June 28, 2001
After a background report, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright discusses Slobodan Milosevic's transfer to the Hague.
TERENCE SMITH: And joining us now is former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She held that post during the Kosovo war, when Milosevic was indicted by the International Tribunal for War Crimes. Madam Secretary, welcome back to the broadcast.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Very good to be with you here, Terry.
TERENCE SMITH: Put this in perspective for us, if you will. This is the first time a European leader, a head of state and government, has been indicted and brought before a war crimes tribunal. I mean it's huge.
|A complex story|
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: It is huge. And I think it is a very important step in what has clearly been a long and complex story in the Balkans, which we have just seen. I think we have to really consider what happened in Yugoslavia. And you saw on that tape the fact that there were mass graves -- that people were displaced, that Milosevic really was someone who directed that Yugoslavia itself would break up in a way that was detrimental to the people.
We set up the war crimes tribunal in 1993. I had arrived at the U.N. as ambassador in February. It was one of the most important acts that we did. A lot of people thought that the war crimes tribunal, one, that resolution would never get passed, that the tribunal itself would never be set up, that we'd never find the judges, that we wouldn't find the prosecutors, nobody would be indicted, nobody would be tried; all that has happened. And I think that it has in fact lived up to our expectations.
TERENCE SMITH: Did you believe that you would see this day?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I always said that the statute of limitations on war crimes does not run out, that Milosevic's day will come, and it has.
TERENCE SMITH: Are you confident that he will be put on trial, and if he is and if he's convicted, what does he face?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, they believe, as I understand it, that they have a good case. But it is a very complicated story; as the case proceeds, there will be more information. Obviously, there will be issues about Bosnia and Croatia, as was mentioned, in addition. There will also be the fact that there will be domestic proceedings against him, and then still questions about where the location of such a trial will be.
So this is an important first step and a really important one. But I think that we will all have to watch it. The international community is supportive of this act. They have been supportive of the war crimes tribunal, and Yugoslavia, as a member of the United Nations, has an obligation and also under the Dayton accords, to live up to the war crimes tribunal.
TERENCE SMITH: So this is going to take a long time, months, years?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: It's unpredictable, but I do think it will take a long time.
TERENCE SMITH: And if convicted, he would face...
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, a life sentence is what is ultimate punishment. I think there's an issue here that we have to remember, that the war crimes tribunal operates with due process. He will get a fair trial, which is a lot more than his victims got.
TERENCE SMITH: Now, the Serbs, and particularly the critics of what happened today, argue that he will not, could not, get a fair trial in an international court, that he should be tried in Yugoslavia, if anywhere. So what about their question? Can he get a fair trial?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I do believe that there's due process. We've seen it in the cases of those that have already been brought to trial. And certainly there was not due process with the victims that he ordered or, you know, we have to be careful in the language now, what happened in Yugoslavia to the victims.
But he committed international crimes, and therefore, needs to be tried before an international tribunal. That doesn't mean that the domestic process shouldn't go forward because clearly he also, according to what we know, has committed crimes against the Serb people and a domestic court will have to deal with that.
TERENCE SMITH: What would you say to the Serbs who say that their sovereignty, Yugoslavia's sovereignty has been compromised?
|Crimes against humanity|
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, it was not a question of sovereignty. That was not there, as you look at the mass graves, as he invaded or had invaded Bosnia, what he did in Kosovo. I think there are general issues here where we are looking at what have been called crimes against humanity, and that are international crimes.
TERENCE SMITH: What are the consequences for Serbia, for Belgrade now? We saw pro-Milosevic demonstrators in the streets today, as a result of this action. And even the president has said that the act was, which was carried out really by the prime minister, was illegal and unconstitutional?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, it... the prime minister is the head of the government, and he had the authority to do this. Clearly there are discussions about this in Yugoslavia. There will continue to be. But I sure hope that the Serbian people who have suffered so much are not going to put themselves through internal fighting or, as the ambassador said, a potential civil war for Milosevic. He doesn't deserve that. He has committed enough mayhem and made enough people suffer.
And Yugoslavia needs to be able to rejoin Europe. You know, they were a very advanced country before, and all of a sudden they're in economic backwater, they need help, and this is the way to do it. They have carried out, Prime Minister Djindjic has carried out the obligations that his government has under the U.N. charter and the war crimes tribunal resolution.
TERENCE SMITH: What do you think has persuaded him and his government to do this at this time?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think for a long time he has thought it was right, and the reformers have believed this. That was evident at various stages when Milosevic was forced to step down, when Milosevic was arrested. So there are strong reformers within the Serbian government. I do think that the role that the United States has played in terms of conditionality originally on some of the loans and also now the donors conference. And I think...
