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Balkan Report: July 14, 2000

14 July 2000, Volume 4, Number 52

'Confronting Evil.' There are times when things must be called by their proper name and acted on accordingly.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said in a statement on 10 July to mark the fifth anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre that "the tragedy of Srebrenica will forever haunt the history of the United Nations. This day commemorates a massacre on a scale unprecedented in Europe since the Second World War--a massacre of people who had been led to believe that the United Nations would ensure their safety."

Annan stressed that "we cannot undo this tragedy, but it is vitally important that the right lessons be learned and applied in the future. We must not forget that the architects of the killings in Srebrenica and elsewhere in Bosnia and Herzegovina, although indicted by the [Hague-based] International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, are still at large. This fact alone suggests that the most important lesson of Srebrenica--that we must recognize evil for what it is, and confront it not with expediency and compromise but with implacable resistance--has yet to be fully learnt and applied."

As the secretary general noted, those most to blame for the evil are still at large. These include not only Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, but especially the one man most responsible for the destruction of the former Yugoslavia and for all the tragedies that accompanied it--Slobodan Milosevic.

It will perhaps be to the undying credit of the Hague-based tribunal that it issued a public indictment in May 1999 against Milosevic and four of his top cronies. At a stroke, the court ensured that Milosevic and those others were off limits as respectable negotiating partners. There would thus be no repeat of the tragicomic developments during the Croatian and Bosnian conflicts, when Western diplomats and politicians beat a steady path to Milosevic's door and hailed him as "the man who can deliver."

In fact, the question might be raised as to why it took the international community so long to realize what Milosevic is about and act accordingly. Perhaps a deep, public discussion of this issue would help avoid some future calamities elsewhere. Certainly such a discussion could prove more fruitful that the current, often sterile debate regarding which bombs hit which targets in 1999 (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 16 May 2000).

Milosevic's aggressive intentions were clear from his rhetoric in the 1980s, just as Hitler's were in the 1930s. But just as it took several international crises before the Allies became willing to stop Hitler by force, it took long months and thousands of deaths before even the first timid steps were taken to contain the Serbian dictator's aggression, let alone halt or reverse it. In the end, it was Croatian and Muslim ground troops that sent the Serbian forces fleeing. NATO air strikes helped deliver the peace in Bosnia, but it was not until Kosova in 1999 that the Atlantic alliance showed that the lessons of the previous decade had been learned.

Even then, what remained was a "Saddam Hussein peace," with the dictator still in power. Milosevic continues to proceed at home with policies that have led to the gradual destruction of Serbia's best traditions in public life, society, culture, and the economy (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 9 and 16 December 1999).

His policies have already led to four lost wars and an end to centuries-old Serbian settlements in the south and west, just as Hitler's policies cost Germany the results of centuries of colonization in the east. It now seems clear that Milosevic's next victim outside Serbia's borders is Montenegro. The question is whether NATO will act before he has an opportunity to cause further destruction and bloodshed.

At least one NATO leader has drawn the necessary conclusions and had the courage to say so in public. Just one day after Annan's remarks about the need to face up to evil, Czech President Vaclav Havel said in Dubrovnik of the Montenegrin crisis: "Apart from political options, there are alternatives, which consist of a demonstration of force. The international community [previously] looked on events [in former Yugoslavia] with surprise and abhorrence and reacted too late. It should not be repeated a fifth time." (Patrick Moore)

Did NATO Intervention In Yugoslavia Violate International Law? Journalists, commentators, and some legal experts in Europe and the U.S. have expressed doubts about the legitimacy of the 1999 NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia. They have argued that NATO did not act on the basis of a UN Security Council resolution and that the alliance violated the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia. In the most recent edition of the Munich bimonthly "Suedost Europa" (Vol. 5-6, 2000), professor of international law Armin A. Steinkamm dismisses these arguments.

Steinkamm argues that some Western governments failed to convey clearly to their citizens the legal implications of and background to the NATO intervention. Thus, he argues it came as no surprise that politicians and journalists expressed vaguely defined "positions�without proper grounding in the law...."

Steinkamm argues that the war between NATO and Yugoslavia was the result of a longer historical development, going back to an increase in violations of human rights in Kosova in October 1997 and the beginning of 1998. He recalls that the UN Security Council in response to these events issued Resolution 1160 on 31 March 1998, which was based on Chapter VII of the UN Charter. That chapter entitles the UN Security Council to act upon threats to regional peace and security. The resolution demanded that Belgrade take steps towards a political solution of the Kosova crisis through dialogue. It also authorized the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to investigate the violence in Kosova.

But the resolution brought no results on the ground. Indeed, the violence escalated further. Steinkamm notes that the Yugoslav army and Serbian special police forces in their offensives against the Kosova Liberation Army "used a high degree of violence against the civilian population that cannot be justified by military reasons." He recalls that by the end of summer the number of internally displaced persons without shelter rose to 300,000.

The Security Council reacted to these developments on 23 September 1998 with UN Resolution 1199, demanding an immediate end to hostilities and the withdrawal of Yugoslav special police and military forces. One day later NATO called on Yugoslavia to fulfill its obligations deriving from the resolution, and threatened to launch air strikes in the event of non-compliance. On 8 October the NATO Council authorized Secretary General Javier Solana to draw up plans for limited air missions.

