COURTSIDE: Milosevic Trial

New study challenges Milosevic's version of events in Kosovo

COURTSIDE: Milosevic Trial

New study challenges Milosevic's version of events in Kosovo

From the start of his trial, Slobodan Milosevic has displayed great

confidence in handling precise data on the time, location and consequences of NATO's bombardment. These bombs, he maintained, were the main cause of massive population movements, killings and the destruction of the Kosovo Albanians' cultural and religious monuments.

But last week Milosevic faced a witness who also had precise data, especially consequences of NATO bombardment. The data, presented in a study titled "The destruction of cultural heritage in

Kosovo, 1998-1999", drastically differed from Milosevic's material.

Andras Riedlmayer, a Harvard university expert on Ottoman heritage in the Balkans, presented the report. With Andrew Herscher, an architect and architectural historian, he led an expert team in 1999 and 2000 that toured Kosovo three times to establish the scale and causes of the destruction of religious monuments.

Riedlmayer told the court Islamic architectural heritage suffered most. Of Kosovo's 607 mosques, 225 were damaged or destroyed. It was "clearly the result of attacks directed on the mosques", he said. The destruction of buildings was often accompanied by the vandalism of religious scriptures and other objects. Religious schools, known as medresa and mekteb, dervish lodges, hamams, and the historic archives and libraries were also targeted.

Serbian Orthodox heritage suffered next in scale. Almost 80 Orthodox churches and monasteries were damaged or devastated between June and October 1999. Most lay in areas where Islamic heritage had previously been targeted. Riedlmayer described these as "acts of retribution". Catholic heritage was least affected. Seven churches were damaged and two destroyed.

Significantly, Riedlmayer's team followed Belgrade's official version and visited all the objects in Kosovo listed by the Yugoslav authorities, which they said NATO had destroyed or damaged.

Of all the sites Belgrade listed as NATO targets, the study said "not one was found to show any sign of damage attributable to an air attack... and some were found to be completely intact."

The only objects NATO hit were a village mosque near Prizren and a disused Catholic church in Djakovica, which Belgrade's "official" version did not even mention.

"The damage had clearly been done from the ground up," the report found. The Serbian army, police or paramilitary formations damaged Islamic sites while the Orthodox Church suffered from attacks by Kosovo Albanians after the war ended.

In spite of these facts, Milosevic in his cross-examination clung to his

"official version", insisting the destruction was a consequence of NATO bombardment. He rejected Riedlmayer's credentials, saying he and his colleagues were "subjects of the country [US] which led the aggression against Yugoslavia", were financed by "American money" and were acting to help the prosecution.

In fact, Milosevic confirmed the reliability of the study. As he read out a long list of Orthodox churches and monasteries in Kosovo, asking Riedlmayer if he was aware they were destroyed or damaged, the latter answered that he had visited each building and said the report contained a detailed description of the nature of damage. At the same time, he stressed that the damage was not caused from the air but from the ground.

The second witness, retired British general Karol Drewienkiewicz,

testified about events preceding NATO's air strikes. The deputy head of the Kosovo Verification Mission, KVM, from October 1998 to March 1999, he had been in charge of monitoring an agreement on the Kosovo crisis concluded between Milosevic and the US envoy Richard Holbrooke.

Drewienkiewicz's eyewitness account of events on January 16, 1999 in Racak, following the massacre of 45 Kosovo Albanians (which is included in the indictment against Milosevic) will be continued next week, and be discussed in the next Tribunal Update.

Mirko Klarin is IWPR senior editor at the war crimes tribunal and editor-in-chief of SENSE News Agency.

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