TERENCE SMITH: That's to begin tomorrow in Brussels.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: It is. And I think it's very important. The United States will make a contribution that will show our commitment, and I'm very pleased about that. And I'm very glad that it has had that effect.
TERENCE SMITH: Proper use of economic pressure, in your mind?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Absolutely. And I think that the thing that we have to... this whole episode which unfortunately is not yet over in the Balkans, is a real lesson in what foreign policy is about, that you use every tool you have. And we certainly have. We tried diplomacy, we have used economic sanctions, which we refined and had smart sanctions to really target the leadership and the cronies around Milosevic. We have used economic conditionality. We used force.
We have tried everything because what has happened in the Balkans has not only been the suffering of the people there, but the destabilization of a very important area of Europe and, therefore, of national interest to the United States.
TERENCE SMITH: Now, of course there are other indictments, some 37 indictments still out there, including some of the Serbian military leaders that we saw in the in the set-up. Any prospect for actually getting hold of them?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I hope now that, especially Karadzic and Mladic, that they will be picked up because they were instrumental in carrying out a lot of the horrible deeds. They now do not have any protection of the Milosevic himself, and I think it's now important to continue the job. And I think, Terry, the whole issue here is that this has been a long story, it's not over, but this is a highly significant step. And now it's important to pursue.
TERENCE SMITH: It's not over politically in Yugoslavia. There was a suggestion today that the coalition government in Belgrade might collapse.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that they clearly will have a lot of questions and a lot of issues. But the reformers did this because they wanted to. They have been actually doing pretty well in terms of pursuing their goals. But that... they have to work it out. This is obviously clearly a serious, serious issue. But I think we should all, the West, the Europeans, all those that were part of the NATO operation that have been part of the economic sanctions and now the donors conference should feel that a lot has been accomplished.
TERENCE SMITH: You know, President Kostunica's office said today that they had actually learned of this from news reports. Is that credible?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: It sounds a little strange. But it's... you know, one never can understand...
TERENCE SMITH: Is that a little distancing from the action?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I think that's part of what may be going on here. And President Kostunica has a different role within Yugoslavia. This is not specifically his responsibility, and I think we have to just watch this very carefully. I think that, also, we do, all of us, have to show that we support the reform movement. Not because of the individuals involved in it but because we really want Yugoslavia to be back in the fold.
And the Serb people have suffered enough. And you know what is so... it's really poetic justice. Today it is 12 years since Slobodan Milosevic gave his speech, "The Field of Black Birds," and talked about the importance of the Serbs never suffering. So it's kind of amazing that this is 12 years to the day.
TERENCE SMITH: Is this the beginning of the final chapter of the end of what they used to call Madeleine's War?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, you know, Madeleine's War was a pejorative, I think, at the time. And I'm very glad that we persevered. And I've had a lot of contact with my former colleagues from Europe who understood how much we did together, how important American leadership was. I think nothing can happen without the kind of American leadership that we showed, and I hope very much that we now see American leadership in Macedonia, which is a continuation of this very complex Balkans story.
TERENCE SMITH: But you see this as a justification for the military action that was taken?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I do. I think that we would not have used force just for the sake of it. We tried every conceivable diplomatic approach. We offered Milosevic various ways to climb down. I felt it was very important, when I became secretary, to pursue ideas of democracy both in Croatia and in Yugoslavia. And I think that we've done the right thing. I really feel that this was important, and today is a very important day for justice.
TERENCE SMITH: What are the implications of this beyond Belgrade, beyond Milosevic, beyond this immediate situation, for other leaders in other countries and other wars?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, you know, the Nuremberg trials were based on the fact that a leader in any position who broke the law would be held responsible, and this is an extension of that. It was very interesting when we established the war crimes tribunal, and it did have support. And I think that the international community has a responsibility to try to see that justice is carried out when international crimes are committed.
TERENCE SMITH: Could you see this applied elsewhere?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that, obviously it's all case by case. But the issue here is that if a leader is not immune from carrying out the law. Theoretically when you are the leader, it is your responsibility to make sure that laws are carried out and not broken.
TERENCE SMITH: Of course there's the ICC, the International Criminal Court, and there are many in Congress who do not wanted to see U.S. leaders or U.S. military figures in any way subject to an international court of any kind.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, the international criminal court is something that is a very complex issue because it involves all kinds of issues, and we have a lot of forces stationed abroad. We tried in the Clinton administration to negotiate a way to protect American interests by being a part of the system, by being a friend of the International Criminal Court. I don't think we gain by deciding that it shouldn't exist. It needs adjusting, we need to make sure that American interests are protected. But we should be a leader in terms of making sure that laws are carried out throughout the world. That's what America stands for.
TERENCE SMITH: Madeleine Albright, thanks so much.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much, Terry.