Issue No. 275 - June 5, 2002


            By Ylber Emra

            By Slobodan Rackovic

            By Pero Jurisin

By Ylber Emra

        Michael Steiner, the head of the UN Mission in Kosovo, recently angered Kosovar Albanians after revoking a parliamentary decision. They perceived the move as taking away their sovereignty. Steiner’s action showed that he the is supreme authority in Kosovo and that it is still not the right time for the political leadership of the Kosovar Albanians to make independent decisions about the future of the province, which has been under international civil and military patronage since July 1999.
        Steiner revoked the parliamentary resolution literally ten minutes after its adoption, significantly lowering the Kosovar Albanians' hope that they will soon be able to reach their long sought goal of independence.
Independence was that anonymous slogan of all Albanian parties during the election campaign prior to general elections held last November. It was also a wish especially emphasized during last decades of the past century.
        The “weight” of Steiner's decision is reflected in the fact that the Kosovar parliament was stopped from bringing a declaration of sovereignty as its first step.
        The resolution of the Kosovar assembly, revoked May 23, rejected the international agreement about borders between FRY and Macedonia made on January 21 2001. The act of the Kosovar parliament also rejected the agreement about institutional ties between FRY and UNMIK (of November 5 2001), with the explanation that the agreement, as well as the one between the Yugoslav and Macedonian governments about the border, was passed without consultation with or approval of Kosovar institutions. Just prior to the voting, 22 members of the Serbian coalition "Return" left the session. The Kosovar parliament consists of 120 MPs.
        Prishtina diplomats pointed out that the assembly majority, made out of three major parties of Kosovar Albanians, opted for such a resolution despite prior numerous warnings from the international community, not only from Steiner but also from the UN headquarters and the European Union. However, MPs decided to pass the resolution, which, among other things, states the will to “preserve the integrity of Kosovar borders.” That's why, as a Western diplomat pointed out, the decision of 85 MPs who voted for the resolution carried additional weight; others say it was the announcement of similar moves basically testing the international community to find out when and how the final status of Kosovo will be confirmed.
        Immediately upon adoption of the resolution, MPs of the Serbian coalition “Return” expressed fierce rejection of the document, emphasizing that it would not have legal binding and that it was contrary to UN Resolution 1244. A member of the presidency of the Kosovar Assembly, Oliver Ivanovic, said that the resolution only deepened divisions among MPs. Leader of the parliamentary group of “Return,” Rade Trajkovic, said that coalition MPs unanimously decided to leave the session and not to participate in voting on such a document.
        These representatives, who had expressed differing views on events in Kosovo before, also showed unity one month ago when they condemned Steiner's decision to partly change the Constitutional Framework by opening another place for the presidency of the Kosovar parliament for a member of the third strongest party of Kosovar Albanians, the Alliance for Future of Kosovo (AAK), led by Ramus Haradinaj,  who was one of the leaders of the former Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK).
         The President of the Kosovar parliament, Nexhat Daci, tried to tamp down the effects of the resolution’s rebuttal. The day it was revoked, Daci, a former associate of Kosovar president Ibrahim Rugova, said that Steiner's decision “doesn't mean the beginning of conflicts between Albanian representatives and civil missions of the international community.” But most members of the political establishment and the representatives in those missions think that Daci is wrong and that he is just trying to lessen the effect.
        After Daci's statement came Steiner's comment, stating “The Kosovar parliament has damaged the interests of the international community, and if one wants the progress of Kosovo, then one has to have the support of the international community.” Steiner said that “the Kosovar parliament has to repair the damage together with the people of Kosovo,” and that he had no other choice but to revoke already passed resolution.

