BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) - Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslav leader, who was branded “the butcher of the Balkans” and was on trial for war crimes after orchestrating a decade of bloodshed during the breakup of his country, was found dead Saturday in his prison cell. He was 64. Milosevic, who suffered chronic heart ailments and high blood pressure, apparently died of natural causes and was found in his bed, the U.N. tribunal said, without giving an exact time of death.
In the end, it was a fitting demise. alone with his thoughts in a prison cell. I’m torn between feeling that the world is a better place without Slobodan Milosevic and feeling angry that the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) didn’t pursue justice in a timely fashion so that Milosevic could have been convicted and executed. I know; it hardly matters. The end result is the same, and the verdict on the degree of Milosevic’ guilt will be left up to the historians and the court of public opinion. Most of the world views Milosevic as a monster on par with Adolf Hitler and “Papa Doc” Duvalier- except in Serbia, of course, where your average Serb-on-the-street still defends Milosevic as a national hero. (The cries from Serbia demanding an investigation in the the UN-sponsored “murder” of Milosevic are already being heard.)
The next few days will bring more information, of course, and while the cause of death remains to be determined, I’m grateful that Slobodan Milosevic the monster is dead. During my time in the former Yugoslavia, Milosevic presided over the disintergration over Tito’s Yugoslavia into a Serb-run charnel house. While exact figures are difficult to come by, reliable estimates place the number of dead in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo at around 300,000. Millions more were displaced, many now unable to return home because of ethnic hatred and mistrust.
During the reign of Slobodan Milosevic, Yugoslavia became known for the worst genocide in Europe since WWII, when Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin roamed the landscape. The worst part is that the intenational community allowed it to happen, just as it was allowing Milosevic to drag out his trial interminably. So much for resolve and determination in the search for justice, eh?
No doubt many are celebrating Milosevic’s demise; I know I am. If there is any justice, there will be a very special place in Hell for the Butcher of Belgrade. Lord knows he deserves it.