Slobodan Milošević (; Serbian Cyrillic: Слободан Милошевић) (August 20, 1941, Požarevac, Yugoslavia – March 11, 2006, The Hague, Netherlands) was President of Serbia and of Yugoslavia. He served as the President of Serbia from 1989 until 1997 and as President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from 1997 to 2000. He also led Serbia's Socialist Party from its foundation in 1990.
Milošević resigned the Yugoslav presidency amid demonstrations, following the disputed presidential election of September 24, 2000. He was arrested by Yugoslav federal authorities on Saturday, March 31, 2001, on suspicion of corruption, abuse of power, and embezzlement. The initial investigation into Milošević faltered for lack of hard evidence, prompting the Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić to send him to The Hague to stand trial for alleged war crimes instead.
The Hague war crimes tribunal charged Milošević with crimes against humanity, violating the laws or customs of war, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and genocide for his role during the wars in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo.
Milošević conducted his own defense, but the trial ended without a verdict because he died during the proceedings, after nearly five years in the War Criminal Prison in the Hague. Milošević suffered from heart ailments and high blood pressure. He died of a heart attack shortly after the court denied his request to seek specialized medical treatment at a cardiology clinic in Moscow. The Tribunal denies any responsibility for Milošević's death. They claim that he refused to take prescribed medicines and medicated himself instead.
He went on to study law at the University of Belgrade Faculty of Law, where he became the head of the ideology committee of the Yugoslav Communist League's (SKJ) student branch (SSOJ). While at the university, he befriended Ivan Stambolić, whose uncle Petar Stambolić had been a president of Serbian Executive Council (the Communist equivalent of a prime minister). This was to prove a crucial connection for Milošević's career prospects, as Stambolić sponsored his rise through the SKJ hierarchy.
On leaving university in 1960, Milošević became an economic advisor to the Mayor of Belgrade. Five years later, he married Mirjana Marković, whom he had known since childhood. Marković would have some influence on her husband's political career both before and after his rise to power; she was also leader of Milošević's junior coalition partner, Yugoslav Left (JUL) in the 1990s. In 1968 he got a job at the Tehnogas company, where Stambolić was working, and became its chairman in 1973. By 1978, Stambolić's sponsorship had enabled Milošević to become the head of Beobanka, one of Yugoslavia's largest banks; his frequent trips to Paris and New York gave him the opportunity to learn English.
On April 16, 1984 Slobodan Milošević was elected to a two-year term as president of the Belgrade League of Communists City Committee.
On February 21, 1986 the Socialist Alliance of Working People unanimously supported him as presidential candidate for the SKJ's Serbian branch Central Committee. Milošević was elected by a majority vote at the 10th Congress of the Serbian League of Communists on May 28, 1986.
Milošević emerged in 1987 as a force in Serbian politics. The Hague indictment alleges that, starting in 1987, Milošević "endorsed a Serbian nationalist agenda" and "exploited a growing wave of Serbian nationalism in order to strengthen centralised rule in the SFRY.
Milošević always denied allegations that he exploited Serbian nationalism in his rise to power. In a 1995 interview with TIME, he said: "All my speeches up to '89 were published in my book. You can see that there was no nationalism in those speeches. We were explaining why we think it is good to preserve Yugoslavia for all Serbs, all Croats, all Muslims and all Slovenians as our joint country. Nothing else.
As animosity between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo deepened during the 1980s, Milošević was sent to address a crowd of Serbs in Kosovo Polje on April 24, 1987. While Milošević was talking to the leadership inside the local cultural hall demonstrators outside clashed with the local Kosovo-Albanian police force.
The New York Times reported that "a crowd of 15,000 Serbs and Montenegrins hurled stones at the police after they used truncheons to push people away from the entrance to the cultural center of Kosovo Polje.
Milošević heard the commotion and was sent outside to calm the situation. A videotape of the event shows Milošević responding to complaints from the crowd that the police were beating people by saying "You will not be beaten". Later that evening, Serbian television aired the video of Milošević's encounter.
In Adam LeBor's biography of Milošević, he describes that the crowd attacked the police and Milošević's response was "No one should dare to beat you again!"
The Federal Secretariat of the SFRY Interior Ministry however, condemned the police's use of rubber truncheons as not in keeping within the provisions of Articles 100 and 101 of the rules of procedure for "conducting the work of law enforcement", they had found that "the total conduct of the citizenry in the mass rally before the cultural hall in Kosovo Polje cannot be assessed as negative or extremist. There was no significant violation of law and order.
Although Milošević was only addressing a small group of people around him -- not the public, a great deal of significance has been attached to that remark. Stambolić, after his reign as President, said that he had seen that day as "the end of Yugoslavia".
Dragiša Pavlović, a Stambolic ally and Milošević's successor at the head of the Belgrade Committee of the party, was expelled from the party during the 8th Session of the League of Communists of Serbia after he publicly criticized the party's Kosovo policy. The central committee voted overwhelmingly for his dismissal: 106 members voted for his expulsion, eight voted against, and 18 abstained.
Stambolić was fired after Communist officials in Belgrade accused him of abusing his office during the Pavlović affair. Stambolic was accused of sending a secret letter to the party Presidium, in what was seen as an attempt to misuse the weight of his position as Serbian President, to prevent the central committee's vote on Pavlović's expulsion from the party.
In 2002 Adam LeBor and Louis Sell would write that Pavlović was really dismissed because he opposed Milošević's policies towards Kosovo-Serbs. They contend that, contrary to advice from Stambolić, Milošević had denounced Pavlović as being soft on Albanian radicals. LeBor and Sell assert that Milošević prepared the ground for his ascent to power by quietly replacing Stambolić's supporters with his own people, thereby forcing Pavlović and Stambolić from power.
