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Tuesday, 10 July, 2001, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
Will Milosevic get a fair trial?
Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has made his first appearance before the United Nations war crimes tribunal.
He faces charges in the Hague of planning and ordering a campaign of terror, persecution and violence against the Kosovo Albanians at the end of the 1990s.
The West had insisted that Mr Milosevic face justice at the Hague tribunal, or Yugoslavia would risk losing billions of dollars in desperately needed financial aid.
But lawyers for Mr Milosevic have argued that he will not get a fair hearing in the Hague and should instead be tried in Yugoslavia.
Do you think Slobodan Milosevic will face a fair trial in the Hague?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
I'm really surprised to read posts
from people who think that the
trial would not be fair, despite
all the propaganda against
Milosevic in the western media.
It is nice to know that there are
a lot of people who can think
History will judge them all. Mr Blair, are you ready?
People forget that Milosevic was the first leader of a Yugoslav republic to incite the flames of racial intolerance and also that he himself affirmed the rightful existence of the Hague court. He won't get a fair trial, since he is guilty of the deaths of many hundreds of thousands of people - Muslims and Croats, and indirectly even Serbs. Unlike the worst Nazis, Milosevic does not face a death sentence - and that's a crime.
Mr Milosivic has been bought with
the money of Nato who illegally bombed.
Yugoslavia. If Nato had not promised
to aid Yuloslavia, would Mr Milosevic
have been in The Hague? This is not a war
crimes trial. This is a sale.
David Guay, USA
Milosevic probably will not get a totally fair trial but it is better that he be tried than not be tried. Yes the justice is selective but innocent people are not getting selectively tried. It is guilty people who are getting selectively tried. It is better some guilty get tried than none at all. Of course it would be better if all leaders who committed war crimes including those in the western world were put on trial. By putting those who committed crimes in former Yugoslavia the world is working toward that ideal. Decades ago no one would have been put on trial. And to those who accuse the Nato bombings of been a war crime. If your people were getting killed in mass killings and ethnic cleansing would you complain if a military force waged a limited bombing campaign in your defence.
He would get a fair trial if this tribunal was also to judge Clinton, a few British soldiers and a few Israeli leaders to mention just a few!
The powers that be may already have decided that Milosevic is guilty, but it is not as if they don't have good reason to think so. He will be convicted because he is guilty, on real evidence. What is unfair about that? The trial in the Hague will be observed by the whole world, hardly a time for it to carry out Micky Mouse justice. If there were much doubt concerning his guilt, Milosevic would be unlikely to be in the Hague in the first place.
Of course Milosevic will not get a fair trial, this court only tries those it has already decided are guilty.
Looking at Milosevic, projecting 50 years to the future, I think the UN should charge George W. Bush for crimes against humanity for the millions of people suffering from health problems and death due to the environmental problem caused by his objection to the Kyoto Agreement.
John McVey, Scotland
Anyone who has any idea concerning the wars in the former Yugoslavia will be infuriated by the silly urbane comments some people have posted. Serbian forces did commit murder and ethnic cleansing on a vastly scale. The independent media has confirmed this, as have eye witness accounts and even Serbian witnesses. The West was grossly negligent in allowing this to happen, especially the Europeans, scared to end a peace process, which was nothing, more than a smoke screen.
In Kosovo that changed, and instead of wringing their hands, Western leaders did something. I'm not saying it was the best thing they could have done but it was better than standing by and letting history repeat itself.
Who cares whether his trial is fair or not? He gave no thought to the fairness of his actions when he committed crimes against humanity and his own people. In America they executed Timothy McVeigh for killing 168 people, here we are talking bout 740,000+. He should be subjected to the same treatment he meted out many years ago - he may not have pulled the trigger but he supplied the ammunition.
War crimes are whatever the victor says they are. The concept becomes more ludicrous as it evolves. War is hell, period. It involves killing people to get what one wants. I find the very concept of a war crime to be one of the stupidest things we've ever come up. Either prosecute everyone who ever orders a military attack except in self defence or stop being such hypocrites.
Kevin Rardin, USA
Of course he won't get a fair trial. The so-called war crimes tribunal is used selectively by Nato and the US when it suits their needs. The man has long been found guilty and the trial is a farce.
Milosevic should be tried at The Hague for the crimes he has committed against humanity regardless of the fact this would in turn cause embarrassment to the Serb people. For ten years their military raped Yugoslavia and now people discuss the consequences of holding this man accountable. There will be consequences, the Serbs will feel shame but they should not feel it because their head of state is on trial but that their head of state set Yugoslavia on fire.
Mr Milosevic will never get a fair trail because the war tribunal is a stooge of western power. It is one of the instruments through they carry out the justification of their misdeeds.