Two days later, Solana explained the legal background to these plans: Yugoslavia failed to fulfill UN Resolutions 1160 and 1199, and Resolution 1199 stresses that the deterioration of the situation in Kosova poses a threat to regional peace and security. Furthermore, there was an imminent danger of a humanitarian catastrophe while Yugoslavia refused to take steps towards a peaceful solution. Finally, the Security Council could not be expected to act on the matter in the foreseeable future, considering the likely vetoes of Russia and China. Against this background, NATO decided that it was ready to act on its own militarily to prevent a humanitarian emergency.

Following these threats, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic gave in and allowed unarmed OSCE observers into the province to verify compliance with UN Resolution 1199. On 24 October the Security Council issued Resolution 1203, which demanded that all parties on the ground cooperate with the verifiers.

The OSCE mission nonetheless failed. Meanwhile, the Yugoslav army increased its troop presence in Kosova and conducted operations against the civilian population. The peace negotiations in Rambouillet and Paris failed.

On 12 January Russia prevented the approval of a new Security Council resolution. On 24 March another emergency meeting of the Security Council brought no concrete results due to Russian and Chinese objections. Steinkamm concludes: "The Security Council was not in a position to take measures to prevent a humanitarian crisis" and thereby protect international peace and security.

The Security Council thus failed to fulfill its duties, as specified by the UN Charter, largely due to Russian and Chinese objections. Steinkamm argues that domestic interests guided both countries. They saw Kosova as a possible precedent for developments in Chechnya, Taiwan, and Tibet. They thus violated the aims and principles of the UN Charter. He stresses that both countries "abused their [veto] privilege--a relic from the post-war era--for their national state interests."

Against this background, NATO acted without an explicit UN resolution, but not in violation of UN principles. Most members of the Security Council shared this view and turned down a Russian-initiated proposal to condemn the NATO air campaign. Steinkamm also challenges interpretations that humanitarian intervention is not a concept in international law. He recalls that there have been numerous cases of humanitarian intervention in the past. The professor argues that in recent history humanitarian intervention has become an accepted practice, based on the fundamental principles of human rights set down in the UN Charter and other international agreements.

Furthermore, he notes that the NATO campaign fulfilled all criteria that the European Parliament has set for humanitarian intervention. These include the existence of a serious humanitarian emergency situation, the inability of the UN to react promptly to that challenge, and the failure of political efforts to end the crisis. Also, the intervening power must not have its own special interests in the situation, and the protection of human rights must be its primary aim. The use of force must be limited in time. Finally, the intervention must not pose a threat to international peace and security, and the amount of suffering it triggers must stand in a reasonable relationship to what it aims to prevent.

Steinkamm then stresses that the indictment of Milosevic by the Hague-based tribunal gave additional legitimacy to the intervention. The professor recalled a speech by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on 9 April 1999, when he stressed in regard to Kosova that the Security Council must not become a refuge for those who commit the worst crimes against humanity under the cover of state sovereignty. (Fabian Schmidt)

Iranians In Skopje. A ten-strong Iranian trade delegation led by Minister of the Economy and Finance Hossein Namazi arrived in the Macedonian capital on 10 July. They and their hosts signed agreements on investments and taxation, as well as one on road transportation that enables 1,500 Iranian trucks to "travel between the two countries," IRNA reported. (Patrick Moore)

Serbian Church Demolished In Slavonia. It is no rarity these days to open a Croatian newspaper and see a photo of a new building being blown up or placed under the wrecker's ball. This is part of the government's campaign to destroy buildings constructed without a permit under the Tudjman regime. Coincidentally, many of the buildings' owners had close links to that government.

Not so with the building in the photo featured in "Jutarnji list" on 8 July. The structure in question is a Serbian Orthodox church in Lovas, in the far east of eastern Slavonia. Two prominent local Serbs built the church in 1992 on the model of the new Sveti Sava's in Belgrade. Ljuban Devetak and Zoran Kuzmanic thought that Lovas would remain in Serbian hands and did not bother with Croatian paperwork or to legally purchase the land. They spent DM 2 million on the Sveti Petak church, which covers 600 square meters.

Now the Croatian authorities have begun demolition work. They plan to return the land to its original owners, who are three Croatian refugees and one Serb.

"Vesti" reported on 13 July that the case has attracted little interest abroad because there are few parishioners for the church. Not many Serbs lived in the Lovas area prior to the outbreak of the conflict in 1990-1991, but many Serbian refugees settled there in Croatian homes during the war. It was for them that the two businessmen built Sveti Petak. Those Serbs have now left, and the original Croatian population has returned. (Patrick Moore)

Quotations Of The Week. The Milosevic-run daily "'Politika' is my second home." - indicted war criminal and Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, quoted by "Politika" on 12 July.

Speaking in Dubrovnik on 10 July, Czech President Vaclav Havel said that he "can imagine" Montenegro becoming independent, CTK reported. He gently chided unnamed Western leaders who have repeatedly warned Djukanovic against declaring independence, saying: "I remember the surprise of the democratic community of the Western world when it was [forced by events] to recognize Slovenia and Croatia. Now, 10 years later, we can see that the two countries...belong to the pillars of democracy in the area of the former Yugoslavia."

"Let them scream. We all need to scream." - 55 year-old Muslim woman, of her neighbors from Srebrenica on 11 July. Quoted by Reuters.

"Why turn your head? Don't turn your head. You should see our tragedy. The last time I was in Srebrenica, I was here at this very site." - The same woman to a UN official who had turned away from the grieving women.

"The cardinal lesson of Srebrenica is that a deliberate and systematic attempt to terrorize, expel, or murder an entire people must be met decisively with all necessary means." - Report submitted to a conference on Srebrenica, chaired by Bosnian UN Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey on 11 July. Quoted by Reuters.