Opinion: 'Butcher of the Balkans' wasn't a butcher, after all
Remember Slobodan Milosevic? Sure you do. The former Serbian president was one of the bad guys of the 1990s.
When Yugoslavia disintegrated into civil war, Serbs, Croats and Muslims indulged in a horror show of mutual mass murder. With the Serbs tapped as the biggest villains, the Western media focused in on Milosevic and vilified him as a modern-day Hitler. He was blamed for starting the war and accused of genocide and ethnic cleansing against Bosnian Muslims and Croats.
After much handwringing and rhetorical outrage, Canada and Western nations dispatched thousands peacekeepers to quell the slaughter, and took part in a NATO bombing campaign against Serbia. Nonetheless, about 140,000 died in what are referred to as the Yugoslav wars between 1991 and 2001.
Seems it was the wrong call, at least to some extent. Earlier this year, in a decision that received minimal media attention, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) exonerated Milosevic.
Milosevic, the tribunal ruled in late March, wanted to prevent the breakup of Yugoslavia, and while he initially supported Bosnian Serb leaders to that end, there is no evidence he was part of a “joint criminal enterprise” to victimize Muslims and Croats.
“Based on the evidence before the Chamber regarding the diverging interests that emerged between the Bosnian Serb and Serbian leaderships during the conflict and in particular Milosevic’s repeated criticism and disapproval of the policies and decisions made by … the Bosnian Serb leadership, the Chamber is not satisfied that there was sufficient evidence presented in this case to find that Slobodan Milosevic agreed with the common plan” to forcibly remove Muslims and Croats from territory claimed by Bosnian Serbs.