I don't think there are too many complaints from the average Kosovan Albanian other than Nato should have stepped in sooner. When will the Serb people realise that Milosevic was ultimately responsible for the Serbs' fate - he was prepared to gamble with their lives and then ran to a bunker when the inevitable, very predictable whirlwind came down upon him.
Unfortunately, due to the very nature of the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Milosevic cannot receive as fair a trial as one would expect under, say, Australian law. However, while Milosevic deserves the arrest, Vojislav Kostunica is right in his anger over the trial, and we must ask when people like Robert Mugabe will be brought to a similar tribunal.
In response to Efosa Aruede's comments, the donor money for Milosevic trade-off is far from humiliating. In fact it is quite the contrary. Before Milosevic, Yugoslavia was Eastern Europe's richest country. Now it is almost as poor as Albania and set to get worse unless such funds can be secured. I couldn't agree with you more that Milosevic has been made guilty until proven innocent though. I can recall Albright, Holbrooke, Blair et al actually stating Milosevic was a guilty so-and-so on the day the indictment was issued two years ago!
I just dare anyone to tell me what is the difference between what Yugoslavia did in Kosovo and Israel has done over the last thirty years? Why are the leaders of Israel always welcome in the White house but Milosevic is tried for war crimes. What is the difference between what Yugoslavia did and what the US did in Vietnam? Chemicals were sprayed and civilians were killed, but they were considered part of a war and nobody was punished. This is called selective justice. That is all.
That "tribunal" was founded 8 years ago on the assumption that Milosevic was guilty. All those judges and prosecutors have been earning their wages on the assumption that he is guilty, numerous careers have been made on the same assumption, countless travel expenses have been compensated for that reason too. Even worse, all Western and political and military actions in the former Yugoslavia have been based on his guilt, even before anyone was killed or "ethnically cleansed". Fair trial - you must be joking.
People who believe that Milosevic will have a fair trial are completely naive. For as long as the court is funded and supported by countries that want to see him found guilty, there will be no fair trial. The governments of these countries simply need a scapegoat for their disastrous politics related to the Balkans. It is very sad that prominent outlets in the media continue to be non-critical and dance on the music played by their governments. They continue to portray all the events related to Milosevic and the Serbs in black and white colours. They go even so far that they paint Nato's shameful war in white.
Milosevic will not receive a fair trial. He is being tried by a US-driven coalition intent on exacting revenge on those so-called "rogue" nations who dare to flout the will of the US. It is an attempt to bring them to heel - it's as simple as that. If it is an independent court, can we expect senior US officials to be indicted for the bombing of Tripoli, the invasion of Grenada, the war in Nicaragua, or the decades-long starvation of Cuba?
An argument for why Milosevich should be sent back? I agree that people such as Milosevich should be tried in the Hague. However this should only be done when the law is applied universally to other war criminals such as Saddam Hussein, Ariel Sharon, Idi Amin, Nixon and Ford for Vietnam, several Chinese leaders and generals in Tibet.
The only difference with Milosevich is that his reign has no financial implications for the first world and therefore only he will be tried. This points out that true war crime justice is not really justice, it is merely politics as usual.
The only way to proceed is for the UN to set world standard, have the rest of the world governments ratify them and then enforce these laws regardless of the size or the strategic importance of the country or its resources.
Milosevic, as Yugoslav President, bore responsibility for atrocities such as the ethnic cleansing of Kosovans. No human being, however powerful, is above the law, and as such must be tried. I think that Slobodan Milosevic will have a fair trial, and that eventually the likes of Radovan Karazdic will face justice.
Theodor, South Africa
The Tribunal is Milosevic's best chance for a fair trial as distance may limit some of the emotion inherent in the case. It should also be remembered that having been charged with crimes against humanity, it should be up to the representatives of all humanity - the UN - to judge whether Milosevic is guilty.
I think Milosevic will get a fair trial, but those Serbs who call this a "victor's justice" have a point too. It has legitimacy and undercuts the "justice" such a tribunal can give until Europe stands up to the US and Israel and seeks equal justice for Palestinians who for decades have suffered very similarly at the hands of Israelis and their leadership leaders.
It is unfair that he is being dragged before the courts by a country that is refusing to allow an international court of justice in case any of their citizens get tried for the crimes that they have committed. It is hypocrisy on the part of the US and their allies - it is Victors justice.
I am pleased that Milosevic is being tried and that Yugoslavia does not have to pay the legal and custodial expenses. He has cost Serbia and Montenegro too much. However, I have always thought that the fact he was indicted has been politically motivated. Why was the indictment announced at the peak of NATO's bombing/propaganda campaign in May 1999? Why weren't the leaders of other countries (namely Bosnia's Alija Izetbegovic and Croatia's Franjo Tudjman) ever considered for similar crimes? Even though he's nothing but an arrogant mobster, Milosevic does have a point in challenging the court's legitimacy.
