INDICTMENT AT THE HAGUE

THE MILOŠEVIĆ REGIME AND THE CRIMES OF THE BALKAN WAR

BY NORMAN CIGAR AND PAUL WILLIAMS

With an Introduction by Ivo Banac, Bradford Durfee Professor Emeritus, Yale University

 

Published in association with the New York University Press

 


THE INQUIRY which became the basis of this book, making a case and defining the grounds for the indictment of Slobodan Milošević, was initiated at a time when there were no prospects of the international community promoting an investigation, much less a formal indictment of those responsible for war crimes committed during almost a decade of war following the dissolution of Yugoslavia.

The indictments finally issued by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at the Hague were a confirmation of the the validity of the argument and evidence presented by Cigar and Williams in their book. The most comprehensive of all was the indictment on Bosnia-Herzegovina: it charged Milošević not only with "crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and violations of the laws of war", but also with the commission of "genocide."

Taking as its starting point the existing cannon of international law and citing the precedent of the Nuremberg trials, Indictment At The Hague represents the most detailed examination of the conduct of the Milošević regime and the individual responsibility of senior members of its leadership for war crimes in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The atrocities committed by the Serbian forces against civilians were part of a systematic campaign to secure territory for an ethnically "pure" Serb state by clearing it of all non-Serb populations. Drawing from a growing body of evidence in the public domain Cigar and Williams demonstrate that government agencies subordinate to Slobodan Milošević were extensively involved in providing both support and direction to this campaign. They present a detailed 'case study' defining the nature and legal responsibility of a regime in the commission of war crimes and analyse the legal and evidentiary facets that eventually formed the basis of the Tribunal's indictment.

This book also includes a collection of key documents which are of particular value both to the lay reader and to scholars and practitioners of international law. Comprising reports prepared under the aegis of the United Nations, these documents not only set the case for the prosecution of war crimes in its historical context, but also are in themselves a revealing record of the international community's indifference towards or complicity in the devastation visited upon Bosnia. 

The reader will find here a detailed account of the siege of Sarajevo, a case study of the mechanics of ethnic cleansing as conducted in Zvornik, Secretary General Kofi Annan's  indictment of the UN's failure to protect the "safe area" of Srebenica, the United States' graphic submissions on war crimes being committed in Bosnia, the letter of resignation by UN's Special Rapporteur Tadeusz Mazowiecki protesting the international community's inaction, and the report of the Commission of Experts on the specifics of international law as it applied to the violation of the Geneva Conventions in Bosnia. This documentary story concludes with the texts of the indictments issued ten years later by The Hague tribunal against the leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadžić, the commander of the Bosnian Serb forces, Ratko Mladić, and their supreme ally, the leader of Serbia, Slobodan Milošević.

Milošević was extradited to The Hague in 2001. He died of a heart attack in his cell in 2006 before the trial concluded. The trials of Karadžić and Mladić are continuing.

However, a series of recent rulings by the court which have led to acquittals of close aides of Milošević  have provoked a storm of controversy among international law circles. Critics argue that these rulings are undermining precedents established since World War II which hold commanders responsible for war crimes committed by forces under their command.

The New York Times (May 30, 2013) reported that "[t]his and other recent acquittals have effectively absolved Serbia of any responsibility for atrocities committed by proxy armies in Croatia and Bosnia and by the covert network of paramilitary combat units trained, paid and supervised by the secret police. Experts said Thursday’s verdict also added to a potentially serious judicial inconsistency in the tribunal: while top commanders have been acquitted recently of serious charges, more minor defendants were convicted and sentenced earlier on far lesser counts."

The Times story went on to report that " [l]egal experts expressed astonishment at the acquittals, which apparently rested on new standards applied by senior judges. “The entire doctrine of command responsibility has been ditched,” said Eric Gordy, who teaches the politics of Eastern Europe at the University College London and follows the trials closely. “So has the liability for aiding and abetting.”"

Not only are these recent rulings likely to set precedents for trials related to the Balkan wars that our still continuing, they may also have serious repercussions for other prosecutions and convictions for war crimes and human rights violations. Thus David Rohde writing in The Atlantic  refers to concerns expressed by former tribunal officials who feared that the court decisions on Milošević's aides "reversed years of progress in the field and endangered the recent war crimes convictions of former Liberian President Charles Taylor." 

Cigar and Williams closely argued brief is therefore particularly relevant because it provides a blueprint for those who are working to uphold the Geneva and Hague Conventions and for those who wish to understand how and why the crimes of war continue to challenge the instruments of international law.

Authors

NORMAN CIGAR is the author of Genocide in Bosnia: The Politics of Ethnic Cleansing.  He is the Director of Regional Studies Marine Corps University, Quantico, Virginia. Before retiring, he taught military theory, strategy, and policy, operational case studies, nuclear war theory, and Middle East regional studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College and the School of Advanced Warfighting. He has written numerous works on politics and security issues dealing with the Middle East and the Balkans, and has been a consultant at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at the Hague. Dr. Cigar was also a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Conflict Analysis & Resolution, George Mason University. 

PAUL WILLIAMS holds the Rebecca I. Grazier Professorship in Law and International Relations at American University. He is co-founder of the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG), a non-profit group, which provides pro bono legal assistance to states and governments involved in peace negotiations, post-conflict constitution drafting, and war crimes prosecutions. He was a Senior Associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and  a Fulbright Research Scholar at the University of Cambridge. Professor Williams also served as an Attorney-adviser for European and Canadian affairs at the U.S. Department of State, Office of the Legal Adviser.

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