Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Milosevic Ally Begins Marathon Testimony

Former constitutional court judge argues that Slovenes and Croats bear responsibility for the wars that destroyed Yugoslavia.
By Ana Uzelac

The Milosevic trial this week heard from the former Yugoslav president’s longtime associate Ratko Markovic.


Markovic, once a high-profile judge and politician, took to the witness stand on January 13 and is likely to testify for the bulk of next week’s hearings.


In the first day of his testimony, the witness offered the trial chamber a mix of facts and expertise to corroborate Milosevic’s claim that the Yugoslav republics of Slovenia and Croatia bear the responsibility for opening hostilities by declaring “unilateral secession” in 1991.


Markovic, who sat on the Yugoslav Constitutional Court at the time the two republics declared independence, insisted that an ethnically impartial court had declared this bid to be unconstitutional.


The only “ethnically biased” judge in the court at the time, he said, was Slovene Ivan Kristen, who had supported his republic’s agenda. Kristen had testified as a prosecution witness earlier in the trial.


Markovic insisted that while the Yugoslav constitution ultimately allowed for self-determination, this right did not belong to republics, but to “constitutive nations” spread out through the whole territory of the country.


In this way Milosevic is hoping to bolster his claims that Serbs living in Croatia and Bosnia had the right to demand to stay in Yugoslavia and not to become part of the newly independent republics. This alleged right was used by Belgrade regime at the time as one of the main political justifications for army intervention in Croatia.


Although Markovic was introduced as a witness of fact, the first hours of his testimony were loaded with legal theory - prompting the prosecution to object several times and warn they may later ask for the witness’ status to be re-evaluated.


Markovic’s testimony next week is expected to cover the period of the failed negotiations with Kosovo’s representatives in 1998, where he headed the Serbian state delegation, as well as the failed talks in Rambouillet and in Paris in early 1999 that found no solution to the Kosovo problem and were quickly followed by NATO air strikes on Serbia.


Ana Uzelac is IWPR’s project manager in The Hague.