A Madhouse In Yugoslavia

New President Admits Serbs Committed War Crimes

Last year the United States went to war against a man. Slobodan Milosevic, the dictator of Yugoslavia, executed the worst genocide in Europe since Hitler. The war stopped the atrocities but left Milosevic in power.

Two weeks ago one man did what all the bombs of NATO could not. Vojislav Kostunica overthrew Milosevic in a democratic revolt. Days later he sat down with 60 Minutes II's Scott Pelley for his only interview with American television.


The Kostunica revolt began Oct. 5 in the countryside. Supporters shoved away the roadblocks Milosevic's police had set up to protect the capital. When the police line broke, suddenly all roads led to Belgrade.

By afternoon the mass grew into the hundreds of thousands. Finally, the crowd surged into the parliament building, ransacking the government that has ruined their economy, lost four wars, and committed the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II.

The night they came to power Belgrade heard the sound of a people who have been silent for a decade. It was at that moment the people found their voice.

The man who unleashed that sound is Vojislav Kostunica, a mild mannered, 56-year-old law professor who had to be talked into running for president. It was his revolution, but Kostunica admitted he was afraid he wouldn't be around to see the it. "We were somewhere between democracy and revolution. And I must say that that morning I...had the specific feeling that someone might knock on my door (and arrest me)," said Kostunica.

Most of the madness was outside Milosevic's home state of Serbia. The dictator led this Serb majority into four civil wars. He laid siege to Sarajevo, herded Muslims into concentration camps, massacred 7,000 unarmed men and boys in Srebrenica and evicted 800,000 starving Albanians from Kosovo.

When asked if there was any doubt in his mind that Milosevic was guilty of crimes against humanity, Kostunica replied,"well, he's among those responsible."

Then why hasn't the new government arrested him? "Too many things to be done at this moment, too many priorities," he explained.

In truth, Kostunica can't arrest Milosevic because that simple act of justice could bring down the democracy. Kostunica is in office but not in control. Milosevic himself is believed to be living the life of a free man in a villa on the high ground over Belgrade. The dictator's allies still litter the government, some of them wanted for war crimes by the United Nations Court at The Hague.

And members of Kostunica's new government are also being charged by The Hague. The defense minister is listed as a war criminal. When asked why he doesn't remove him, Kostunica responded, "because before anything else we are in need of democracy being, how to say, consolidated in this country...It's on the way to being consolidated. By opening the questions of The Hague and maybe other questions...democracy may be put into question."
Two weeks after seizing power, Kostunica is watching over a nervous nation. The rebels are proud of calling their revolt "the one-hour revolution" but with so many Milosevic holdovers, many worry the revolution didn't last nearly long enough.

The reformers are getting their first look at the secrets of the dictatorship. And the picture isn't pretty.

Milan Protic, the new mayor of Belgrade, is one of the architects of the revolution and the only leader besides president Kostunica to be swept into power by the anti-Milosevic mob.

Protic is larger than life. A graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, he stands six-foot-six and likes to wear blue jeans and cowboy boots. He is finding out the dictator's regime left his city of 2 million people nearly destitute. "I've got problems all over," said Protic. "First of all the city administration, the city functioning is a shambles...if the bad weather comes the next day we're going to be completely lost.

"We've got only 47 garbage trucks for the entire city...and now we have finally come to power we can see how bad the situation is," said Protic.

The mayor is beginning to discover the depth of the corruption that looted the treasury. "In the last three years, the city hall of Belgrade donated, to various relatives, friends of the officials of the city and other politicians, 750 apartments which were the property of the city," said Protic. "We have at least 2,000 people in the city hall administration which are so incompetent and who are absolute surplus that we will have to fire them as soon as possible."

How are the people reacting to all this? At a recent soccer game the clock barely got started when the game ran riot. "It is a mess... it is a mess," said Protic. "And I can't say that it doesn't look sad and miserable and depressive, and that it doesn't remind me of the days when we were under bombs here."

Parts of Belgrade are still a wreck more than a year after the bombs fell in the war that forced Milosevic to give up his genocide in Kosovo. "The best way to define a citizen of Belgrade is to say that that's a person who was bombed at least one time in his lifetime," said Protic. "This city has been bombed in the last 80 years five times...My father who lived through three of those bombings said to me, for this last one, 'oh forget about it, at least these guys are accurate.'"

It was the last American war of the 20th century. With Belgrade burning, Milosevic gave up. Along the way, three U.S. soldiers were captured and two American pilots were shot down.

It is estimated 500 Yugoslav civilians were killed in the raids, including 16 in the planned attack on the city's television station. That attack, President Kostunica told us, is an American war crime against a civilian target.

But we were surprised by what the president said about his own people's guilt. Yugoslavia has never admitted to is decade of death until now. "Well, the situation in the Yugoslav army was something different. There were so-called paramilitary forces that exist even today. But those are the crimes and the people that have been killed are victims," Kostunica responded, adding: "I must say also there are a lot of crimes on the other side and the Serbs have been killed."

"I am ready to, how to say, to accept the guilt for all those people who have been killed," said Kostunica. "For what Milosevic had done and as a Serb I will take responsibility for many of these - these crimes."

But what about the question Kostunica prefers to evade, the question of whether or not Milosevic will stand trial for war crimes? Kostunica says he believes Milosevic will have to answer for his actions at some point in time but he is not saying when or where.

Before that can happen Kostunica will have to finish his revolution. New elections for parliament that could throw out Milosevic's old guard are set for December.