Skip to main content /WORLD /WORLD

Milosevic years: An orgy of war

LONDON, England (CNN) -- CNN's Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour has spent much of the last decade covering the Yugoslav conflicts. This is her analysis of the Milosevic years.

The last time Slobodan Milosevic visited The Hague as a free man was for a peace conference 10 years ago. He was president of Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav wars were just starting. And there was no United Nations war crimes tribunal.

It would take the next 10 years to stop Milosevic's rampage, and to indict, arrest and extradite him.

The ousted leader, on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, has been in detention at a special U.N. holding unit outside The Hague.

In-Depth: Milosevic On Trial 

The People vs. Milosevic Europe
More news  from our European edition
Slobodan Milosevic says the charges against him are a conspiracy by the West. Do you agree?

View Results


He has been charged with crimes against humanity in Croatia and Kosovo, and genocide in Bosnia.

Ethnic cleansing

Throughout the 1990s Milosevic's policies, his paramilitaries and his armed forces incited violence and ethnic hatred that would destroy Yugoslavia.

Hundreds of thousands of people were killed, millions forced to leave their homes and wander the world as refugees. Civilians were the primary targets in this attempt to redesign Yugoslavia along purely ethnic lines.

The term ethnic cleansing became synonymous with Bosnia, as Serb forces there loyal to and paid for by Milosevic tried to carve out a separate state by forcibly moving the non-Serb civilian population.

They did it by bombarding towns and cities like Sarajevo with heavy artillery, beseiging villages and massacring civilians.

Snipers targeted men, women and children. Markets full of people shopping were shelled.

And in scenes unknown in Europe since World War II, there were concentration camps, mass rape and the forced prostitution of women and very young girls.

This orgy of war peaked with the Bosnian Serb assault on the tiny Muslim village of Srebrenica. The International Red Cross says about 7,000 Muslim men and boys remain unaccounted for there.

The top Bosnian Serb leaders controlled by Milosevic were Radovan Karadzic and his military chief, Radko Mladic.

They were twice indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity for the horror they brought to Bosnia but remain at large.

In 1995, after NATO conducted bombing raids to stop the Bosnian Serb rampage, Milosevic became the West's partner in the peace that was forged at Dayton that year.

But he was as poor a peace partner as he was a war maker. Having lost both Croatia and Bosnia, in 1998 Milosevic launched one more military campaign, this time in the tiny Serb province of Kosovo. It would prove his undoing.

NATO again went to war to stop him. After 74 days of bombing, Milosevic finally capitulated.

NATO forces and a U.N. administration took over Kosovo, hundreds of thousands of deported Albanian residents came home, and survivors started looking for their dead. Now the war crimes tribunal was able to start on-site investigations.

But ever the master of miscalculation, barely a year after losing Kosovo, Milosevic called new elections.

After supporting him for 10 bloodied years, the Yugsolav people had now had enough. Hundreds of thousands of them took to the streets to celebrate his downfall and the end of what many called their long nightmare.

Next came Milosevic's arrest. By April 2000 only a few hundred die-hard supporters mustered the will to protest.

With Milosevic in Belgrade's central prison, Yugsolavia's new government accused him of everything from corruption, political killings and election fraud to money-laundering and, recently, even war crimes.

The new interior minister says mass graves newly revealed in Serbia contain bodies of tortured and murdered Kosovo civilians. They say Milosevic ordered them to be removed from Kosovo, to avoid a war crimes investigation.

All this evidence has shifted public opinion in Yugoslavia, and now at least half the people want to see their former president facing justice.


Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.


Back to the top