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Vol 2, No 32
25 September 2000
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News from Serbia
All the important news
since 4 September 2000

Eleanor Pritchard

Final words from Milošević

Slobodan Milošević, the SPS and YuL candidate, gave the final speech of his election campaign in New Belgrade on the Wednesday. He told 29,000 supporters that the elections were a referendum in which Yugoslavia had the choice of living in freedom or sharing the destiny of the colonised nations.

"As a free state and a free nation we have every chance to be free of sanctions, to fight for peace, to have long-term, modern, successful development, to cooperate with the whole world, to learn from and teach others," said Milošević, "but as a colony we will never get rid of sanctions which cannot be lifted with negotiations and resolutions but only by arms; as a colony we will have fake peace, peace in a dungeon where the only chance for salvation would be a war for freedom."


Final words from Koštunica and the DOS

About 200,000 people gathered in front of the Yugoslav Parliament on Wednesday and greeted opposition presidential candidate Vojislav Koštunica with huge applause.

"I am an ordinary man and I don't want to change the world. I want, together with you to change this country. I know that you want to live in an ordinary, normal, democratic European country," he told the crowd. When the sound system began behaving erratically during part of the entertainment at the rally, the assembled supporters shouted "Save Serbia from this madhouse, Koštunica!"

The leaders of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) appeared on the state television network pledging to preserve the integrity of the Serbia-Montenegro federation, the lifting of sanctions against the country and guaranteeing that state authorities would be replaceable in the future.

The president of the Democratic Party, Zoran Đinđić, told Yugoslav citizens that another four years of Milošević wouldn't be any better than the past ten and appealed for them to cast their votes for opposition candidate Vojislav Koštunica.

The co-president of New Serbia, Milan Protić, told the state network's viewers that if the Democratic Opposition won the elections it would help to obtain a billion US dollars in assistance from the international community in the first year.

The president of the Movement for a Democratic Serbia, former Yugoslav Army chief of staff Momčilo Perišić appealed to the army to "mind its own business and avoid interfering in politics" (see next section). He also called on all parties in the election to ensure that election procedures were regular and to accept the will of the people

The DOS has registered a rally to be held on Sunday night in Belgrade with the police and city services, campaign headquarters chief Cedomir Jovanović said. Jovanović said the coalition was holding the rally to announce election results to its supporters and all the people of Belgrade. He added that in addition to the rally in Belgrade's Republic Square, rallies would be organised in all major centres throughout Serbia to broadcast the election results.


Yugoslav Army

Yugoslav Army chief of staff General Lieutenant Nebojša Pavković has spent much of the week backtracking from an ominous previous statement in which he referred to 24 September the as "D" Day. Many observers interpreted this as a thinly veiled threat of force towards Montenegro.

However, he has since stated unequivocally that the "D" Day statement referred "solely to a foreign element" and that the election day will end peacefully, "unless somebody interferes." He clarified that by "foreign elements" he meant the special units of foreign armed forces which (it is believed by some) may have infiltrated the country to promote unrest.

If such forces did exist and intervene, he stated explicitly that the situation would not remain peaceful; ie that the Yugoslav army would fight against them. However, such statements have been made light of by the opposition who are confidently predicting that should unrest breakout, police and soldiers would desert their commanders in large numbers and join the demonstrators.

Pavković concluded by saying that should Koštunica win the election, the result would be accepted and not contested by the army. This is perhaps surprising coming from a self-proclaimed loyal Milošević supporter, and has attracted a degree of scepticism from some quarters.


Anti-opposition activities

The usual anti-opposition activities have continued this week, with intensity predictably increasing towards the end of the week as the election day draws near. While it is not possible, or within the remit of this journal to catalogue all incidents here, a selection are highlighted here to illustrate the scope and form of such activities.

Fifteen trainee observers from the Center for Free Elections and Democracy trainee observers were detained by police in Knic last night. The police entered the home of one trainee, detaining all fifteen trainees that were meeting there. Center for Free Elections and Democracy spokesman Milan Popović told Beta that the police searched the trainee's home, confiscating a small quantity of Otpor propaganda material. All fifteen trainees were released after being questioned for several hours about the financing of their organisation and their training.

Daily newspapers in Serbia are having enormous difficulties in meeting demand because of a restricted number of printing houses and restrictions on the quantity of newsprint available. To attempt to address this restriction on freedom of information, Free B92's email news bulletins are often printed, copied and distributed among local communities. Crna Gora Medija Klub are now producing printable news bulletins for public distribution on their website under the slogan 'Extend the frontiers of free speech'

The Humanitarian Law Centre and representatives of Otpor told media yesterday that oppression of opposition forces by the government had increased as the campaign for this week's elections drew to a close. The Centre's director, Nataša Kandič, announced that two thousand Otpor members, four hundred members of opposition parties and a hundred NGO activists had been arrested since the beginning of day, mostly for alleged or possible connection with an incident in Pošarevac involving employees of Slobodan Milošević's son or the murder of Socialist official Bosko Perošević.

