There are contests in which a decent person prefers not to take sides, such as the bloody wars between Mafia families or Stalin’s disputes with Trotsky and Tito.  The war between Khomeini’s Iran and Saddam’s Iraq also comes to mind, or the family feud between Pol Pot and the Vietnamese communists.  It is tempting to put Slobodan Milosevic’s contest with the inquisitors at The Hague War Crimes Tribunal in the same category, but the temptation should be resisted.  This trial is a travesty of justice that goes beyond the personal and political flaws of any one man.  British writer and commentator John Laughland (“This is not justice,” the Guardian, February 16) noted that the inquisitors at The Hague are falsely trying to present the Yugoslav tribunal as the heir to Nuremberg, in the hope that “a quick reference to Hitler” can settle the problem that “the Hague tribunal was created in 1993 by the UN security council, a body which has as little right to set up a court as it does to raise taxes”:

The rigorous sovereignist logic of the Nuremberg tribunal was clearly spelled out in its charter.  Indeed, the Nuremberg tribunal, unlike the Hague tribunal, was not really an international tribunal at all.  The judges quite specifically stated that the act of promulgating the Nuremberg charter was “the exercise of the sovereign legislative power of the countries to which the German Reich unconditionally surrendered”.  There was no pretence that the “international community” was prosecuting the Germans.  Indeed, when other countries asked to be allowed to participate in the Nuremberg trial, the allies told them to mind their own business.

The Nuremberg judges, Laughland continued, also had an overriding philosophical reason for insisting on state sovereignty as the principal legal foundation for peace, namely, that the Nazis themselves had contested it: Like today’s globalists, the Nazis argued that circumstances had changed, granting great powers the right to interfere in the internal affairs of smaller nations within their sphere of influence.  This spirit was faithfully reflected on June 13, 2000, when Carla Del Ponte, the chief prosecutor at The Hague, refused to open an investigation into NATO’s war crimes in Yugoslavia on the grounds that that the tribunal “does not have jurisdiction over crimes against peace”:

Nato [sic] turned itself from an organisation committed to defending the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of its members into a worldwide police force with an effectively unlimited mandate.  By refusing to prosecute Nato  [sic], the Hague has given all this its tacit legal approval. . . . The world has therefore moved from an international system based on a multiplicity of sovereignties to one in which some states are more equal than others.  And the Nuremberg jurisprudence of peace has been abandoned in favour of the Hague’s decision to award—to the powerful western states at least—a licence to kill.

“Before the travesty is over,” wrote Don Feder in Jewish World Review concerning Milosevic’s trial a few weeks before it finally began (“West haunted by Balkans blunder,” December 3, 2001), “[Milosevic] will doubtless be convicted of running the rail line to Auschwitz.”  The tone was dictated by Del Ponte, who spoke of the “medieval savagery” of the alleged crimes.  However, as “Peter Simple” noted in the Daily Telegraph (February 15),

For those who work for that mysterious entity, the ‘International Community’, and gather at the Bar of World Opinion, the word ‘medieval’ is a common term of abuse.  Is medieval savagery, perpetuated by identifiable people caught up in the bloodthirsty frenzy of civil war, worse than modern savagery, in which people are targeted by mathematical calculation and blown to bits by bombs dropped from a height of 50,000 feet by anonymous airmen?

These objections are no less valid when raised by Slobodan Milosevic.  At least they are being heard, and the world is taking notice.  In fact, by the fourth day of the trial, UPI grudgingly conceded (February 17) that “it has to be admitted by any objective observer that [Milosevic] has scored some telling points so far in his first unfettered presentation to the court”:

His attacks on NATO and grim photographs showing the results of the air bombardment of Serbia were horrific.  His repeated attacks on the legitimacy of the U.N. International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia have begun to shake public confidence in it. . . . [Del Ponte] is criticized by diplomats following the trial for a cavalier style that is suspected of papering over serious cracks in the prosecution’s case.

Milosevic has refused to recognize Carla Del Ponte’s “court,” and his decision to represent himself turned out to be a stroke of genius.  However, as Milosevic began to mount a credible defense, demolishing a series of false witnesses, the media coverage of the trial grew thinner.  Stella Jatras (“The Case of the Invisible Trial,”, March 7) wondered why the trial, heralded as “the most important . . . since Nuremberg,” was not carried by a single one of the 100 TV channels on her dial:

Curious, since for the past ten years the media and the major TV channels couldn’t wait to spin all the sordid details of mutilations, murders, torture and charges of genocide that . . . Milosevic, faces at The Hague’s Stalinist show trial. . . . Why then has the media ignored it?  Can it be because of the inept prosecution of the trial?  Can it be that the “heinous criminal, Milosevic,” with only the use of a public pay phone and acting as his own lawyer from his 9 by 15 foot jail cell, is making fools of the international tribunal?  Can it be that, since his guilt is a foregone conclusion, it wouldn’t do for the public to see how weak the case is against him?

