used without permission, for "fair use" only

State of War

by Milan Milosevic

Vreme, Belgrade, FR Yugoslavia, October 10, 1998

Perhaps the most lucid analysis of the political outcome of the very dangerous situation and the looming NATO invasion of our country was given by a viewer who phoned into the program of [the Belgrade TV station] Studio B: "That is the most recent American attempt to strengthen Slobodan Milosevic's regime". It sounds cynical, but it could be correct. On Wednesday morning, between the second and third negotiation rounds, it was leaked that Milosevic was negotiating hard, which was probably correct. Milosevic doesn't make tactical errors. He only makes the strategic ones.

There were various speculations: that the negotiations dealt with the new Hill's [American ambassador to Macedonia and special mediator in the Serbian-Albanian negotiations] paper, but also (as claimed by news agency Beta based on unnamed sources from Brussels) with Holbrooke's offer to deploy American and Russian troops in Kosovo, which president Milosevic rejected... The latter speculation does not agree with the Russian decision to politically oppose the intervention and to organize its own military exercises in the near future; it may have something to do with Kofi Annan's complaint that he does not have his own independent observers in Kosovo and the Security Council's response that he should propose a manner in which he could receive relevant information from the field.

Maybe, it has something to do with the British proposals to deploy NATO infantry in Kosovo, and with some earlier NATO combinations according to which the deployment of the NATO ground forces would only follow an agreement; according to the same plan, those NATO ground forces would make sure that the agreement is observed. The Yugoslav authorities did not imply that they were considering that possibility. On the contrary, their pronounced rejectionist rhetoric is perhaps the reaction to the proposed deployment of the NATO troops; however, the Serbian authorities did sent an invitation to OSCE, based on a Russian recommendation. As far as the European civilian observers are concerned, OSCE is pretending not to understand Bulatovic's invitation and is trying to reopen discussions about Gonzales' OSCE mission and observer offices in Vojvodina and Kosovo.

After the first round of negotiations with Holbrooke, Slobodan Milosevic announced that the threats with an armed intervention were a criminal act that encouraged scoundrels. In light of his actions, that indicates that he wants to withdraw the armed forces from Kosovo gradually and, if possible, based on his interpretation of the situation there in order to avoid chaos similar to that which followed the American withdrawal from Saigon.

The KLA [Kosovo Liberation Army] announced the continuation of armed actions, armed groups still operate in Kosovo, and there are serious border incidents and attempts by armed groups to infiltrate from Albania to Kosovo. The state-controlled media report that on Monday armed Albanians attacked the Police near Stari Trg, and a source close to the Serbian Police stated for France Press that the illegal KLA hadn't been totally neutralized in Drenica (which contradicts government statements) and that the Police didn't have access to that part of Kosovo, because that would necessarily lead to the renewal of clashes. Among Serbian politicians (Draskovic) there is fear that new rebel units will be activated.

ARMY IN BARRACKS: The Yugoslav authorities have made announcements on several occasions about the end of operations in Kosovo and the withdrawal of forces from there. Federal prime minister Bulatovic informed the Federal Parliament that all armed operations had stopped in Kosovo and Metohija on Monday September 28; that after that special anti-terrorist police units were pulled back from Kosovo; that out of ten brigades which were at the time in Kosovo and Metohija, five had returned into bases where they were permanently based, outside of the province, while the other five had pulled back into their permanent bases in Kosovo. Yugoslav Army's six combat groups have returned into their barracks in Pristina, Urosevac, Djakovica, and Prizren. Before that, the Serbian Prime Minister announced the withdrawal of the Special Forces into barracks where they should remain in heightened state of readiness. That is similar to the statement by Zoran Andjelkovic, chief of the acting Kosovo government.

A day after Bulatovic's speech on October 6, B92 journalist reported, as was confirmed by other sources, that a long convoy of buses carrying policemen, followed by an armored transporter had been seen traveling towards Kursumlija [in Serbia proper].

WHAT DO THEY WANT?: It turns out that the lack of credibility of the local politicians in the western capitals is one of the risk factors. Americans (Clinton) and British (Blair) mention "false promises" and "cat and mouse games" as an argument for continued pressure on Serbia.

