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Courtside: Milosevic Trial

By Chris Stephen in The Hague (TU 292, 2-6 December, 2002)
By IWPR

From 1991 to 1992, Babic was president of the Croatian-Serb breakaway enclave, Republika Srpska Krajina, RSK. He is one of the most senior witnesses ever to appear before The Hague.


Babic’s lawyers said he had made the decision in order to counter allegations made during Milosevic’s cross-examination, and to “make the truth public”.


The court heard that the witness had been deposed in February 1992 after supporting a referendum into whether Croatia’s Serbs should accept the Vance peace plan.


The witness, a former dentist, said he had at first supported Milosevic’s plan to bring all Serbs into a single country when Yugoslavia began to break up.


He told the court that in 1991 he had been “under the spell” of Milosevic’s propaganda, and had wanted Serbs to stay within Yugoslavia when it began to disintegrate.


Babic said he realised later that the “ethno-centric” principles of Greater Serbia “were the main cause of ethnic conflicts, war, destruction and misery”.


“You did not protect the Serb people - you brought shame upon them. You brought misfortune on the Croatian and Muslim people,” Babic told Milosevic.


“You and your nationalistic politics now belong to the past, just as the politics of Franjo Tudjman and my own politics at that time,” he added.


However, the former Serbian president replied, “The struggle for freedom will never be a thing of the past.”


Milosevic described Babic in cross-examination as “unreliable” and the kind of man who would “think, speak and do different things at the same time”.


He also accused the witness of stealing 170,000 US dollars and killing a police inspector investigating the theft.


Milosevic then referred to tapes of phone calls with former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic in which he called Babic “an idiot”, “ordinary scum”, “pig” and “Tudjman's trump”.


The previous week, Milosevic had branded these tapes as a “forgery”.


In his speeches – which were interrupted several times by Judge May - Milosevic accused Babic of suffering from “schizophrenic narcissism”, which was allegedly diagnosed by a doctor named Jovan Raskovic. The trial continues.


Chris Stephen is IWPR bureau chief in The Hague.


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