WASHINGTON – United States Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) has urged President Bill Clinton to remain steadfast in his commitment to secure the surrender of Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague and ensure that all indicted war criminals are held accountable for their atrocities against the people of the former Republic of Yugoslavia. In a letter to President Clinton on Thursday, Chairman Smith said, “In light of developments in Belgrade and elsewhere in Serbia, there have been increasing calls for giving Milosevic ‘immunity’ or some other form of protection from prosecution. I strongly oppose any effort to give Milosevic amnesty, immunity or asylum.”
“As Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, I fully support your statements attesting to the validity of the international indictment of Slobodan Milosevic. I agree that Milosevic, as a result, must go to The Hague,” Chairman Smith wrote. “I hope, Mr. President, that you will remain resolute in your support for the Tribunal, and will not seek any accommodation of Milosevic in the belief that it will serve the interests of the United States, the people of Serbia, or Milosevic’s millions of victims,” Chairman Smith added.
“First, as a matter of international law, the indictment is clearly legitimate and only the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) can revoke or modify the indictment,” Chairman Smith wrote. “Second, those cooperating with the Tribunal, and Croatia in particular, cannot be held to a higher standard on this issue.”
“Croatia’s new leadership has gone far, despite some political opposition, to deliver indicted persons to the Tribunal, to acknowledge Croatia’s role in Yugoslavia’s violent demise, and to prosecute in Croatian courts those responsible for criminal acts,” Smith said. “Yet, all those indicted for the mass killings in Vukovar, Croatia, remain free in Serbia. Croatia and other victims of aggression deserve to see not only these people surrendered to The Hague, but Slobodan Milosevic, the mastermind of the conflict, as well.”
“Third, there is absolutely no evidence that Milosevic would have, or ever will, relinquish power in return for protection from prosecution,” Smith said. “His nature is to maintain and perpetuate power, regardless of any indictment, and he will flee only if he sees he has lost the choice of staying in power, even if the indictment remains in effect.”
“Fourth, any manipulation of the indictment for political reasons undermines the rule of law at the international level and brings into question all that ICTY has done in recent years. This would be a travesty in that, if anything has been learned from a decade of conflict in the former Yugoslavia, it is that the international community must hold accountable those instigating and orchestrating conflict against innocent civilian populations,” Smith concluded.
The United States Helsinki Commission is an independent agency of the United States Government charged with monitoring and encouraging compliance with the Helsinki Final Act and other commitments of the countries participating in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The former Yugoslavia was suspended from OSCE participation in 1992. The Commission, created in 1976, is comprised of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Commerce and Defense.