In February 1988, Stambolić's resignation was formalized, allowing Milošević to take his place as Serbia's President. Milošević then initiated a program of IMF-supported free-market reforms, setting up in May 1988 the "Milošević Commission" comprising Belgrade's leading neoliberal economists.
According to the Hague indictment against Milošević: "From July 1988 to March 1989, a series of demonstrations and rallies supportive of Slobodan Milosevic's policies - the so-called 'Anti-Bureaucratic Revolution' - took place in Vojvodina and Montenegro. These protests led to the ouster of the respective provincial and republican governments; the new governments were then supportive of, and indebted to, Slobodan Milosevic.
Milošević's supporters say the anti-bureaucratic revolution was an authentic grass-roots political movement. Reacting to the indictment, Dr. Branko Kostić, Montenegro's then-representative on the Yugoslav state presidency said, "Well, it sounds like nonsense to me. If a government or a leadership were supportive of Milošević, then it would be normal for him to feel indebted to them, not the other way around." He said Milošević enjoyed genuine grassroots support because "his name at that time shone brightly on the political arena of the entire federal Yugoslavia ... and many people saw him as a person who would be finally able to make things move, to get things going. Kosta Bulatović, an organizer of the anti-bureaucratic rallies, said "All of this was spontaneous" the motivation to protest was "coming from the grassroots.
Milošević's critics claim that he cynically planned and organized the anti-bureaucratic revolution to strengthen his political power. Yugoslav president of presidency Stjepan Mesić said, "Milošević, with the policy he waged, broke down the autonomous [government in] Vojvodina, which was legally elected, in Montenegro he implemented an anti-bureaucratic revolution, as it's called, by which he destroyed Yugoslavia. Commenting on Milošević's role in the anti-bureaucratic revolution, Slovene President Milan Kučan said, "none of us believed in Slovenia that these were spontaneous meetings and rallies. He accused Serbia of deliberately fanning nationalist passions and Slovene newspapers published articles comparing Milošević to Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, a one-time Marxist who turned to nationalism. Milošević contended that such criticism was unfounded and amounted to "spreading fear of Serbia".
In Vojvodina, where 54 percent of the population was Serbian, an estimated 100,000 demonstrators rallied outside the Communist Party headquarters in Novi Sad on October 6, 1988 to demand the resignation of the provincial leadership. The majority of protesters were workers from the Vojvodina town of Bačka Palanka, 40 kilometres west of Novi Sad. They were supportive of Milošević and opposed the provincial government's moves to block forthcoming amendments to the Serbian Constitution.
The New York Times reported that the demonstrations were held "with the support of Slobodan Milosevic" and that "Diplomats and Yugoslavs speculated about whether Mr. Milosevic, whose hold over crowds [was] great, had had a hand in organizing the Novi Sad demonstrations.
The demonstrations were successful. The provincial leadership resigned, and Vojvodina League of Communists elected a new leadership.
In the elections that followed Dr. Dragutin Zelenović, a Milošević ally, was elected member of the SFRY Presidency from Vojvodina
On January 10, 1989 the anti-bureaucratic revolution continued in Montenegro, which had the lowest average monthly wage in Yugoslavia, an unemployment rate of nearly 25 percent, and where one-fifth of the population lived below the poverty line. 50,000 demonstrators gathered in the Montenegrin capital of Titograd (now Podgorica) to protest the republic's economic situation and to demand the resignation of its leadership.
The next day Montenegro's state presidency tendered its collective resignation along with the Montenegrin delegates in the Yugoslav Politburo. Montenegro's representative on the federal presidency, Veselin Đuranović, said the decision to step down "was motivated by a sense of responsibility for the economic situation.
Demonstrators were seen carrying portraits of Milošević and shouting his name, but the New York Times reported "there is no evidence that the Serbian leader played an organizing role" in the demonstrations.
Multiparty elections were held in Montenegro for the first time after the anti-bureaucratic revolution. Nenad Bućin, an opponent of Milošević's policies, was elected Montenegro's representative on Yugoslavia's collective presidency and Momir Bulatović, a Milošević ally, was elected Montenegrin President.
Starting in 1982 and 1983, in response to nationalist Albanian riots in Kosovo, the Central Committee of the SFRY League of Communists adopted a set of conclusions aimed at centralizing Serbia’s control over law enforcement and the judiciary in its Kosovo and Vojvodina provinces.
In 1986 Serbian president Ivan Stambolic established a commission to amend the Serbian Constitution inkeeping with conclusions adopted by the federal Communist Party.
The constitutional commission worked for three years to harmonize its positions and in 1989 an amended Serbian constitution was submitted to the governments of Kosovo, Vojvodina and Serbia for approval.
In the Kosovo Assembly 187 of the 190 assembly members were present when the vote was taken: 10 voted against the amendments, two abstained, and the remaining 175 voted in favor of the amendments.
Although the ethnic composition of the Kosovo Assembly was over 70 percent Albanian, Kosovo-Albanian nationalists reacted violently to the constitutional amendments. The UPI wire service reported that "unrest began [in Kosovo] when amendments were approved returning to Serbia control over the province's police, courts, national defence and foreign affairs ... mass demonstrations turned into violent street rioting when demonstrators began using firearms against police." According to the report the rioting killed 29 people and injured 30 policemen and 97 civilians.
