Monday March 13, 2006
In Kosovo, the scene of Slobodan Milosevic's most recent atrocities, Albanians reacted yesterday with anger and annoyance to the former leader's death.
Many felt cheated of justice, while local politicians feared Serbia was slipping back into the past as Kosovo's rulers are negotiating with Belgrade over their demand for independence, the clash which led to Milosevic's campaign of ethnic cleansing in 1998.
"It's definitely bad news. Everybody here was expecting his conviction and hoping it would open a new page for all who suffered," Blerim Shala, editor of the newspaper Zeri and senior adviser to the Kosovan delegation negotiating with Belgrade told the Guardian.
"It's a setback for the talks with Belgrade. It will be harder for Serbian society to look itself in the mirror. Serbian leaders are using this event to launch a counterattack and revive their sense of victimhood. I was astonished at seeing Serbian TV stations' coverage of his death. There's less support for reform in Serbia now than when [Milosevic] was arrested five years ago. Serbia's president, Boris Tadic, was the first to send condolences to Milosevic's family. Serbian leaders are afraid of each other, of their citizens, of their past and their future. How can one expect them to move forward ..."
Veton Surroi, a newspaper publisher and party leader who testified against Milosevic at the Hague tribunal, said he regretted the former Yugoslav president did not live longer. "I wish he lived 100 years and spent all those years in prison living with the memory of all the victims caused by his wars," he said.
In Bosnia, groups representing the mothers and widows of the 8,000 Muslims massacred in Srebrenica regretted his death meant he would never face justice. But there was relief that the man who encouraged Bosnia's Serbs to launch a war was dead. "Finally, we have some reason to smile; God is fair," said Hajra Catic, who heads an association of widows.
Sulejman Tihic, the chairman of Bosnia-Herzegovina's presidency, said the best punishment for Milosevic would have been a sentence from the UN court. "Because of the victims, and for truth and justice I regret that the trial at the UN tribunal has not been concluded," he said.