Only the Serbs can make Milosevic pay for his crimes

Share

"You won the election, but I won the count." Thus, in the late 1970s, the former Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza to his critics. And thus, equally brazen, seems certain to be the response of Slobodan Milosevic as he attempts to preserve a rule that has brought a decade of blood and misery to his country and the Balkan region. Two things may be said amid the confusion: Mr Milosevic appears to have been soundly, perhaps overwhelmingly, defeated in Sunday's presidential election in Yugoslavia. But it is equally clear that the regime intends to concoct a "victory" by whatever means are required. If the worst comes to the worst, those means will be violent. So how should the West react?

"You won the election, but I won the count." Thus, in the late 1970s, the former Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza to his critics. And thus, equally brazen, seems certain to be the response of Slobodan Milosevic as he attempts to preserve a rule that has brought a decade of blood and misery to his country and the Balkan region. Two things may be said amid the confusion: Mr Milosevic appears to have been soundly, perhaps overwhelmingly, defeated in Sunday's presidential election in Yugoslavia. But it is equally clear that the regime intends to concoct a "victory" by whatever means are required. If the worst comes to the worst, those means will be violent. So how should the West react?

So far, the approach has been about right. Before the vote, Nato members offered little direct support to Vojislav Kostunica, the opposition candidate and apparent winner of the election, correctly reasoning that to have done so would have played into Mr Milosevic's hands, allowing him to depict Mr Kostunica as a traitorous stooge of the countries that 15 months ago were raining bombs on Belgrade. Equally though, no Serb can now fail to understand that the replacement of an indicted war criminal by a democratically elected successor would unlock Western aid, end the country's diplomatic isolation and hasten its return to the European fold.

At this point, some might like to go further, and permit Mr Milosevic to take himself, his family and his assets into exile without threat of arrest on war-crimes charges, in return for surrendering power peacefully. This argument was floated by Washington during the summer, and has its points. It must however be rejected. Not only would such an amnesty make a mockery of the war-crimes tribunal in the Hague as it prosecutes lesser offenders, and undercut the emerging "Pinochet doctrine" whereby no ruler is above international law. It would also once more spare the Serbs from leaving their Balkan fantasy world to confront reality.

However perilous, this crisis is one for Serbs alone to resolve. They know that Yugoslavia has reached a dead end from which it cannot escape while Mr Milosevic is around. He will twist and turn; the suspense may continue until a run-off vote on 8 October. Ultimately his fate will be determined by the military, who must decide whether to continue backing him in defiance of the popular will. Yugoslavia's long nightmare is unlikely to be ended by a tyrant's sudden conversion to the virtues of the untampered ballot box.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Factory Manager - Food

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Environmental Account Manager - Remote Working

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Support / IT Sales / Graduate Sales / Trainee

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has now arisen for a Sale...

Recruitment Genius: Administration Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued growth an exce...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Craig Oliver, David Cameron’s Director of Communications  

i Editor's Letter: Poultry excuses from chicken spin doctors

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Women come back from the fields to sell vegetables at a market in Bangui, Central African Republic  

International Women's Day: Africa's women need to believe in themselves and start leading the way

Sylvia Bongo Ondimba
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable