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NATO court calls resistance a crime

Yugoslav socialists stand up for Milosevic

By Gloria La Riva

Belgrade, Yugoslavia

In a stunning blow to Yugoslavia's sovereignty, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic on June 28 secretly surrendered former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic into the hands of the NATO powers that brutally bombed Yugoslavia in 1999.

Djindjic is seen as the number one U.S. agent in Yugoslavia.

This blow aroused widespread anger in Yugoslavia and solidarity with the kidnapped former president from progressive world leaders and anti-war activists. Among them was internationally known human rights attorney Ramsey Clark, who spoke at a protest rally in Belgrade the following night. Clark and this writer, Gloria La Riva, constituted a delegation from the International Action Center, which had played a leading role in organizing protests in the United States against NATO's war on Yugoslavia in 1999.

Milosevic had been taken by military helicopter to the NATO base in Tuzla, Bosnia, at 6 p.m. on the previous day and then transported to The Hague in the Netherlands. Djindjic announced the former president's extradition at 6:30 p.m.

By 8 p.m., thousands of people had taken to the streets in protest.

Only hours before the forced removal of Milosevic, the Yugoslav Constitutional Court had issued a temporary decree banning the extradition until it was able to give the matter further study and make a permanent ruling.

The court's decree was in response to maneuvers by Djindjic and current Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica to push legislation and rulings through the government that wouldmake the surrender of Milosevic to NATO legal and constitutional in Yugoslavia.

By ordering Milosevic's kidnapping, Djindjic not only violated the country's constitution, he also overrode the federal jurisdiction of Yugoslavia. The Republic of Serbia is one of the two republics left in Yugoslavia, the other being Montenegro. As a leader of Serbia, Djindjic had no legal authority over a federal matter: extradition to a foreign country.

The Yugoslav Constitution prohibits extradition of the country's citizens.

U.S. pressure, threats

Milosevic's illegal transfer followed weeks of U.S. government threats, extortion and, finally, outright bribery directed at the new pro-capitalist, pro-Western government leaders.

The current Yugoslav regime took power in a coup on Oct. 5, 2000, following national elections in which the Dem o cratic Opposition of Serbia and its pre sid ential candidate Kostunica came in first but with less than 50 percent of the vote. The DOS is a pro-Western, anti-socialist, 18-party coalition that came together under U.S. pressure. Kostunica had a reputation at the time of being a patriotic Serb, but during his time in office has only facilitated Western penetration of his country.

To assure a defeat for Milosevic, the U.S. and the European Union had pumped more than $100 million into the DOS election campaign, a vast amount for a relatively poor country of 10 million people.

The new Serbian government was elected on Dec. 23, 2000, and Djindjic, widely considered first a German and then a U.S. puppet, became prime minister.

The U.S.-led NATO members--most of them imperialist countries that were the old colonial powers of the 19th Century and dominated Eastern Europe until World War II--want to try Milosevic and other former top leaders of the Yugoslav government. They are using the special tribunal in The Hague, called the ICTY, to draw up trumped-up charges of war crimes these leaders allegedly committed before and during the 1999 NATO war against Yugoslavia.

To the NATO leaders, Milosevic's real crime is having resisted the dismemberment of his country. The Yugoslav people held out heroically against 78 days of merciless, genocidal bombing. These NATO heads never expected Yugoslavia to hold out for more than a week.

Thousands protest treachery

Following the Belgrade regime's treacherous act, thousands protested June 28. The next day, over 20,000 people filled Belgrade's Freedom Square at a mass rally organized by Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia and other progressive and nationalist forces.

The working-class demonstrators expressed their rage at what they consider Djindjic's blow to Yugoslavia's sovereignty. They roared approval as speakers denounced Djindjic and Kostunica.

Along with speakers representing many Yugoslav groups and showing a broad unity, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark expressed solidarity with Milosevic and called for his release. Clark had arrived just three hours earlier with Gloria La Riva, a videographer and IAC organizer.

Clark had attempted to reach Belgrade two days earlier to help fight Milosevic's extradition, but the Yugoslav Embassy in Washington, D.C., denied him a visa. This was the first time Clark had been denied a Yugoslav visa.

The IAC two-person delegation flew to Belgrade without visas. Though the delegation was detained at the airport in Belgrade, progressive supporters intervened and eventually the two were admitted into the country.

Many Yugoslavs--from former government officials to the general population--remember Clark for his opposition to the war and his solidarity in 1999 when he paid two visits to Yugoslavia under the bombs. The 20,000 people in the crowd cheered his comments throughout his talk.

"United," he said, "the people of Yugoslavia can show the way to the rest of the world. We need you desperately. But we've got work to do.

"We have to return President Slobodan Milosevic to his native soil and we've got to do it now. ... We have to see that the government officials responsible for the criminal act of his surrender are prosecuted and removed from office.

"And we have one great task. That is to abolish the criminal tribunal. We must never again allow a target court that persecutes a single people, as against Yugoslavia and Rwanda."

Clark and La Riva met with Zivadin Jovanovic, former foreign minister of Yugoslavia and acting president of the Socialist Party of Serbia. Jovanovic denounced the $1.28 billion bribe promised in exchange for Milosevic's handover by the Donors' Conference on Yugoslavia held June 29 in Brussels.

Jovanovic read from a headline in the now pro-capitalist press in Belgrade. It said, "The world has supported Yugoslavia with $1.28 billion." Jovanovic said, "This is to cover up a shameful, criminal handing over of Milosevic to The Hague.

"This bribe is like throwing dust into the eyes of the people, to hope they'll receive funding they'll really never see. The International Monetary Fund, World Bank and European Investment Bank are offering a bribe to extinguish fires and deflate anger in the population."

Jovanovic added, "They don't mention the $100 billion in war damages that was done to our country."

La Riva told Jovanovic that "on behalf of the International Action Center, I'd like to convey our fullest solidarity to defend Milosevic and that we will continue to organize the defense of the Yugoslav people and expose the truth about the Balkans."

Behind the attack on Yugoslavia

The abduction of Milosevic is the culmination of the anti-socialist counter-revolution that began in 1989 in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Emboldened by their successes, Germany, the U.S. and other NATO allies targeted Yugoslavia starting in 1990-1991. They used a combination of military and political support for secessionist groupings in Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Kosovo and elsewhere, economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation.

The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was torn apart, four of the six republics broken off and subordinated to the NATO powers. NATO bombed Bosnia in 1995 and carried out a full-scale attack on the rest of Yugoslavia in 1999. Then, to complete the political counter-revolution, they financed the ousting of the Socialist Party of Serbia in the fall of 2000.

Djindjic and Kostunica are presiding over the complete privatization of the Yugo slav economy and the restoration of capitalism, preparing to surrender the country's economy to foreign imperialism. To clear the way, U.S./NATO and their agents inside Yugoslavia are working furiously to smash the socialist and nationalist forces that have resisted imperialist designs since 1990.

Milosevic's trial at The Hague, at a court that refused to even consider the criminality of NATO's war, is part of this U.S./ NATO offensive.

Milosevic's demonization is being used to justify a new wave of U.S.-directed repression inside Yugoslavia. Workers and progressive people around the world have the duty to stand in solidarity with those in Yugoslavia who are resisting the empire.

La Riva was in Yugoslavia twice in the spring of 1999, and produced a video, "NATO Targets."

This article is copyright under a Creative Commons License.
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