Milosevic will receive a fair trial, which is more than can be said for the victims of his regime. Milosevic must be held responsible for his actions and tried appropriately. It is the least the international community can do given the crimes committed against the Croats, Bosnians and Albanians by the Serbs under Milosevic's leadership.
I don't think he will.
To my mind, this whole thing is a complete farce.
I always hear them say 'war crimes'. Why ain't criminals like Bill Clinton, S. Clarke, M Albright etc. taken to the tribunals also?
I am really angry and hopeless what the future of real democracy and free destination are concerned.
Selective justice is no justice. No legal procedures are valid if based on illegal actions such us the illegal transport of Milosevic outside Serbia.
Milosevic should have a fair trial - AT HOME! But I'm just wondering - when will NATO be fairly tried?
Mr. Milosevic may well have much to answer for and the United Nations war crimes tribunal will see this as an important step in their history and, in my opinion, will TRY to conduct a fair trial. What is important for the "West", however, is only that justice is seen to be done - following the demonstration of the defendant in the media. I would however, point out that Mr. Milosevic's very presence at the tribunal is a clear demonstration of the double standards the UN is forced to adopt by the world's most powerful nations. In a world where some UN resolutions are ignored while others are enforced through "allied" military action, where some war criminals are brought to book for their actions while others continue to prosper without fear of accountability, I fear we may well witness a show trial where vested interests and bribery is to play the main role in delivering a verdict.
Efosa Aruede, Nigeria
Can he get a fair trial in the Hague? Absolutely not. That court is simply Nato's instrument. They are trying to make a big fuss about Milosevic so that the people will forget what actually destroyed their country: Nato.
As for the government that handed over their ex-president in exchange for aids, shame on them!
It seems to me that Milosevic doesn't actually want a fair trial, and would rather be locked up in order to be considered a martyr to his remaining supporters. That's the only explanation I can think of as to why he's refusing to present a defence. If he doesn't get a fair trial now, it'll be his own fault.
When Peter Tatchell demanded that Mugabe be arrested for human rights abuses, Robin Cook replied that as a head of state Mugabe had immunity.
So it seems had Pinochet. Milosevic seems to be different. So let's stop all the high moral ground rhetoric, this is a politically motivated prosecution, no doubt about it.
Milosevic must be held accountable for the genocide and the misery he has brought to the Balkans. The only fair trial is in the international court of justice and not in Yugoslavia where a mockery would have been made of justice.
It's ok for Milosevic, he deserves it, but what about the Croats and the Muslim leaders who killed thousands of innocents Serbs.
There are still 200,000 Serbs from Kosovo in exile. And what is the responsibility of West? What about Clinton, Blair, Schroeder and Chirac? You didn't know anything about what's happening in Yugoslavia?
Why in 1991 only Germany recognized the Croat regime of Tudjman (of course they were allies in 1940, not the Serbs). After this the chaos started: war in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo and thousands of Serb children and women killed during the bombardment. The justice must be for all, not only for those who lose a war.
What I am wondering about is the sort of sentence that the Hague can pass but Yugoslavia cannot. Too me it seems whatever the outcome at the Hague it will be more of a political than a judicial process. This is the most sad case where a former head of state, no matter how evil he might have been, is exchanged for "promised" aid that might never be actually delivered. At least NOT the total amount promised!
What happens to the other aggressor NATO which is responsible for catastrophic refugee crisis which we saw unfold during the NATO war against Yugoslavia. I do accept that Milosevic is guilty but the Hague is hardly the place he should be tried. The Western governments will do anything to get a conviction. He should be tried in Belgrade.
I am of the belief that Milosevic will indeed get a fair trial at the Hague tribunal, and the fact that he has been sent there makes it clear that not even people like him can avoid justice.
If Milosevic had been charged in his own country the verdict might have been influenced by his supporters.
Milosevic is a criminal, no doubt and no excuses. But what about those who decided to turn Yugoslavia into small pieces because it was too big for their teeth? Who fired the first shots and who funded the "liberation" wars of Croatia and Kosovo? Not to mention the bombing of TV stations and commuter trains of course.
It is a bit sad to turn your ex-president to a court that is ONLY influenced by countries who commit on a daily basis war crimes everyday in the world. Also it is has been said that Yugoslavia was forced to turn Milosevic because of money donations. He is guilty but should be charged in his own country.
Milosevic is going, and peace finally can come to the Balkans - wrong! Who started the War in Macedonia? Milosevic? I don't think so.
03 Jul 01 | Europe
Defiant Milosevic set for Hague court
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