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Celebici Trial: On The Difference Between Propaganda And Lies

Tribunal Update 80: Last Week in The Hague (8-13 June 1998)

By summoning this witness, the defense wanted (see Tribunal Update 79) to convince the judges that Milic - clearly a follower of the school of "patriotic journalism" that developed during the war in all ex-Yugoslav states - lied then, when "bigger lies" about Delalic disseminated by the Croat media, calling him "a Serb spy" and "Chetnik," had to be refuted. The prosecutor, who was cross-examining Milic at the beginning of last week, tried to prove the opposite: that Milic is not saying the truth now.

The judges will obviously decide whether and when Milic lied. But one of them, Judge Saad Saood Jan, drew the following lesson from Milic's testimony: "Lies can be countered only with bigger lies." Prosecutor Grant Niemann responded, "Maybe, in some parts of the world, but I do not agree to that." And he demanded from the witness to explain to him how he wanted "to bring the truth to the light of day ... by saying lies?"

So he asked him at the end of the cross-examination, "Do you lie often?" Milic responded, "I would not call that lies ... but propaganda" in which he "was involved with the best intentions: to save the man." He, therefore, "improvised," "made hyperbolic statements", and "enhanced" Delalic's role in the war in Konjic ... about which, he now claims, "he personally knew nothing ... since he was not in Bosnia at the time, let alone in Konjic." Nor did anyone tell him, as he now claims, that Delalic was such as he described him in his video reportage.

On the contrary, he now asserts, everybody told him that "this was not true," that Delalic was no war hero, that the truth is that he "participated in the defense ... but did not command," and that his only merit is that he "got hold of some equipment" for the defense of Konjic. In the end, the witness expressed his regret, but not because he lied. Milic regrets that his unfinished video reportage "only damaged Delalic" before the Tribunal, instead of defending him in Croatia.

Even though it was envisaged to last all of last week, the Celebici trial was (again) interrupted already on Monday, because the defense of the first co-accused remained without witnesses. This was so, as Sarajevo lawyer Edina Residovic explained, because - on the insistence of the judges and for the sake of speeding up the procedure - she abandoned the idea of summoning several witnesses who were to appear last week.

Other witnesses, envisaged for July, had left in the meantime or were prevented from coming to The Hague for other reasons.

The trial chamber, however, refused to accept this explanation and concluded that the defense of Zejnil Delalic ended with the presentation of evidence, meaning that when the trial continues (on 22 June), it will be the turn of the defense of the second co-accused Zdravko Mucic.

Delalic's defense said it will appeal the decision to the Trial Chamber II-quarter.