COURTSIDE: Milosevic Trial

Serbian journalist links Ultra-nationalist with Vukovar massacre.

COURTSIDE: Milosevic Trial

Serbian journalist links Ultra-nationalist with Vukovar massacre.

Saturday, 19 October, 2002

A Belgrade reporter last week named the Serbian nationalist politician Vojislav Seselj, who contested Serbia's recent presidential election, as commander of paramilitary forces involved in the massacre of civilians at Vukovar in 1991.

Appearing as a prosecution witness, Jovan Dulovic, from the independent Belgrade magazine Vreme, said Seselj, commander of a unit called the Chetniks or the Seseljians, told him, "Not a single Ustashe (Croat extremist) must leave Vukovar alive."

He said 200 patients were taken from the hospital by the Yugoslav National army, JNA, then handed to a territorial defence unit, a local group of army reservists, and later massacred by paramilitary units at the Ovcara farming complex.

Dulovic said a woman, named Dragica, boasted of being a Seselj volunteer and said she had killed several Croat men in the massacre.

Another volunteer, also claiming to work for Seselj, bragged about "killing Croats at Ovcara" in an eight-hour orgy that lasted until 1am, with victims "wailing and begging not to be killed".

Dulovic said the next day a territorial defense officer, Stanko Vujanovic, told him he had not had enough of his own men to guard the prisoners "and therefore had to deploy drunken Seseljians" who he said were now boasting of the massacre.

Reporter Dejan Anastasijevic, also from Vreme, named General Aleksandar Vasiljevic, former JNA counter-intelligence chief, as his source for stories published about the army's transfer of the patients to the territorial defence.

Anastasijevic said he could reveal his source because Vasiljevic, named in Milosevic's indictment as participant in a "joint criminal enterprise", wanted to testify in Milosevic's trial.

Seselj, leader of the Serbian Radical Party, came third in the first round of presidential elections this month.

Anastasijevic named Radovan Stojicic, nicknamed "Badza", an official from the Serbian state security service, as commander of the territorial defense units in eastern Slavonija, which received the patients.

Dulovic said he had seen a letter from former Serbia's defence minister Tomislav Simovic complaining about Serbian paramilitary units, "the main objective of which was not to fight the enemy, but to loot and molest innocent civilians of Croatian nationality".

The letter said these units forced ethnic Croat villagers to walk across a mine field, killing 17, and suggested the JNA should disarm paramilitary formations, a suggestion never taken up.

Prosecutor Geoffrey Nice requested protective measures for some of the witnesses still to appear, saying these were "individuals exposed to a high level of risk". Prosecutor Dermot Groome said protected witness C-004 had "received threats".

The Belgrade journalists were offered the right to testify anonymously but both declined. Part of their testimony was held in closed session.

Milosevic is charged with crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and violations of the laws or customs of war. He is conducting his own defence and denies all charges.

Chris Stephen, IWPR Bureau Chief in The Hague.

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