Leading Article: Milosevic should have been indicted long ago

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The Independent Culture
ONE OF the most hopeful international developments since the Second World War has been the development of a basic law of fundamental rights that is worldwide. It began in 1945, at the trial of Nazi war criminals in Nuremberg, and at the founding of the United Nations, with its judicial arm, the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

Attempts to formalise the ad-hoc tribunals of this court have so far foundered on the refusal of the United States to countenance its citizens being tried by an international body. But this week the tribunal set up to try crimes in the former Yugoslavia took an important step forward. Its decision to lay charges against Slobodan Milosevic, leader of the Serbian-dominated rump of the Yugoslav republic, is the first time a serving head of state has been indicted for war crimes. This is the sort of thing which could begin to make the lazy post-Cold War rhetoric of a "new world order" bite on tyrants everywhere. The only pity is that the timing of the announcement makes it easier for the opponents of the rule of international law to portray it as simply another tactic deployed by the West against Serbia. But it would be wrong to delay further for that reason. Milosevic should have been charged a long time ago.