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Reaction to Milosevic’s Indictment

May 28, 1999

BRAZDA, Macedonia (AP) _ With their villages burned and relatives killed, Kosovar Albanian refugees are feeling a bittersweet satisfaction at the war crimes indictment of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Some were skeptical, though, over Thursday’s action, doubting that world leaders would really bring Milosevic to justice for crimes he is alleged to have ordered during the Serb crackdown on Kosovo’s Albanians.

``I hope the indictment will not just be on paper, that he will be sentenced. And the sentence should be death,″ said Hasim Murseli, 48, one of tens of thousands of refugees in the Stenkovec I camp near the Macedonian border, where the news of the indictment crackled over transistor radios and spread by word of mouth.

Some ethnic Albanians were almost indifferent, too downtrodden to feel much of anything after weeks in a refugee camp and the previous months of persecution that brought them here.

``Look at what he’s done. He massacred us, deported us. I’m surprised his own people didn’t see what he was doing and didn’t stop him,″ said Enver Hyseni, 42, as he stood outside the chainlink fence of the U.N. refugee agency’s supply station and its piles of dried food, soap, diapers, water and toilet paper.

Many refugees expressed hope that Milosevic would answer not just for atrocities in Kosovo, the ethnic Albanian-majority Serb province, but also for inciting the Serb nationalist fervor that led to wars in Bosnia and Croatia.

Yugoslavia is now a two-republic federation of Serbia and Montenegro.

Ahmet Mehmeti, 80, said he wished the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, had indicted Milosevic for those earlier wars. Then his forces would never have had the chance to burn down villages across Kosovo _ including Mehmeti’s.

``This is the dirtiest war I’ve ever seen,″ he said, wearing a black suit and the traditional white, cone-shaped Albanian hat as he sat in his tent. ``Even Hitler was not as bad as this.″

``Holding him responsible for his dirty work will be a lesson for everyone.″

Still, many refugees invoked the names of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his wartime military chief, Gen. Ratko Mladic, both indicted for Bosnian war crimes but still at large.

Would Milosevic also manage to evade arrest?

``I don’t know how much the international community really wants to bring him to court,″ said Raqip Berqiri, his hair wet from the camp showers. ``I hope they really mean it. If they’re just doing this to save face, the indictment will amount to nothing.″

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