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Yugoslav leader stands up to NATO court

World anti-war forces respond to Milosevic kidnapping

By Heather Cottin

Deriding the international court at The Hague as a "political circus," Serbian Socialist Party Chairperson and former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic defiantly told tribunal officials who read him his rights, "You are kidnapping me and you will answer for your crimes."

He opted July 3 not to have counsel represent him at his arraignment before the court in The Hague, known as the ICTY. Milosevic said there, "I consider this tribunal a false tribunal and its indictments false indictments. It is illegal, being not appointed by the UN General Assembly. So I have no need to appoint counsel to this illegal organ."

Though tribunal Judge Richard May did his best to prevent the former Balkans leader from making political statements, even cutting off his microphone, Milosevic managed to get out his main point: "This trial's aim is to produce false justification for the war crimes of NATO committed in Yugoslavia."

This point found an echo in the anti-war and anti-imperialist circles--whether from government leaders or movement activists--that had stood in solidarity with the Yugoslav people against NATO aggression.

Of course, politicians in NATO countries who had led the war on Yugoslavia--from U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to Germany's Foreign Minister Joseph Fischer to Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair--praised it as a "great step for democracy," although it obviously flouted the Yugoslav Constitution.

But other leaders from around the world and representatives of the movements in solidarity with Yugoslavia against NATO have reacted strongly to this act of NATO terrorism.

In Havana, Cuba, Fidel Castro said, after addressing a crowd of 40,000 people protesting the recent conviction of five Cubans in Miami, "The sending of Milosevic over there is illegal, it does not correspond with international laws."

Castro, who was one of the strongest opponents of the NATO-led bombing of Yugoslavia two years ago, added that it was "madness" for the Yugoslav authorities "to concede the right of extra-territorial action for their penal laws and judicial authorities to NATO and the powerful nations.''

This "extradition under cover of the night," as Russia State Duma Chair Gennady Seleznyov called it, was "undemocratic." Seleznyov called instead for the Hague Tribunal to judge NATO's supporters and allies, which had bombed that country for 78 days, not the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's president.

Cambodia also faces a threat from courts controlled by the same imperialists that waged war against it. Warning against any similar attempt on Cambodian sovereignty, National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh said Saturday he would oppose any attempt to haul former Cambodian leaders to an international court for trial in exchange for foreign aid.

President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus also denounced the seizure of Milosevic.

The Yugoslav government agreed to turn Milosevic over to the court in "return" for $1.28 billion in foreign aid that is slated to go directly into payment of International Monetary Fund/World Bank service on Yugoslavia's $12.2 billion debt. The Guardian of Britain noted, "It is no coincidence that Slobodan Milosevic's first full day in a Hague prison cell will be the same day that international donors convene to pledge up to $1.3 billion."

Mass protests

The largest mass protests were in Belgrade itself, where tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest against the new pro-Western government's sellout of Yugoslavia's self-determination.

Hundreds of Greek demonstrators marched through Athens on Friday shouting "Out with NATO and the Americans.'' The Greek Center of Research and Action on Peace issued a statement condemning the Hague tribunal's unlawful action, saying, "Those who perpetrated the war have become the prosecutors of the victims of the war. The aim is to impose collective guilt on the Serbian people for everything that happened. It is an attempt to present NATO with clean hands."

Greek Communist Member of Parliament Stratis Korakas told reporters at the protest that he was one of the last people to see Milosevic before he was deported. "He said to me he wouldn't change his position in jail for a position in a government that bowed to the foreign interests that were controlling the people and the country,'' Korakas said.

The Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) issued a strong statement condemning the illegal action of the Hague Tribunal. "This handover/extradition is the result of a long, sophisticated and violent process of imperialist meddling and blackmail on Yugoslavia, following NATOillegal and criminal aggression on this sovereign country, and which continues under different forms," it said.

The PCP characterized as cynical and shameful "The fact that the handover took place under a U.S. ultimatum, on the eve of the 'Donor Conference' with the blackmail of 'economic aid.'" The PCP called for an "end to the presence of the Portuguese troops in the Balkans and Portugal's involvement in NATO's aggressive policy and the process of militarization of the European Union."

