Radovan Karadžić.jpg
Photograph: EPA/ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN

Slobodan Milosevic has again become a media topic in Serbia and neighbouring countries following claims by some Western analysts that in its non-final judgement in the case of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, the UN war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has indirectly cleared the former president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) of the charges that he took part in a criminal enterprise in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1990s, and these claims have been supported by two Serbian ministers.

Statements about Milosevic's innocence are based, among other things, on Paragraph 3460 of the Karadzic judgement in which it is concluded that the trial chamber did not have sufficient evidence of Milosevic's involvement in ethnic cleansing and war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"The West keeps silent about the Tribunal's having cleared Milosevic of the suspicion of his involvement in ethnic cleansing and war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but Serbia must not and will not," Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said.

"There is no responsibility on the part of Milosevic, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Serbia," Dacic said in a written statement, adding that "lies about genocide and war crimes that provided grounds for the punishment of Serbia and the Serb people have been dismantled."

"I am confident that sooner or later it will be acknowledged, just as it was in the case of Iraq, that Serbia was attacked based on false and wrong accusations," said Dacic, a former close associate of Milosevic and spokesman for his Socialist Party of Serbia, which he now leads.

"The judgement reads that Milosevic stated that 'all members of other nations and ethnicities must be protected' and that 'the national interest of the Serbs is not discrimination (Paragraph 3288), as well as that 'crime needed to be fought decisively' (Paragraph 3284)," Dacic says in the statement, underlining that "Paragraph 3292 says that the FRY encouraged the Bosnian Serbs to accept peace proposals."

"In Paragraph 3280 the Tribunal concludes that Milosevic was not a member of the joint criminal enterprise, quite the contrary, he condemned ethnic cleansing," said Dacic.

Dacic believes that by doing so, "the Tribunal has admitted not only that Milosevic was not guilty but also that accusations against Serbia, the FRY and him were wrong and false, and those accusations served to impose severe economic sanctions."

Labour Minister Aleksandar Vulin, a former associate of Milosevic's wife Mirjana, too, claims that the ICTY "has confirmed" that the policy of the former president of Serbia and the FRY "was right".

Analysing the judgement in the Karadzic case in Sunday's issue of Vecernje Novosti, US publicist Andy Wilcoxson, who studied the ICTY's work, says that based on conclusions by South Korean judge O-Gon Kwon, one could say that Milosevic did not take part in the joint criminal enterprise with Radovan Karadzic to establish the supremacy of the Serb people over other peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1991-95 period.

The former president of Serbia and the FRY was against the permanent removal of Bosnian Muslims and Croats from the territory in Bosnia and Herzegovina where Serbs live. He did his best to help establish peace in Bosnia, he was critical when Bosnian Serbs decided to establish Republika Srpska, says Wilcoxson, who also published his claims in a study in which he says that the ICTY exonerated Milosevic from war crimes in Bosnia ten years too late.

Citing parts of the Karadzic judgement, Wilcoxson says that Milosevic was strongly against crimes the whole time and sought punishment for Bosnian Serbs who were committing them.

All this are the trial chamber's conclusions in Karadzic's guilty verdict, in the part that concerns the role of the former Serbian president in the war in Bosnia, says Wilcoxson.

He also underlines that the truth about Milosevic's role in the conflict in Bosnia is defined "1,303 pages into the 2,590 page Karadzic verdict." The exoneration of Milosevic from the responsibility for the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina is in a visible place, however, it is in a bunch of pages which the trial chamber presumed no one would bother to go through, says Wilcoxson.

Wilcoxson's conclusions are supported by US journalist and publicist Neil Clark, whose statements were carried by the Belgrade media.

The Tribunal's conclusion that one of the biggest political demons of our era is actually an innocent man who did not commit the atrocities and crimes he was charged with, should have been one of the main headlines in all world media, but it was not, Vecernje Novosti quoted Clark as saying in his blog for Russia Today.

The most serious accusations against Milosevic, including those about genocide, concerned Bosnia and Herzegovina. Now, ten years after his death, the ICTY admits that he is not guilty but it has not done anything to publish the fact that Milosevic was not involved in the joint criminal enterprise, Wilcoxson said for Vecernje Novosti.

The leader of the Liberal-Democratic Party, Cedomir Jovanovic, said that "politicians who try to justify their role in the tragic policies of the 1990s" are the reason why "Serbia is making no progress" and was "the main catalyst for the constant fomenting of tensions in the region."

Noting that "there are people in all countries of the former Yugoslavia who live off malignant nationalism and glorification of crimes", Jovanovic warns that Serbia is ignoring mistakes from its tragic past.

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