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People vs. Milosevic, Part 1: Arrest

Milosevic
Slobodan Milosevic faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity at the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague  


By CNN Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- In the middle of the night on April 1, 2001, men wearing masks and brandishing automatic weapons came to the Belgrade home of Slobodan Milosevic.

They were some of the same special forces who once terrified the population of Yugoslavia.

Now they turned up for the arrest their former president and the removal of his armed bodyguards. The Milosevic decade of war, corruption and suffering was finally over. He was going to jail.

"He said he will conduct suicide if someone will arrest him. And then he will kill his family and then himself. ... I said no, no. I know him. He will give up. And after two hours he gave up," says Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic.

SPECIAL REPORT
The People vs. Milosevic
Introduction 
Part 1: Milosevic's arrest 
Part 2: Balkan wars 
Part 3: Downfall 
Part 4: Epic corruption 
Part 5: Bodybags 
Part 6: Shadows 
 

"And after that, his main condition was to drive his car, to be driven in his car, not to show that he was taken by police, but willingly. And it is, of course, a joke."

Eighty-eight days later, under intense pressure from the United States and Europe, Milosevic was handed over to representatives of the International War Crimes Tribunal, and he was flown to a prison in The Hague.

In a floodlit glare he was marched to a cellblock housing others indicted from the former Yugoslavia. He was charged with crimes against humanity. The reckoning had begun.

At his arraignment, Milosevic played the court as though he was still president.

"I consider this tribunal a false tribunal, and indictments false indictments. It is illegal," Milosevic told the court.

In one decade, Milosevic had taken his country into four wars, losing all of them. A quarter-million dead were left scattered across the Balkans.

Civilian 'executions'

Despite the blood that flowed in Croatia and Bosnia, it was in Milosevic's own Serbian province of Kosovo that the tribunal's prosecutors saw their first chance to hold him personally responsible for the crimes of war.

Racak
Coffins of ethnic Albanians killed in Racak, Kosovo  

When Milosevic's security forces battled Kosovar Albanian separatists, observers were alarmed by what looked like civilian casualties.

A scene from Kosovo in January 1999 would confirm the prosecutors' hunch. At Racak and in places like it lay Milosevic's undoing.

"As a layman, it looks like executions," says Gen. William Walker, former head of the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Kosovo.

"It looks like people with absolutely no value for human life murdering these men, who to me look like farmers, they look like workmen, they look like villagers who certainly did not deserve to die in this fashion."

A few months later, an Albanian doctor shot footage of 127 mostly old men slaughtered in the hamlet of Izbice.

What he saw would match U.S. satellite photos of graves in the same area.

Milosevic is the first-ever sitting head of state to be indicted by an international court, and he continues to deny the charges against him.

Prosecutors at the tribunal say they can prove their case. But proving a president's criminal responsibility will take more than just videotape, more than even corpses.

Breaking the bank

"Our evidences will be witnesses and documents," says U.N. War Crimes Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte. "Milosevic is personally responsibility for what he has done. All the international community will know exactly the facts."

Del Ponte
Del Ponte: "Milosevic is personally responsible for what he has done"  

Toma Fila, Milosevic's attorney, counters: "The head of a state cannot in any absolute way be held accountable for the behavior of soldiers. I know that from the top, orders were always given to act in accordance with the Geneva Convention."

For his own people, there is much more than the alleged war crimes. The Milosevic years literally broke the bank. Since Milosevic started waging war across Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, Serbia has been crippled by rampant corruption and international sanctions that have reduced it to poverty.

"He destroyed the Serbian state structure, and finally they destroyed of course the economy," says Serbian businessman Milorad Savicevic.

"How high is the bill?" CNN asks Savicevic.

"Depends how we measure the bill," he says. "If we measure in time, this is 10 to 20 years to recover completely, you know. If we measure in money, that's a few hundred billion dollars."

Says Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations: "His legacy is the debris of an economy that should have been a strong one. The destruction of the moral fiber and strength of a potentially great people. And it is now essential that we have justice done."

Milosevic once was a hero to his people, vowing to create a strong and proud Serbia. Today the Serbian state and virtually every promise Milosevic ever made have been broken.



 
 
 
 


RELATED STORY:
• Case against Milosevic
CNN.com In-depth Special

RELATED SITE:
• International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

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