Prague, 15 June 1998 (RFE/RL) -- NATO warplanes flew over the southern Balkans this morning in a show of force clearly aimed at deterring Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic from further military action in Serbia's troubled southern province of Kosova. Much Western press commentary today and over the weekend focuses on the escalating conflict in Kosova. The opening in Rome today of a five-week United Nations conference on international war crimes also attracts some attention.
NEW YORK TIMES: Diplomacy backed with a show of force can move a leader
A New York Times editorial Saturday said that the NATO exercises "are a timely and reasonable response to the growing military violence being orchestrated by Slobodan Milosevic." The paper observed: "As seen with Iraq earlier this year, diplomacy backed with a show of force can move a leader with a history of failing to respond to gentler forms of international persuasion." It continued: "All outside powers, including Russia, now agree that Milosevic's forces have been primarily responsible for the increasing violence against Kosova's (ethnic) Albanian majority population....This show of force is part of an international diplomatic strategy....Russia's President, Boris Yeltsin, can help diplomacy succeed if he takes a firm line with Milosevic in (talks with him in) Moscow on Tuesday." The paper went on: "Yeltsin should quickly dispel any illusions Milosevic may have that his big Slavic brother will defend him no matter how outrageously he behaves in Kosova. Instead, Yeltsin should use his considerable influence to warn the Yugoslav leader that he must rein in his forces immediately." And it concluded: "That kind of blunt diplomatic message from Russia coupled with NATO's demonstration of air power should convince Milosevic that he should back off."
SUNDAY TELEGRAPH: The Albanian question could spell the downfall of Slobodan Milosevic
Britain's Sunday Telegraph wrote yesterday: "The Albanian question was the first step toward a Greater Serbia for Slobodan Milosevic. But it could spell his downfall." The paper argued: "If Milosevic does not yield in (his talks with Yeltsin in) Moscow, then the Russians may be ready to support a UN resolution authorizing 'all necessary means' to end the murders (in Kosova). If not, then the big NATO powers -- the U.S., Britain, and France -- must be ready to use force on their own. (That would mean they would) lack the kind of international approval on which the UN action against Saddam Hussein was based. They would be interfering in a sovereign state against the will of its government to end an abuse of human rights."
GUARDIAN: Some EU countries fear a risky precedent in international law
In a news analysis in the British Guardian daily today, European editor Martin Walker says that Prime Minister Tony Blair was set to tell European Union leaders at their "Cardiff summit that NATO may have to deploy air strikes and ground troops against Serbian forces in Kosova without a formal mandate from the United Nations Security Council." The analysis continues: "As NATO warplanes begin exercises around Kosova today, the U.S., Britain and Germany are agreed that to prevent more Serb atrocities they may have to act speedily and without the legal niceties of the UN....The move will dismay (EU) countries such as Ireland and Sweden and NATO members like Denmark and the Netherlands. They fear a risky precedent in international law if NATO is free to take military action without UN authority."
LA STAMPA: The order of the day is weaponry
The Italian daily La Stampa argues for full-scale NATO military intervention in Kosova, saying "it is too late for (further negotiation)." In an editorial, the paper writes: "The order of the day is weaponry. War and guerrillas have taken root in a matter of a few weeks and are already enveloping Macedonia, destabilizing Albania, alarming Greece and Bulgaria. With every passing hour the West and NATO, wavering more than ever before between diplomacy and military engagement, are responsible for the delay." The paper goes on to say: "The diplomatic path, (economic) sanctions and (hollow) threats might actually prolong Milosevic?s survival. But military intervention could bring him down and...lead to a rapid and positive change in the political and strategic situation in the entire region. It seems that Tony Blair is the only (Western leader) who has understood this."
LIBERATION: Western nations' scrupulous respect for international law plays into Milosevic's hands
France's Liberation daily favors continued negotiations over military intervention, but urges that the West change its negotiating position. In a signed editorial Saturday, the paper's foreign editor Jacques Almaric wrote: "It is true to say that Kosova has caused the West many headaches. But (the West) cannot solve the problem and prevent new massacres (in Kosova) -- with incalculable consequences for the entire region -- by desperately clinging to the principle of territorial integrity for Milosevic's Yugoslav Federal Republic and the inviolability of its borders." The editorial continued: "To make these two principles preconditions for a solution means that a political resolution of the crisis is dependent on Milosevic's good will. Above all, it means admitting a lack of control over the situation, despite NATO's gesticulations and the condemnations and sanctions to which Belgrade is being subjected." It concluded: "Western nations' scrupulous respect for international law, their --understandable -- fear of seeing the whole region go up in flames, their refusal of any more imaginative approach to prevent a catastrophe -- all this plays into Milosevic's hands."
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: The meeting creates an opportunity to close the gap between rhetoric and action
The Paris-based International Herald Tribune today carries two commentaries on the UN's Rome conference, which is seeking to write a comprehensive treaty on international criminal law as well as to establish a permanent world court to try war criminals. Mary Robinson, the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, says that "for many around the world (the meeting is an) opportunity to close the gap between rhetoric and action on the worst violators of human rights." She writes: "An International Criminal Court should bring to justice the perpetrators of the worst crimes -- genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. For the last 50 years it has been easier to get away with killing 100,000 people than just one. The gathering in Rome aims to change that and create a world in which there will be no safe haven for the likes of (Uganda's) Idi Amin or (Cambodia's) Pol Pot."
Robinson's commentary continues: "The statute for a permanent court...should recognize explicitly the appalling growth of gender-related crimes against humanity. There is a crying need for justice and accountability for those responsible for policies of systematic rape, forced impregnation, sexual slavery and other violations of the rights and dignity of women and girl children caught up in internal and international conflicts. For many, this is a key issue and a test of the court's credibility." It concludes: "(The conference is taking place during) the 50th anniversary year of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- a document which soars above the usual standards of diplomatic agreement.....The Rome gathering...will make its own piece of history, enhancing the structure of international institutions built up in the past 50 years."
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Ideally the court should have two fundamental features
The IHT's second commentary is by Louise Arbour, who is chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda based in The Hague. Arbour writes: "Ideally (the court which emerges from Rome) should have two fundamental features. First, it should be universal, with the acceptance of, and jurisdiction over, as many states as possible. Second, it should be independent and strong." She argues: "Universal jurisdiction is important in principle because the crimes are being prosecuted on behalf of humanity as a whole. In practice, universality is also critical because suspects, witnesses and other evidence are likely to be scattered all over the world." And she goes on: "Independence and strength (are essential) to the Court's legitimacy. The prosecutor should have the power to initiate prosecutions, unhindered by political interference, and the Court should be able to issue binding orders and decisions, even to states. As in the case of any national criminal court, such powers are crucial to maintaining public confidence in the judicial process."
But Arbour acknowledges that "it is very unlikely the Rome conference will produce (such) a strong, independent Court with broad-based support." She writes: "Many (nations) would be happy with a result that has these two fundamental features applied in inverse proportion. They will support a strong Court if its reach is very limited (and not applicable to them), or they will support a Court with a broad application, including to them, but very limited powers." And she concludes: "If the outcome of Rome is wide-based support for a weak court, a Court from which states will be able to shelter the cases most deserving of international condemnation, it is difficult to imagine what corrective measure could be taken in the future to breathe life into a still-born institution."