In the wake of the unrest following the 1989 constitutional amendments, ethnic Albanians in Kosovo largely boycotted the provincial government and refused to vote in the elections. Azem Vllasi, leader of the League of Communists of Kosovo, was arrested for inciting rioting amid a strike by Kosovo-Albanian miners. In the wake of the Albanian boycott, supporters of Slobodan Milošević were elected to positions of authority by the remaining Serbian voters in Kosovo.
The anti-bureaucratic revolutions in Montenegro and Vojvodina coupled with the Albanian boycott in Kosovo effectively meant that Slobodan Milošević and his supporters held power in four out of the eight republics and autonomous provinces that made-up the Yugoslav federation. Whether this was cynically engineered by Milošević is a matter of controversy between his critics and his supporters.
Because Milošević's supporters controlled half of the votes in the SFRY presidency, his critics charge that he undermined the Yugoslav federation. This, his detractors argue, upset the balance of power in Yugoslavia and provoked separatism elsewhere in the federation.
Milošević's supporters contend that the representatives of the SFRY presidency were elected according to the law. They say that Milošević enjoyed genuine popular support so it was perfectly logical for his allies to be elected to the presidency. His supporters dismiss allegations that he upset the balance of power in Yugoslavia as a propaganda ploy designed to justify separatism.
In 1990, after other republics abandoned the League of Communists of Yugoslavia and adopted democratic multiparty systems, Milošević's government quickly followed suit and the 1990 Serbian Constitution was created. The 1990 Constitution officially renamed the Socialist Republic of Serbia to the Republic of Serbia and abandoned the one-party communist system and created a democratic multiparty system.
After the creation of a multiparty system in Serbia, Milošević and his political allies in Serbia elsewhere in Yugoslavia pushed for the creation of a democratic multiparty system of government at the federal level, such as Serbian state media appealing to the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina in early 1992 with the promise that Bosnia and Herzegovina could peacefully coexist in a democratic Yugoslav federation alongside the republics of Serbia and Montenegro. Outside of the Serb population, the remainder of Bosnian and Herzegovinian population voted in favour of secession. In the aftermath, Serbia and Montenegro agreed to create the new Yugoslav federation called the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1992, which dismantled the remaining communist infrastructure and created a federal democratic multiparty system of government.
Milošević's government exercised influence and censorship in the media. An example was in March 1991, Serbia's Public Prosecutor ordered a 36-hour blackout of two independent media stations, B92 Radio and Studio B television to prevent the broadcast of a demonstration taking place against the Serbian government taking place in Belgrade. The two media stations appealed to the Public Prosecutor against the ban but the Public Prosecutor failed to respond.
Upon the creation of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Milošević's government engaged in reforms to the Serbian Penal Code regarding restrictions on free speech were seen by critics as highly authoritarian. In particular Article 98 of the Serbian Penal Code during the 1990s punished imprisonment of up to three years for the following:
"...public ridicule [of] the Republic of Serbia or another Republic within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, their flag, coat of arms or anthem, their presidencies, assemblies or executive councils, the president of the executive council in connection with the performance of their office...The federal criminal code for Yugoslavia also protected the presidents of federal institutions, the Yugoslav Army and federal emblems. Both the Serbian and federal Yugoslav laws granted limited exemptions to journalists. The result was multiple charges against a variety of people opposed to the policies of the Serbian and Yugoslav governments even including a Serbian cartoonist who designed political satire.
Milošević's role in the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s is a matter of considerable controversy. His detractors accuse him of starting the wars in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. They accuse him of inciting Serbian nationalism in a murderous drive to carve "Greater Serbia" from the ruins of Yugoslavia. His supporters say that he was a peacemaker who wanted to preserve Yugoslavia. They say he vehemently opposed ethnic nationalism and never advocated the creation of a Greater Serbia. They blame the outbreak of war on the republics that chose to breakaway from Yugoslavia. A synthesis between the two opposing views claims that Milošević took advantage of political instability in Yugoslavia to rise to power in Serbia, a decision which alienated the other republics and nationalities in Yugoslavia. As Yugoslavia collapsed, Milošević supported nationalist policies to keep his ex-communist socialist regime in power and detract the rising support for the ultranationalist and anti-communist Serbian Radical Party.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton articulated the view of many Milošević critics when he told a veterans group that Milošević "sought to expand his power, by inciting religious and ethnic hatred in the cause of Greater Serbia; by demonizing and dehumanizing people, especially the Bosnian and Kosovar Muslims ... He unleashed wars in Bosnia and Croatia, creating 2 million refugees and leaving a quarter of a million people dead ... he stripped Kosovo of its constitutional self-government, and began harassing and oppressing its people.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright explained the U.S. Government's view that, "Slobodan Milošević initiated four wars during the 1990s, including a devastating campaign of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo which killed thousands and drove almost a million people from their homes.
In a speech before the U.S. Congress, Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) brought up a common view among Milošević's critics when he said Milošević "relied on virulent Serbian nationalism to instigate conflict".
The CIA World Fact Book says, "Under Milošević's leadership, Serbia led various military campaigns to unite ethnic Serbs in neighboring republics into a 'Greater Serbia.'
The foundation of the war crimes charges against Milošević is based on the allegation that he sought the establishment of a "Greater Serbia". Prosecutors at the Hague argued that "the [Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo] indictments were all part of a common scheme, strategy or plan on the part of the accused [Milošević] to create a 'Greater Serbia', a centralized Serbian state encompassing the Serb-populated areas of Croatia and Bosnia and all of Kosovo, and that this plan was to be achieved by forcibly removing non-Serbs from large geographical areas through the commission of the crimes charged in the indictments. Although the events in Kosovo were separated from those in Croatia and Bosnia by more than three years, they were no more than a continuation of that plan, and they could only be understood completely by reference to what had happened in Croatia and Bosnia.
