Upon hearing of Slobodan Milosevic's death, Serbian President Boris Tadic could not find any family members in Milosevic's native Serbia to accept his condolences, so Tadic delivered his message to the former Yugoslav President's old party headquarters instead. Milosevic, who was on trial in the Hague for genocide, is still a potent symbol of Serbia's bloody past, but he no longer inspires much personal devotion beyond a small group of loyalists. (They were the ones spreading rumors of suicide and accusing the International Criminal Tribunal of murder for denying Milosevic's recent request to seek medical treatment in Russia.)
News of his death, apparently from cardiovascular ills, sent a shudder through the Balkans, not for the man but for the missed opportunity for justice in a region scarred by the nationalist tensions Milosevic manipulated with such skill. He died a few weeks before his defense was to conclude, and because not all the evidence had been presented, there is no chance of a posthumous verdict. But prosecutors will be able to use evidence presented for other pending cases related to the Balkans. Milosevic's four-year trial will be remembered as "the most important unresolved case in the history of international law," says Natasa Kandic, a human-rights investigator in Belgrade.
That makes it even more crucial to bring to trial the two most wanted remaining fugitives, Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. Along with Milosevic, both were indicted by the war-crimes court for their role in the infamous 1995 massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica, and are widely believed to be in hiding in Serbia, although the Serbian government denies harboring them. Observers say only intense international pressure will persuade Belgrade to cooperate. Serbia's desire to eventually join the European Union might also give it an incentive to rid itself of the pair.
The tribunal itself has little credibility with the Serbian public, although Milosevic's courtroom grandstanding made the trial, known as the Slobo Show, must-see TV in Belgrade. One of his last requests was to call former President Bill Clinton as a witness.