Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Where Milosevic Eats Cake with a Bosnian Muslim

Over at Slate, Julian Mortenson, who served as a legal officer at the ICTY, is reporting this week on life at the ICTY prison in the Hague. It's a fascinating read, particularly his description of the the way in which prisoners of different ethnic groups who are accused of commiting genocide and war crimes against one another's groups have found common cause in their incarceration. This excerpt about Milosevic eating cake to celebrate the release of a fellow prisoner is the most bizarre:

I remembered how, as our small group was walking down one of the prison corridors, we heard the murmur of a small gathering. It turned out to be a cell block celebration for a prisoner who was being released later that week. As we passed by the open door of the recreation room, McFadden leaned in and told the group that he would drop by for a chat once he'd seen us on our way. I glanced into the room while McFadden was talking, and there, plopped in the middle of about five other inmates, sat Slobodan Milosevic. His hair and casual clothes were rumpled, a piece of sheet cake sat on a paper plate in front of him, and he was holding a bite halfway to his mouth on a plastic fork. Right next to him at the low table, also sitting on the hard plastic seat of an elementary-school-style chair, was one of the tribunal's most prominent Bosnian Muslim defendants. And I thought to myself, the Yugoslav people, to the extent they ever existed at all, have vanished from the face of the earth. But somehow an ersatz version lives on within the walls of this high-tech jail, where Slobodan Milosevic—the Serb once known as the Butcher of Belgrade—can now share a quiet piece of cake with a Bosnian Muslim at a farewell party for their mutual friend.


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