Staff Editorial: Balkan evolution

The people of Yugoslavia have finally risen up and ousted the dictator and international war criminal Slobodan Milosevic. The nation voted him out of office by an overwhelming majority – despite evidence that Milosevic may have tried to unduly influence the election in his favor. This shows a willingness among the people of Yugoslavia to replace their aggressive and autocratic regime with a democratically elected government founded on constitutional principles.

To exercise their rights and express their displeasure with Milosevic, Yugoslavs first went to the polls. But when the dictator refused to recognize the time had come for him to leave, they took the matter to the streets. Mobs seized the Parliament buildings and state-run broadcast facilities in the capital city of Belgrade. They showed the world the people hold the sovereign power in Yugoslavia, not Milosevic.

Vojislav Kostunica, the constitutional lawyer picked to replace the Milosevic, is certainly better than that dictator. Kostunica faces an uncertain future in Yugoslavia as he attempts to implement the rule of law in a society accustomed to its own brand of the old-boy network and government by decree.

Kostunica also must deal with the question of what to do with Milosevic and his underlings, many of whom are indicted war criminals for their role in the various conflicts that engulfed Yugoslavia since the collapse of communism in the country. Members of the old guard are attempting to hold on to the last vestiges of their power by shredding documents and blocking government initiatives. In spite of their meddling and Milosevic’s indictment, Kostunica has so far refused to turn Milosevic and his cronies over to the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.

Yugoslavia is working to become a more democratic society, but it still must abide by international conventions. Milosevic and other war criminals must be turned over to face justice. The police state must be dismantled and replaced with a government responsive to the needs of the people. With the help of the international community, Yugoslavia can realize the promise seen in its people’s ballots and demonstrations, and serve as an example to other nations in a volatile region known more for its years of strife than for any period of peace.

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