WASHINGTON — “Regrettably, in spite of all that has happened in Bosnia and now Kosovo, the Clinton Administration still seems to cling to the idea that Milosevic is someone with whom we can cut a deal,” said Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) in his opening remarks at the Helsinki Commission hearing “Holding War Criminals Accountable.”
The hearing was also attended by (in order of arrival) Commissioners Rep. James C. Greenwood (R-PA), Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) and Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ).
When asked whether Milosevic is a war criminal or not, witness Paul Williams pointed out, “In 1992, then-Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger called Milosevic a war criminal based on the information he had then.” Mr. Smith responded, “Well, we can’t have it both ways. On April 5, when Secretary of State Albright was asked the same question, she stated ‘Technically he is not a war criminal because the War Crimes Tribunal, that has a legal process, has not indicted him.’ So is he or not?”
The witnesses suggested several steps that should be taken to assist in the conviction of war criminals. Nina Bang-Jensen recommended:
1) Communicate to the White House that Members believe that risks inherent in arresting indicted war crimes suspects in Bosnia are outweighed by the risks of inaction;
2) Support efforts to provide additional funds for Tribunal investigations in Kosovo and additional resources to the Human Rights and Democracy Fund to document human rights abuses;
3) Support re-authorization of the Lautenberg Amendment in the Foreign Operations Bill, which directs that U.S. economic reconstruction assistance not go to indicted war criminals or to projects in municipalities that are failing to cooperate with the Tribunal;
4) and, publicly oppose any short-sighted peace plan that might undermine the Tribunal’s authority by offering Milosevic de facto immunity from prosecution by allowing him to be transported to a friendly third country that will not honor any arrest warrant the Tribunal may issue.
Ms. Bang-Jensen concluded with a statement: “After all the promises we and the international community have made to the people of the former Yugoslavia about bringing those responsible for their misery to justice at the Tribunal, a “peace” that would allow the architect of four wars and a serial ethnic cleanser to slip away as if there were no Tribunal at all will not be a lasting peace.”
Mr. Cardin assured his colleagues, “There is bipartisan support for ensuring that the United States assistance to the War Crimes Tribunal is one of its highest priorities.”
Mr. Smith also announced that he will soon introduce a resolution calling for the indictment of Milosevic, a close but stronger version of the resolution that passed both the House and the Senate in the last Congress.