Milosevic Trial

Milosevic is not the only one who should be before the International Court

argues Jim Addington

After two years of evidence from the prosecution, former Yugoslav PM Slobodan Milosevic is defending himself against charges which include genocide. In his opening statement he said that the Serb leadership tried to preserve the unity of Yugoslavia. It is odd for the prosecution to assume that the Serbs wished to break up a country in which they were the leading group. Yugoslavia was set up after the first war by the victorious powers with the concurrenceof leaders of the communities within it. In the early 1990s individual states within the Yugoslav Federation began to demand independence and they were encouraged by other states, notably Germany.

Milosevic was not a dictator, although this impression has been given by those who wished to make him an Orwellian 'enemy of the state'. Yugoslavia was a democracy and Milosevic was sustained by a coalition which included at least one party which was more nationalist than his own.

While he is in the dock and must await the verdict of a court in The Hague established by the United Nations, there are others who should also face prosecution. They are Clinton, Blair and the leaders of the 19 states that went to war illegally over Kosovo.

Those who follow the pronouncements by Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, know that he frequently takes the opportunity to comment on actions by the Security Council and its individual members. It is in the nature of his job that he cannot meet head-on the manipulation of the Security Council by its stronger members. However his annual report of UN activities in 1999 contained the following statement on the action against Yugoslavia over its treatment of the crisis in Kosovo. Kofi Annan began by asking what lessons should be drawn from the inability to prevent the crisis over Kosovo and other recent failures in conflict prevention. He continued "First, that if the primacy of the Security Council with respect to the maintenance of peace and security is rejected, the very foundations of international law as represented by the Charter will be brought into question. No other accepted legal basis for constraining wanton acts of violence exists.

"Second, that conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peacemaking must not become an area of competition between the United Nations and regional organisations. We work together best when we respect each other's prerogatives and sensitivities.

"Third, that prevention can only succeed with strong political commitment from Member States and if the provision of resources is adequate".

I doubt if a stronger condemnation of the action of a regional organisation (NATO) in going to war without the backing of the UN Security Council is possible, though couched in conciliatory language. The OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe) had provided 2000 monitors to watch the insurgency of the Albanian speaking inhabitants of Kosovoin an attempt to defuse a growing crisis. This should have enabled the UN to broker an agreement with the Yugoslav government as it had over Bosnia several years earlier.

After the government of Yugoslavia had rejected an ultimatum from the Rambouillet Conference to allow NATO troops virtually to occupy not only Kosovo but Yugoslavia itself

the monitors were advised to leave and the attack from the air began. The short but immensely destructive war against Yugoslavia was supported by 19 NATO states in clear contravention of the Helsinki Declaration of 1975 and international law.

In 1975, after a long period of consultation on the two subjects of confidence-building between nations and humanitarian developments, 35 states meeting in Helsinki including most European countries, the Soviet Union, the US and Canada agreed that under no circumstances would they ever violate the borders of another European state. But in 1999 they attacked Yugoslavia without considering their solemn pledge of 14 years earlier.

The arguments for what is described as humanitarian intervention were aired again as a reason for last year's unprovoked attack on Iraq. Again the UN Security Council failed (in the eyes of the aggressors) and succeeded (in the eyes of UN loyalists) by withholding support for the action The action in Kosovo and especially in Iraq raises the question of the recognition and reassertion of international law.

As Kofi Annan said in his 1999 report, the UN Charter represents "...the only legal basis for constraining wanton acts of violence".

Jim Addington is secretary of the UK group Action for UN Renewal