2nd Oct 2023

Serbs told to look to EU future after Milosevic death

Serbia and Montenegro has been told to stay on EU track and step up efforts to hand over top war crimes suspects to the UN's Hague tribunal, after preliminary autopsy results indicated former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic died of a heart attack.

A preliminary autopsy conducted by Dutch forensic pathologists on Sunday (12 March) revealed that Mr Milosevic died of a heart attack, the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) said in a statement.

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Two pathologists from Belgrade attended the autopsy procedure following a request from the Serb government, according to the ICTY.

The former Yugoslav leader, who is widely seen as an architect of the wars that ravaged Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo in the 1990s, was found dead in his cell at the Hague tribunal on Saturday morning.

The UN tribunal's chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte reacted to the news by stating "It is a great pity for justice that the [Milosevic] trial will not be completed and no verdict will be rendered," according to press reports.

"Now more than ever I expect Serbia to arrest and transfer Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic to the Hague as soon as possible," Ms Del Ponte added.

"The death of Slobodan Milosevic makes it even more urgent for them to face justice."

But Carl Bildt, former UN envoy to the Balkans, said that the death was "seriously damaging to The Hague tribunal," according to the Times.

David Owen, another former Balkans envoy, indicated "We need to have a post-mortem discovery of why the trial went on for such a long time."

Come to terms with past

The news of Mr Milosevic' death broke on Saturday as EU foreign ministers were gathering in Salzburg for an informal meeting, prompting calls for Belgrade not to backslide into nationalism.

The EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana said "My message today to the Serbian people is to come to terms with the legacy of Milosevic. This will help them in moving forward toward the family of European nations where they belong."

French foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said the event made efforts to bring top war crimes suspects before the UN tribunal even more urgent.

"It is essential that Radovan Karadzic be arrested and transferred to The Hague, it is essential that Ratko Mladic be arrested and transferred to The Hague," he told reporters.

"I would like to spare a thought for all those who suffered so much from ethnic cleansing, tens of thousands of men, women and children, which Milosevic conceived and planned."

But Mr Milosevic's relatives are holding the Hague responsible for his death, saying the UN failed to provide him with medical care, French media write, while some Serbian papers' headlines state "the Hague killed Milosevic."

FT Deutschland reports that Mr Milosevic's death did not see a mass show of grief however, while on Saturday thousands of Serbs commemorated the murder, three years ago, of reformist prime minister Zoran Djindjic.

Mr Djindjic had ordered Mr Milosevic' extradiction to the Hague tribunal.


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