Milosevic Suffers "Exhaustion"

Former Serb leader falls ill after witnesses speak of influence he exerted over Serb communities in Croatia and Bosnia.

Milosevic Suffers "Exhaustion"

Former Serb leader falls ill after witnesses speak of influence he exerted over Serb communities in Croatia and Bosnia.

It was evident from the colour on Slobodan Milosevic's face that the witnesses heard last week "did not agree" with his health, and especially not with his blood pressure.

 

After five days pause for a UN holiday, Milosevic returned to the courtroom on Tuesday, refreshed and energised, but with every hour and every day his face kept turning a deeper and deeper shade of red.

 

Therefore, it was not much of a surprise for observers when on Friday Judge Richard May announced that the accused will remain in his cell in the UN detention unit due to "exhaustion".

 

What was surprising was Judge May’s admission that "the trial chamber was deeply concerned about completion of this trial".

 

The tribunal spokesperson, Jim Landale, tried to reassure those who thought this sounded "sinister" by saying that "the judges are not intimating that the trial itself is in jeopardy" but are worried because of the stress caused by a trial of this scope and this length to all those involved, including the accused.

 

The stress to which the accused was exposed last week, causing the drastic rise in his blood pressure, was a result of testimonies of two former members of the army intelligence service which – according to the prosecutor – played a major role in the joint criminal enterprise for which Milosevic is accused.

 

The official name of this department of the Yugoslav Peoples Army, JNA, is the Central Counter-intelligence Group, or, in abbreviated form, KOG, better known as KOS.

 

At the end of the Eighties, fearing the disintegration processes in the former federation might turn the JNA into "an army without a country", the military’s counter-intelligence intensified their "monitoring" of the former republics, and especially their governments and police forces.

 

According to the testimony of Mustafa Candic, former KOG major, the army’s intelligence service had its moles deep in the government and police forces in all the republics, except Serbia.

 

"They knew everything that was going on and was planned in Zagreb, Sarajevo, Ljubljana… but not in Belgrade," from where, as Candic alleged, "all the strings were pulled".

 

The rise of Slobodan Milosevic in the second half of the Eighties divided both JNA officers and KOG members into two camps: his enthusiastic followers, and those who, to say the least, were sceptical about his aims.

 

Witnesses last week covered both categories: Slobodan Lazarevic admitted that until 1992 he was "a fervent supporter" of Milosevic, while Mustafa Candic was among the suspicious, less because of his Bosniak ethnic background than his Titoist ideology that was still strong in army ranks in the late Eighties.

 

Candic testified about the frustration of his superior officer, Colonel Slobodan Rakocevic, a Serb, who during a meeting dedicated to the analysis of the security situation in the country protested because army intelligence "had no contacts and no knowledge of what was going on in Belgrade, from where Milosevic and his allies pulled strings and worked towards breaking of Yugoslavia and establishment of Greater Serbia."

 

Although KOG had no "contacts" in Serbia, it turned out – as Candic found out - that at the beginning of the Nineties Serbia had excellent "contacts" inside KOG.

 

During one investigation he carried out in October 1991 in the area of Bihac in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Candic met his colleague from the same department, one Major Ceda Knezevic, who told him in confidence that after instructions from the head of KOG, General Aleksandar Vasiljevic, he was implementing a plan known as "Breakthrough 1".

 

His colleague said he was doing it in cooperation with officers from the Serbian state security service, which at that time was led by Milosevic's man, intelligence chief Jovica Stanisic.

 

The objective was to arm Serbs in those parts of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which were regarded as "Serbian territories".

 

Candic later found out that this plan was successfully implemented and that local Serbs received more than 20,000 pieces of infantry weapons from the warehouses of the territorial defense of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

 

Then followed Breakthrough 2, 3 and so on. Realisation of these plans was confirmed in a letter which Colonel Dusan Smiljanic – under whose command the plans were implemented – sent to General Ratko Mladic three years later, emphasising his contribution to arming the Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia.

 

This letter, the significance of which was described by the prosecutor as "historical", is included among the evidence.

 

Candic then discovered that the same thing was going on in his area of responsibility – north-east Bosnia – and on one occasion, after instructions from a KOG colonel, who was close to the state security service of Serbia, he personally accompanied an arms transporter for one Stevan Todorovic from the village of Slatina near Bosanski Samac.

 

Todorovic later became head of police in Bosanski Samac. He was indicted in The Hague and after pleading guilty sentenced to ten years imprisonment. He’s currently serving his jail term in Spain.

 

Candic sent reports on his investigations to his superior officers at KOG on a regular basis, but he said "to put it mildly, these reports were ignored".

 

The same happened with his report showing that leaders of the Serbian Democratic Party were planning to "transfer" the Muslim population from north-east Bosnia in order to settle in their place Serbs from Tuzla and other parts of the country.

 

After this, Candic demanded to see the head of KOG, General Aleksandar Vasiljevic.

 

However, his superior officer, Colonel Tomislav Cuk, replied, "Leave it, Muki (Candic), it does not matter now…" and his request was never granted. Candic said that this particular incident opened his eyes and several months later – in February 1992 – he left the JNA and the Central Counter-intelligence Group. His testimony will continue when Milosevic recovers.

 

Slobodan Lazarevic, who used to be "a fervent supporter" of Milosevic, contributed to the defendant’s exhaustion much more than Candic. Not just because his testimony and cross-examination lasted five times longer – two and a half days as compared to a half day – but also because Lazarevic "covered" a much longer period and broader area.

