Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Squabbling within the corrupt elite puts Milosevic in Hague 2001

The Milosevic regime without Milosevic


June 2001

In a case of breathtaking hypocrisy, a court controlled by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has put on trial for war crimes the former leader of a country against which NATO itself committed war crimes.
No US or other Western leader is on trial in The Hague for pulverising Yugoslavia, dropping cluster bombs next to hospitals or poisoning the land with depleted uranium. They, of course, were the victors of the Balkan wars; only the losers get tried for war crimes.
Few will shed tears for Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslav leader who unleashed Serbian ultra-nationalism, destroyed the socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and orchestrated a genocidal attack against Bosnia's Muslims — who have a point when they say a trial in Yugoslavia would hardly allow them to testify in a non-biased environment.
The claim by Milosevic's supporters that the court in The Hague is particularly biased against Serbs is false. Some 70 per cent of indictees are Serbs, most of the rest Croats and less than 10 per cent Bosnian Muslims — a good summary of the proportion of war crimes committed by each.
There have been demonstrations in Serbia against the arrest and trial of Milosevic, demonstrations consisting of members of Milosevic's Socialist Party (SPS) and of the three main ultra-right parties, the Serbian Radical Party, the Serbian Renewal Party and the Serbian Unity Party.
There have also been large demonstrations in neighbouring Croatia, by late president Franjo Tudjman's right-wing HDZ party and the Ustashe, protesting the indictment of Croatian military leaders. They spout the same “anti-imperialist” slogans as those spouted by demonstrators in Serbia defending Milosevic.
Yet even something as momentous as bundling the former leader off to a foreign court has only resulted in some tens of thousands of demonstrators.
Western blackmail?
Notwithstanding this decline in nationalist opposition, it remains unclear why Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic was in such a hurry to extradite Milosevic that he has shaken the roots of the Yugoslav Federation, overruled the constitutional court and sidelined the Yugoslav federal parliament and President Vojislav Kostunica.
US pressure had convinced Kostunica to push through constitutional changes allowing extradition of Yugoslav citizens. Nevertheless, the president had advocated going through all legal processes, and that a trial in Yugoslavia should still take place first, to wear down nationalist opposition to extradition by revealing Milosevic's crimes and corruption at home.
So what went wrong? The standard line is that when the constitutional court called for a delay in extraditing Milosevic on June 27, Djindjic had to overrule it because the “donors' conference” was scheduled for June 30, and the US had threatened that money would not be forthcoming if Yugoslavia did not cooperate.
Djindjic, a businessman who did well under Milosevic's rule, could see little problem in a financial transaction of a former leader for US$1.28 billion.
Yet, in fact, this explains very little.
The US had threatened to not attend the conference unless the process of extradition was underway — but the process was underway and the US was attending.
Then the US had said the money may be withheld until Milosevic was handed over — but not that it wouldn't be pledged.
Several weeks' or months' difference was not the problem — especially given that the US contribution was only US$110 million of the US$1.28 billion pledged. The bulk was pledged by the European Union and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which had made no such demands.
The Hague's chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, was recently told by French officials that economic aid to Serbia would not be “preconditioned” on Belgrade's level of cooperation.
Rather than being the result of financial blackmail, the extradition of the country's former leader is a result of the workings of the post-Milosevic arrangement, energetically backed by the US and the EU, that of “the Milosevic regime without Milosevic”.
The stable capitalist regime desired by the West needs a Serbian capitalist class — and the only one existing is the crony capitalist mob which amassed wealth under their former leader.
As their former leader is now a liability, he is turned over as a token so the rest can escape exposure. NATO gains a trophy and everyone can move on.
Trial at home
A trial at home first would have blown the cover of many current state leaders. It is hardly surprising that it is Djindjic, the most pro-The Hague leader, who is the shelter behind whom most crooks have taken cover.
Between losing the Yugoslav elections in October 2000 and the Serbian elections in December, Milosevic's SPS shared power and most ministries in Serbia with president-elect Kostunica's Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS). However, the Ministry of Economic and Property Privatisation was left solely to the SPS.
During this time, the SPS privatised 217 valuable state-owned enterprises, 50% more than in the first ten months of 2000. These companies were sold off to their former managers from the SPS or the bogus “Yugoslav Left” party of Milosevic's wife (which got less than 1% of the vote).
