No order in the court

Posted: Aug 01, 2002 12:00 AM
If you had any doubt as to whether President Bush was right to reject U.S. participation in the United Nations International Criminal Court, check out former Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic's U.N.-sponsored war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Milosevic is charged with 66 counts for the torture, murder and/or forced deportation of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians, Bosnian Muslims and Croats. Gruesome crimes, yet the three judges who are hearing the case treat the trial as if they are there to referee a game of cricket. Last week, a court-appointed doctor said that Milosevic's spirited self-defense -- Milosevic is a former law student who refuses to hire an attorney -- could give him a heart attack. As if that's a bad thing. Somehow Milosevic's telltale ticker survived a war that left 200,000 dead. But according to the swells on the U.N. bench, appearing before them is so stressful that it could kill the former strongman. The court reacted by canceling two days of the trial and practically begging Milosevic to hire an assistant, as one judge put it, to "share cross-examination of witnesses." The trial had a 14-month deadline, but it now seems likely that concern for Milosevic's dubious heart could extend the circus. The very idea that there need be an elaborate prosecution has turned the trial into a farce. Genocide -- one of the U.N. charges -- isn't exactly a whodunit. Milosevic was head of state. His troops killed, raped and plundered; they did it over and over again, and under official cover. You don't need that Perry Mason confessional moment to prove Slobo's responsibility. This isn't Col. Mustard in the library with the candlestick. Just as publicity infected the O.J. Simpson trial, it's hit The Hague. Richard Dicker, who monitored the trial for the New York-based Human Rights Watch, actually told The Washington Post that he had yet to see "a smoking gun" that proved Milosevic knew what was happening. Apparently, unless Slobo kept a faithful diary, there's no definitive proof. Europeans should be outraged at the court for being so weak -- except they save all their outrage for President Bush, who committed the crime of "unilateralism." It doesn't matter that Great Britain negotiated an agreement that exempted its troops serving in Afghanistan from ever appearing before the U.N. court. Or that the Brits also bartered the same loophole for the French and other U.N. peacekeeping troops. Saying you support the pact while writing in loopholes that exempt you -- why, that's called diplomacy. Their stand shows what the International Criminal Court really is about -- self-congratulation. There's no death penalty -- even for the murder of thousands of civilians -- because Euro diplomats are so superior that they wouldn't stoop to capital punishment, even for a Hitler wannabe. They're so sporting that they allow Milosevic more than equal time to cross-examine -- in this case, read: badger -- witnesses. They're so refined that they offer every courtesy to a man who made some 1 million people homeless. "What do people do around the world when they see the judges say: 'We better slow things down. This guy might have a heart attack'?" asked Hoover Institution fellow Dennis Bark. "Do they think it's justice?" Only if they are European diplomats.