Small World

Jewish World ReviewApril 6, 2001 / 13 Nissan, 5761



Slobo's rightful place: In the dock



By Richard Z. Chesnoff

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- YUGOSLAV President Vojislav Kostunica deserves a round of applause for his arrest of deposed dictator Slobodan Milosevic for corruption.

Correction: He deserves half a round. The other half should come only when Belgrade's new leader announces he is extraditing Milosevic to The Hague in the Netherlands to face the International War Crimes Tribunal.

So far, Kostunica has just said no. The Hague, he argues, is a political tribunal that's biased against Serbia, the major power in what's left of Yugoslavia. Besides, if anyone's going to try Milosevic for war crimes, says the man who unseated him in September, it will be his fellow Serbs.

Kostunica's argument is faulty. It may not be politically correct in Serbia for Milosevic to be extradited by fellow Serbs, but Yugoslavia is a member of the United Nations and as such is obliged to turn over anyone on its territory whom The Hague has indicted for war crimes. It's also part of the price Yugoslavia must pay to return to the fold of civilized nations.

But the strongest argument in favor of extraditing Milosevic is that history demands it. This is the man who plunged Yugoslavia into chaos, who sanctioned the worst hatred and slaughter in Europe since the Nazis, who was ultimately responsible for tens of thousands murdered, tortured, starved, systematically raped and otherwise deprived of humanity.

This is the despot whose brutal record includes political assassination, total disregard of the international community and untold millions worth of property stolen or torched — homes and histories destroyed. All in the name of ethnic cleansing.

Croats and Bosnians and, more recently, Kosovo Albanians engaged in the same heinous crimes against neighbors of differing ethnic persuasions. Yet in the end, it was the haughty Milosevic who called the evil tune that set Yugoslavia back by decades.

There was a time when unseated dictators had two futures: Either they were dragged through the streets by their heels, or they passed into oblivion, sipping cool drinks in Florida or playing roulette in Monte Carlo. The first still happens. The second is increasingly less likely. Even the Swiss are ready to cooperate in freezing ill-gotten gains.

The world now demands justice — hence the court in The Hague. But this final reckoning extends beyond deposed dictators or ordinary limits of time. Witness how 60 years after the horrors of World War II, Holocaust survivors and non-Jewish slave laborers are finally being granted compensation. Or how banks and governments that covered up what they owed victims have been forced to admit their crimes.

Each day seems to bring some new insight into evil that will, perhaps, help us to avoid repeating it. "Neighbors," a stunning new book by Jan Gross, reveals how in 1941 half the population of the Polish village of Jedwabne brutally murdered the other half — all Jews, a horrid secret that few had ever spoken of.

History demands justice. For that reason alone, Belgrade should ship Milosevic and his blood-drenched baggage to The Hague.


JWR contributor and veteran journalist Richard Z. Chesnoff is a senior correspondent at US News And World Report and a columnist at the NY Daily News. His latest book, recently updated, is Pack of Thieves: How Hitler & Europe Plundered the Jews and Committed the Greatest Theft in History.


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