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INFO::: Transitional Justice > Milosevic Case > Conference "Legacy of the Slobodan Milosevic Trial"


Conference "Legacy of the
Slobodan Milosevic Trial"

Belgrade, March 31, 2007

04/12/2007 , HCHRS


The Helsinki Committee focused the first out of six sessions dealing with key issues of the recent past - planned under the project realized with the assistance of the Fund for an Open Society - on the most important process conducted before the International Criminal Tribunal for ex-Yugoslavia: the trial of Slobodan Milosevic. By opting to open the series with "the Milosevic case" the Committee had in mind that regardless of the fact that sentence in the first instance was not passed the trial's legal and political implications were much too important to be sidelined from public discourse - and not only because of various interpretations of the wars in ex-Yugoslav territory and war crimes, including the crime of genocide, but also for the sake of restoration of confidence in the ex-Yugoslav territory and regional stability.

The whole day conference in Belgrade's "Aero-Club" attracted numbers of participants, including many young people. The conference was divided into three panels titled "Legal Aspects of the Trial of Slobodan Milosevic," "Extra Legal Aspects of the Trial of Slobodan Milosevic" and "The Echo of the Trial: the Media and Expert Circles."

In her opening address, Sonja Biserko, chairwoman of the Committee, said among other things, "Slobodan Milosevic legally died an innocent person and, therefore, his criminal responsibility will never be proved. But the trial that lasted four years and was broadcast to viewers throughout Serbia left piles and piles of documentation crucial to our facing of our own recent past. Those documents testify of crimes, criminals, victims, executioners, masterminds behind a criminal project, responsibility of governmental institutions, as well as of the international community's role in conflict building, the war, peace accords and post-conflict management, the establishment of The Hague Tribunal included.To dismantle institutions /pillars of belligerency/ and discredit the leaders who have incited, enabled and committed crimes were among the reasons why the Tribunal was formed in the first place. Has the Tribunal contributed to the establishment of peace in the Balkans? To answer the question we must firstly define peace. There is stable peace and there is unstable peace. As for Serbia, her present-day peace is unstable with Kosovo, the emergence of Vehabits in Sandzak and Vojvodina's autonomist claims. Serbia's territorial integrity is vaguer and looser than it was before the onset of the war."

Principal Trial Attorney Sir Geoffrey Nice, one of keynote speakers at the first panel, takes that contribution to general awareness that similar events should never happen again is the trial's biggest, long-term value. "Regardless of how imperfect the trials in the ICTY might be, they leave behind enormous material, documents and testimonies that could have never been disclosed was it not for the Tribunal," said Nice.

"The video-recording from Kula, as fundamental evidence presented at the trial of Milosevic, proves without doubt that he knew back in 1991 that 'the Red Berets' would be formed. The video-recording showing members of the Scorpions para-military unit killing six Muslims from Srebrenica similarly testifies that a crime could not be denied," said the principal trial attorney in the case against Slobodan Milosevic.

Referring to ideological instrumentalization of the law as a "manner of all regimes" in Serbia, second keynote speaker, lawyer Srdja Popovic, pinpointed that a considerable part of Serbia's citizens saw and still sees the trial of Milosevic as injustice done to "the hero arrested with the helping hand of domestic traitors." Even had the trial been brought to an end and a sentence passed, that sentence would be doubly interpreted in Serbia - for some it would be something unavoidable, for others it would be injustice, said Popovic.

According to historian Latinka Perovic, a keynote speaker at the second panel, the key question is whether the trial of Slobodan Milosevic was "an incident or a manifestation of a historical tendency." Genuine facing up the past has to be triggered off from within, by the very society, as in the case of Germany or France." Sara Daregshori, author of the Human Rights Watch's report "Weighting Evidence: the Lessons of the Trial of Slobodan Milosevic," singled out the trial's significance for the process of transitional justice, while Obrad Savic of the Belgrade Circle insisted on demarcation line between law and justice.

Journalists Mirko Klarin and Brankica Stankovic were keynote speakers at the third panel. Klarin's address negated the deeply rooted thesis about "an imposed court." "The idea to have the Tribunal established originated from a group of intellectuals from this region. The group included figures such as Zdravko Grebo, Rastko Mocnik, Veton Suroi, Zarko Puhovski and Bojan Dimitrijevic", said Klarin. He quoted an indictee, Croatian general Tihomir Blaskic saying it would be "terrible" had the Tribunal not been established since "many would have taken mass crimes could be committed without punishment." As Brankica Stankovic put it, the fact that "many politicians would not call things by their names but court the electorate instead" was the key problem of Serbia's system. "This is why to this very day people labeling the Srebrenica genocide liberation of Srebrenica are considered heroes."

The documentary "The Trial of Slobodan Milosevic" produced by BBC was premiered at the close of the conference.





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