ANALYSIS: The Mother of All Indictments

The latest indictment against Slobodan Milosevic encompasses all the crimes the Bosnian Serbs are alleged to have committed.

ANALYSIS: The Mother of All Indictments

The latest indictment against Slobodan Milosevic encompasses all the crimes the Bosnian Serbs are alleged to have committed.

Saturday, 24 November, 2001

The tribunal prosecution last week issued the last chapter of Slobodan Milosevic's war biography.

Former chief prosecutor Louise Arbour signed off on the first chapter, the Kosovo indictment, in May 1999. Chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, did so on the second, the Croatia indictment, in September 2001. And again on the final one, the Bosnian indictment, published last week, which includes the missing link in the others: charges for genocide.

Although the latter carries Del Ponte's signature, it also bears the hallmark of work done by the tribunal's first chief prosecutor, Richard Goldstone.

The Bosnia indictment - charging Milosevic with genocide and all the other crimes under the tribunal's jurisdiction (grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of War) - is, to use Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's metaphor, "the mother of all indictments" on Bosnia.

It encompasses all the crimes for which the prosecution has indicted the Bosnian Serbs since 1995, including all the principal charges against the four Bosnian Serb leaders, Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic, Momcilo Krajisnik and Biljana Plavsic.

It also includes the Srebrenica indictment against General Radislav Krstic, the Sarajevo indictment against General Stanislav Galic, the Bosanska Krajina indictment against Radoslav Brdjanin and General Momir Talic and the Prijedor camps indictment against Milomir Stakic. Simo Drljaca and Milan Kovacevic, now deceased, were also named in the latter.

It incorporates crimes for which trials were held - or are being held - for sexual violence in Foca in eastern Bosnia; for the camps in Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje in north-west Bosnia and at Luka in Brcko in north-east Bosnia; for the prison in Foca (KP Dom); for the Susica camp near Vlasenica in eastern Bosnia; for the killings in Visegrad in eastern Bosnia; and for the ethnic cleansing of Bosanski Samac in northern Bosnia.

It also includes the killings in 1995 in Sanski Most, north-west Bosnia, for which Arkan was accused before his assassination in Belgrade.

The prosecution believes it can prove Milosevic was behind all these crimes - that he either planned and ordered them, or at least acted as the political inspiration.

The Bosnian indictment attributes Milosevic's individual responsibility for the crimes committed in Bosnia in the same way as it did in the Croatia indictment (see Tribunal Update 239).

Namely, the prosecution alleges that from 1987 until late 2000, he was "the dominant political figure" in Serbia and Yugoslavia and as such "acquired control of all facets of the Serbian government, including the police and the state security services".

From that position, it says, Milosevic took part in a "joint criminal enterprise" that aimed at "the forcible and permanent removal of the majority of non-Serbs from large areas of ... Bosnia".

The indictment lists 14 individuals who joined Milosevic in this

"enterprise", headed by the Bosnian Serb "Gang of Four", Karadzic, Krajisnik, Plavsic and Mladic.

The other names are also to be found on the Croatia indictment. They include the key persons Milosevic employed to achieve control over former Yugoslav institutions.

From the presidency, it names Borisav Jovic and Branko Kostic. Generals Veljko Kadijevic and Blagoje Adzic are named as Milosevic's henchmen in the army. Stanisic, Simatovic and Radovan Stojicic are singled out as performing the same service in the Serbian police and special forces.

It names Milan Martic as Milosevic's man in the Territorial Defence, the police and the paramilitary forces of the Republic of Serbian Krajina; and Arkan and Vojislav Seselj for Serbia's paramilitary formations in Bosnia.

The key paragraphs of the Bosnia indictment describe how Milosevic influenced these and other participants. Using Jovic and Kostic as his agents in the presidency, which functioned as collective commander-in-chief of the then Yugoslav Peoples Army, JNA, and its successor the Yugoslav Army, VJ, it says Milosevic "exerted effective control over elements of the JNA and VJ, which participated in the joint criminal enterprise".

From April 27, 1992, when a new rump Yugoslav federation of Serbia and Montenegro was formed, the indictment says Milosevic, then Serbian president, acquired de jure control over the armed forces through his membership of the federal Yugoslav Supreme Defence Council.

The key to proving Milosevic's responsibility for the crime of genocide in Bosnia lies in establishing his connection with the Bosnian Serb Army, VRS, and the political leadership in Pale.

The indictment claims Milosevic gave the VRS "financial, logistical and political support" and "exercised substantial influence over and assisted" the Bosnian Serb leadership.

The prosecutor claims Milosevic took part in planning the Bosnian Serb take-over of Bosnia's local councils in 1992 "and the subsequent forcible removal of the majority of non-Serbs from those municipalities".

As Serbian president, Milosevic is also alleged to have taken part in setting up and financing paramilitary special forces that took part in the execution of the "joint criminal enterprise".

It says Milosevic used his control of the Serbian police to equip and deploy these irregular forces, which "distinguished" themselves in some of the crimes named in the indictment.

The indictment describes how Milosevic used the media "to spread exaggerated and false messages of ethnically-based attacks by Bosnian Muslims and Croats... intended to create an atmosphere of fear and hatred among Serbs living in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia".

This, it said, "contributed to the forcible removal of the majority of non-Serbs, principally Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats, from large areas of Bosnia".

Prior to last week's indictment, the prosecution had issued up to 18 indictments that qualified crimes in Bosnia as genocide. The court so far has confirmed only one, for General Radoslav Krstic, over the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica, sentencing him to 46 years' imprisonment (though both the prosecution and the defence appealed).

Two men were acquitted of genocide but sentenced for crimes against humanity. The court jailed Goran Jelisic for 40 years over the killings in Brcko and Dusko Sikirica for 15 years over crimes at Keraterm.

Two others charged with genocide over the Prijedor camps are no longer alive. Simo Drljaca died resisting arrest and Milan Kovacevic died in custody of heart problems.

Seven awaiting trial on genocide charges are Krajisnik, Plavsic, Radoslav Brdjanin, General Momir Talic, Miomir Stakic, Vidoje Blagojevic and Dragan Obrenovic.

The others are still at large. Karadzic and Mladic face a general indictment for genocide and a specific indictment over Srebrenica. Zeljko Meakic, commander of Omarska camp, and Stojan Zupljanin, accused together with Brdjanin and Talic, of genocide in Bosnian Krajina, are also at large.

Counts 1 and 2 of the Bosnian indictment say Milosevic "planned, instigated, ordered... or otherwise aided and abetted... the destruction in whole or in part (of) the Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat national or religious... groups".

The indictment lists 19 municipalities, including Sarajevo, Srebrenica, Bijeljina, Visegrad, Foca and Zvornik, in which the prosecutor says a genocidal plan was carried out.

The plan was implemented by the widespread killing of thousands of Muslim and Croats all over Bosnia, and by inflicting serious bodily and mental harm to Muslim and Croat detainees, imposing conditions calculated to bring about their destruction, such as sexual violence, torture, starvation and forced labour.

Other counts charge Milosevic with persecution, extermination and murder, unlawful confinement, imprisonment, torture, wilfully causing great suffering, deportation and forcible transfers and attacks on civilians, including the shelling of Sarajevo and the sniping campaign there.

Milosevic will be summoned to enter his plea over the Bosnian indictment in the first half of December. Del Ponte will submit a request for the three indictments to be united so that Milosevic can be tried on all 66 counts in them.

Mirko Klarin is IWPR senior editor for the war crimes tribunal and editor-in-chief of SENSE News Agency.

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