Justice comes to Serbia

Tribunal: Closing in on ex-dictator Milosevic and his henchmen after transition in power.

January 18, 2001

SERBIA'S ADVANCE into the community of nations was improved by the flight of the former Bosnian Serb president, Biljana Plavsic, to The Hague to face a war crimes indictment by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

The sea change in Serbia's attitude toward world opinion was made clear by the Yugoslav Justice Minister Momcilo Grubac. He urged all Yugoslav nationals indicted by the tribunal to emulate Ms. Plavsic and face the charges. That seemed to explain the sudden flight to Moscow of Mirjana Markovic, the wife and political partner of the deposed Serb-Yugoslav dictator, Slobodan Milosevic. Since the election victory of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, Serbia's relations with the world, and particularly with the NATO countries that bombed it to stop genocide in Kosovo, have improved. Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic visited Washington, promising to cooperate with the tribunal.

The biggest fish remain at large. Mr. Kostunica still resists turning Mr. Milosevic over to the tribunal, while semi-promising his trial in Belgrade for crimes in Serbia. The former Bosnian Serb army commander, Ratko Mladic, and Bosnian Serb president, Radovan Karadzic, remain at large.

Perhaps not for much longer.

Ms. Plavsic, alternately the protM-igM-i and rival of Mr. Karadzic, either saw the handwriting on the wall, or helped provide it. She pleads not guilty and is preparing to defend herself. Ms. Markovic would seem to have fled to avoid possible trial in Belgrade along with her husband.

In Washington, Mr. Svilanovic expressed the hope that the war crimes tribunal would soon open an office in Belgrade. Mr. Milosevic still lives there behind police protection. But his date with justice is getting closer.

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