Milošević was motivated to start the wars, his critics say, because of his murderous ambition to create an ethnically pure Greater Serbian state. Milošević's critics claim that forces under his command committed "atrocities against civilians as part of a systematic campaign to secure territory for an ethnically 'pure' Serb state.
James Bissett, Canada's former Ambassador to Yugoslavia said, "the idea that Milošević entered into any sort of criminal conspiracy to establish a Greater Serbia is pure fantasy. I think the record speaks for itself, Milošević was personally involved in every attempt to negotiate a peace agreement and stop the fighting ... this goes right from the first Vance-Owen Plan, the Vance-Stoltenberg Plan, both plans which were subverted not by the Serbian side but by others.
Former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov categorically stated the Russian Government's view that Milošević "had no plans and conducted no actions to achieve a Greater Serbia".
Former U.S. Secretary of State, James Baker said: Yugoslavia "broke up through the unilateral declaration of independence by Slovenia and Croatia and the seizing by these two countries' republics of their border posts, which was an act of force and a violation of the Helsinki principles. But the European powers and the United States ultimately recognised Slovenia and then Croatia and Bosnia as independent countries, and admitted them to the United Nations. The real problem was that there was a unilateral declaration of independence and a use of force to gain that independence rather than a peaceful negotiation of independence, which is the way it should have happened.
Milošević's supporters claim that the Hague Prosecutors could not produce a single order issued by his government to Serbian fighters in Croatia or Bosnia. Near the end of the Prosecution's case, Prosecution analyst Reynaud Theunens admitted under cross-examination that the Prosecution didn't have any orders issued by Milošević's government to any of fighters in Croatia or Bosnia. Theunens was quick to point out, "the fact that we don't have orders doesn't mean that they don't exist" and Milošević replied "There are none, that's why you haven't got one.
Milošević's supporters deny allegations that Serbia attacked its neighbors in the Yugoslav federation. They say that war broke-out because secessionists in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo unilaterally seized Yugoslav territory and launched attacks against its security forces. Milošević's supporters deny allegations that Croatia and Bosnia were attacked by Serbia. They say these were civil wars in which the indigenous Serb population living in those republics resisted their forcible separation from Yugoslavia.
Although Milošević's supporters deny that he commanded the Serbian war effort in Croatia and Bosnia, they don't deny that he provided those Serbs with financial and humanitarian assistance during the war. They also readily admit that as the President of Yugoslavia, Milosevic commanded Serbian security forces in Kosovo during the war.
Accusations against Milošević of supporting nationalism and creating a "Greater Serbia" have been challenged. While Milošević portrayed himself as the leading the Serb people in Yugoslavia, unlike traditional Serbian nationalists, Milošević accepted the Republic of Macedonia as being an independent country and maintained modest relations. Furthermore despite growing Serbian nationalism, Milošević opposed Greater Serbian nationalists demands to absorb Montenegro into Serbia, and allowed Montenegro to continue to be a constituent republic with its own government throughout his tenure as President of Serbia and of Yugoslavia. Milošević saw Yugoslavia as continuing to be the state which could unify the Serb people and others like Montenegrins who at the time wished to remain in Yugoslavia. Milošević remained adamant however that a Yugoslav state respect the rights of the Serb majority and that neither Bosnia nor Croatia be allowed to leave Yugoslavia without allowing Serb-populated territories to remain within Yugoslavia.
Though Milošević took a hard stand on ethnic Albanian separatism in Kosovo, ethnic Albanian representatives loyal to unity with Serbia and Yugoslavia were brought into power in Kosovo in 1989 with Milošević's support after the overthrow of Azem Vllasi. Ethnic Albanians continued to politically represent Kosovo's leadership until the Communist party of Yugoslavia collapsed along ethnic and republic lines in 1990. Vllasi himself revealed in the the BBC documentary "Death of Yugoslavia" that Milošević only decided to overthrow him when he refused an invitation by Milošević to support Milošević's political agenda of decreasing the autonomy of Kosovo during the Anti-bureaucratic revolution.
As the other nationalities in Yugoslavia reacted negatively to Milošević's agenda to strengthen Serbs' position in Yugoslavia, the collapse of the Communist political system led to a number of new nationalist and secessionist governments. Milošević continued nationalist rhetoric of promising unity and security for Serbs against separatism to allow his largely ex-communist members of his new Socialist Party of Serbia to be elected in 1990. Milošević responded to the demands of the increasingly nationalist sentiment amongst Serbs by recognizing the legitimacy of the Serb breakaway entities and their leaders in Bosnia and Croatia as well as working along with the dominant Serb faction of the Yugoslav army to give weaponry and supplies to the Serbs of Bosnia and Croatia. This action has been seen by opponents as proof of his pursuit of creating a Greater Serbia as Yugoslavia fell apart.
Milošević maintained strong personal influence over Serbia's state media outlets, as a former close ally of Milosevic, Borisav Jović, claimed that Milošević "personally appointed editors-in-chief of newspapers and news programs... and that Milosevic exercised censorship over the media.. Serbian state media during the wars presented various controversial reporting which villainized the other ethnic factions. In one such program an interview with Serb woman about the situation in Croatia, replied by even denouncing the old "communist policy" in Croatia, claiming that under it "The majority of Serbs would be assimilated in ten years while the man claimed that "Where Serbian blood was shed by Ustasha knives, there will be our boundaries". Various Serbian state television reports had a guest speaker by the name of Jovan Rašković appeared who claimed that the Croat people had a "genocidal nature". These repeatedly negative media depictions of the the opposing ethnic factions have been said to have been examples of Milošević's state media promoting fear-mongering and utilizing xenophobic nationalist sentiments to draw Serbs to support the wars. The director of Radio Television of Serbia during Milošević's era, Dušan Mitević has since admitted on a PBS documentary "the things that happened at state TV, warmongering, things we can admit to now: false information, biased reporting. That went directly from Milošević to the head of TV".
