Actually, some kind of auction for his hide is already in the making. Domestic and Hague prosecutors are arguing who has more right to this favorite culprit in the world. Whoever gets him, he will be something like the first prize, the dream of a lifetime, the crowning achievement of any prosecutor's career. It's a given that he's a serious transgressor both at home and aboard which means that a huge court spectacle is guaranteed. From that viewpoint, the Hague would have priority over Belgrade as it has a larger stage. But Belgrade has its own arguments.
Above all, I think that Milosevic is more innocent before the Hague court than before a domestic court even though either could give him a maximum sentence. In the Hague he is charged for war crimes, mainly for Kosovo, and later for Bosnia as well. There is no doubt that much more valid evidence against him can be found in Bosnia but the trouble is that the Hague court is quite late in this case as Milosevic practically received amnesty at Dayton. A good three years after the war in Bosnia, the Hague didn't have anything on Milosevic; then, during NATO's intervention, it was discovered that there were some irregularities there, too.
The Hague indictment was simply meant as support for NATO's war efforts and with it the court lost a lot in terms of integrity. Additionally, accusations against NATO were dismissed, although the Amnesty International believes that the bombing of the RTS building was a war crime. This scandal with depleted uranium is also making life difficult for Ms. Del Ponte who naturally wouldn't even think to bite the hand that feeds her. Finally, the Hague court might lose some of its support from the US when the changing of administrations takes place in Washington because the Republicans are preparing to overturn Clinton's approval for the establishment of the ICC. If they say that Americans can't be tried outside of the US, then it will be difficult to insist that this doesn't apply to anyone else.
Belgrade may be forced to extradite the indicted to the Hague; however, that would be more of an triumph of force than justice. Unlike Milosevic, the new government acknowledges reality. It is aware of the balance of power and will not get into a fight with someone stronger. But justice is something different and should be independent of force. In spite of this, I have no doubt that the Hague investigators have gathered plenty of good evidence against the indicted with a few exceptions such as Milan Milutinovic, who can barely be held responsible for the laces on his shoes. But the problem with a verdict from Hague, even should the process be flawlessly executed, is that it wouldn't be accepted as completely just due to the great influence on the court by the US, which is practically a party in the case.
For Serbia, however, war crimes aren't Milosevic's greatest guilt. It is even questionable whether his direct responsibility for the biggest crimes, such as Srebrenica, could be proven in the Hague. But if he is tried in Belgrade, his guilt would be his politics of war and war crimes would be only one of the consequences of this politics. There is also the politics of theft, and the politics of internal violence and forceful maintenance of power.
Of course, it is difficult to formulate an indictment against a kind of politics even if it is obviously fatal and what is more, to discover a basis for doing so in existing laws. It would also be difficult to organize such a trial and to find prosecutors and judges worthy of the task. But Serbia is simply longing for such a trial. Without it, it is almost impossible to truly end the Milosevic era, to end the nightmare of the past decade and to go forward.
Ideally, it should be a historical process, exemplary in the legal sense, which would begin the process of establishing an independent judiciary and set the standards for future legal processes. At the same time, it would be beneficial if the court were to uncover the very roots of Milosevic's politics, the political technology of his rule and his collaborators. This process would help us to reveal the historical truth, even though this is much too large a request and possibly an impossible task for any court. However, even if it should not lead to the direct establishment of guilt, it would be good to have everyone who at various times and in various ways served to support this lost cause appear before the court and tell their story.
I don't doubt that there would be many excuses, extenuating circumstances and shared blame. The entire story is far from simple and linear. Milosevic himself and many others beside him could defend themselves against some of the charges and they should be given an honest chance to do so. But only here would it make sense and would there be reason to ask some of the questions of historical import for Serbia, questions which probably do not interest the Hague Tribunal nor would anyone there know how to ask them.
It is here that an official history of the Milosevic era must be written from which future generations will have something to learn. It will not be enough for them to know what we know today; that all of a sudden the people turned their backs on Milosevic for every imaginable reason. They will also want to know how it could happen that the same people first believed him so much. Milosevic is, namely, a chapter in the history of Serbia and no one can erase him; but that chapter can be described and explained, and a fair trial would be an important part of or the beginning of this entire process.
I don't really think that history is ever written completely objectively, nor do people easily face unpleasant events, but Serbia must now make an effort in that direction. There may be a thousand technical and other problems with organizing the trial that he deserves, here for Milosevic. I don't have any experience with such a trial of a former head of state and it may well be easiest just to hand him over to the Hague and let them figure out what he is guilty of and to what degree.
But it would be better if we did it ourselves. Not only to defend our dignity and sovereignty, not because we don't trust the Hague but lest we allow ourselves to be redeemed too cheaply and then have someone else disbursing justice among us and writing a history that we could later reject like a foreign body.