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Djukanovic Testimony Battle

Montenegrin premier may be compelled to reveal what he knows about his one-time ally.
By Chris Stephen

Hague prosecutors are contemplating asking for a court order to force Montenegrin prime minister Milo Djukanovic to give evidence against Slobodan Milosevic.


Last weekend, Djukanovic told Pink TV he had refused an invitation from prosecutors to come voluntarily.


"I am not one of those men who runs outside Montenegro to offer evidence," he was quoted as saying. "I have finished my battles with Milosevic."


However, prosecutors have not finished their battles with Djukanovic.


They seem genuinely surprised that he refuses to attend. Three years ago, after all, he made a public declaration that he loved the Hague tribunal and everyone in it.


"We have heard what Mr Djukanovic said, we regret it," Jean-Daniel Ruch, the political advisor of chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, told IWPR.


He would not speculate on what the prosecutors will do next, saying they were still looking at options - one is asking for a court order to force the Montenegrin premier to testify, although it's unclear whether he would be bound to comply.


Ruch insisted that Djukanovic would be an important witness. "We do believe that he will have a lot to say in this trial," he said. "If you look at his CV you may well imagine."


That Djukanovic CV contains two key appointments, as prime minister of Montenegro in 1991 and his position on the Yugoslav supreme defence council in 1993 and 1994.


Both are important because they may provide prosecutors with inside evidence on whether Milosevic ordered the war crimes he is accused of.


More specifically, prosecutors want to prove that Milosevic had control of the Yugoslav army - named the JNA in 1991 and the VJ in 1993.


Officially, of course, Milosevic was president of Serbia, one of Yugoslavia's republics. The army were quite separate, obeying only Yugoslav command. But prosecutors say the reality is that the defence forces marched to Milosevic's drum.


Already, in several months of often dramatic testimony, witnesses have testified that Yugoslav army units were in both Croatia and Bosnia, committing atrocities.


And, earlier this month, an admiral in command of JNA navy units admitted bombarding Dubrovnik. The attack on this Croatian port was made from Montenegro. Djukanovic would have known all about it and who was giving the orders.


So why won't he come? Well, there is the official reason: he feels he has done enough.


And perhaps he simply has an aversion to travel, which anyone who has struggled through crowded airports will understand.


But other motives could also be in play. There are reports in Italy that police there want to question him about a multi-million dollar cigarette smuggling operation. He may fear that when he lands at Amsterdam airport he will be met not with a smiling Hague prosecutor but by an Interpol warrant.


Then there is the question of meeting Milosevic in court. He knows a lot about Milosevic but Milosevic may also know a lot of things about him. Many things remain unexplained about Dujkanovic's colourful period in charge of Montenegro.


For a few brief years in the late 1990s he was the darling of the West, which encouraged his opposition to Milosevic.


Young, good-looking and never lost for a witty quote, he was seen as a bright prospect for tiny Montenegro.


But this support faded when European leaders took a dim view of his continued support for independence after the fall of Milosevic.


His chances of escaping a summons from The Hague appear small - already another former prime minister, Zoran Lilic, also a former member of the supreme defence council, has been forced to come and testify.


Chris Stephen is IWPR project manager in The Hague.


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