While the Serbian state media has been condemned for inciting ethnic tensions, no direct orders to commit atrocities by Milošević have been discovered, though little or no effort was made by Milošević to punish people deemed responsible for such atrocities, including Ratko Mladić who after being accused of allowing atrocities to occur against Croats in Vukovar was sent to lead the Bosnian Serb Army where Mladić was accused of ordering atrocities, including the murder of thousands of Bosniaks in Srebrenica. Even after the reports of Srebrenica were released, Milošević refused to accept that Mladic was responsible for the crimes he was accused of. The political climate in Serbia and Serb territories as other republics separated rising did not only foster the rise of ultranationalism in Serbia and Serb territories also created tense and at times violent confrontations between Serbs themselves, particularly between nationalist Serbs towards non-nationalist Serbs who publicly opposed the nationalist political climate during the Yugoslav wars were reported to have been harassed, threatened, or killed. . Opponents have claimed that Milošević sponsored this while others have claimed that these crimes were outside of his control. If Milošević was not involved in ordering such atrocities and crimes, and that such atrocities were committed by mercenaries it is claimed that either indifference or incompetence by Milošević was the case in regard to the ability to stop such atrocities and preventing the spread of xenophobic nationalism.
The most nationalistic direction of Milošević and his government was between 1990 and 1993 when he governed with coalition support of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party which directly promoted the creation of a Greater Serbia. This could explain the intensely nationalistic behaviour of the government during the period. In this coalition with the Serbian Radical Party, Milošević adamantly supported Serbs right to self-determination in Bosnia and Croatia which allowed his government to maintain power with the support of ultranationalists. The nationalist direction in Serbia from 1990 onward led to Milošević-appointed ethnic Albanian representatives of Kosovo being replaced by minority Serb representatives ruling the majority-ethnic Albanian province. After 1993, media reports of large-scale atrocities by the Bosnian Serb armed forces such as the long siege of Sarajevo resulted in increased pressure and sanctions by western governments against Serbia and Montenegro to pressure Milošević to stop his support of the Bosnian Serb government. It is believed that Milosevic's wife told him that his alliance with ultranationalists was endangering his hold on power, and that this convinced Milošević to act to secure his government by abandoning nationalist rhetoric and opportunistically moved towards advocating peace. Milošević abandoned his alliance with the Serbian Radical Party in 1993 and entered a coalition with liberal political forces and declared that his government advocated a peaceful settlement to the war. The new coalition government abandoned its support of Radovan Karadzic's Bosnian Serb government and pressured the Bosnian Serbs to negotiate a peace treaty. After 1993, Milošević acted to repress the Serbian Radical Party from challenging his regime by briefly arresting its leader in 1994. During the Dayton Accord, Milošević sparred with Karadzic who opposed the Dayton Accord, while Milošević supported the accord as it gave the Bosnian Serbs autonomy and self-governance over most of the territories they had claimed. This end result did not result in the creation of a Greater Serbia as critics accused Milošević of sponsoring, though critics point out that the autonomy of Srpska opened up the possibility of Srpska joining with rump Serb-dominated Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
The next nationalist phase began in 1998, one year after Milošević was elected Yugoslav President and in a period where liberal-minded parties had consolidated in opposition against his government and Montenegro's government had swung to support independence from Serbia. Facing political crisis, Milošević formed a national-unity government with the Serbian Radical Party. After 1998, conflict in Kosovo intensified, and reports of atrocities in Kosovo by Yugoslav military forces and Serbian paramilitary forces and against ethnic Albanian civilians led to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) launching a series of air raids against Yugoslavia to force Milošević to halt military operations and allow peacekeeping forces to take control of Kosovo or face further attacks. With Yugoslavia's armed forces being decimated by NATO forces, Milošević submitted but claimed to the Yugoslav people that this was a "victory" in that the ethnic Albanian separatists did not officially separate Kosovo from Serbia.
Milošević denied that Serbia was at war during the wars in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia. Milošević was President of Serbia, not of Yugoslavia, and claims that his government was only indirectly involved through support for Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia at some points. Others including former members of his cabinet such as Borisav Jović have claimed that Milošević, while not head of state of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, in fact played a key role in the military affairs taken in Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia. This included a scheme discussed and designed by both Jović and Milošević that transferred every Bosnian Serb unit from the Yugoslav army to the newly formed Bosnian Serb army upon Bosnia's separation from Yugoslavia, which meant that Yugoslavia could not be criticized for occupying parts of Bosnia as it was officially a civil war, though the Jovic admits that the Bosnian Serb army was fully funded by Belgrade because the Bosnian Serb budget was too small to support such an army. Biographer Adam LeBor writes that Milošević cut off links with the Bosnian Serbs due to hyperinflation in Serbia rather than to objections over their tactics.
Milošević spent most of 1988–89 focusing his politics on the "Kosovo problem". In Kosovo, to not seem contradicting Milošević alleges that he supported the right of the Albanians to "self-determination", but not to independence, as he claimed that Kosovo was an essential part of Serbia due to its history and its numerous churches and cultural relics. He also claimed that the KLA were a neo-Nazi organisation that sought an ethnically pure Kosovo, and he argued that independence would deliver Kosovo to their hands.
