, in this instance, it was successful."
In all truth, it needs to be said that some respected, conservative papers criticized the method of pressure by their governments. "The Christian Science Monitor" asked that "Western leaders explain why they basically purchased Slobodan Milosevic for a billion dollars in aid and why they demonstrated scorn toward legal methods used in order for him to be extradited". The London "Financial Times" expressed regret because of the manner in which Milosevic was extradited: "It seemed hasty and involved a disregard for Yugoslavia's usual legal procedure. It has caused new political instability in the Balkans and tensions between Djindjic and Kostunica. It would appear that Mr. Djindjic and the reformists in his government under the pressure of the international community are prepared to violate the laws themselves."
The bizarre fascination of the West with Slobodan Milosevic, therefore, still exists and it is to Milosevic's advantage. And while it would probably be better for the Serbs if they had tried Milosevic themselves (in the final reckoning, the bodies which are being exhumed throughout Serbia are bodies of Yugoslav citizens which was an ideal but unfortunately missed opportunity to explain to the West that we do not only consider Milosevic guilty of allegedly "losing wars" but that we want him to answer for the murder of our ethnic Albanian citizens), for Milosevic himself it is far better that he has ended up in The Hague. In the Hague courtroom, in the light of the cameras and the presence of the obligatory courtroom pomp, robes and wigs, it is as if he has regained some of the charisma which he lost as a prisoner of the Belgrade Central Prison who became friends with his guard, Macak (Tomcat).
Perhaps it is true to some degree that the Hague tribunal is not exactly a neutral judicial institution in the international justice system but more of a creation of global political force, as some Western experts also claim; however, there is also quite a bit of truth to the claim that the West will be bound to prove, using Slobodan Milosevic as an example, how neutral and principled it is and how much it respects everyone's rights, even the rights of Slobodan Milosevic.
The judges will be thinking of their own credibility, not only of the credibility of the West and they will take special care to prove how objective they are capable of being while here at home the real danger existed that judges would prove how objective they are capable of being but not in the interests of Slobodan Milosevic but to his detriment. Finally, in The Hague everyone will probably treat him with more respect for his personal dignity than was perhaps possible here at home.
This appears to have been done to prevent Slobodan Milosevic in his intent to transform his trial into a trial of the NATO aggression against Yugoslavia. It was also done because it is clear to The Hague and Washington and London that if the indictment against Slobodan Milosevic is not proven, it will be a fatal blow to the credibility of the tribunal and, even more significant, to every moral and political justification for the bombing of Yugoslavia. The stakes are so high that Russia is almost smacking its lips: it vetoed a congratulatory message from the Security Council to the government of Zoran Djindjic, in complete contrast to its usual demeanor in the UN. The Serbs can only observe that it could have been more effective and principled had they vetoed the decision on sanctions ten years ago instead. But at that time the Russians themselves were waiting to get some money from the West.