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By Slobodan Rackovic

        No one in Podgorica can prove that president Milo Djukanovic and his closest associates have been involved in international cigarette trafficking, but all are certain that starting an investigation against them at precisely this moment is a political move aimed at slowing down the process of Montenegro’s complete independence.
        During the past several days, Montenegro has been caught in a media earthquake called cigarette trafficking. It started with the decision of a state prosecutor in Bari (Italy) to start an investigation against Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic and several of his present or former associates in government. The investigation is to look into “organized crime targeted at international cigarette trafficking.”
        All press and electronic media have been paying great attention to that information. Those of pro-Montenegrin orientation have done so with a discernible filter of skepticism, while those supporting Serbia take on the style of “gotcha” journalism. For example, an extreme anti-Montenegrin daily newspaper in Podgorica Dan quoted the Serbian nationalist leader of Serbian Radical Party, Vojislav Sesselj, as saying that “Djukanovic has been written off and his usefulness is past.” “Djukanovic has fulfilled all the demands put on him by Western powers, and is therefore dispensable,” concluded Sesselj. The daily also published the whole history of the alleged criminal activity of Djukanovic and his regime during the last ten years, including the name of Branko Perovic, former minister of foreign affairs and current head of the Montenegrin diplomatic mission in Ljubljana. The story also included many European criminals who have allegedly collaborated with the official regime in Montenegro.
        On the other hand, President Djukanovic is doing his best to dispute allegations in the Italian indictment, despite their still remaining unpublished and thus only hinted at by Roman newspapers La Republica, Il Giornale, and Il Tempo, as well as by state TV and other Italian media. In a long statement to the popular TV station “Canale 5,” Djukanovic resolutely rejected all accusations against him and the Montenegrin state. Emphasizing that similar remarks have come from Italy before, he said: “The scenario is always the same: first there are articles in the Italian press, then come the Belgrade media with a hysterical anti-Montenegrin campaign. It is always happening at a time when Montenegro has to make some crucial decisions regarding its future.” Djukanovic said that it seemed amusing for a state prosecutor to try and put all the blame for an international problem on a tiny country such as Montenegro. He emphasized that three EU commissions, specializing in the fight against organized crime, came to Montenegro during the past few years, and left the country satisfied. Montenegro even received compliments from Italy itself, and the Italian Ministry of the Interior gave high distinctions to their Montenegrin colleagues for success in the fight against crime between the two Adriatic coasts, where the smuggling of tobacco, drugs, weapons, and slaves is really a big problem. Djukanovic also said that Montenegro once extradited all criminals wanted by Rome to Italy. Finally, he accused some circles in Italy, a country where crime is a widespread activity, that they were trying to draw attention away from them.
          Montenegrin Foreign Minister Branko Lukovac said that this fabricated scandal was carefully primed for this sensitive political moment, when Montenegro is moving towards full sovereignty and that someone wanted to threaten to cause huge damage to Djukanovic and Montenegro. “However, it is important to say that Italian government isn't part of that ploy. Just a few days ago, it acknowledged the Montenegrin contribution to the prevention of international crime and all illegal activities. I am certain that soon everybody will see through the bad intentions of those who are behind sneaky attempts to compromise Montenegro and people who lead it only because they ask for its independence,” said Lukovac.
          Neither the Montenegrin State Prosecutor Bozidar Vukevic nor the Ministry of Justice received any information from Bari state prosecutor Giuseppe Scelsi about the investigation against Djukanovic, although they have been asking for it for days now. On the other hand, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote a letter to their Montenegrin counterpart claiming that they didn't have any information about this case.
The situation is more than absurd; no Italian state institutions, not even Ministry of Justice in Rome, have insight into the extremely problematic activities of the prosecutor's office in southern Italian city of Bari, an office that has seriously disrupted relations between the two countries! At the same time, the Italian press never stops publishing new articles depicting the head of the Montenegrin state as an “extremely wealthy mafia boss.” Almost all European media, in turn, pick up those articles.
          Political analysts in Podgorica think that this sudden action against Djukanovic may be synchronized with the ruling circles in Belgrade and bureaucracy in Brussels, in order to politically destroy Djukanovic and make him give up his clearly expressed intention of taking Montenegro into full statehood. Since Podgorica and Belgrade are now working on the implementation of the Belgrade Agreement, signed under strong EU pressure on March 14, (which ends the Yugoslav federation, cancels the Yugoslavian name, and introduces a loose union of the independent states of Montenegro and Serbia), proven Serbian allies in Rome and the EU are trying hard to preserve at least remains of the former federal state, practically Greater Serbia. “This pressure on Djukanovic, who now has limited freedom of movement and diplomacy because he would be arrested immediately upon entering a foreign country, would cease the moment he abandoned the idea of independence,” said a foreign diplomat in Podgorica.
        There are two possibilities: either this scandal, which has gotten unusually large international coverage, will serve to mobilize Montenegrins behind independence, or it will be the end of the political career of Djukanovic, despite his role in helping the West to topple Yugoslav dictator Slobodan Milosevic.

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An interview with Professor Vojin Dimitrijevic
By Pero Jurisin

Dr. Vojin  Dimitrijevic is a former professor of international law and international relations at the Law Faculty at the University of Belgrade. He was removed from the university’s faculty in 1998 because of his opposition to the regime of Slobodan Milosevic, and is now head of the Belgrade Center for Human Rights and an expert on war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia.

