Greater Surbiton

The perfect is the enemy of the good

The genius of Carla del Ponte

Carla del Ponte, chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), is complaining that Serbia is unlikely to arrest the fugitive Bosnian Serb indicted war-criminal Ratko Mladic because the prospect of Kosovo’s independence being recognised is ‘distracting’ Belgrade. “Politically it is a very delicate situation,” del Ponte told Reuters in an interview; “In the end the Kosovo decision, in my personal evaluation, prevents the arrest of Mladic.”

What she is saying is that Serbia should be rewarded for its failure to arrest Mladic by having the recognition of Kosovo’s independence postponed. You couldn’t make it up. Serbia’s not-very-bright retrograde nationalist prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, could almost intepret this as an incentive to avoid arresting Mladic in the hope of getting Carla’s help in further postponing the recognition of Kosovo.

Del Ponte’s disastrous tenure as chief prosecutor has witnessed the failure to indict almost any senior figure from Serbia or Montenegro for war-crimes in Croatia or Bosnia – a handful of secondary figures were indicted, but not a single member of the political and military leadership in Belgrade that planned and carried out the aggression against Croatia and Bosnia, other than the deceased Slobodan Milosevic; the failure to convict a single member of this leadership; the failure to arrest the top Bosnian Serb war-criminals, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic; and a political deal between the ICTY and Belgrade that prevented Bosnia from using the uncensored minutes of the Yugoslav Supreme Defence Council as evidence in its case against Serbia for genocide at the International Court of Justice, something that was very likely responsible for Serbia’s acquittal. All this is, of course, not solely the fault of del Ponte; her senior colleagues at the ICTY share responsibility, as does the international administration in Bosnia and the international community in general. But she has played a major role in these fiascos. I have explained the ICTY’s failure in greater detail here and here.

There are various possible explanations for the failure of Serbia to arrest Mladic, of which the most convincing, in my opinion, is the one given to me by a Serbian journalist whom I recently met; she told me that Mladic could provide evidence of Serbia’s involvement in the Srebrenica genocide, thereby challenging Serbia’s acquittal by the International Court of Justice, and that therefore the Serbian government will never allow him to fall into the ICTY’s hands. But whatever the truth, we can be sure that the failure to arrest Mladic is not due to the ‘distraction’ of Kosovo. Why, in Milosevic’s day, the Serbian security services had no difficulty bumping off any number of senior officials, no matter what kind of ‘distraction’ the regime was faced with elsewhere…


Saturday, 8 December 2007 Posted by | Balkans, Bosnia, Croatia, Former Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Serbia | Leave a comment

Georgian PM rejects Kosovo parallel

We are constantly being warned that recognising the independence of Kosovo will instantaneously lead to hundreds of separatist territories all over the world breaking away from their parent states, from Scotland, Catalonia and the Basque Country all the way to Taiwan.

Of course, any democrat would recognise that nations or countries such as these do have the right to self-determination, should they wish to exercise it. As an Englishman and a Briton, I would be very sorry if Scotland or Wales chose to secede from the United Kingdom, but I respect the right of Scotland or Wales to do so if that is what its people want. I would bear a seceding Scotland or Wales no ill will; I would wish it all the best in its new life as an independent country; and if the British state were to react to its secession with violence, I would support Scotland or Wales in the resulting war. However, I am confident that the UK, as a democratic state, would never resort to violence in this manner, and that a Scottish or Welsh secession would occur peacefully.

If the recognition of Kosovo’s independence inspires other unfree nations to struggle for freedom, then it can only be a good thing. But I very much doubt it will. Secession is a serious and often mortally dangerous business; nations secede because they are suffering from oppression, or because their people believe they will enjoy a happier existence as an independent state; they do not do so merely because some other nation in a different part of the world has successfully seceded. The Tamils in Sri Lanka, the Kurds in Turkey or Iraq, or the Taiwanese are not naive enough to believe that if Kosovo’s independence is recognised, then they too have been given a green light by the international community to set up their own independent state. When people cite the possiblity of the recognition of Kosovo’s independence encouraging secessionism in other parts of the world, they are usually scaremongering.

Georgia is the country most often cited as the one that would pay the price for Kosovo’s secession, given that two of its own autonomous territories, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, have broken away with Russian support. So it is noteworthy that Georgia’s Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze himself has just publicly rejected the idea that Kosovo’s independence would create a precedent for Georgia: “We hope our friends and allies in the west take a firm position on the inapplicability of the Kosovo case to Georgia. In other words, Kosovo is sui generis”. He nevertheless expressed his fear that Russia would respond to the recognition of Kosovo by itself recognising the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. If this were to occur, it would have nothing to do with any natural spin-off effect from Kosovo’s independence, and everything to do with Russian troublemaking; i.e. a new crisis in the Caucausus would be the result of actions by Russia, not by Abkhazia or South Ossetia.

Neverthless, the Financial Times reports: ‘Mr Gurgenidze won support for his position on Kosovo on Thursday from Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU’s external relations commissioner, with whom he held talks in Brussels. “We do hope also that Russia will understand that, certainly on South Ossetia and Abkhazia, things should remain as they are,” she told reporters.’ Furthermore, ‘Some EU officials doubt that Russia, beset with restive minorities of its own on its southern borders, would go so far as to recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.’

Indeed. If Russia were to recognise the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, it would raise the question of why Chechnya, with its much larger population, should not also have the right to self-determination.

Food for thought.

Saturday, 8 December 2007 Posted by | Abkhazia, Georgia, Kosovo, Russia, Serbia, South Ossetia | Leave a comment