Comment: Milosevic Trial: The Disposable Collaborator

Defendant said to have used key witness to radicalise Krajina Serbs then dumped him when he had served his purpose.

Comment: Milosevic Trial: The Disposable Collaborator

Defendant said to have used key witness to radicalise Krajina Serbs then dumped him when he had served his purpose.

Protected witness C-061 belongs to a category of former Milosevic pawns described by a previous witness as “disposable collaborators”.

Croatian president Stjepan Mesic, giving evidence earlier in the trial, said the accused “used his collaborators as disposable items: after completion of their tasks they would be removed”.

This was especially true in the case of local Serbian leaders in Croatia and Bosnia: in short, they lasted just as long as Milosevic needed them.

After “consuming” them, he would simply discard his collaborators and engage new ones.

At the beginning of the Nineties, C-061 - scornfully referred to by Milosevic at the start of his cross-examination as "Mister Croatia 61" - was one of the Serb leaders in Croatia.

He held the highest positions in the self-proclaimed Serbian Autonomous Region of Krajina and later its successor, Republika Srpska Krajina, RSK.

He was used for the purpose of converting leaders of the Krajina Serbs from moderate to radical positions.

Which meant that after Croatia and Bosnia’s declaration of independence, the Serbs from these republics would remain in what was left of Yugoslavia together with Serbia and Montenegro, and, of course, retain the territories in which they live.

When at the end of 1991 the Yugoslav army, JNA, and local Serb forces established full control over those parts of Croatia that were earmarked to remain in rump Yugoslavia, Milosevic staged one of his famous U-turns. He accepted the Vance peace plan and the deployment of a UN peace force in Krajina.

Soon after that, C-061 was ejected from the inner circle of the defendant’s associates.

However, he maintained his presence in Krajina politics and was close enough to the accused to be regarded by the prosecution as an accomplice and potential candidate for indictment for participation in the joint criminal enterprise in Croatia.

C-061’s testimony comes closest to achieving what prosecutor Geoffrey Nice had speculated in July – that the case against Milosevic could possibly be proved be a single witness. (see Tribunal Update No. 274).

During his seven days of testimony, C-061 covered practically all the key facts and subjective elements (intent and knowledge) necessary for proving Milosevic and his accomplices’ responsibility for the joint criminal enterprise in Croatia.

If Milosevic fails to dispute the testimony of C-061 in the course of cross-examination, this testimony will stand as, so far, the most detailed and most persuasive account of how the joint criminal enterprise was planned and executed, and the defendant’s personal role in these events.

To begin with, the testimony of C-061 has shown that violence in Croatia at the beginning of the Nineties did not break out “spontaneously” – as a reaction of the local Serbian population to the triumph of the nationalist right in the Croatian elections – but was well planned, prepared in advance and provoked.

The violence, of course, was not organised for it’s own sake, but for the purpose of providing a justification for the intervention of the JNA, which – with assistance from local Serb forces – overran the territories earmarked to remain in rump Yugoslavia.

This was carried out according to a military strategy – involving murder, looting and general devastation – aimed at cleansing the territories planned for inclusion in the future “state of all Serbs”.

C-061 confirmed that all the crimes committed against Croats, as described in the indictment, really happened.

However – probably fearing that he himself might be indicted for the abuses because of the position he held at the time – he claimed he found out about the majority of them “only later”.

Yet, he did not allow Milosevic to take a similar course in his defense: C-061 categorically asserted that the defendant “had to know” about these crimes, because Serbian secret police were present all the time in the places where they were committed.

The testimony of C-061, together with about seventy documents - the authenticity of which he confirmed before the court - and about fifty intercepted telephone conversations, for which he identified the participants, strongly suggests that Milosevic was the central figure in the joint criminal enterprise in Croatia.

It also shows that this enterprise was carried out in accordance with a plan prepared in advance.

In one of intercepted conversations with Radovan Karadzic, Milosevic himself spoke of plan RAM (frame) – a plan for the JNA to secure “the frame”, that is, the borders of a future “state of all Serbs”.