        Q: Some experts feel that the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, a symbol of atrocious war crimes, is not progressing satisfactorily and may not yield the indented results. How do you see Milosevic's trial so far?
        A: The trial is a developing process. Trials can be short, long, and monotonous; in the end, one must decide what is evidence for and what is evidence against the indicted person. There is not much dispute here. As to guilt, I believe that some objections could arise if we consider the effect that these trails will have and why the court was founded in the first place. According to modern criminal law, we sentence someone to prison not out of revenge, but for general prevention, to deter others from committing similar actions. The main actors who could repeat the past still walk free. The trial was an opportunity for the Hague Court, opposed here by the official media, many politicians, and lawyers, to validate itself to the Serbian public. I fear that chance has passed and that prejudice against the court remains.
        Q: What is the cause for that?
        A: The cause lies in the Court’s structure. For one, Milosevic was not accused of anything for a long time. From the “Balkan butcher,” as the Western public used to call him, he was transformed into a pillar of peace and stability in the Balkans after signing the Dayton Accords. We can remember that in 1997, during the election campaign, some embassies cooperated in improving Milosevic's image. I remember a visit from Richard Holbrooke with the opposition when we explained to him that we would boycott the elections because we had no chances for a fair fight. He played stupid, not accepting our arguments. We got the impression that Milosevic was accused only following the events in Kosovo, when the world saw that he didn't want to cooperate anymore and that he was deterred neither by threats nor by NATO air strikes.
        Q: But what do you see as the main problem in the ongoing trial at the Hague?
        A: As is well known, the Hague Tribunal accepted a joint process against Milosevic on the basis of all three indictments - for crimes in Kosovo, Bosnia, and Croatia. But instead of the trial beginning in a logical and chronological manner, it started with the end of the war in Kosovo, as in some post-modern drama, on the terrain that makes Milosevic look most acceptable.
        Q: You mean because of Milosevic's influence on the Serbian public regarding Kosovo?
        A: Yes, because Milosevic knows how to defend himself. He makes it look like it is a trial not against him, but against all of Serbia. Besides, Kosovo is the best “terrain” for the start of the trial because events in Kosovo happened at the same time that NATO, aided by the powerful Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), conducted air strikes.  The KLA has mysterious finances and connections and used provocations in order to cause an exaggerated Serbian reaction. So it is a terrain where Milosevic feels most at ease. In addition, witnesses appeared who could not confirm that they had seen something personally; indeed, the witnesses are very unreliable and Milosevic is fighting them very successfully. The worst part is that Milosevic is counting on much of the Serbian public that has extreme anti-Albanian sentiments and have very little knowledge about the whole affair. Had the trial started with crimes in Bosnia, things would have looked quite differently.
        Q: Lately many Serbs from FRY suspected of war crimes, have left for the Hague or are preparing to go there. However, they are leaving as heroes claiming they will defend their honor and prove their innocence. Will the trials prove to be a catharsis or would it be better if they were tried in Serbia?
        A: Of course, it would be better if trials were held in Serbia, but that is almost impossible, not because our judges are unqualified, but because they would be under enormous pressure. We cannot expect judges to be heroes. The modern state is built on a common people and common judges who are as brave or as timid as the next man. We have the beginning of one such process in the town of Prokuplje near Belgrade. Judges and prosecutors are subject to enormous pressure and it is likely that the trial will be moved to a different location.
However, I do not believe in a catharsis after all these missed opportunities. It is more probable that what has happened will be forgotten, because with time all of the accusations become irrelevant. For Milosevic, the biggest punishment was his defeat when he was toppled from power and then arrested. Now he is much more lively, instead of writing memoirs, he has the chance to appear on TV. His personal rating rose at the beginning of the trial, although his party remained at 7 percent. It is his personal success. He doesn't recognize the court, but is using the opportunity to claim that not he, but Serbia is on trial.
        Q: Where is that rhetoric coming from? We also see it in Croatia and Bosnia, stating that trials of individuals for committing war crimes are in fact trials against the nation.
        A: Such individuals want it that way. It is easier for them to hide behind the whole nation than to be a solitary defendant. Serbian and Croatian extremists are brothers, like all extremists, and you can see the same tendencies among them. In Serbia, there are prominent attorneys who are in favor of disbanding the Tribunal, saying  it is wrong for everyone, including Croats who are indicted or already sentenced. The game played by Serbian and Croatian nationalists is a war game of centuries past; I was making a country, he was making a country. He won, I was defeated, and the people who died are not important.
        Q: Is it an impression that Milosevic is more disapproved of for losing the war than because of what he had done in the course of it?
        A: Warmongers still remain. They think that it was not the ideology which failed, but its executor. That is where the danger lies. The leader of the Serbian extreme right, Vojislav Sesselj, said, “We didn't succeed, but we will be around again in 80 years, when Russia will be powerful once again.” They are preparing for new wars, and don't want anybody to judge them because they understand it to be an honorable fight. It is a perverse love, which explains the same sentiment in both countries. Otherwise it would be irrational; the same court in Croatia is proclaimed anti-Croatian; as the Serbian one is anti-Serbian in Serbia.