Slobodan Milosevic, the former authoritarian leader of Serbia and later Yugoslavia, died in his prison cell in The Hague. He had been on trial before an international war crimes tribunal for four years, facing more than sixty counts of war crimes and genocide. His trial was interrupted repeatedly because of his poor health.
Slobodan Milosevic became president of Serbia in 1989. In 1991, Slovenia and Croatia declared their independence from the former Yugoslavia. In response, Mr. Milosevic sent tanks to the Slovenian border, triggering a brief war that ended in Slovenia's secession. He then encouraged Serbs in Croatia to take up arms, triggering the start of nearly a decade of warfare that spread to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. In 1999, Mr. Milosevic's campaign of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo forced NATO to act in defense of Kosovo's Albanians and regional stability to force Serbian troops out of Kosovo. Shortly thereafter, he was indicted for war crimes.
In 2000, a democratically elected government in Serbia handed Mr. Milosevic over to the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague for trial. There will not be a legal verdict in the trial, but U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says history has already passed judgment on Slobodan Milosevic. Mr. Milosevic, she said, was undoubtedly responsible for the deaths of many people in the Balkans, as well as the breakup of Yugoslavia due to his heavy-handed rule. Carla Del Ponte, the chief prosecutor at the tribunal, said Mr. Milosevic's "crimes affected hundreds of thousands of people."
The tribunal still has important work to accomplish. "Now more than ever," said Ms. Del Ponte, "I expect Serbia to arrest and transfer Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic." Both men are former Bosnian Serb leaders who have been on the run since they were indicted for war crimes in 1995. They are implicated in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of eight-thousand Muslim men and boys.
The U.S. continues to urge the government of Serbia and Montenegro and all parties in the Balkans to apprehend and transfer to the Hague the remaining indicted fugitives. This will promote Serbia's integration into the Euro-Atlantic community and contribute to the prospects of a peaceful and prosperous future for the peoples of Serbia and the Balkans.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.