By Goran Jungvirth in Zagreb (TU No 397, 11-Mar-05)


By Goran Jungvirth in Zagreb (TU No 397, 11-Mar-05)

Monday, 5 December, 2005

Instead, Milosevic’s argument runs, the civilians left in droves because of the dangers created by the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, and NATO bombing.

German military officer Dietmar Hartwig, who was in charge of the small European Union Observer Mission in Kosovo in 1999, finished his testimony in chief on March 8, and was then cross-examined by the prosecutor Geoffrey Nice, who tried to show that the witness had a strong pro-Serb bias.

Throughout his testimony, Hartwig said that he and other EU observers believed that western media and governments had exaggerated the scale of the destruction in Kosovo, presenting a simplified “persecutor and victim” view which was at odds with what he saw on the ground.

Hartwig claimed that Serbian security forces were disciplined in their operations against the Kosovo Albanians.

Prosecutor Geoffrey Nice provided reports from the OSCE Verification Mission, US diplomatic observer mission and Human Rights Watch, which detailed widespread violence by the Serbian police and army against ethnic Albanians. He also noted that the EU Observer Mission had between 18 and 40 observers, while the OSCE mission had 2,000 members covering the same area.

The prosecutor questioned Hartwig on his relationship with Serbian police general Sreten Lukic, in command of police forces in Kosovo at the time. Prosecutors referred to Lukic as a “friend” of the witness. They produced a letter Hartwig wrote to Lukic in 2001 stating that the general’s views “influenced him a great deal”.

Lukic is one of four Serbian generals who have been indicted by the tribunal for crimes against humanity committed in Kosovo during the 1999 campaign to drive the Albanians out of the province.

The witness denied that Lukic had influence over him or that they were friends.

Milosevic, who faces over 60 counts of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, tried again during re-examination to use Hartwig’s testimony to prove that KLA “terror” was one of the main reasons behind the exodus of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo.

Milosevic cited the example of Ramush Haradinaj, a KLA sub-commander in the western town of Glodjane, whom he said was one of a large number of “robbers” in Kosovo who abused fellow-Albanians.

Haradinaj stepped down as Kosovo’s prime minister and surrendered to The Hague this week after being indicted for crimes against humanity and war crimes in 1998.

To counter the documents showing serious human rights violations by Serbian security forces which have been submitted into evidence by prosecutor Nice, Milosevic provided around 10 reports from European Union observers.

He read out excerpts from those reports which described KLA kidnappings, “The KLA is terrorising Kosovo villages which are not nationalist. We have known that for a long time but this is the first time that the Kosovo Albanians are admitting it,” said a report from the EU’s team in Prizren from January 17, 1999.

Later in the week, the judges overruled prosecution objections to another defence witness, Barry Lituchy, a professor of modern European history from New York. Lituchy, a member of the Committee for the Defence of Slobodan Milosevic, also supported Milosevic’s claim that the expulsions happened because of KLA actions and the NATO bombardment, not because of the Serbian security forces.

Lituchy began by drawing parallels between the Second World War and events in Yugoslavia in the Nineties, saying race-based policies “against Serbs, Jews and the Roma” in both eras followed similar patterns.

The judges warned him not to testify as an expert but simply to disclose facts about things he had personally witnessed.

Lituchy told the court how he headed a team of 16 experts who interviewed a large number of Kosovo Albanian refugees who had fled during the 1999 Kosovo conflict. He said many of them reported leaving because they did not want to live under KLA rule.

“At least 20,000 ethnic Albanians were expelled because they were considered traitors who did not want to cooperate with the KLA, along with hundreds of thousands of Serbs and tens of thousands of Roma,” said Lituchy.

Lituchy described the KLA as “a fascist paramilitary formation because it wants to destroy - that is, kill - all those who do not agree with them.”

Lituchy said that six years ago, one of the expelled Albanians told him that the KLA had subsequently hunted him like an animal, adding that he was certain they would kill him if they ever found him.

“The KLA has already killed one of the three ethnic Albanians who told me about the expulsions,” said Lituchy.

Despite objections from the prosecution, the judges closed the session to the public several times during Lituchy’s testimony, to protect the names of the Albanians he had interviewed.

Prosecutor Nice argued that it was dangerous to admit video recordings of the interviews conducted by Lituchy with three Albanians, because one of those involved had told a tribunal investigator that the interviews he had given were in the presence of Serbian police authorities and were for propaganda purposes.

Lituchy is due to appear in court again next week for cross-examination.

Goran Jungvirth is an IWPR contributor from Zagreb.

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