COURTSIDE: Milosevic Trial

By Chris Stephen in The Hague (TU 295, 6-10 January 2003)

COURTSIDE: Milosevic Trial

By Chris Stephen in The Hague (TU 295, 6-10 January 2003)

Tuesday, 22 February, 2005

K-2, a protected witness, told the court that his unit - controlled by Milosevic who was Serbian president at the time - was sent to Croatia and Bosnia to stage military operations.

His evidence is part of the prosecution attempt to prove that Milosevic, although leader of a separate country, had a direct part to play in war crimes committed in neighbouring countries.

The Red Berets, officially described as an anti-terrorist troops, are regarded as the elite commando unit in Serbia’s interior ministry.

The force is independent of the Yugoslav army, JNA, but is equipped and performs like a military unit. Its soldiers wear black uniforms with red berets for dress occasions, but don camouflage for military operations. Its units were prominent in the wars in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo.

Milosevic, in cross-examination, insisted that many other units in former Yugoslavia wore red berets besides those of the interior ministry, claiming that “every town” had a combat unit of some sort with a similar uniform.

K-2 told the court that in May 1995, after graduating from police academy, he joined the Red Berets in training camps in Eastern Slavonija.

He said the unit commander, Franko Simatovic, told them that they “would have to do whatever they are told to”, and that “the president's doors were always open” to them.

K-2 said it was clear that “there was but one president, and that one was Slobodan Milosevic”.

The court also heard from former Croatian policeman Robert Hausvicka, who claimed he was captured and tortured by the JNA in 1991.

Milosevic, in cross-examination, said Hausvicka could have been tortured by non-servicemen wearing JNA uniforms.

Hausvicka, showing signs of stress, insisted that the men belonged to the army. He said that as the incident happened inside an official military base, it was unlikely that his alleged tormentors were not real soldiers.

Milosevic reported sick on Monday, January 12, and his trial was postponed.

Judges ruled that the days lost to Milosevic's sickness will be made up, allowing the prosecution case, which was to have ended in May this year, to continue far into June.

Chris Stephen is IWPR Bureau Chief in The Hague.

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