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CRISIS IN YUGOSLAVIA

War Crime Court Issues Warrant for Milosevic

Balkans: Yugoslav president, four others are accused of masterminding murders and expulsions from Kosovo. It is the first time a sitting head of state has been so charged.

May 28, 1999|JOHN-THOR DAHLBURG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

THE HAGUE — An international war crimes tribunal issued warrants for the arrest of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and four top lieutenants and ordered their assets frozen Thursday after indicting the men on charges that they masterminded the murders of hundreds of Kosovo Albanians and the mass deportation of at least 740,000 others.

Yugoslavia promptly denounced the action as "monstrous." A spokesman for Milosevic's political party accused the U.N. tribunal, whose authority Belgrade does not recognize, of acting "in the interest of NATO criminals."

The indictment, delivered Monday but unsealed Thursday, seemed to dash any lingering hopes of a diplomatic compromise with Milosevic, NATO's stubborn adversary and target of an alliance bombing campaign now in its third month.

"This means the Western countries envision the future of Serbia only without Milosevic," said Hans Stark, researcher at the French Institute of International Relations in Paris.

"This makes it harder to fudge the diplomatic issues," added Rear Adm. Richard Cobbold, director of the London-based Royal United Services Institute for Defense Studies.

The indictment, a watershed in contemporary efforts to develop and impose international standards of civilized behavior, marks the first time a sitting head of state has been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

It concerns alleged acts of murder, forced deportation and persecution on political, racial or religious grounds carried out by the Yugoslav army, police or paramilitary forces in Kosovo since January.

Louise Arbour, chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, said her investigators, who have been interviewing refugees from Kosovo in camps in Albania and Macedonia, compiled evidence of war crimes "on a massive scale" committed over less than five months.

"An independent review by a judge of this tribunal has confirmed that there is a credible basis to believe that these accused are criminally responsible for the deportation of 740,000 Kosovo Albanians from Kosovo, and the murder of over 340 identified Kosovo Albanians," she told a news conference here.

Indicted with Milosevic were: Milan Milutinovic, president of Serbia, the larger of Yugoslavia's two republics; Nikola Sainovic, deputy prime minister of Yugoslavia; Dragoljub Ojdanic, chief of the general staff of the Yugoslav armed forces; and Vlajko Stojiljkovic, Serbian minister of the interior, responsible for the republic's police forces.

Officials Blamed for 'Campaign of Terror'

Far from being spontaneous, the driving of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians from their homes in Kosovo--a province of Serbia--was the result of "well-planned and coordinated efforts" by Yugoslav politicians, the military and police, the indictment charges. The result was "a campaign of terror and violence directed at the Kosovo Albanian population."

"We have charged all five accused . . . on the basis of personal criminal responsibility for ordering, planning, instigating, executing, for aiding and abetting in the commission of these offenses," Arbour said.

The indictment is filled with sober accounts of looting, killing, rape, arson, the shelling of Kosovo civilians by the Yugoslav military and other alleged atrocities.

According to the document, about 65 Kosovo Albanian men were slaughtered by Serbian police as the men stood naked in a stream bed at the village of Bela Crkva on or around March 25.

At the same time, according to the indictment, about 105 men and boys from two villages in the Orahovac region were assembled inside a house, which Serbian police then sprayed with gunfire. Police then piled hay onto the dead and wounded and set it afire to destroy the bodies, the indictment charges.

The indictment runs for 42 pages and includes the names and ages of hundreds of Kosovo Albanians believed slain by Yugoslav forces in massacres--one a 2-year-old girl, another a man about 90 years old. It documents how, in at least 10 cities and towns, the populace was terrorized by Yugoslav soldiers and Serbian police into fleeing.

"The victims were entitled to expect protection from each one of these accused," said Arbour, a former judge from Ontario, Canada.

With the approval of tribunal Judge David Hunt of Australia, international arrest warrants for Milosevic and the others were delivered Thursday morning in New York to the missions of all member countries of the United Nations, Arbour said.

Freezing of Suspected Secret Assets Ordered

In The Hague, seat of government of the Netherlands and home to the tribunal, warrants were sent to the Yugoslav mission. Arbour made a special appeal to the Ministry of Justice in Belgrade, the Yugoslav and Serbian capital, to "stand up for the rule of law" and hand over Milosevic and the others if they do not surrender.

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