Accessibility links

Western Press Review: World Justice, Milosevic, Arms Proliferation, Macedonia, EU

  • Khatya Chhor

Prague, 3 July 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Commentary in the Western press continues to look at the international justice system, as former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic makes his first appearance today before The Hague tribunal. Other issues include the global proliferation of small arms and Europe's role in the anticipated collapse of the General Electric-Honeywell merger. Other writers examine the escalating crisis in Macedonia, which is, in the words of one commentator, "hour by hour edging closer to civil war."


An editorial in "The New York Times" says now that Slobodan Milosevic has been turned over to The Hague, securing his conviction at the international court will require a similarly determined effort. Prosecutors already have abundant evidence showing that brutal crimes were committed, the paper notes. But, it writes, "to prove that Mr. Milosevic ordered them, prosecutors must reconstruct the chain of command through which specific order and approvals were transmitted. [Establishing] this will be easier if the court gains access to official documents now in the possession of the United States and other NATO counties. [Washington], Belgrade and other governments should help the tribunal by turning over as much of this material as possible."


In a contribution to the "International Herald Tribune," political analyst Shlomo Avineri says that there are "serious moral doubts about the jurisdiction of an international court. The first has to do with accountability." Every court must consider the effects of its decision on its society, Avineri says. But "the international tribunal in The Hague is totally divorced from such contextual considerations, and operates in a void filled with abstract principles." He continues: "People in The Hague -- and in London, Paris, Berlin and UN headquarters -- who applauded the extradition will not have to live with the consequences. [Is] this not power without responsibility?"

Avineri goes on to address the issue of double standards, saying: "If Milosevic, why not [Russian President Vladimir] Putin [for his policies in Chechnya]? Mr. Putin should be equal to Mr. Milosevic before international law. Or is international criminal justice going to be applied only against weak and small states?" Avineri asks.


In a contribution to "The Washington Post," Jenny Martinez writes that Milosevic's extradition to The Hague represents "both the greatest victory and the most important test for the United Nations' war crimes tribunal and for the emerging regime of international human rights law."

But if the Milosevic proceedings "are to be anything more than a costly show trial whose main accomplishment will be to assuage European and American guilt," she says, fundamental procedural and administrative problems with the court must be addressed. She adds: "Since only lower-level defendants have been apprehended until now, the tribunal's day-to-day operations have received little scrutiny. [But] there is no room for error now. [It] is time for the tribunal to learn from its mistakes, because any missteps in the Milosevic trial have the potential to set back the cause of international justice for years to come."


An editorial in "The New York Times" looks at the global proliferation of small arms and writes that "low-tech arms like assault weapons and hand grenades have been responsible for as much as 90 percent of the world's conflict-related killing in the decade since the end of the Cold War. The easy availability of small weapons magnifies ethnic conflicts, empowers warlords and criminal groups, encourages the exploitation of child soldiers, and contributes to an appalling toll in civilian casualties."

The paper adds that a UN conference on the issue due to start next Monday "represents a long overdue recognition by the world's diplomats that legal and regulatory solutions need to be coordinated at a global level to be effective." The paper cites a 1996 U.S. decision requiring American and foreign arms brokers living or working in the U.S. to register all arms deals -- whether on or off American soil -- and writes: "Yet to date not a single broker has been prosecuted [under] the statute. [Even] the best laws will be ineffective without the political will and resources required to enforce them," the paper concludes.


In "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung," commentator Guenther Nonnenmacher looks at NATO's proposal for intervention in Macedonia and the use of what he calls "a 3,000-strong force that NATO's ambassadors envision deploying for a 30-day period in the troubled Balkan state to collect weapons."

But, Nonnenmacher writes, "the situation in Macedonia is neither that simple nor that peaceful. [What] is needed is an international armed force to impose peace or, in a better case scenario, secure it through 'robust' means. [NATO officials] in Brussels are not yet ready, however, to accept that option, [because] the danger of being sucked into a civil war is too great, a war that might end in the collapse of Macedonia or, alternatively, lead to a third de facto international protectorate in the Balkans -- [an] 'MFOR' force that would have to be stationed in Macedonia for a longer period to impose peace."


In the "Financial Times," Judy Dempsey looks at the ongoing conflict between ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians. She writes that Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, "unlike other leaders in the region, [genuinely] believes in co-existence between all ethnic communities" in the Balkans. She writes: "Almost alone, the Macedonian leader has insisted on a solution based on a multiethnic, democratic state. Yet [he] lacks the political skill and the backing from his government to rein in radicals from both sides."

Dempsey says that Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski and Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski are working behind the scenes against the constitutional and governmental reforms that Trajkovski is attempting to institute, which would give ethnic Albanians the rights and elevated status in the country that they are demanding as conditions for peace. She quotes unnamed diplomats in Skopje as saying that Georgievski is more interested in positioning himself for future elections. She quotes one as saying: "[He] has little sympathy for the ethnic Albanians. [He] is becoming a crude nationalist."

Dempsey writes that the longer the delay in introducing reforms, "the greater the chance the [ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army, or] NLA will gain support for a cause that is becoming militant and politically radical. [And] the more the NLA rebels fight," she says, "the greater the risk that the Slav majority will resist making concessions. [The] temptation for a military solution [will] gain ground."


In "Newsweek" magazine, Rich Thomas writes that "in a series of seemingly unrelated decisions, Europe has seized control of much of the global economic agenda." Thomas cites the collapse of the General Electric-Honeywell merger, the World Trade Organization judgment last week that the U.S. may not continue its practice of providing exporter subsidies, and Europe's refusal to approve the sale of genetically modified foods as the recent developments that have shifted the global economic power balance. He writes that Europe is successfully "taking over the world economy."

Thomas quotes an unnamed EU official in Washington as saying, "The U.S. is going to have to accept that the Europeans are using clout." Despite these trans-Atlantic differences, Thomas says, a trade war is unlikely: "Europe wants leadership and control of the agenda, not destruction of the global economy itself. The United States, for all its loss of face as an economic superpower, needs world trade just as much." The U.S. and the EU will "keep up appearances of amity at the global conference table," Thomas writes. "But make no mistake: Europe now controls the agenda."