Ramsey Clark: Truth and Justice are His Allies

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Having endured and defended alone in a hostile courtroom, more than two years of prosecution testimony against him  and at all other times a cold damp prison cell originally built by the Nazi’s during their occupation of the Netherlands, President Slobodan Milosevic prepared his defense.  He must address 300 trial days of hostile testimony from more than 200 witnesses, 32,000 plus pages of trial transcript and some 500,000 pages of documents and 5,000 video cassettes placed in evidence.  He began his powerful opening statement for the defense of Yugoslavia as a unified Balkan State, the internationally maligned Serbian people and for himself, charged with genocide, on the morning of August 31, 2004. Over two days, speaking extemporaneously for nearly seven hours from notes, the last President of the “Former” Yugoslavia urging the next Yugoslavia, was pressed constantly by the Court to both speak more slowly and to end his summation, while he pressed in return for more time to address the prosecution’s case. President Milosevic  concluded in a burst of spontaneous joy:  “Gentlemen, you cannot imagine what a privilege it is, even under these conditions you have imposed on me, to have truth and justice as my allies.” This was the man.

I had first met President Milosevic in 1999 during the second week of the relentless 78 day U.S. , NATO, including German aircraft, bombing of Serbia and witnessed destruction from Novi Sad in the north to Nis in the south with Belgrade itself a major target.  The day before we met his home in the Belgrade suburbs had been demolished by missiles.  Knowing his enemy, it was unoccupied, but I went by to see the ruins.  He never mentioned his home, or family, but spoke in detail about the extensive strategic bombing of essential civilian facilities, infrastructure and industry all across Serbia, much of which I had seen.  President Milosevic noted that Belgrade had been bombed before, by the Germans when they invaded Yugoslavia in 1941 and by the U.S. as the Russians approached it in early 1945.  Now the U.S. and Germany were bombing Belgrade together.  He was calm and focused on the plight of his people.  This was the man. It was during this 78 day aerial assault on a defenseless Serbia that President Milosevic was indicted by a Court created by the U.N. Security Council which the U.N. Charter did not empower the Security Council to create.   The U.S. and NATO combined their massive destructive violence with the simultaneous criminal indictment of their victims’ President.   The U.S.  was the enemy, an enemy whose later President George W. Bush destroyed Iraq, the cradle of civilization, with impunity.

President Milosevic and I next met shortly after he was seized in Serbia and taken as a prisoner to the Nazi founded prison in the Netherlands.  He had not yet had access to counsel.  We spent three consecutive days discussing his defense and the enormous logistical difficulties and cost it presented.   After our discussions I filed a memorandum with the Court analyzing his right to effective assistance of counsel, the enormity of the task of preparing and presenting his defense and its staggering cost.  We failed to achieve an acceptable commitment for the protection of his rights to a fair trial.  This led to his self representation. Very few of those  persecuted who we read of in history would have had the courage to struggle alone in so inhibiting a courtroom, the stamina to persevere against such overwhelming power, or the strength, the ability, and the patience to concentrate and analyze the avalanche of allegations, testimony and documents presented through the unlimited resources of the prosecution and succeed in shredding its sheer bulk and exposing its falsity and irrelevance. Nor can responsible leadership, or an informed public fail to demand a full examination of the failure of the Court to respond to urgent appeals to act to protect the health of President Milosevic, the last such appeal only days before his death, his critical condition evidenced every day in the courtroom before it.  There must be accountability for so tragic a failure.

Five years after the death of Slobodan Milosevic, the need for a strong federation of Balkan states, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia and beyond, a greater Yugoslavia is manifestly greater than ever.   There will be no strong or independent economies, no economic cooperation in the area, no defense to foreign exploitation, no protection of human rights, ask the Romani expelled from Kosovo, no single government to protect the common interests and promote the general welfare of the region, and no permanent peace without such federation.  Even with individual membership in the European Union, the small separate Balkan states will remain the most impoverished, exploited  and insecure part of Europe impotent among the major powers and economies of the continent without the unity the idea of Yugoslavia promises and was achieving.   And this is why the U.S. and NATO acted to destroy Yugoslavia and its champion, Slobodan Milosevic.