 

Lazarevic got involved in military counter-intelligence with the help of his father, a former officer in the "Udba" secret political police, which was active after the Second World War.

 

Lazarevic was born in Belgrade and studied in Sarajevo, where his first assignment in 1968 was to infiltrate the student movement. Then he spent some time in England and Australia, where his task was to spy on organisations of Serbian and Croatian immigrants (he confessed that he was less successful in the latter case).

 

Before the Winter Olympic Games in 1984, he was returned to Sarajevo and appointed assistant head of protocol of the Olympic committee. After that, he was assigned to Agrokomerc, a large agricultural complex in western Bosnia.

 

From February 1992 to August 1995, which is the period covered by his testimony, Lazarevic was "assigned" as liaison officer, with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, of 21 Corps of the so-called Army of Republika Srpska Krajina, RSK.

 

He maintained regular contact with UN forces and members of the European Community Monitoring Mission, ECMM, operating in Krajina – part of Croatia controlled by Serbian forces. When at the beginning of 1992, RSK had to be demilitarised in accordance with the Vance plan, Lazarevic, just like others, exchanged his green military uniform for a blue uniform and official badge of RSK police.

 

The essence of his testimony is that all major political, military and police structures of RSK in the period between 1991 and 1995 were under Belgrade’s control.

 

Both the army and police in RSK were armed, equipped and financed from Belgrade. The command structure of the army comprised exclusively active JNA (and later Yugoslav Army, VJ, the military force of the truncated federation) officers; they also dominated the police, which included some locals; and Serbian interior ministry officers occupied top security service posts.

 

Lazarevic claimed that the commander of his corps, Colonel Bulat, was in daily telephone contact with the General Staff in Belgrade and General Momcilo Perisic; while Toso Pajic, head of the RSK security service, communicated with Jovica Stanisic in Belgrade in a similar manner.

 

The leading political figures in RSK would not dare do anything without consultations with "the Boss", as they called Milosevic, or at least some of his closest associates. Lazarevic described how the president of RSK, Goran Hadzic, on one occasion said in the presence of foreign diplomats that "he was no president, but just a despatcher", and everybody knew from whom the messages he was dispatching were coming.

 

A part of his testimony was dedicated to international negotiations in which he took part as an "interpreter" of the RSK delegation. For that purpose he received from Belgrade a fake "official passport" which stated that he was born in Knin, so that it would not be discovered that he was a Serb from Serbia. At first, he said it was a "diplomatic" passport, but in cross-examination Milosevic forced him to admit that he made a mistake

 

Before each round of negotiations, Lazarevic said, the delegation went to Belgrade to receive "its opinion", that is, instructions: the political part of the delegation went to Milosevic’s cabinet; military representatives went to the VJ General Staff; and police to the Serbian interior ministry.

 

The instructions, Lazarevic said, were always the same: not to agree to anything, not to accept anything and not to sign anything. And if they are forced to agree to something, it must be on condition that it be approved by the RSK assembly.

 

According to Lazarevic, Belgrade was not interested in a political or negotiated solution to the "Krajina problem". They needed it to keep the public in Serbia preoccupied with "suffering of Serbs in Croatia".

 

Lazarevic also completed the testimony of the previous witness, C-020, former member of Arkan's "Tigers", who in the second half of 1994 took part in the secret war in western Bosnia, in which special police forces from Serbia, with help of the Tigers and other paramilitary formations, fought on the side of Fikret Abdic’s rebel forces against the Bosnian army.

 

Lazarevic added to this testimony with new details, saying that units from his RSK corps and forces of Army of Republika Srpska took part in these operations.

 

During more than five hours of cross-examination, Milosevic made a tremendous effort to undermine the credibility of the witness and his testimony.

 

He accused the witness of being an imposter and claimed that he was never a member of army counter-intelligence, but "just an interpreter". Eventually, Milosevic decided he was a spy – but that he had to be a spy working for the British intelligence.

 

Milosevic also referred to numerous discrepancies between the statements Lazaravic gave to the tribunal investigators in 1999 and 2000 and what he said before the court, forcing the witness to admit a number of "mistakes" or "omissions" in his statements that he could not explain.

 

However, none of these "mistakes" pertained to the key elements of his testimony, and Lazarevic made his point even stronger during the cross-examination.

 

Trying to deny that the army of RSK was under control of Belgrade, Milosevic suggested to the witness that by the same token it could be claimed that the JNA "established all other armies" – because Croatian officers moved to Croatian army or HVO, and Muslim officers to the Bosnian army, and so on, but Lazarevic reminded the accused of one "important difference".

 

"Not in one of these cases," the witness said, "did the JNA voluntarily leave its weapons and other equipment to the new armies, or kept supplying them with ammunition and other supplies, or retained them on the payroll or maintained any contact with them."

 

Milosevic's claim that the army of RSK was not controlled from Belgrade, but from Knin, where the Supreme Defense Council was located, was rebutted by the prosecutor Dermot Groome.

 

He asked the witness if he ever saw or heard that the commander of his corps, the head of the RSK security service or members of delegations with whom he travelled to international negotiations request instructions from the Supreme Defense Council. "Never", Lazarevic replied, repeating that instructions were requested exclusively from Belgrade.

 

And Belgrade was "a synonym for Milosevic", Lazarevic said during cross examination, and, turning to Milosevic, concluded, "You were Belgrade!"

 

"Oh, I see, that's a rather large synonym!" Milosevic replied, while his face turned red again. But whether this was out of modesty or blood pressure was unclear.

 

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

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