Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Courtside: Milosevic Trial

By Chris Stephen in The Hague (TU 293, 9-14 December, 2002)

She told the court that her organisation had been monitoring human rights in Yugoslavia since 1981, when it had reported on the oppression of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

She told the court that she had visited Belgrade in 1992 to hand deliver a letter to Milosevic, then Serbian president, outlining systematic abuses by Belgrade security forces in Croatia.

Despite the intervention of United States ambassador Warrren Zimmerman, she was unable to get an audience. Instead, she met with a senior military official, and also with Vojislav Kostunica, then an opposition politician.

But she said Milosevic would have known the contents of her report, because his chef de cabinet, Goran Milinovic, had written to her in response to a further letter, detailing a massacre of Croat civilians, which was sent in February 1992.

Milinovic's reply denied responsibility, but Laber told the court that, given the content of his letter, she had concluded that Milosevic had seen her report.

Prosecutors hope her evidence will act both to detail alleged war crimes, and also show that Milosevic was aware that these crimes had been committed by forces over which he had control.

Milosevic, in cross-examination, said Laber's meetings had been with men unconnected to his administration. He also questioned the quality of the human rights workers who had assembled it.

Chris Stephen is IWPR Bureau Chief in The Hague.