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Comment: Milosevic's Greater Serbia Project

Onetime Milosevic loyalist provides tribunal with details of how the former Belgrade leader planned to establish a pan-Serbian state.
By Mirko Klarin

Last Thursday, on the fourth day of hearing of the protected witness C-061, the prosecution put forward a proposition which the trial chamber, always obsessed with duration of the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, simply could not refuse.


They said that they were ready to give up 14 planned witnesses, that is, as much as 20 per cent of the total number of witnesses for the "Croatian phase" of evidence presentation (total number being 71), in exchange for an additional two days of direct examination of this particular witness.


The calculation presented by the team of Geoffrey Nice is the best indication of the significance assigned by the prosecution to the testimony of this "insider from Knin".


Namely, in the period covered by the indictment for crimes in Croatia, witness C-061 occupied a top-level position in the government of Republika Srpska Krajina - pseudo-state creation of Croatian Serbs, which occupied approximately one third of Croatian territory.


This witness is giving the testimony with his identity protected by electronically distorted image and voice because, as stated in the trial chamber decision granting him protective measures, "... he has been subjected to intimidation and threats in the past".


Because of his specific role and position in Krajina between 1991 and 1995, all those who are covering his testimony and have basic knowledge of the relations between Knin and Belgrade at that time are perfectly aware of identity of this witness.


However, nobody is willing to risk being punished for contempt of court on account of revealing his identity.


Yet, many believe it was a pity that C-061 was not bold enough to testify in public, because in that case there would have been no need for frequent switching to "private sessions", when microphones and cameras in the courtroom are turned off.


There were quite a few of these sessions last week: every time there was a talk about direct contacts between the witness and the accused or other "spicy" details that could reveal identity of the former.


The public were deprived of probably the most interesting part of the testimony of C-061.


However, the majority of those who are covering this trial have agreed that what he said in public was enough to earn him the status of the most important prosecution witness so far.


In the period relevant for the indictment, in his own words, C-061 had at least thirty personal meetings and five to ten telephone conversations with Milosevic - the number of which indicate that he was not a member of the innermost circle of associates of the then-president of Serbia.


"The insider from Knin", obviously, did not belong to the category of Borisav Jovic and other members of then rump Yugoslav presidency; JNA generals Veljko Kadijevic or Blagoje Adzic; Jovica Stanisic, head of state security agency of Serbia, Aleksandar Vasiljevic, head of military counterintelligence service; or even Radovan Karadzic, who in 1991 alone had 24 intercepted telephone conversations with Milosevic, played last week before the court.


Nevertheless, C-061 was sufficiently close to Milosevic to be included, together with other identified accomplices, in the list of participants in the "joint criminal enterprise".


According to the submission of the attorney defending C-061, in which he requested to be present in the courtroom during the testimony in order to protect his client from self-incriminatory statements, the indictment against this witness will be made public soon.


At least for some time, C-061 was close enough to Milosevic and other participants in the "joint criminal enterprise" and therefore is in a position to give us a first hand account of these events.


What "the insider from Knin" told the court during the first five days of testimony could be summarised as follows:


PLAN. Milosevic's plan was to use the Yugoslav army, JNA, to establish control in those parts, first of Croatia, and then Bosnia and Hercegovina, in which Serbs constituted the majority of population or tended to become majority.


The fact that Milosevic did not care about preservation of Yugoslavia was confirmed by recordings of his intercepted telephone conversations with Karadzic that were played in the courtroom last week.


In one of these conversations, Milosevic said "it was a good thing that JNA had been given a lesson in Slovenia, because it made them realise that there was no hope that (Yugoslavia could be preserved)."


In addition to this, Milosevic declared "Slovenia should leave as soon as possible", and Croatia would be allowed to go only "after they establish new borders with us" - that is, after giving up the territories in which Serbs used to live.


GREATER SERBIA. The witness helped the judges clarify their understanding of the two concepts used in the trial: Seselj's idea of "Great Serbia" with western borders along the Karlobag-Karlovac-Virovitica line (deep in the territory of Croatia) and Milosevic's notion of "all Serbs (living) in one state".


Asked by Judge O-Gon Kwon, C-061 replied that these were "conceptually different" they possessed "similar or identical content" - territories of Croatia and Bosnia inhabited by Serbs.


The witness said that Milosevic later "revised" his concept, giving up "Serbian territories in Croatia" in exchange for dividing Bosnia and Hercegovina with Zagreb.


PARALLEL STRUCTURES. Obviously suspicious of local Serb leadership - which at the time was dominated by moderates opting for negotiations with Zagreb - Milosevic used his secret police to establish "parallel structures" in the regions of Croatia inhabited by Serbs as early as 1990.


The key figure in these structures, according to the witness, was Jovica Stanisic, then Milosevic's trusted lieutenant and head of Serbia's state security service; his assistant Franko Simatovic; Knin police chief Milan Martic; as well as individual local heads of police and presidents of municipalities.


These structures, the witness alleged, played a leading role in all events in Krajina.


PROPAGANDA. In preparing the ground for what was to follow, the witness alleged, a major role was played by the media in Serbia, which instilled in Croatian Serbs fear, distrust and hostility towards the new government in Zagreb, by spreading false or exaggerated information about their alleged intentions and plans.


The witness confessed that at least for some time he himself was "under the spell" of such propaganda. He also said that on one occasion Milosevic "boasted" in his presence that he had all the major media in Serbia under his control and that he personally was appointing and dismissing media directors and editors.


