Mark Vlasic: How to remember Milosevic

Roundup: Talking About History

Today, Slobodan Milosevic will be buried. His funeral will be solemn and respectful--exactly unlike the final moments for so many of his victims. For the last week, his Serbian nationalist supporters have eulogized him the way he would have wanted to be eulogized: They have celebrated his life by ignoring or whitewashing his crimes. One assumes they will do the same by his graveside today.

But the world should not be fooled. I served on the prosecution team that built a case against Milosevic at The Hague. During that time, my colleagues and I heard from hundreds of witnesses. All had stories that they carried with them from every corner of the former Yugoslavia to share with the tribunal. Many risked their lives to testify against Milosevic. Needless to say, their stories will not be told during his funeral.

No one will speak of Witness B-1701, a kind and elderly man who traveled from his small village of Glogova, Bosnia. B-1701 described a peaceful town, where Serbs and Muslims lived in harmony for decades until Yugoslav Army soldiers arrived in 1992. Facing Milosevic in the courtroom, B-1701 testified to the horrors of May 9 of that year, when his undefended town was attacked, Muslim houses were burned, and men and boys were rounded up. He recalled being forced at gunpoint, along with his Muslim friends and neighbors, to walk towards the river. And then on a riverbank, on a beautiful Bosnian summer day, Serb forces opened fire, murdering the men in his group. B-1701 described watching his friend's head explode from the gunfire and remembered, like it was yesterday, the feeling of another man's brains being splattered on his body. The old man from Glogova was the only survivor from that massacre and spent hours in the river, pretending to be dead, while surrounded by the remains of his friends and neighbors.

Milosevic appeared untouched by B-1701's pain and trauma. Instead, he argued politics with this man who had lost everything. But in response to Milosevic's cross-examination, B-1701 confronted the once-powerful leader of Yugoslavia. "We lived as brothers in the old days, when we used to say Comrade Milosevic," he said. "Everything changed when you came to power." ...

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