Before that, these “managers” hadn't fully privatised these firms, because looting them and looting the workers given worthless “shares” had been such good business and so easy to do.
Now more “free shares” will go to employees, most of which will soon be bought by the new director-owners, as has happened over the past decade. DOS economist Milan Kovacevic has ruled out revoking these privatisations because this “does not happen in democratic states”.
A similar story occurred during the “shake-up” of the Serbian police by Djindjic. Serbia's head of the Interior Ministry (MUP) police, Rade Markovic, was replaced by Goran Petrovic. Petrovic and several other top new appointees had been purged in 1998-99 along with their boss, Milosevic's former police chief Jovica Stanisic.
Milosevic had turned against Stanisic in 1998 after a business feud. Before that, Stanisic had headed the dreaded MUP police for years, during which the paramilitary forces, which committed slaughter throughout the region, were formed. He is now extremely close to Djindjic, hence the reappointment of his cronies.
Milosevic's long-time interior minister, Dusan Mihajlovic, who has kept his job, is also now Djindjic's right-hand man.
Djindjic has also named General Sreten Lukic head of the public security department of the MUP. Lukic was commander of Serb police forces in Kosova during NATO's aggression, when half the Albanian population were forcibly deported. Yet it is these deportations which are the most substantial charge against Milosevic — and they occurred after NATO launched its blitzkrieg.
Two months ago, the Belgrade Vreme weekly revealed that the bodies of 86 Albanians, from a refrigerator truck which sunk in the Danube during the Kosova war, were buried on the grounds of a police “anti-terrorist” training centre. Then in June another grave of some 30 Albanians was discovered near another police training centre.
These revelations may show the fate of thousands of Kosovars still unaccounted for since 1999. But more pertinently, they have put the mob Djindjic was promoting in a tight spot.
Interior minister Mihajlovic reacted by blaming the army, controlled by Kostunica's federal government, claiming it had “overall responsibility” for the Kosova operations.
Yet overwhelming evidence, including from Albanians, suggests that police and paramilitaries under their control were responsible for the bulk of the butchery. Further, the army has indicted 193 of its members for criminal acts, while the MUP indicted none.
If blaming the army wouldn't work, better get Milosevic to The Hague as soon as possible, to both avert a trial at home and also to shift attention away from any more unfortunate discoveries that may be made.
Corrupt elite
There was another reason the Serb elite were keen on getting Milosevic to The Hague. The trial at home was to focus on corruption as well as war crimes and, there too, May had not been a good month for Djindjic.
During May, a series of articles on former Yugoslav citizen Stanko Subotic suddenly appeared in the National weekly in Croatia, alleging he headed a cigarette smuggling chain worth billions of dollars linking high officials of certain states, above all Djindjic, former police chief Stanisic and Milo Djukanovic, the Montenegrin president.
The main opposing smuggling ring was headed by Marko Milosevic, the former president's son. In 1998, Marko's gang decided to destroy its competition — and that's why Stanisic, who looked after customs, was sacked.
Subotic fled and was issued a Croatian passport. Djukanovic then pushed his confrontation with Milosevic by creating his own customs service, to replace Stanisic.
All slander? Perhaps, though a number of aspects fit in neatly with well-known facts. A corruption trial at home would not have done anyone any good.
Meanwhile, the interior minister, Mihajlovic, had found his way onto the anti-corruption team set up this year to investigate wealth amassed under Milosevic, his specific role being to investigate the cigarette, petrol and alcohol trade. Mihajlovic himself runs an enterprise trading in petrol which profited nicely during the Milosevic era.
The head of the anti-corruption team, Vuk Obradovic, has since claimed that Mihajlovic and certain members of his team have obstructed its work.
Obradovic had introduced a bill to tax the profits and property of those who acquired their fabulous wealth during the Milosevic era through illegal currency trading, abusing the privatisation process and embezzling “solidarity funds”. He had promised to publish the names of 7,000 companies eligible for the tax, including the 200 wealthiest individuals and companies. Tax rates would range up to 90%, raising 5 billion marks.
Obradovic was dismissed from his position as head of the team on May 11, at the initiative of Djindjic. It appears his anti-corruption campaign might have been getting too close to the bone. The sacking of Obradovic and the hurried extradition of Milosevic were thus two sides of the same coin — they were both ways to protect the interests of the same old crony capitalist mob who were now crouched under the umbrella of the new master, Djindjic.

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