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Constitutional Court Slaps Injunction on Extradition Decree!![posted 28 June 2001]

The article from Agence France Presse reporting this development is posted below.

Let me make two points. First, an editorial comment: Hurray for the Yugoslav Constitutional Court! It is gratifying to see there are Serbs in Serbia.

Second, note that in the article that follows, that is even where the Agence France Presse is exposing the open contempt the DOS authorities express for Yugoslav institutions, the AFP cannot repress a stupid swipe: It describes the Constitutional Court as being "stacked with pro-Milosevic judges appointed almost a decade ago." Of course in every parliamentary system - and as you may recall Mr. Milosevic was elected by votes, not guns - a prize of victory is the ability to appoint judges. Now as it happens, some of the worst DOS monsters were once-upon-a-time "Milosevic supporters." Nevertheless that descriptive phrase - "Milosevic supporters" - is only invoked to describe the behavior of those who resist Washington's pressure to turn Yugoslavia into a colony. Really, the AFP is too kind to Mr. Milosevic. I am sure there are Yugoslavs brave enough to resist Washington's threats and bribes even if they are not now nor have ever been "Mr. Milosevic's supporters." Just patriots.

-- Jared Israel.

Court halts Milosevic handover, urgent cabinet meeting called Thursday June 28

BELGRADE, June 28 (AFP) - The Serbian authorities scrambled to override a new crisis Thursday as its efforts to hand over Slobodan Milosevic to a UN war crimes tribunal were blocked by Yugoslavia's Constitutional Court.

Serbia's government called an emergency meeting minutes after the court, which is stacked with pro-Milosevic judges appointed almost a decade ago, froze a five-day-old government decree enabling the transfer of war crimes suspects to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.

The Yugoslav court, which currently has five judges, was ruling on the constitutionality of the June 23 decree following an appeal filed by lawyers for Milosevic.

Four ruled in favour of freezing the decree. A fifth judge did not participate. Two positions on the court are vacant.

The court said it would not rule on the constitutionality before July 12, a decision which effectively has granted Milosevic a reprieve from trial.

The ICTY has indicted the former president for atrocities committed in Kosovo, and the new authorities issued the decree to highlight their good faith to the international community, days before a vital donors' conference on Serbia.

Friday's donors' conference in Brussels, which the United States only agreed to attend Tuesday, is viewed as a crucial step on Yugoslavia's long road back to normality after a decade of war, sanctions, international isolation and economic ruin.

The surprise decision by the Constitutional Court to freeze the decree pending a new examination and a final ruling, brought jubilation from Milosevic's lawyers

"This is the triumph of justice over violence and nothing will ever be done through violent means again," said Toma Fila, one of Milosevic's laywers.

But the Serbian government called an emergency meeting, and one minister suggested that the cabinet would not recognize the ruling.

"We have international obligations," said Yugoslav Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic.

"The decree is in force and it is now a matter for the Serbian government to decide," he said.

Zivkovic, a close ally of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, said the governing coalition could find ways to cooperate with the ICTY despite the court ruling.

"The Constitutional Court has in the past issued rulings that had little to do with the law or the constitution," said Zivkovic.

Milosevic has been in a Belgrade jail since April 1, on domestic accusations of corruption and abuse of power.

Judge Arandjel Markicevic, one of the members of the panel and a former defence minister under Milosevic, said in a written report that: "Concerning the request, I believe that the conditions warrant that we order a stop to the implementation of all procedures linked to the decree, which we are currently examining."

The Yugoslav justice ministry earlier this week began legal proceedings that would compel Milosevic to stand trial at the ICTY.

On the strength of the official commitment to transfer Milosevic, Washington announced late Wednesday that it would attend a key donors conference for Yugoslavia though it would not provide much-needed financial aid until Belgrade delivers those indicted by the court in The Hague.

"In attending the conference, the United States is expressing strong support for building a democratic society in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and overcoming the legacy of (former president) Slobodan Milosevic," State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said.

The United States and other western nations had put heavy pressure on Belgrade to cooperate with the tribunal and had threatened to withhold assistance if it did not.

Milosevic, who fell from power in October amid street protests in Belgrade, is wanted by the tribunal for war crimes in Kosovo prior to June 1999, when the predominantly ethnic Albanian province was put under UN administration following a 78-day NATO air war against his regime.

The World Bank estimates Yugoslavia will require a total of 3.9 billion dollars over three to four years as it shakes off the last vestiges of Tito-style communism and a decade of corruption and black marketeering.

At Friday's conference, the 35 or so donor nations will be called upon to pledge 1.25 million dollars for the coming year, enabling reforms to take hold, a World Bank official said.

(c) Agence France Presse. Posted for Fair Use Only.

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