The atmosphere in which Milosevic negotiates is dangerous and affected by numerous unrelated and related factors and players: a shaken American president caught in an extra-marital affair; a shaken Russian president; the credibility of the European Union; prestige; credibility of a threat; credible reply; Serbian state interests; Albanian national movement; the fate of refugees; possible future victims; airplanes and proclamations. On Wednesday, October 7, the atmosphere was somewhat less tense than a few days before. The Security Council issued another statement, pretty evenly balanced: the statement demanded that Yugoslavia comply with an earlier Security Council resolution, and condemned "tactics of random and disproportionate use of force against civilians, as well as terrorist activities". The state-controlled media in Belgrade immediately noticed that the word "terrorists" had entered the vocabulary of a SC statement, while they were "surprised" regarding the mention of the "disproportionate use of force".

News agency reports inform about a split in the Security Council: this time the British and Slovenes were aggressive while the Russians, Chinese and (for the first time) Brazilians were trying to moderate the statement. The new trip by Madeleine Albright to Europe is announced, with the purpose of lobbying for the intervention; Jacques Chirac announces that NATO may make the decision about the intervention during the week in which this text is written; BBC reports about confusion in the NATO headquarters in Brussels since some NATO members are demanding that the UN Security Council give an approval for the intervention, while others are asking: "Good, you'll strike, but what then?"

If the goal of the intervention is, as the American and British interventionists claim, to avoid the looming humanitarian catastrophe, military actions, which would have to last for a while, could increase the number of civilian victims and block the existing humanitarian actions. The departure of French, British, and Canadian diplomatic staff, as another threat to Yugoslavia and a cautionary measure in light of Seselj's threats [to foreigners] can also limit the mediation and humanitarian work in the field.

Retired colonel Milorad Timotic from the Center for Civilian-Military relations says (at press conference in the Media Center) that even in the first phase of the NATO intervention, in which only the anti-aircraft defense forces would be attacked, the civilian casualties are likely because of possible errors, in spite of NATO claims that they have accurate weapons; therefore, it would be useful to make preparations in high risk zones, at least by the local authorities, technical services etc. After certain hesitation, hot rhetoric, and chest beating, the authorities announced measures for the protection of population: the hospital in Kragujevac released some patients to free up beds for the wounded, and the local authorities were supposed to transfer surplus medicine to the hospital. The local authorities in Novi Sad announced the beginning of technical preparations for the attacks and reception of new refugees.

Domestic analysts are confused about the true goal of the American intervention that starts after several months of teeth grinding during which the Serbian regime was given enough time to crush the separatist rebellion in Kosovo. Bora Kuzmanovic, professor at the Belgrade University Philosophy Department, assessed at the last week's press club at the Media Center [in Belgrade] that the threat itself has increased homogenization of the population by awakening the self defense instinct; this homogenization has been followed by the growth in isolationism and xenophobia. If the goal of the interventionists is the integration of this region into Europe, then the threat is undoubtedly a mistake, concludes Kuzmanovic. However, he wonders whether that is the true goal. If for example, the interventionists treat Serbia as some sort of Iraq in the Balkans and simply want to destroy its military forces, then the intervention will probably produce desired results.

If this analysis is correct, the next question must be: what will happen with the military balance set up in the Dayton Agreement? Would the intervention undermine the Dayton Agreement? etc., etc. ...

STATE OF WAR: Last week, the state of war was semi introduced in Yugoslavia because of threatened NATO intervention. Actually, on October 5, the Yugoslav Federal Parliament accepted an expose by the Federal Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic as an official document; in the expose, Bulatovic concludes that FR Yugoslavia is in "immediate danger from attack". 112 representatives in the lower chamber of the Federal Parliament supported that claim, while 3 abstained. In the Chamber of Republics, all 24 representatives supported the claim.

In his expose Momir Bulatovic states that the threats with military intervention against Yugoslavia are very serious and should be accepted as such: "The seriousness of these threats forces this Parliament to conclude that Yugoslavia is in imminent danger of war. While supporting firmly and consistently the principle that all disputes should be resolved peacefully and through negotiations, FRY must defend herself if she is attacked. Regardless of who attacks us, we shell defend with all available means."