Milošević denies that he gave orders to massacre Albanians in 1998. He claims that the deaths were sporadic events confined to rural areas of West Kosovo committed by paramilitaries and by rebels in the armed forces. Those from the Serbian army or police who were involved were all, he claims, arrested and many were sentenced to long prison sentences.
Former United States ambassador to Yugoslavia, Warren Zimmermann, during his conversations with Milošević claimed that he was not a genuine nationalist, but rather a political opportunist. Zimmerman has claimed that unlike other politicians which he had discussions with during the collapse of Yugoslavia, such as Franjo Tudjman and Radovan Karadzic, Milošević in public did not emphasis any hatred of ethnic groups and emphasized that Serbia would continue to be a multiethnic republic in Yugoslavia. Zimmerman has claimed that Milošević opportunistically used nationalism to allow him to rise to power in the Communist establishment in Serbia as Communism in eastern Europe became increasingly unpopular, and continued to advocate a nationalist agenda to draw in support for his government. However on another occasion Milošević revealed to Zimmerman his negative attitude towards ethnic Albanians who had demanded autonomy and in the 1990s, independence from Serbia and Yugoslavia. Milošević told Zimmerman jokingly that the Albanians of Kosovo were the most pampered minority in Europe. Milošević also was known to talk despondantly about Slovenes, when he in conversation with an interviewer of what he thought of the Slovene delegations decision depart the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, Milošević made a derogatory joke calling the Slovene League of Communists delegation, "those stingy Slovenes". Zimmerman later reported that Milošević's unusual and conflicting positions and mannerisms were almost schizophrenic in nature, as at times Milošević would behave in an arrogant, stubborn, authoritarian and aggressive in manner towards others, which staunchly supported Serbian nationalism against all opponents, while at other times he would be polite, conciliatory, and be eager and willing to find moderate and peaceful solutions to the crisis in Yugoslavia. Zimmerman has concluded however that Milošević constantly demonstrated that he primarily saw Yugoslavia as a state for ensuring the unity of Serbs, and did not have much interest in preserving the unity Yugoslavia outside of areas of Serb national interests.
Milošević's personality according to others has indicated a similar double-sided nature as U.S. ambassador Zimmerman has claimed. In public appearances, he would appear strong, confidant, bold and serious while in private, it is said that Milosevic was very laid back, and according to the former director of Politika, Hadzi Dragan Antic, Milosevic often interested in non-political things such as comic strips and Disney cartoons and admired the music of Frank Sinatra. Milosevic only allowed a close inner circle of personal friends to visit him while others including the former Information Minister of Serbia during Milosevic's era, Alexander Tijanic have said that in private Milosevic demonstrated elements of paranoia to many people outside of his inner circle, such as demanding that Tijanic remove the battery from his mobile-phone on each occasion that Tijanic met him. Milošević also refused to keep notes on talks on important issues and would only meet with his most trusted allies to which he simply gave directions and instructions and did not engage in any substantial discussions over such matters.
In June 2006 the Supreme Court of Serbia ruled that Milošević had ordered the murders of Stambolić. The Supreme Court accepted the previous ruling of the Special Court for Organized Crime in Belgrade which targeted Milošević as the main abettor of politically motivated murders in the 1990s.
Milošević's attorneys said the Court's ruling was of little value because he was never formally charged or given an opportunity to defend himself against the accusations.
Moreover, most of these murders were of Serbian and Yugoslavian government officials, such as high police official Radovan Stojijić Badza, Defence Minister Pavle Bulatović, and the head of Yugoslav airlines JAT.
Armed actions by Albanian separatist groups and Serbian police and military counter-action in Serbia's previously autonomous (and 90 percent Albanian) province of Kosovo culminated in escalating warfare in 1998, NATO air strikes against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia between March and June 1999, and finally a full withdrawal of all Yugoslav security forces from the province.
During the Kosovo War he was indicted on May 27, 1999, for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Kosovo, and he was standing trial, up until his death, at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. He attempted to assert that the trial was illegal, having been established in contravention of the UN charter.
Milošević's rejection of claims of a first-round opposition victory in new elections for the Federal parliament and presidency in September 2000 led to mass demonstrations in Belgrade on October 5, known as the Bulldozer Revolution. The Yugoslav constitution called for a second election round with all but the two leading candidates eliminated, in the event that no candidate won more than 50 percent of the vote. Official results put Koštunica ahead of Milošević but at under 50 percent. The U.S.-financed CeSID claimed otherwise, though its story changed throughout the two weeks between 24 September and 5 October.
Milošević was forced to accept this when commanders of the army whom he had expected to support him had indicated that in this instance they would not, and would permit the violent overthrow of the Serbian government. On October 6, Milošević met with opposition presidential candidate leader Vojislav Koštunica and publicly accepted defeat. Koštunica finally took office as Yugoslav president on October 7 following Milošević's announcement.
Ironically, Milošević lost his grip on power by losing in elections which he scheduled prematurely (before the end of his mandate) and which he did not even need to win in order to retain power which was centered in the parliaments which his party and its associates controlled.
According to American polling, only Vojislav Koštunica had a chance to defeat Milošević. This was because of his decision to sit out the Serbian political struggles since the mid-1990s and because of his nationalism. He did not participate in Zajedno nor did he participate in the 1997 Serbian parliamentary and presidential elections. He was effectively Fortinbras, entering the fray as other Serbian politicians were beating each other to death.