Miguel Figueroa, leader of the Communist Party of Canada, strongly condemned the unlawful extradition of Milosevic:

"This act, taken under immense and unprecedented economic and political pressure from the U.S. government, constitutes a shameful denial of elementary democratic rights and due process. It also reveals the true character of the International War Crimes Tribunal as an instrument of political vengeance and the imposition of a winners' 'justice,'" said Figueroa.

Workers World Party condemns U.S. policies

In a statement from its Secretariat, Workers World Party of the United States said:

"The so-called trial of Slobodan Milosevic is a monstrous example of 'adding insult to injury.' It is the NATO war criminals who must be put in the dock, not the leader of a small country ripped apart by decades of imperialist intervention--from economic sanctions to political subterfuge, and culminating in a completely one-sided and devastating military attack on its people and vital infrastructure.

"Chief of the NATO criminals is the United States government. It is the height of gall that these servants of the multi-billionaire corporations pretend to occupy the moral high ground in international relations. They have gone completely unpunished for their horrendous crimes over the last half-century, including the invasion, devastation and division of Korea, the war against Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, the 1961 invasion of Cuba, the trampling on little Grenada, the blitzkrieg against Iraq, and the scores of not-so-hidden interventions that have brought misery to Congo, Angola, Indonesia, Chile, Palestine, Iran, Russia and other countries looted and pillaged by U.S. profiteers."

German opponents of NATO aggression joined the international opposition to the illegal detention and extradition of Milosevic. In Berlin, Laura von Wimmersperg of the Berlin Peace Coordination and one of the conveners of the German and European "people's tribunals" that found NATO leaders guilty of war crimes, decried this travesty of justice.

"NATO will find 'proof,' exactly as they did with the lies they used to usher in the barbaric air attacks. This show trial is supposed to whitewash NATO and legitimize its war of aggression."

Heinz Stehr, chairperson of the German Communist Party (DKP), said, "The DKP condemns the decree of the Yugoslavian regime and the extradition of the former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to the UN tribunal as an anti-human-rights act of piracy."

Michel Collon, of the Belgian Workers Party and a well-known NATO opponent, asked how those who made war on Korea, the Suez, Algeria, Vietnam and Iraq could manipulate world opinion to support Milosevic's extradition to the Hague Tribunal.

Collon asked, "How could those who put Mobutu, Sharon and Pinochet in power, and supported most of the military dictators of the world for the last 50 years pretend to judge those heads of state who displease them?"

Collon is recovering from surgery for cancer of the kidney. He has evidence that the cancer was caused by exposure to radioactive particles in his body. He was exposed to depleted uranium weapon residues while reporting from Kosovo in the past few years.

Collon noted that the Hague Tribunal was financed by the CIA-connected Soros Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation and Time Warner, Inc.

International Action Center

In New York, the International Action Center condemned the "illegal, U.S.-forced deportation of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to a NATO-sponsored court." Returned from Yugoslavia, where he had gone to show solidarity with Milosevic and his country, IAC founder Ramsey Clark called the kidnapping "an enormous tragedy for Yugoslavia and the rule of law."

"Serbian Prime Minister Djindjic and other officials should be investigated for high crimes against the people, and if found guilty should be sentenced in accordance with the law," Clark said.

"Today's U.S.-engineered deportation of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is a gross violation of both legality and Yugoslavia's national sovereignty," said IAC West Coast Coordinator Richard Becker. "The ICTY's role as an instrument of the United States and other NATO powers was made apparent during the 1999 NATO war against Yugoslavia.

"Despite the fact that the massive bombing of Yugoslavia constituted grave violations of international law--including crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity--the ICTY refused to even consider indicting the NATO powers," Becker continued.

"Today, as a result, U.S. military bases dominate the region-in Croatia, Bosnia, Albania, Hungary, Macedonia and Kosovo (Serbia)--where there were none 10 years ago. Yugoslavia's real crime was that it resisted this re-colonization process."

Sara Flounders, co-director of the IAC in New York, noted, "The IAC stands with those in Yugoslavia today who are resisting the U.S./NATO takeover of their country."

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