Bulatovic explained that the Federal Parliament, with the declaration that the country is under imminent war threat, sets up possibilities for various institutions in the country to immediately start corresponding actions, in accordance with the Constitution and Laws. He called that indirect and postponed declaration of the state of war a "useful lack of clarity": "The Federal government hasn't so far proposed that the Parliament declare the state of war because a solution can still be found through diplomacy, since the negotiations are still going on." At the end of the debate about the current situation in Kosovo, Bulatovic stated that only the Federal Parliament can declare the state of war.

"If FR Yugoslavia is attacked, the order of actions is clear. First bomb which falls on the territory of FRY will force the Federal Government to declare the state of war and, if possible, inform the Federal Parliament about its decision," stated Bulatovic and added that he hoped that "there will be no need for such actions". FRY Prime Minister added that a military intervention "obliges all state authorities and the Federal Government to make decisions based on the situation in the field".

He also stated that the adopted formulation is in accordance with the Constitution and laws and that all the future decisions will also be legitimate.

The state of war was not declared during the break up of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia [the former Yugoslavia] and until now hasn't been declared in the post WWII Yugoslav history. The Serbian president still has the authority to declare the state of war, but hasn't used that authority until now. The article 83 in the Serbian Constitution gives him that authority and is one of the articles that do not agree with the Federal Constitution.

According to the Federal Constitution, article 78, the state of war, state of imminent danger of war and state of emergency can be declared by the Federal Parliament. According to the article 99 of the Federal Constitution, when the Federal Parliament is not able to sit in session, the Federal Government, after considering the opinions of the Yugoslav President and chairs of both chambers of the Federal Parliament, can declare the imminent danger of war, state of war or state of emergency. The Federal Government is obliged to submit all decision made during the state of war to the Parliament for approval. The Parliament cannot be dissolved during the state of war. With the above-mentioned parliamentary decision, Bulatovic received the green light. He now only needs to consult the Yugoslav president [Milosevic].

The Federal defense law, published on May 27 1994, regulates the declaration of imminent danger of war in the following manner:

The domestic public hasn't been informed what had been done with the Army; the vicepresident in the Serbian Government hinted that the anti-aircraft defense forces were ready and that the population would timely be informed about future measures, while the vicepresident in the Federal Government, Zoran Lilic, stated that there would be no general mobilization for now.

Zoran Djindjic, president of the Democratic party, concluded that the authorities have declared cold war to the whole world with these decisions. While that may be accurate, it would be more accurate to state that it has also declared war to large segments of the Yugoslav society. Seselj has made threats in his characteristic way, and it doesn't harm to remind the citizens that he talked about a possible future: the state of war is a rather unpleasant "institution", when, as a rule, political life is abolished and the authorities are in the position to act as they please...

Are the ruling structures inclined to use the state of war to start a witch hunt and unrestrained persecution of dissidents? The answer to that question lies in another question: have they so far showed such inclinations? The ruling regime and political parties which support it are peddling a paranoid theory that some of the local political groups (among which they list those media which are not under government's control and Montenegrin president Milo Djukanovic) are prepared to invite the foreign invaders, the way Bilak invited Soviet troops to Czechoslovakia in 1968.

HOMAGE TO TUCOVIC: In other words, the Western threat has already supplied the regime with a pretext for a new attack on and de facto elimination of pro-European political groups in Serbia. Thus, the Western threat to Yugoslavia has harmed the liberal part of Yugoslav public as much as the potential bombardment. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, none of the numerous analyses written during this militaristic wave has at all taken in consideration the political future of this region, apart from baseless guesses that this campaign could lead to the overthrow of the regime in Belgrade. Duh?

This journalist must here repeat two sentences from an article published in March 1998 (Vreme, issue 387, "Shift to Right"): "If the new radicalization continues, one can only helplessly observe what happens once the extremism is chosen instead of moderation and nationalist radicalism is mixed with separatist nationalism and pacifist interventionism, which some groups in Belgrade are thoughtlessly calling for and approving in advance... In the states that are falling apart or believe to be under attack, the protection of human rights is extremely difficult, although both the humanitarian workers and the policemen have a lot of work to do".

