PERSPECTIVE: War-Mongerer with Blood-Soaked Legacy; as Rumours Abound as to How Slobodan Milosevic Finally Met His Maker, Chris Greenwood Looks Back at the Life of the Butcher of Belgrade

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Greenwood

In the name of unity, Slobodan Milosevic dragged the Balkans into a period of horrendous bloodshed.

The man who was to orchestrate wars that led to the deaths of thousands emerged from a bookish early career as an educated banker with a small family.

But the former communist pounced on barely-submerged tensions between the many ethnic groups and used them to propel himself into power as an incendiary firebrand of Serbian nationalism.

He used his power to bring armed conflict to Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina under the pretext of protecting Croatian and Bosnian Serbs.

Thousands died over 13 years of rule as the Yugoslav People's Army and Serbian separatists fought ethnic groups across the former Yugoslavian territory.

Tens of thousands were killed in fighting and 400,000 people made homeless. The UN imposed economic sanctions, bringing further misery for ordinary people.

In the years of violence that followed, evidence of Serbia's war crimes began to emerge and the country was isolated by the international community.

Despite renewed conflict in 1995, this time led by a sudden Croatian strike, Milosevic managed to retain power and tried to cultivate an image as a peacemaker.

But massive expulsions of ethnic Albanians living in Kosovo by Serb paramilitaries in the late 1990s provoked an international response.

NATO forces, including RAF jets, began bombing Belgrade.

By 1999 the campaign forced Milosevic and other Serbs to agree to withdraw from Kosovo.

He faced huge unrest and thousands began protesting against his government in the wake of crippling sanctions and years of war.

Milosevic called elections in 2000 and was beaten by opposition leader Vojislav Kostunica.

He refused to recognise the winner but people power - in the form of days of continued protests - forced him out and his political empire finally crumbled.

In March 2001 Milosevic surrendered to security forces after a warrant was issued after allegations of corruption and abuse of power.

But he was eventually transported to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to face far more serious matters.

Original charges of war crimes in Kosovo were upgraded by adding charges of genocide in Bosnia and war crimes in Croatia.

The trial on 66 counts began at The Hague on in February 2002, with Milosevic angrily defending himself.

Four years later Milosevic, now suffering heart problems and high blood pressure, pleaded with the judge to allow him to go to Russia for medical treatment.

But the judge ruled he was unlikely to return and must complete the trial, now slowly nearing its end.

Slobodan Milosevic was born in 1941 in Pozarevac, Serbia. He studied law at the University of Belgrade and graduated in 1964.

He later married a professor at his alma mater, Dr Mirjana Markovic, and they had two children, a son Marko and daughter Marija. …