Key suspects may follow Milosevic to The Hague

For all the political problems that former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's transfer to The Hague may cause at home, the move was warmly welcomed by Western governments. They rewarded the Yugoslav government with $1.28 billion of reconstruction aid at a donors' conference on Friday.

And when Mr. Milosevic appears before the International War Crimes Tribunal tomorrow, his arraignment will mark the court's biggest victory yet in its effort to impose international justice. Never before has a former head of state been brought before such a body.

Thirty-eight suspects are currently in custody in The Hague, facing trial: Four men have been convicted and sentenced.

Some commentators in Belgrade have voiced fears that by handing Milosevic over to the court, the authorities have washed their hands not merely of a troublesome former president, but also of all the crimes Serbian troops committed during their wars in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo.

The international court's chief prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, however, made it clear that the tribunal's purpose is precisely to attribute individual guilt for the crimes it investigates, so as to lift the burden of collective guilt heaped on the Serbian people.

"The Serbian people are not on trial here. The history of Serbia is not under examination," she told reporters in The Hague on Friday.

Now that Milosevic is under guard in Holland, Belgrade has done the hardest part of cooperating with the international court. A dozen or so other indicted war criminals in Serbia are expected to follow their former leader in the coming months.

The move will also put new pressure on the authorities in Republika Srpska, the Serb entity in Bosnia-Herzegovina, who have so far refused to hand anyone over to the court.

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadjic and his military commander, Ratko Mladic, are believed still to be hiding in Republika Srpska.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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