The United Nations’ war crimes tribunal has delivered its first verdict on the conflict in Kosovo, acquitting former Serb president Milan Milutinovic of crimes against humanity, but jailing five other defendants. In the late 1990s, Serbia tried forcibly to crush a growing independence campaign among Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians. Thousands of people were deported and killed before Serb forces were driven out by NATO bombing. Kosovo declared unilateral independence last year.
The court decided Milutinovic had no control over Serb forces in Kosovo; in practice, they were commanded by then-Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. The verdicts were generally welcomed in Kosovo, although bitterness remains. Reaction in Serbia, though, was predictable. Milosevic’s old Socialist Party denounced the verdicts as unjust, saying the accused were simply protecting their country.