Associated Press, April 06, 2001
UN Tribunal Hits Serbian Sore Spot
by WILLIAM J. KOLE, Associated Press Writer
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) -- By pressing hard for the extradition of Slobodan Milosevic, the U.N. war crimes tribunal has hit a sore spot with the Serbs, who contend the court has singled them out in its quest to bring suspects to justice.
Tribunal registrar Hans Holthuis said Friday he gave Yugoslav Justice Minister Momcilo Grubac the international arrest warrant for Milosevic, who was indicted for crimes against humanity in 1999 for his brutal crackdown on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
''I handed over the indictment and the warrant of arrest, and Mr. Grubac promised to have it served on Mr. Milosevic in person,'' Holthuis said.
The handover of the warrant was largely symbolic, and the government did not immediately respond.
But on Thursday, Serbia's justice minister -- reflecting widespread contempt for the tribunal -- issued a demand of his own: that the U.N. court indict Hashim Thaci, the wartime leader of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian rebels.
''The tribunal must show it is not dispensing justice selectively,'' Vladan Batic said, complaining that the top Balkan politicians indicted by the tribunal so far have all been Serbs.
About 200 people gathered outside the federal government building Thursday to protest a visit by Hans Haekkerup, the chief U.N. administrator in Kosovo. They held pictures of relatives who vanished during the Kosovo conflict and chanted: ''Find our missing loved ones!'' and ''We want the truth!''
The Hague, Netherlands-based tribunal should indict leaders who ''ordered the killings of Serbs ... and demand their urgent extradition,'' Batic said. ''Justice must be equal for everybody because the crimes were committed by everybody.''
Batic's response underscores the growing sentiment here that the tribunal -- even though it has also indicted Muslims and Croats for atrocities committed during the breakup of Yugoslavia -- has an anti-Serb bias.
Tribunal prosecutors vehemently deny that. In fact, chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte opened an investigation earlier this year into allegations that Serbs and other non-Albanians suffered atrocities at the hands of ethnic Albanian rebels in Kosovo.
But the investigation has been hampered by the Yugoslav government's reluctance to cooperate with the U.N. court, tribunal spokesman Jim Landale said.
''It is a process which is evidence-driven,'' Landale said. For a long time, he said, the tribunal had ''no access to Serb victims because of the long-term noncooperation of the Serb authorities.''
Holthuis' visit underscores the tribunal's determination that Milosevic stand trial in The Hague.
But Yugoslavia wants to try the former president at home first for alleged corruption, abuse of power and other offenses allegedly committed against his own people. The government also points to a law which prohibits the country from extraditing its citizens to foreign courts, although it says parliament is likely to overturn it by May.
''We need time,'' Batic said. ''Handing over Milosevic to The Hague is not the word of The Holy Testament. We have already done many things to show our cooperation.''
From his cell in Belgrade's Central prison, Milosevic appointed a close and loyal aide Thursday to lead his Socialist Party while he is behind bars. Milosevic chose former Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic, now under investigation for allegedly doling out state villas to former officials.
Police, meanwhile, filed charges Thursday against Milosevic's 32-year-old daughter, Marija, for firing shots at a government negotiator who persuaded Milosevic to surrender early Sunday, ending a tense 26-hour standoff.
Charges also were filed against a top Milosevic aide and Socialist party official, Branislav Ivkovic, alleging he misused state funds for party purposes.