Thomas Fleming has underscored this weakness (“Hague Tribunal and Chicago Tribune Taken in by Hoaxters,” Chronicles Extra!,, March 1), focusing on the testimony of an Albanian from Kosovo named Halit Barani.  According to the Chicago Tribune, Barani provided “one of the most chilling pieces of evidence introduced”—a list of Albanians to be liquidated by the Serb police.  But Milosevic turned the tables on his accuser, charging him with presenting to the court a falsified document riddled with the kind of grammatical and spelling errors that Albanians (but not Serbs) typically make.  What Milosevic did not know, Fleming points out, is that Barani was the subject of a major story on December 31, 1999, when the Wall Street Journal ran a front-page article debunking his credibility:

The title is chillingly relevant to the current trial: “War in Kosovo Was Cruel, Bitter, Savage; Genocide it Wasn’t.”  The subtitle is equally telling, especially in the case of Barani’s testimony: “Tales of Mass Atrocity Arose And Were Passed Along, Often With Little Proof.”  This same Mr. Barani had accused the Yugoslav government of murdering Albanian civilians and stuffing their bodies into the Trepca mine shaft.  “Mr. Barani,” commented the Journal’s reporters dryly, “ . . . spent the war moving from village to village with his manual typewriter, calling in reports to foreign radio services and diplomats with his daily allotment of three minutes on a KLA satellite phone.”  His “eye-witness accounts” of these atrocities were spread around the world, and the Kosovo authorities even quoted a “U.S. embassy official in Athens as saying there are witnesses and still photos of trucks carrying bodies.  Western journalists phoned the embassy, but a spokeswoman said she couldn’t find the supposed source.”

Reporters Daniel Pearl and Robert Block debunked Barani’s hoax, arguing that even “Mr. Barani doesn’t completely stand by his story.  ‘I told everybody it was supposition, it was not confirmed information,’ he says.  But he adds, ‘For the Serbs, everything is possible.’”  Fleming concludes:

Mr. Barani’s credulity is easily explained by his zeal to establish an Albanian state.  What explains the credulity displayed by the Chicago Tribune and the AP wire, which ran a similar story?  In reporting on The Hague Tribunal, “stating a theory as a fact” has become standard practice.  Only days earlier, these people were singing the praises of Daniel Pearl, a real reporter, who lost his life trying to get the facts of a story . . . Instead of eulogizing Pearl, they should be emulating him.

That is not too likely, says Charley Reese (“Milosevic in a kangaroo court,” February 20,  Journalists emulating a true professional would consider the fact that “Milosevic is charged with genocide” and ask,

What group of people who previously existed in Yugoslavia no longer exists?  Nobody.  Everybody who was there is still there, give or take a few thousand casualties of war, or is living elsewhere.


He is also charged with crimes against humanity.  I’d like to know, as a member of humanity, which human being Milosevic harmed outside the war zone.  We, after all, have killed more Iraqis than the people the Serbs killed in any of the groups they fought.  Genocide and crimes against humanity are Orwellian terms so vague that they are impossible to define rationally.  They are an excuse used by the victors to wreak vengeance on the losers.  You can be sure that no leader of a powerful nation with an intact army will ever be charged with genocide or crimes against humanity, no matter what he does.

Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) noted at a congressional hearing on international tribunals (March 2) that the idea of “international justice” is as bad for America as it is for the rest of the world:

[T]oday it is Milosevic but tomorrow it could be any of us . . . Thus far, the prosecution has attempted to bring as witnesses people who are on the payroll of the tribunal itself . . . Other witnesses have turned out to have been members of the Kosovo Liberation Army . . . Remember, Milosevic was extradited for Kosovo and for Kosovo only, but the weakness of the case forced the Court to add other charges in other countries.  Now, after Milosevic has shown himself adept at cross-examination, the prosecution is seeking to have the judge limit Milosevic’s ability to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses.

Slobodan Milosevic is doubtless guilty of many things, for which he should be tried by his own long-suffering people.  He is not, however, guilty of any “genocide” in the former Yugoslavia.  He is not guilty of a criminal conspiracy to create a “greater Serbia.”  He is not the sole cause of “three wars” in the former Yugoslavia.  These conflicts were the results of forces outside of his control.  Milosevic will be found guilty and sentenced, of course.  He deserves to languish in jail.  But Scheveningen is the wrong jail, and The Hague, the wrong court.