The Hague Tribunal: Belgrade's View

BELGRADE: Opinion polls in Serbia show that large majorities believe the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to be a political instrument to bash Serbs. So they oppose extradition of the indicted - including ex-president Milosevic - to the Hague Tribunal. When the Tribunal's chief prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, comes to Belgrade this Tuesday her welcome will not be warm.

Democratic politicians everywhere vie for the support of ethnic lobbies. To gain the Cuban vote in Florida, American politicians are tough on Fidel Castro; to secure Jewish votes in New York, they are soft on Israel. At the same time as they play this game, US policymakers (both Democrats and Republicans) demand that Vojislav Kostunica, President of Yugoslavia, cooperate with the Hague Tribunal unconditionally.

Kostunica, however, is a sensible politician. He knows that, although the Serbian lobby is weak in the US, it is all�powerful in Serbia. Taking the mood of his voters seriously, Kostunica criticizes the Tribunal and expresses reservations about receiving Mrs. del Ponte.

Long before the civil war in former Yugoslavia, I concluded that the world needed an international court to try governments and army commanders for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. But ever since the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was established in 1993 by the UN Security Council, I have been disappointed. I feel like some communist true believer who, in the 1930s, suddenly realized that terror existed in the Soviet Union.