Nevertheless, let me make one correction: if in some international meetings, and in a few articles published by the local activists there were baseless theories that threats against the regime could stop the bloodshed, that definitely doesn't stand in the present situation when conscripted sons of Serbian postmen, taxi drivers, and farmers will be blown up by NATO bombs. In the new situation almost all political subjects (representatives in the Parliament, journalists etc.) have publicly pledged to join the defense of the country if it is attacked. In other words, the local pacifists are following in the footsteps of the Social-Democrat Dimitrije Tucovic who in 1918 voted against war credits [which were supposed to be used by the Serbian government to prepare for the defense against an imminent attack by Austria-Hungary which started WWI] and died defending Serbia in the Cer battle... No one in Serbia or Yugoslavia is trying to justify the foreign aggression, but the regime in its paranoia detects traitors everywhere. There are only warnings to the regime not to play with the fate of ten milliion people, to take the threats seriously and do everything in its power to save the people and the country from a catastrophe.

If something unforseen does not happen (and such things do tend to happen in this neighborhood) it seems that the situation will slowly calm down. There are no serious clashes, armed forces are after all withdrawing, and now even the international agencies [UNHCR] have confirmed that 50,000 refugees have returned to their homes. According to the declaration adopted by the Federal Parliament, "the armed actions in Kosovo are over, antiterrorist forces have returned to their bases, all parts of Kosovo and Metohija are fully accessible to humanitarian organizations, diplomats and journalists," and "the conditions for dialogue have been met"; the Parliament added that it expected that the negotiations would "start immediately".

The declaration states that "FRY will guarantee those solutions for the crisis in Kosovo and Metohija that come out of the negotiations; those solutions must respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Serbia and FRY, do not contravene the Constitutions of Serbia and FRY, must be in accordance with international human and minority rights standards and protect the equality of all citizens, national communities and ethnic groups in Kosovo".

The exit door is ajar; unfortunately it is slamming closed and open in a strong draft.


Threats and Limitations

The state of war is not limited to military preparations and mobilization. Such a declaration takes the state and society to extraordinary circumstances in which certain rules from peacetime do not apply anymore: the state has greater authority and a citizen less protection.

Article 99 of the Federal Constitution will have long ranging effect on the domestic political life. According to article 99, the authorities have the right to limit certain freedoms and civic rights with orders issued during the declared state of war. In numerous cases, such a wide-ranging formulation can be interpreted to allow arrest without a warrant (so called habeas corpus). In this case our Constitution is similar to other Constitutions. The American Constitution (Article 1), for example, guarantees that habeas corpus privilege will not be suspended except in the case of invasion or rebellion, when the public security demands so. During the American Civil War, president Abraham Lincoln suspended those rights with a special proclamation.

Our Federal Constitution explicitly states that the rights described in articles 20, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, and 43 cannot be suspended. That means that the declaration of the state of war does not suspend the equality of the citizens regardless of race, ethnic origin, mother tongues, gender or political beliefs; it also cannot suspend right to privacy, personal rights, right to respect of persoanlity in criminal procedure, protection from torture, humiliating punishment and treatment; a man cannot be denied the right to appeal, cannot be punished for an act which had not been declared illegal before it was committed, nor can he be denied the right to defense during a trial; another inviolable right is that to freedom of religion. Article 30 of the Federal Constitution states that the freedom of movement can be restricted if the defense of the country requires so; Article 32 states that letters can be inspected by the authorities during the declared state of war...

Are there any guarantees that during the state of war these rights would be respected? What does the fact the regime has immediately started with political persecution portend? During the debate about the declaration of the state of war, certain politicians, for example vice-president in the Serbian government Dr. Vojislav Seselj, announced repression against the citizens of those states which are involved in the aggression, against the secessionist parties of Kosovo Albanians, but also against the independent media which he branded as agents of foreign powers.


Translated on 10/13/98


HOME