The coup d'etat placed Democratic Opposition of Serbia leader Zoran Đinđić in power. He forced the Serbian parliament to create a new government under his effective control, with DOS leading (Hungarian autonomist politicians who joined the DOS provided its parliamentary presence) and with the SPS and SPO as window dressing. The Serbian Radical Party refused to participate in this illegal act and went into opposition. With the entire media under his control, Đinđić arranged for Serbian parliamentary elections; in order to trick Serbian voters, Vojislav Koštunica's name headlined the DOS list. DOS swept that vote and Đinđić formalised his power as Serbia's ruler with the post of Serbian Prime Minister.
Following a warrant for his arrest by the Yugoslav authorities on charges of corruption and abuse of power, Milošević was forced to surrender to security forces on March 31, 2001 following an armed stand off at his fortified villa in Belgrade. On June 28 of the same year, Milošević was transferred by Yugoslav government officials from the jail in Belgrade where he was being held to United Nations custody just inside Bosnian territory. He was then transported to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav Constitution prohibited extradition of Yugoslav citizens and Koštunica formally on legal grounds opposed the transfer that has been ordered by Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić.
The New York Times observed that Milošević, and particularly his wife Marković had "long viewed Beijing and its Communist party" as allied and "the sort of ideological comrades" lacking in Eastern Europe after the fall of Communism in the 1990s. After Milošević's indictment, China's public statements shifted toward emphasizing Yugoslav-Chinese relations rather than focusing on its support for Milošević, while after the election of Vojislav Koštunica as Yugoslav president, Chinese foreign ministry officially stated that "China respects the choice of the Yugoslavian people."
Following Milošević's transfer, the original charges of war crimes in Kosovo were upgraded by adding charges of genocide in Bosnia and war crimes in Croatia. On January 30, 2002, Milošević accused the war crimes tribunal of an "evil and hostile attack" against him. The trial began at The Hague on February 12, 2002, with Milošević defending himself while refusing to recognize the legality of the court's jurisdiction.
Milošević had a team in Belgrade that helped him, often sending him information available from the secret police files. Serbian insiders often supported Milošević's point of view, while Bosnian and Croatian witnesses have offered much testimony supporting the indictments.
The trial was a controversial issue and has featured many conflicting testimonies. For example:
The prosecution took two years to present its case in the first part of the trial, where they covered the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. Throughout the two-year period, the trial was being closely followed by the publics of the involved former Yugoslav republics as it covered various notable events from the war and included several high-profile witnesses.
Milošević became increasingly ill during this time (high blood pressure and severe flu), which caused intermissions and prolonged the trial by at least six months. In early 2004, when he finally appeared in court in order to start presenting his defense (announcing over 1,200 witnesses), the two ICTY judges decided to appoint him two defense lawyers in accordance with the medical opinions of the resident cardiologists. This action was opposed by Milošević himself and the pair of British lawyers appointed to him.
In October 2004, the trial was resumed after being suspended for a month to allow counsel Steven Kay, who complained Milošević was not cooperating, to prepare the defense. Steven Kay has since asked to be allowed to resign from his court appointed position, complaining that of the 1200 witnesses he has only been able to get five to testify. Many of the other witnesses refused to testify in protest of ICTY's decision not to permit Milošević to defend himself.
It was considered likely that, if allowed to present his case, Milošević would attempt to establish that NATO's attack on Yugoslavia was aggressive, thus being a war crime under international law and that, while supporting the KLA, were aware that they had practiced and intended to continue practicing genocide. If a prima facie case for either claim were established, the ICTY would be legally obliged under its terms of reference to prepare an indictment against the leaders of most of the NATO countries, even though the prosecutor had already concluded an "inquiry" against the NATO leaders.
Adam Lebor, a biographer of Milošević, states that Milošević was not a dictator, suggesting that Serbia under Milošević was not a totalitarian regime. Lebor points out that the opposition continued to operate throughout his rule, and Slobodan even negotiated with and made concessions to a leader of student demonstrations on one occasion. LeBor also points out that when election results in Serbia were disputed, the government had called in international observers to evaluate the validity of the elections and accepted their verdict when it was judged that Milošević's Socialist Party had been involved in electoral fraud.
Lebor also believes that Milošević's role in the Slovenian War was restricted to making weighty demands on the use of Slovene airports, and being a passive supporter of the Yugoslav military in the war. Some had seen the conflict as the first of four wars that Milošević was responsible for. Many reports from the time do not mention Milošević at all.
In her book Fool's Crusade Paris-based journalist Diana Johnstone contends that Milošević's actions during the conflict in the Balkans were no worse than the crimes of the Croats or the Bosnian Muslims, asserting also that the massacre in Srebrenica has been exaggerated. Political scientist Edward Herman endorsed Johnstone's findings in his review of Fool's Crusade in the Monthly Review.
In another book, The New Military Humanism, Noam Chomsky, who at times writes collaboratively with Herman, disagrees with Johnstone's views on Milošević, the Serbs, and Srebrenica in particular. While Chomsky believes that the massacres at Srebrenica did occur, he does not believe that Milošević was involved, pointing to the Dutch report that claimed that he was horrified to hear of it. He has described Milošević as a "terrible person", but still believes that he was not a dictator and that his crimes have been exaggerated while the crimes of the Kosovo Liberation Army have been ignored. In a 1999 interview, Chomsky sparked controversy with his view that to call the deaths in Kosovo a "genocide" was "an insult to the victims of Hitler".