PROVOCATIONS. When in October 1990 "parallel structures" energetically suppressed attempts of the moderate wing of the Serbian leadership to open negotiations with Zagreb, what followed was a campaign of armed provocations and incidents, with the purpose of provoking a reaction from the Croatian forces and causing a large-scale conflict, in which the Yugoslav army could take part in at a later stage.


The objective, the witness alleged, was to precipitate a state of emergency that would suspend Zagreb's authority in that part of Croatian territory. Behind these provocations - attacks on police, blowing up railway lines and blocking of key roads - was The Council of People's Resistance, organised and controlled by the aforementioned "parallel structures".


PATTERN. The next phase in the realisation of the plan was launched in the summer of 1991, following the pattern described by the witness. Usually members of Krajina police and local volunteers, trained in camps organised by Milosevic's secret police, would provoke incidents by opening fire on Croatian villages, first with infantry weapons, and then mortars.


Then the Yugoslav army would join in, randomly shelling local settlements. The army, police and volunteers would then enter the village, burning and looting the houses.


In these villages, they usually found a small number of mostly elderly residents. After the army's withdrawal, the witness alleged, looting would begin in earnest and murders - that have never been solved - were committed.


Milosevic, the witness alleged, "had to know about all this… because his security service and Jovica Stanisic in person were present in the field".


One year later, while visiting Sanski Most, Banja Luka, Prijedor, Brcko, Zvornik, C-061 said he saw for himself that the same pattern was applied in Bosnia.


FACTUAL SITUATION. "We should protect this people of ours, and the people are situated in the territories where they live. This is what matters and nobody can…" This is what Milosevic said at the end of October 1991 in an intercepted telephone conversation with Karadzic.


Karadzic agreed and said that his people, that is, Serbs from Hercegovina, will secure the territory around Dubrovnik, and concluded, "We should go for factual situation, Yugoslavia is defending its territory, and we should see what deals we can make."


After a recording of this intercepted conversation was played, prosecutor Hildegard Uertz-Retzlaff asked the witness to describe the "factual situation" at the end of October 1991.


JNA and other Serbian forces at that moment controlled eastern and western Slavonija, Knin Krajina and the area around Dubrovnik, that is, about one third of the territory of the Republic of Croatia, which roughly corresponded to the borders of Milosevic's "state of all Serbs".


LINES OF COMMAND. In view of the diverse forces that took part in the creation of the "factual situation" - JNA, Territorial Defence forces and various volunteer formations - the prosecutor wanted to know if there was a command structure which unified all these elements.


Once again, witness C-061 was very precise. There were, he said, "two lines of command". One stemmed from the rump Yugoslav presidency and included JNA and Territorial Defence. The other from the Serbian state security service, which ran through "parallel structures" established in the field and reached local police and volunteers' formations.


At the top, the witness concluded, was "Milosevic, who connected these two lines of command" and had full control over the rump presidency, great influence on top-level JNA generals and the absolute loyalty of the Serbian state security service and its head Jovica Stanisic.


He confirmed this assessment when Judge Patrick Robinson asked if he wanted to say that Milosevic was "the supreme commander?" "Yes" - categorically replied C-061, indicating that the rump presidency controlled the JNA on paper, in reality it was under Milosevic's command.


Milosevic, the witness said, was the "true authority, the chief, the key and most powerful political figure, and everybody willingly subordinated themselves to him."


DEPENDENCE. During the testimony of "the insider from Knin" the prosecution introduced dozens of documents, which confirm Republika Srpska Krajina's political, military, economic and financial dependence on Serbia. Without support from Belgrade, RSK "simply could not have survived," testified C-061.


In exchange for this backing, Belgrade requested absolute obedience from the Knin officials. Serbia not only paid RSK army commanders but also appointed them to their posts, sometimes against the wishes of local politicians and without any consultation with them.


The witness described how on one occasion he called Milosevic to ask why a group of officers expected to arrive had not yet appeared, and he replied that he will "send them tomorrow".


They arrived after a couple of days, but they were not the officers they expected. When he inquired about the reasons for this, the witness was instructed to ask the Serbian defence minister. "Local politicians could take up their posts only with Belgrade's approval.


Those who were "disobedient" were replaced with Milosevic loyalists. The "bosses messengers", as the latter called themselves, admitted travelling to Belgrade for briefings on what to do and say.


Milosevic dictated when and with whom negotiations could be conducted and whether peace treaties should be accepted or rejected.


At the end of 1991, he ordered them to accept the Vance plan and sacked local officials who tried to oppose him.


And then, using his "parallel structures", JNA officers in command positions in the RSK army and "obedient" politicians, he ensured the plan - which envisaged the demilitarisation of the entity and return of Croats to their homes - failed. Simply put, alleviation of tensions in Krajina did not suit his plans.


At the beginning of 1995, Serbs from Krajina were offered the Z-4 plan, which guaranteed broad political, territorial and cultural autonomy for Serbs in Croatia.


Then president of RSK, Milan Martic (now in a tribunal detention unit, charged with the shelling of Zagreb in May 1995) went to Belgrade to meet Milosevic and receive his instructions.


After he returned from the Yugoslav capital, he informed other members of delegation appointed for negotiations with Croatia that this plan "should not be considered at all".


Martic did even more than his boss requested: he rejected the plan out of hand.


Several months later, in August 1995, the Croatian force launched Operation Storm and Zagreb re-established control over Krajina.


However, Milosevic was not shaken, because in the meantime, as witness C-061 described, he had already "revised" the borders of his "state of all Serbs" with the establishment of Republika Srpska - the entity carved out by Karadzic, Mladic and other participants in their "joint criminal enterprise" in Bosnia.


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


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