Book Review

April 11, 2007 9:31| by Brian Precious

John Laughland Travesty The Trial of Slobodan Milosevic and the Corruption of International Justice (London: Pluto Press, 2007) £14.99 / $24.95 / €22.00

The recent brutal conclusion of the trial of Saddam Hussein means this book is timely.It documents another exercise in victor's justice: the trial and death of Slobodan Milosevic following the equally illegal US-led assault on socialist Yugoslavia from 1992 to 1999 - an assault carried out by proxy until the massive bombing of Kosovo in 1999.

This timeliness is given added force by the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at the end of February this year,which has exonerated Serbia of direct responsibility for genocide in Bosnia in the early 1990s.No official organ of the Serbian state had the deliberate intention to 'destroy in whole or in part' the Bosnian Muslim population -the definition given in the 1948 Genocide Convention - according to the ICJ.

Unlike the ICJ,the so-called International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) is not a legitimate body pursuant to International Law.Quite apart from the extent to which the ICTY spits in the face of juridical principles developed since the time of Cicero (for example,the previous presiding Judge of the ICTY, Richard May, declared that 'Milosevic will never be released' in advance of Milosevic being convicted of anything!), the ICTY was not legitimately set up by the UN. The UN does not have the power and authority to create any international criminal tribunal. This is precluded from the UN Charter. The UN Security Council certainly does not have such power. And it was the Security Council which set up the ICTY by 'creatively interpreting' it's remit, under pressure and arm-twisting by then US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright,in 1993. Many staff at the ICTY call Albright 'the mother of the tribunal'.

Laughland's book sports a Foreword by former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark ,a leading member of the movement against Bush's criminal crusade in Afghanistan and Iraq.Clark reminds us that only an amendment to the UN Charter - never yet accomplished -would enable the UN to set up a criminal court.

So Madeleine Albright, the biggest, most blood-soaked indictable war-criminal that Washington has produced since Henry Kissinger, played the leading role in setting up the so-called ICTY.The woman who,when challenged by a US tv interviewer as to whether the deaths of half a million Iraqi children (during the sanctions against Iraq ,1992-1998) was 'a price worth paying for removing Saddam', curtly replied 'we think it was worth it', is admired as 'the mother of the tribunal' by staffers at the ICTY.

If the ICTY operated in the Soviet Union,commentators would say it was typical of the Stalinist show-trial.

Milosevic's performance at the ICTY was heroic.He made a fool of this revolting kangaroo court at every turn. His steadfastness was helped by witnesses like Rade Markovic ,who was called by the prosecution but who then testified that he had been tortured while being held in Yugoslavia awaiting his time in the ICTY. As Jared Israel commented at the time, what did Markovic have to gain by making this statement? Nothing.What did he have to lose? Everything.

No doubt these are just some of the reasons the ICTY repeatedly tried to - illegally- impose counsel on

Milosevic,and overworked him when it knew he had a heart condition.

Most independent observers say the ICTY never pinned a thing on Milosevic:neither in fact nor,of course, in law.

So there will always be reason to investigate very closely the circumstances of Slobodan Milosevic's death in custody. He died a legally innocent man.

Compare and contrast: Naser Oric lived in Yugoslavia in the 1990s.He would invite western journalists to his home, where he would show them his videos of massacres in Serb villages.Oric would wax lyrical as journalists watch his videos of Serb heads stuck on stakes. Oric and his men rampaged over Serb towns from 1992 to around 1995.Oric even used Srebrenica as his base.

Naser Oric was detained at the ICTY for 2 years.At his trial he was sentenced to 'time served'. Naser Oric is now a free man.

I will leave you to read this excellent book by Laughland and to think over why there should be such an immense contrast between the treatment meted out to ilosevic,and the way in which Naser Oric got a slap on the wrist, even though the evidence of direct responsibility for mass murder is much clearer in Oric's case than in that of Milosevic.

From the -completely unfounded- allegation that Milosevic outlined a plan of expansion and ethnic

cleansing in his speech at Kosovo Polje, to the story that we bombed Kosovo to prevent a 'humanitarian

crisis' ,the black propaganda campaign used to give pretext to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan was also enacted in regard to Yugoslavia.

Sadly, a good part of the left fell for this particular exercise in horse manure,whose culmination was the trashing of international law and jurisprudence at the ICTY 'star chamber' in the Hague.

Perhaps now some on the left who supported this illegal war will reflect and reconsider,in light of the experience of the great popular movement against the 'war on terror'.

Until then, all those who continue to support the illegal assault on Yugoslavia, and the illegal show-trial at the ICTY, are complicit in Slobodan Milosevic's judicial murder.

The reviewer, Brian Precious, is a graduate student and lives in London.