During the same conversation, Milosevic issued instructions to Karadzic to contact the commander of the JNA Banja Luka corps to refer to the agreement achieved “at the highest place” (obviously the JNA chief of staff), and take from this commander all the arms he needs.

Documents, telephone intercepts conversations and C-061’s personal observations from at least thirty meetings with Milosevic, clearly indicate that the accused used the rump presidency of SFRY (in which only the representatives of Serbia and Montenegro remained) to establish de-facto control over the JNA and its forces in Croatia and Bosnia in the second half of 1991.

The same evidence further suggests that Milosevic – by means of the Serbian state security service and Territorial Defense of Serbia, which were under his jurisdiction – also had de-facto control over local Serb forces in Croatia and Bosnia.

Finally, through mediation of Jovica Stanisic, Frenki Simatovic and Radovan "Badza" Stojicic – three of his most loyal henchmen in the Serbian secret police – Milosevic also controlled paramilitary formations which, as he stated last week, were established by then opposition parties.

At the beginning, Milosevic regarded their leaders, including ultra-nationalist Vojislav Seselj and the paramilitary chief and gangster Zeljko ”Arkan” Raznatovic, as “useful idiots”, or “lunatics” and “criminals” for temporary use, but later he embraced them as “patriots”.

In short, according to C-061’s evidence, all army, police, volunteer and paramilitary forces engaged in the joint criminal enterprise in Croatia were in fact under the control of Milosevic.

C-061 has no doubts that the defendant was their de facto chief commander.

The documents, the authenticity of which has been confirmed by C-061, also showed that Milosevic controlled all financial flows within Serbia and from Serbia towards “Serbian parts” of Croatia and Bosnia, and that RSK and later Republika Srpska were absolutely economically and financially dependent on Serbia.

During cross-examination of previous witnesses, Milosevic tried to present this support as “humanitarian help” to brothers across the Drina river, asserting that without it, the Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia “would have nothing to eat”.

The greatest value of C-061’s testimony is that he gave a clear and comprehensive picture of Milosevic's modus operandi. In short, it can be described as conspiratorial.

Milosevic's power over other participants in the joint criminal enterprise was informal, based on conspiracy, and it was maintained by means of bribes, threats and blackmail.

“Disposable” collaborators were discarded as soon as they had played their role.

What follows from the testimony of C-061 is that Milosevic acted through parallel power structures, established behind a smokescreen of formal institutions.

He despised formal institutions and never trusted them, even when they were under his de facto or de jure control.

Milosevic hid behind them and forced them to formally “pass” decisions that he himself had already made, or went around them by means of his parallel, informal, conspiratorial structures of power.

And he is using them again like this, on many occasions during the last few months asking prosecution witnesses, “What does Serbia, its government and me as its president have to do with the civil wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina?”

As expected, in the first part of the cross-examination of C-061, Milosevic focused his efforts on disputing detailed description of the activities of the parallel structure established in Krajina at the beginning of Nineties by the head of Serbian secret police Jovica Stanisic (see Tribunal Update No. 290).

Having called on the witness to name those who, according to his opinion, participated in this parallel structure which allegedly was controlled by Serbian secret police, Milosevic stated that they all were local officials who operated within “regular” Krajina institutions.

The witness replied that they did not carry out any local decisions, but received orders from the Serbian state security service.

When in May 1992 the government and assembly of RSK tried to bring the Krajina police under their control by appointing police chief Milan Martic minister of defense, Simatovic from the Serbian secret police intervened. On Simatovic’s orders, Martic refused to give up his post.

In order to avoid conflicts and civil war, C-061 said, the RSK assembly was forced to accept this fait acompli and leave Martic as interior minister, thus allowing the Serbian state security service to retain control over the Krajina police.

Commenting on the issue, Milosevic snapped, “Why should I care about your internal quarrels?”

The witness replied that these were not internal fights, “but the manner in which you – by means of the state security service and Milan Martic – exerted influence and established control over the armed forces in Krajina, in order to use them for your own purposes.”

The duel between Milosevic and his former “disposable collaborator” will continue for at least three more days in the first week of December.

Mirko Klarin is senior IWPR editor in The Hague and the editor in chief of the SENSE news agency.

Support our journalists