Law prof says trial of Milosevic a ruse

An Osgoode Hall law professor has described the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia as a "fraud", and claimed that it was created to justify NATO's "illegal" attack on that country in 1999. Michael Mandel, who specializes in international law, told the Straight that the evidence of genocide against former Yugoslavia president Slobodan Milosevic was "non-existent", which is why dozens of charges had to be dismissed during his lengthy trial.

"They made this megatrial, all for propaganda purposes," Mandel claimed.

Mandel, author of How America Gets Away With Murder: Illegal Wars, Collateral Damage and Crimes Against Humanity (Pluto Press, 2004), made the comments shortly after Milosevic was found dead in his prison cell in the Hague on March 11. The tribunal had not yet reached a verdict in his case.

"I think the tribunal regards Milosevic's death as a defeat because really, the evidence was so weak it needed a conviction," Mandel said. "The tribunal was so stacked with judges directly nominated by the Americans and the British that they were going to get a conviction, whatever the evidence was."

He didn't deny that Milosevic was a nasty man, but claimed that U.S. President George W. Bush has "a lot more blood on his hands". He also noted former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt's claim that former U.S. president Bill Clinton spearheaded the NATO attack (with Canada's complicity) to distract the public from the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

"In my view," Mandel said, "they were trying to legitimate basically going to war without United Nations approval."

Mandel also argued that media reports of 250,000 deaths in Milosevic-linked wars are an exaggeration, saying the evidence suggests that the number was probably closer to 100,000. Former tribunal prosecutor Louise Arbour, later a Supreme Court of Canada judge, charged Milosevic with genocide in connection with the Serbian massacre of thousands of Muslim males at Srebrenica on July 11, 1995, during the Bosnian civil war. Mandel, however, said that prosecutors never came up with evidence establishing that Milosevic had any responsibility for war crimes in Bosnia or for the killings at Srebrenica.

"Executing prisoners of war is a horrible thing, but it wasn't enough to call it a war crime-they had to call it 'genocide'," he said.

Mandel added that the creation of the tribunal helped establish the conditions for the U.S.-led attack on Iraq, which he also characterized as "illegal" under international law. He noted that the Nuremberg tribunal, which tried Nazi war criminals, concluded that the supreme war crime is to launch a war of aggression against another state.

"When they went to war in Iraq, they dragged up this Kosovo precedent that 'We don't need the authority of the United Nations. We're going to protect the people whether they want it or not'," Mandel said. "I think the international tribunal was set up specifically with the idea of demonizing-Nazifying-America's enemies so America could get away with committing the supreme crime-which is this crime against peace, and to overthrow the entire United Nations system. I think this is very important, this tribunal. Milosevic was the quarry of this tribunal from the beginning."