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An autopsy of Slobodan Milosevic was ordered to disprove allegations that he had been poisoned. The autopsy results so far have been inconclusive, though further results are expected in the coming days.
The tribunal on Sunday said a heart attack killed Milosevic, according to preliminary findings from Dutch pathologists who conducted a nearly eight-hour autopsy on the former Yugoslav leader. A tribunal spokeswoman said it was too early to determine if poison could have caused the heart attack, saying a final autopsy report would be released in coming days. ... Milosevic was found lifeless on his prison bed Saturday morning, just hours after writing an accusatory letter alleging that a "heavy drug" had been found in his bloodstream. ...
Milosevic's legal adviser, Zdenko Tomanovic, said the ex-president feared he was being poisoned. He showed reporters a six-page letter Milosevic wrote Friday _ the day before his death _ claiming that traces of an antibiotic he had never knowingly taken had been found in his blood. ... In the letter, addressed to the Russian Embassy, Milosevic claimed that a powerful drug used to treat leprosy or tuberculosis had been found in his blood during an examination in January, Tomanovic said.
The Washington Post describes his abortive trial.
Milosevic was arrested in 2001 and put on trial in February 2002 on 66 counts for war crimes and genocide in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo during Yugoslavia's violent breakup in the 1990s. He was the first sitting head of state indicted for war crimes. But his health problems repeatedly delayed the proceedings, which cost an estimated $200 million and were due to wrap up this summer. Milosevic suffered from heart trouble and chronic high blood pressure, worsened by the stress of conducting his own defense.
Milosevic's death happened just days after another co-defendant committed suicide in his cell. According to the Toronto Globe and Mail:
A Croatian Serb convicted of ethnic cleansing after leading a brutal revolt during the Balkan wars committed suicide in prison, a UN tribunal said yesterday. ... His body was discovered during a routine monitoring of his cell, tribunal spokeswoman Alexandra Milenov said. "He gave no indication he was contemplating such a move," she said. "There was nothing unusual in his demeanour." The tribunal said it was launching an inquiry. Mr. Babic was the second person to commit suicide at the detention unit, after the 1998 death of Slavko Dokmanovic, another Croatian Serb leader.
The BBC says conspiracy theories are already swirling around the death of the Milosevic.
Serbia's tabloid press has meanwhile worked itself into a frenzy over claims by Mr Milosevic's Serbian lawyer that he may have been poisoned at The Hague tribunal. "Murdered!" screamed the headline on one newspaper. "The Hague killed Milosevic" said two more. They are tapping into a deep-seated resentment within Serbia against the UN war crimes tribunal. There is a belief that it is biased against Serbs, and the news that another one has died in its custody has fuelled suspicions in a country which is fertile ground for the conspiracy theory.
Philip Bobbitt's Shield of Achilles devotes several chapters to the tragic-comic Western handling of the breakup of Yugoslavia. After Tito's death, the presidency of what had been Yugoslavia was rotated among its six constituent republics. But Milosevic, seeing that it was about to break up, set about trying to carve out the largest possible Serbian successor state from the remains of Yugoslavia. He began by taking over the Yugoslavian national army or JNA and proceeding to rearrange the map. Bobbitt relates how a series of fatal Western missteps may have fueled, rather than dampened the crisis. Although the US was aware of Milosevic's mischief, it regarded Yugoslavia as a European problem and ceded the initiative to the EC (later to become the EU). The EU promptly took advantage of its position in the driver's seat to do what it wanted, which was to do nothing. They achieved this by announcing they would work through the United Nations, which they cynically and correctly calculated to mean that nothing would of substance would occur. While some European countries chose the policy of inactivity through the UN to avoid taking action while seeming to act, others apparently wanted the Serbs to finish the job, believing that Yugoslavia, divided as it was among several ethnic groups, was fundamentally unstable. The sooner the Serbs finished rearranging the boundaries, the better.
Bobbitt persuasively argues that Milosevic consciously took advantage of the clumsy UN tactics and tailored his program of ethnic cleansing around it. The ethnic cleansing process, described in Serbian doctrinal documents submitted as evidence of war crimes, called for terror attacks on non-Serbian (and in practice largely Muslim) rural communities to drive them into concentrated areas. The concentrated areas would then be besieged and finally reduced, and the conveniently concentrated non-Serbs would then be finished off. As Bobbitt puts it (page 442):
These tactics drove ... residents of small villages away from their homes seeking protection. The "safe area" concept was actually quite consistent with the Serbian campaign of ethnic cleansing. It made towns like Tuzla and Zepa into concentration camps full of hungry and defenseless people ... the second stage of ethnic cleansing, the siege of cities that have been engorged by the arrival of rural refugees [would commence]. At this second stage, the Serbs, using JNA artillery, fired round after round into the surrounded city. ...
In the third stage, the besieged city surrendered. When this occurred, the Serbs culled the men of military age. ... Then the tactical focus shifted to the remaining women ... the calculated policy of rape ... to humiliate Muslim women so they and their husbands would never want to return. ... Only when the men had been murdered and the women defiled did the buses arrive to take the remaining refugees to the humanitarian centers manned by the UN outside Serb territory.
The final nail in the coffin, the thing that made this choreography possible, was the deployment of UN peacekeepers. The lightly armed, underammuntioned UN soldiers (so as not to "anger" the Serbs) effectively became Serbian hostages. Although NATO airstrikes were theoretically available to them, UN commanders, knowing their weakness, repeatedly refused them (sometimes as the planes were orbiting overhead) in order not to provoke the Serbs, who they feared would massacre their men. Moreover, the "arms embargo" on Yugoslavia had the effect of ensuring that the victims of the genocide could not buy weapons to defend themselves. The JNA, of course, already had weapons. Bobbitt's devastating conclusion (page 443) is that:
Ethnic cleansing is thus not merely a political goal. It is a coordinated set of tactics in service of a well-though-out military strategy. It success depended in part upon the nonenforcement of the UN Security Council resolutions that established the no-fly zone ... upon the luring of refugees into the "safe areas" declared by the UN Security Council and upon the UN arms embargo that kept the Bosnians from effectively returning the fire that rained down upon them from artillery positions around their towns. Which is to say that "ethnic cleansing" depended upon the tacit cooperation of the UN Security Council, which studiedly and repeatedly confirmed all three of those supporting elements.
This is an extremely strong conclusion from a well-respected author: it argues that the UN made a terrible hash of the greatest humanitarian catastrophe in Europe since the Second World War. Although the effects were uniformly tragic, they were not without a lining of black humor. Describing the botched efforts of the UN, Bobbitt relates:
Phillippe Morillon, the UN commander, negotiated an accord by which the Muslim defenders of Srebrenica handed over their weapons. He proclaimed that "an attack on Srebrenica now would be an attack on the whole world" and stated, "I will never leave you." For a brief period, attacks on Srbrenica, swollen with refugees driven into the town by Serb offensives in the countryside, halted.
Those words, no doubt sincerely spoken, became yet another joke in the whole farce. Shortly after May, 1993, Morillon was withdrawn by the UN Secretary General, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.