She added that police had illegally arrested citizens, opened files on them, interrogated them and confiscated promotional material, despite the clear regulations and articles of the Criminal Code. Police had also violated procedures by searching the apartments of more than five hundred Otpor members or their families without proper warrants.

There have been numerous other incidents in which Otpor members have been arrested, harassed, attacked etc. More details of which can be found on the CGMK website.


International voting "incentives"

NATO Secretary-General George Robertson has said that sanctions on Yugoslavia will be lifted if Milošević loses next Sunday's elections. In an interview for a Bosnian Serb magazine, Robertson said that he believed that violence after the elections could be avoided, adding that he was convinced that the Serbian people would vote for security, peace, prosperity and a future without Milošević as well the protection of their voting power.

"The people of Serbia should know that Europe would welcome a democratic Serbia, but it is they who must take care of that," said Robertson.

This statement (and a similar statement from the EU) provoked a great deal of comment from the government who announced that such announcements violate the basic principles of civilisation and democracy. There has been heavy propaganda within the country against such claims, accusing the West of manipulation, lies and bribery.


Monitoring plans

More than 210 foreign monitors from 52 countries have arrived to Yugoslavia to monitor the elections. The list includes "monitors, parliamentarians and respectable figures" from Albania, Angola, Argentina, Belgium, Belarus, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Chad, Czech Republic, Chile, Denmark, Egypt, France, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Yermenia, Jordan, Canada, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Cyprus, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Libya, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldavia, Germany, Nepal, Nicaragua, Palestine, Portugal, Rumania, Russia, the US, Salvador, Slovakia, Sweden, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine, Great Britain, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.

Otpor activist Vukasin Petrović on Thursday told FoNet that the Belgrade Otpor would on Sunday, 24 September, organise in their downtown offices the monitoring of the voter turnout in the coming elections. "We will watch the "turn out trends" in the whole Serbia and announce them four times during the day. On Sunday at 8 p.m. we will have exact figures of how many people have taken part in the elections," Petrović said.

Banned—The Federal Elections Commission has informed the Centre for Free and Democratic Elections that the organisation will not be permitted to monitor Sunday's elections. Centre representative Marko Blagojević said that the information had been conveyed in the form of a private letter from the secretary of the Commission and gave the explanation that no election legislation had provision for domestic election monitors. He said that the Centre did not acknowledge the letter as an official ruling from the Commission and would bring charges against the body demanding to know which legal document barred domestic monitors.


International journalists expelled

A group of around twenty journalists were given 24 hours to leave Yugoslavia on Friday afternoon. While the journalists were waiting in the police station for their credentials, they were told that their visas had been cancelled. The journalists were from Finland, Norway, Portugal, Britain, Germany and Ukraine.

B2-92 reports that the Federal Ministry of Information currently issues press credentials for election coverage selectively and a large number of foreign journalists have recently been refused working visas in Yugoslav embassies abroad. Diplomatic sources have confirmed that forty Dutch journalists were refused visas over the past several weeks as well as some of the most eminent BBC and SKY reporters.

This move was promptly condemned by the EU French Presidency. The statement issued from Brussels states that the recent refusal to issue visas to EU parliamentary members, is yet another decision which contravenes universally accepted freedoms and bears witness to the atmosphere surrounding the elections scheduled to take place tomorrow. (Reminding one again of the case of Miroslav Filipović, the Serb journalist absurdly convicted of "espionage")


Jail sentences handed down for international leaders

The Yugoslav state this week tried (in absentia) a group of western politicians and NATO representatives indicted for crimes against humanity and international law during last year's bombing of Yugoslavia.

Those indicted include US President Bill Clinton, State of Secretary Madeleine Albright, Defence Minister William Cohen, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, British Foreign Minister Robin Cook, NATO Secretary General George Robertson, French President Jacques Chirac, French Foreign Minister Alain Richard, German President Gerhard Schöder, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, former NATO General Secretary Javier Solana and former NATO Commander for Europe General Wesley Clark.

They were charged with violating human and international laws and attempted murder of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević, violation of Yugoslavia's constitutional system and security and the deployment of internationally prohibited weapons. On Thursday 21 September, all indicted received maximum sentences of twenty years in prison for their crimes. "A warrant will be issued after the convicts, and the prison term would be counted from the day of arrest," President of the Court Council Veroljub Raketić said.

The court advised the plaintiffs to launch civil trial for compensation, while ordering the accused to pay the expenses of the court trial within fifteen days. The convicted western leaders were allowed to file a complaint.

Eleanor Pritchard, 25 September 2000

Moving on:


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Radio B2-92
BETA news agency
Nedeljni Telegraf


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Andrew Stroehlein
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Gusztáv Kosztolányi
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Mel Huang
Grave Diving

Sarah Whitmore
Ukraine's Constitution

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Jerzy Giedroyc (1906-2000)

Benjamin Halligan
Miloš Forman

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Dreamworld and Catastrophe

Press Reviews:
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UK: Velvet Demonstrations?

Andrew Mrozek
Left Hanging

Culture Calendar:


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