Roadshow trial continues
Case against Slobodan Milosevic to continue with charges involving Croatia and Bosnia
By Klaus Hartmann
This Thursday (Sept. 26) the "second round" of the so-called Hague Tribunal against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic begins. After the four-week long summer vacation, another 14-day session on the Kosovo theme took place. Now after another two-week pause, "Chief Prosecutor" Carla del Ponte wants to try to recover from her debacle over the Kosovo part by piling on charges involving Croatia and Bosnia.
Only - who knows about the debacle? For months the public has hardly learned anything about the course of the trial. The overwhelming majority of all media has refused to publish any report about The Hague Showtrial as well as any commentary on the interim statement.
This silence speaks volumes. Indeed, nothing could prove better that the outcome of the tribunal in The Hague has seriously disappointed those who called it into life. What was first though of as a show trial has for most of the media become a roadshow trial. This arises from their pure disappointment that the expected proof of the guilt of the defendant, who was prejudged everywhere as a criminal "Butcher of the Balkans," has flopped. In the eyes of trial observers, who´s numbers were rapidly dwindeling away, such a proof of guilt seems less and less likely.
That del Ponte can turn the proceedings in her favor is overwhelmingly doubted, as could be seen from the few individual reports from this summer.
"Doubt has been cast on whether the Tribunal can accomplish its tasks in the alloted time," reported Neues Deutschland June 22. "For the gears are noticeably grinding in the machinery of the International Court, which is finding less and less public attention."
And in its Aug. 5 issue this same paper sees the summer pause as an absolutely needed rest and recovery period for the court´s distraught personnel: "The Hague Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) is taking a vacation. The ladies and gentlemen seem to need one, for the mood in the offices is bad. The anything but well-developing case against Slobodan Milosevic has "quite clearly worn on the nerves of Carla del Ponte."
The Neue Zuericher Zeitung affirmed on June 20 that the "defendant" had "convincingly carried on part of the cross-examination over the past four months. One can say he has done it so well that observers in the courtroom are asking themselves who the defendants really are in this trial."
After the prosecution witnesses regularly showed themselves to be second-hand witnesses who could report only hearsay evidence or who wound up either hopelessly tangled up in contradictions or had to retract earlier statements - or they were exposed as paid agents of Western secret services, Mrs. Del Ponte began to use a second category of witness. They were NATO or CIA members or politicians who even in The Hague "bore witness" to their notorious hatred of Serbia, which they had shown for years. They exposed first of all their hostile ideological viewpoint, in which they concurred with qualified Tribunal employees.
All in all a special function was thought out for these high-carat witnesses, among them the massacre-discoverer William Walker, NATO Gen. Klaus Naumann, Colonial Gov. Lord Ashdown and Roubouillet extortionist Wolfgang Petritsch.
To reach a guilty verdict, according to the self-made rule of the Tribunal, it was unnecessary to prove that Slobodan Milosevic had planned or ordered crimes. Even if he know the crimes were taking place and did nothing to stop them, he is then guilty. Yet even those generally supporting the Tribunal expressed doubts that del Ponte succeeded in this.
Klaus Bachmann is one of the few journalists, who at least every few weeks reported from The Hague, sometimes more, sometimes less objectively. In the Frankfurter Rundschau on Aug. 7 he wrote under the noteworthy headline, "The Hague Tribunal against Slobodan Milosevic evolves at random; the truth about Yugoslavia will not come out."
"Are individual witnesses charging the defendant, because they are already prejudiced against him or his country? NATO-General Klaus Naumann charged Milosevic sharply with his statement, that Milosevic while drinking schnaps had announced massacres against the Albanians and was informed by him of the massacre in Racak. According to the rules of the Tribunal that would suffice for a guilty verdict - if at the time for his part Milosevic had reaon to believe Naumann. How much credibility Naumann´s words had for Milosevic, as he knew that the source of all the information was the U.S. diplomat William Walker? What influence Walker´s pro-Albanian attitude had on his attitude toward Milosevic at that time and on his statement to the Tribunal, had never been plumbed to the bottom," the NRC Commercial newspaper deplored on the day after Walker´s appearance in The Hague.
On July 26, 2002, the last sitting before the summer rest, a serious blow was to be struck against the defendant after so many flops. The prosecution had invited an insider, a crown witness. He was the former chief of Yugoslavian State Security, Rade Markovic. He was certainly arrested by the NATO agents in Belgrade earlier and prepared for his part in the trial. Indeed, Markovic´s written statement was in hand, that accused the former Yugoslav president of having ordered the systematic expulsion of the Kosovo Albanians.
Del Ponte and her aides were in an appropriately good mood and full of expectation. But in the July 27 Neue Zuericher Zeitung one had to read: "One of the most important witnesses in The Hague trial against the former Yugoslav President Milosevic regarding Kosovo, the former Serb Secret Service Chief Rade Markovic, distanced himself on Friday before the UN War Crimes Tribunal from a written statement, that he had previously signed in Belgrade. Markovic, who for the questioning had been transported from his investigative detention in Belgrade to The Hague, declared that he had signed the paper but had not read the contents. An offer had been made to him that he could take on a new identity and be settled abroad. In return, he was asked to charge Milosevic; if he refused, he would have to accept the consequences."
The International Committee for the Defense of Slobodan Milosevic extracts the overwhelming conclusion from the fiasco of del Ponte´s "Kosovo-charges," that the unconditional freeing of the defendant is overdue. Indeed the now beginning part of the show trial about Croatia and Bosnia can accomplish even less: Slobodan Milosevic has been charged as the then president of Serbia, for events that took place in other countries, in which other armies were taking part, which followed the orders of other people.
Klaus Hartmann is vice president of the International Committee for the Defense of Slobodan Milosevic and spokesperson of the German section.
Translation by John Catalinotto
International Action-Center, New York