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Court should move quickly to hear Milosevic appeal



Published: Wed, June 27, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



If, as he says, his conscience is clear, why is Slobodan Milosevic, the former president of Yugoslavia, fighting a government extradition decree that would result in his being tried for war crimes before a United Nations tribunal in The Hague?

The answer is simply that Milosevic knows he will not be able to withstand the spotlight of judicial scrutiny. His indictment in 1999 for crimes against humanity makes it clear that prosecutors intend to show that the former president directed the genocide of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo province.

If Milosevic's conscience is clear, he should willingly go the Netherlands and defend himself against the charges that place him in the same category as other blood-thirsty leaders, such as Iraq's Saddam Hussein.

Indeed, he has described himself as "the Ayatollah Khomeini of Serbia" and has all but admitted that he was behind the atrocities committed in Kosovo, Bosnia and Croatia.

In response to the accusation that he illegally channeled millions of dollars to secret funds, Milosevic said that cash was sent to ethnic Serb forces in Bosnia and Croatia. The forces were trying to prevent those republics from breaking away from Yugoslavia.

War criminals: More than 200,000 people died in the wars that resulted in Yugoslavia's split, and Milosevic must be held to account. That is why his appeal of the extradition decree should be dealt with expeditiously by Yugoslavia's Constitutional Court. There is no legal basis for challenging the decree, seeing as how it was implemented by a majority of the Yugoslav cabinet. It permits the transfer of more than a dozen war crimes suspects sought by The Hague.

The United Nations court was established in 1992 to hear cases stemming from atrocities being committed by immoral leaders and their followers.

Milosevic, who has been in prison since April 1 while authorities investigate charges of abuse of power and corruption, had this to say about his involvement in the region's bloody wars: "I have done everything in the interest of the people and the state. It was difficult to make decisions, but I was always inspired by our glorious history. ... My conscience is clear."

Support: There is no doubt that he continues to enjoy support within the country, which is why he is fighting all attempts to extradite him. But it is time the Serbian people recognized the extent of his evil and greed. There are reports that he may well have shipped 380 pounds of gold out of Yugoslavia and into Switzerland in the months before his removal from power. The haul is worth more than $1 million. That money could be used to feed the starving masses and rebuild the war torn provinces.

It is encouraging that there is growing public support for putting him on trial, which is why the extradition decree must be upheld by the courts in Yugoslavia.




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