“Toward a Brighter Future”

Judge Patricia Wald, former chief judge for the D.C. Court of Appeals and jurist on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, writing in the new report “Guantánamo and Its Aftermath” (pdf):

There are bound to be casualties when any nation veers from its domestic and international obligations to uphold human rights and international humanitarian law. Those casualties are etched on the minds and bodies of many of the 62 former detainees interviewed for this report, many of whom suffered infinite variations on physical and mental abuse, including intimidation, stress positions, enforced nudity, sexual humiliation, and interference with religious practices. Indeed, I was struck by the similarity between the abuse they suffered and the abuse we found inflicted upon Bosnian Muslim prisoners in Serbian camps when I sat as a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, a U.N. court fully supported by the United States. The officials and guards in charge of those prison camps and the civilian leaders who sanctioned their establishment were prosecuted—often by former U.S. government and military lawyers serving with the tribunal—for war crimes, crimes against humanity and, in extreme cases, genocide.

From an AP story, June 30, 2001:

The dramatic decision to deliver Milosevic to the tribunal in defiance of an order by the Yugoslav Constitututional Court staying any extradition threatened to plunge the Balkan country into a political crisis.

Milosevic’s successor, Vojislav Kostunica, denounced the handover as ”illegal and unconstitutional.” Others accused Serb Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, who spearheaded the decision, of ”treason” and knuckling under U.S. pressure….

President Bush praised Yugoslavia for handing over Milosevic, saying the move showed the Balkan nation wants to turn away from ”its tragic past and toward a brighter future.”

U.S. officials said the administration planned to make a pledge in the range of about $100 million for a Yugoslav assistance package, to be discussed Friday in Brussels at a conference of international aid donors.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair hailed the handover as ”a thoroughly good thing.”

The full statement by Bush, available on the White House website:

I applaud today’s transfer of indicted war criminal Slobodan Milosevic to the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. This very important step by the leaders in Belgrade ensures that Milosevic can finally be tried for his war crimes and crimes against humanity. During various visits by Yugoslav authorities to Washington, they pledged that Yugoslavia was committed to cooperating with the Tribunal. Milosevic’s transfer is a strong sign of that commitment. We are confident that the government of Yugoslavia will continue down the path of cooperation with the Tribunal.

The transfer of Milosevic to the Hague is an unequivocal message to those persons who brought such tragedy and brutality to the Balkans that they will be held accountable for their crimes. Milosevic’s transfer further signals the commitment of the new leadership in Belgrade to turn Yugoslavia away from its tragic past and toward a brighter future as a full member of the community of European democracies.

The United States stands ready to assist the people of Yugoslavia as they continue to take the difficult steps to advance its democratic and economic reform.

(Suggested by Glenn Greenwald’s reference here: “[T]here were early statement from the Bush White House in 2001 about how critical it was to prosecute these Yugoslav leaders for war crimes…”)