Leadership of the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milošević (ICDSM) includes: Professor Velko Valkanov (President of the Bulgarian Committee for Human Rights, Honorary President of the Bulgarian Antifascist Union, former Member of Parliament, and founder of ICDSM, Bulgaria); Ramsey Clark, former United States Attorney General; Professor Alexander Zinoviev, a Russian philosopher and writer; and Canadian lawyer Christopher Black, co-founder, vice-chairman, and chair of ICDSM's legal committee. In 2004 Clark wrote a letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan stating that "the Prosecution has failed to present significant or compelling evidence of any criminal act or intention of President Milošević. Those who have joined the ICDSM include (in 2001) playwright and Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter, who also signed the "Artists’ Appeal for Milošević" (Mar./Apr. 2004), a statement protesting unfair and biased conduct of the Tribunal, asserting its failure to prove Milošević's guilt justly, and calling for his immediate release.
As to his personal characteristics, former acquaintances have said that in private Milošević was patriarchal and conservative, devoted to his wife and family. His personality was marked by stubbornness—a trait of which he was proud; and his most devoted followers were older people, who had spent most of their lives in an era characterised by a moral code which they believed Milošević embodied. His stubbornness and unwillingness to compromise may be partly credited for the political problems and wars which marked his years in power, as well as his unrelenting defence in his trial. His lifelong devotion to his wife was reflected in the place of his burial, which is under the tree where they first kissed in 1958.
His defenders deny that Milošević was a nationalist; Jared Israel even offered a $500 reward for anyone to find incitements to racial hatred in any of his speeches.
Autopsies soon established that Milošević had died of a heart attack. He had been suffering from heart problems and high blood pressure. However, many suspicions were voiced to the effect that the heart attack had been caused or made possible deliberately - by the ICTY, according to sympathizers, or by himself, according to critics. Shortly before his death, Milošević had requested to be treated in a Russian heart surgery center, but the Tribunal had refused to permit that, citing mistrust of Russian guarantees that an escape would be made impossible. At the same time, Milošević had expressed fears that he was being poisoned. A scandal emerged when it was found that, according to an earlier medical test from January 12, Milošević's blood contained rifampicin, an antibiotic that is normally used to treat leprosy and tuberculosis and which would have neutralized some of the effects of his medicines for his high blood pressure and heart condition. Milošević had complained about the presence of a leprosis drug in his blood in a letter to the Russian foreign ministry. After that fact was disclosed, some hypothesized that the Tribunal medical staff had administered the drug deliberately, while others believed that he had taken it himself to worsen his heart condition and thus force the Tribunal to let him travel to Russia and escape. It is, however, questionable that he would have been able to smuggle in such drugs, since all his visitors were searched at least once before gaining access to him in response to an incident in September 2005 in which he had taken medicine from a Serbian doctor without the approval of the Hague doctors. Blood tests conducted as part of his post mortem showed that it was unlikely that Milošević had ingested rifampicin in the last few days before his death.
Several medical experts, such as Leo Bokeria (the director of the Russian heart surgery centre, where Milošević had requested to be treated) and The Times' medical columnist Thomas Stuttaford, asserted that Milošević's heart attack could and should have been prevented easily by means of standard medical procedures.
The reactions to the death were mixed: officials and sympathisers of the ICTY Prosecution lamented what they saw as Milošević's having remained unpunished, while opponents, mostly Serbian and Russian figures, stressed what they viewed as the responsibility of the Tribunal for what had happened.
ICTY Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte made the following statement after his death :
I deeply regret the death of Slobodan Milosevic. It deprives the victims of the justice they need and deserve.
In the indictment which was judicially confirmed in 2001, Milosevic was accused of 66 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo between 1991 and 1999. These crimes affected hundreds of thousands of victims throughout the former Yugoslavia.
During the prosecution case, 295 witnesses testified and 5000 exhibits were presented to the court. This represents a wealth of evidence that is on the record. After the presentation of the prosecution case, the Trial Chamber, on 16 June 2004, rejected a defense motion to dismiss the charges for lack of evidence, thereby confirming, in accordance with Rule 98bis, that the prosecution case contains sufficient evidence capable of supporting a conviction on all 66 counts. The Defense was given the same amount of time as the prosecution to present its case. There were in total 466 hearing days. 4 hours per day. 'Only 40 hours were left in the Defense case, and the trial was likely to be completed by the end of the spring.
It is a great pity for justice that the trial will not be completed and no verdict will be rendered. However, other senior leaders have been indicted for the crimes for which Slobodan Milosevic was also accused. Later this year, the trial of eight senior leaders accused of the Srebrenica genocide will begin. Furthermore, also this year, six most senior former Serbian leaders will be tried for crimes committed in Kosovo. But the most senior perpetrators are still at large. Now more than ever, I expect Serbia to finally arrest and transfer Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadžic to The Hague as soon as possible.
The death of Slobodan Milosevic makes it even more urgent for them to face justice. Finally, I would like to share a thought for Zoran Đinđic, his wife and his family. Exactly three years ago, he was murdered in Belgrade. He is the man who had the courage to bring Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague so that he could face justice.
The last opinion poll taken in Serbia before Milošević's death listed him as the third most favorably rated politician in Serbia behind Serbian Radical Party chairman Tomislav Nikolić #1, and current Serbian President Boris Tadić #2.
In February 2007, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) cleared Serbia of genocide, but ICJ's president stated that Milošević was aware of the risk of massacres occurring and did not act to prevent them.
Milošević is also mentioned in one episode of Mock The Week, in where Hugh Dennis jokes about Milošević and his ethnic cleansing ideas as a spoof advert for washing detergent.