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Milosevic Handover Shakes Belgrade

BY Admin  June 29, 2001 at 3:30 PM EST

Premier Zoran Zizic, a leader of Montenegrin Socialists who have ruled in coalition with a Serbian reformist bloc since last November, said Milosevic’s transfer to The Hague had humiliated the nation and brought it “below the level of dignity.”

Serbian authorities’ decision to surrender Milosevic, the central figure in a decade of Balkan wars which killed hundreds of thousands, helped secure Yugoslavia $1.28 billion in aid at an international donors’ conference in Brussels on Friday.

But Zizic’s resignation showed the move may carry a high political price, even if many ordinary Yugoslavs seem largely apathetic about the transfer.

About 3,000 Milosevic supporters protested in Belgrade Friday evening. A the peak of his popularity, Milosevic drew as many as a million supporters.

Divided leadership

The handover has also brought into sharp relief the differences between the country’s two main post-Milosevic political figures, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic.

“It can be said that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is at the beginning of a crisis,” Zizic said.

Kostunica, who as recently as April vowed Milosevic would never be sent to the Hague, had lately softened his stance. But yesterday he denounced the handover as illegal and claimed the decision to extradite was made without his knowledge.

Djindjic, who had long called for extradition, defended his actions on Friday, saying the transfer was for the good of the nation. He said refusing to transfer Milosevic would have placed the success of the vital donors’ conference for Yugoslavia in severe jeopardy.

“Any other solution except cooperation [with the tribunal] would lead the country to disaster,” Djindjic told B92 radio.

Prosecutors in the Hague said they were still considering further charges relating to wars in Croatia and Bosnia. Chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said they could still charge him with the ultimate crime at the tribunal — genocide.

A fresh indictment sheet produced Friday added the names of 300 victims of Serb ethnic cleansing against Kosovo Albanians in 1999, as NATO was bombing Yugoslavia in an effort to halt the killings.

Having Milosevic was a “turning point” that could lead to more arrests, Del Ponte said. “Nobody is above the law and beyond the reach of justice.”