SANU Memorandum Author Testifies

SANU Memorandum Author Testifies

The Accused Slobodan Milosevic spent a day questioning his first witness, Mihajlo Markovic, former vice president of his Socialist Party (SPS) and an author of the infamous memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences (SANU). Since this was his first attempt at examination in chief, Presiding Judge Patrick Robinson took the opportunity to explain its function and the manner in which it is to be conducted.

'Examination in chief is not necessarily easier than cross examination. It is different. You are not allowed to ask leading questions. The witness must give the evidence. You are not to give evidence and you are not to make speeches. The evidence must be relevant, that is, relating to an allegation in the indictment. . . . ' A leading question is one where the question includes the answer, as in the following two examples:

1) Milosevic: 'When you met Slovene intellectuals, you were surprised about their wanting to secede?'
Witness: 'Yes. . . .' [He expands on the topic.]
2) Milosevic: 'Can we say that part of the Slovene intelligentsia in the 1990's had a
clear tendency and plan from 1985 for Slovenia to secede?'
Witness: 'No doubt. They'd made a firm decision to leave. . . .'

Whether from lack of experience or intent, Milosevic rarely managed to follow the Judge's instructions. When Prosecutor Geoffrey Nice objected to leading questions, Markovic asserted he could not be led.

Milosevic and the Witness explained the world view of Serbian nationalists, including a review of history touching events as early as the 7th Century. The primary focus of Markovic's testimony was two-fold: the SANU Memorandum and Milosevic's speech at Gazimestan in 1989.

Markovic testified that political and economic chaos in Yugoslavia in the 1980's led the intelligentsia at SANU to an indepth examination which resulted in the Draft Memorandum. The Memorandum has been criticized as a declaration of Serb nationalism that inflamed public discontent and set the stage for Yugoslavia's dissolution. The document argued Serbia was unequal and discriminated against among the Yugoslav republics, claiming Serbs, unlike other nations within the federation, lacked a state. The argument was based on an interpretation of the 1974 Yugoslav constitution which gave Kosovo and Vojvodina (located within Serbia) autonomous status and equal rights with the republics at the federal level. This, Markovic explained, gave the two autonomous provinces veto power over any Serbian legislation, while effectively denying Serbia the ability to protect Serb citizens within the provinces.

Nice quoted several passages from the Memorandum where it alleged genocide was being conducted against the Serbian people in Kosovo and Metohija and Croatia. One example follows: 'The physical, political, legal and cultural genocide of the Serbian population in Kosovo and Metohija is a worse historical defeat than any experienced in the liberation wars waged by Serbia from the First Serbian Uprising in 1804 to the uprising of 1941.' Markovic agreed that 'genocide' was too strong a word, but insisted it was otherwise an accurate description of the situation in Kosovo where Serbs were being expelled and their cultural monuments were being destroyed.

Asked whether such language was bound to have a negative effect on other nationalities, Markovic agreed, but added that it 'expressed the factual situation.' Nice continued: 'As an intellectual, are you aware that if you create a culture where one segment is categorized as an outsider it is going to be easier to commit crimes against outsiders?' With some irritation, the Witness answered, 'No. Don't you hold lectures here. They [Kosovo Albanians] weren't outsiders. They had more rights than minorities in other countries. They wanted to conjoin Kosovo with Albania.'

In the worldview described by Markovic (and Milosevic), Kosovo Albanians were not entitled to the same rights as other ethnic groups in the former Yugoslavia who did not have a separate 'mother country' like Albania. Their mother country should look after their rights just as Serbia intended (as evidenced in its 1990 constitution) to look after the rights of diaspora Serbs, he implied. Markovic reflected this view in a 6 November 1991 statement to the BBC, in which he maintained that Serbia could not accept that national minorities within Serbia, e.g.g. Hungarians and Albanians, be given the same rights as Serbia demanded for Serbs in Croatia.

Markovic described the Memorandum as a statement of truth and denied it had any inflammatory effect. It was merely a draft, he said, and had not been officially adopted when it was leaked to the press in 1986. The response, according to Markovic, was highly negative, led by then-Serbian President and former Milosevic mentor, Ivan Stambolic, and resulting in a witch hunt against the Academy. In response to a question from Prosecutor Geoffrey Nice, the Witness agreed that Stambolic viewed the Memorandum as an 'In Memoriam' for Yugoslavia. It was not, he insisted, the platform on which Milosevic rose to power.

In 1986, Markovic declared, Milosevic was not well known. Any criticism of the Memorandum on his part during the firestorm that followed was muted, though his political party initiated an investigation. After he became President of Serbia, however, he stopped the witch hunt against SANU. The SPS investigation was also dropped. This, according to Markovic, was the only 'democratic' thing to do.

While Markovic sought to separate the Accused from any connection with the Memorandum, Nice persisted in addressing the connection: 'Is it fair to say that the Memorandum identified a political strategy for the way forward and in Mr. Milosevic found a leader to execute it and Mr. Milosevic was happy to lead on the basis of policies advanced in the Memorandum?'

Nearly all intellectuals, according to the Witness, welcomed Milosevic's presidency because 'for the first time we didn't have political prisoners, people could write what they wanted . . . .' He described an atmosphere of awakening to freedom of thought and expression. Milosevic also set Serbia on the road to social democracy as practiced in Sweden and Norway, the Witness said. The one-party system was replaced and elections were frequently held.

According to the Prosecution, in March 1989, Milosevic orchestrated the Serbian Republic's constitutional changes that revoked the autonomous status of Kosovo and Vojvodina in violation of the federal constitution, thereby implementing a significant part of the program advanced by the Memorandum and strengthening Serbia's position. Markovic insisted that autonomy was not revoked; only the provinces' elements of sovereignty were eliminated to give Serbia equal status to the other Yugoslav republics. In light of the contention that the Kosovo Assembly agreed to the constitutional changes, Nice asked the Witness if he recalled the tanks surrounding the Assembly when it voted on the changes. Markovic said he did not. When Nice asked him to explain why the tanks might be necessary, the Witness shot back, 'If I say it didn't happen, I cannot say why it happened.'

Speaking of Milosevic's June 1989 speech at the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo Polje in Gazimestan, Kosovo, Markovic called it a 'very peaceful, tolerant speech, which even disappointed some present expecting you [Milosevic] to attack Albanian terrorism and repressive measures.' He went on to say that the speech was well-received in the Western media at the time, though 10 years later that same media attacked it as a call to war. Judge Bonomy secured Milosevic's agreement to provide clippings from both time periods.

On cross examination, Nice pointed out that the local media reacted with anxiety at the time, in particular citing the following well-known passage: 'Six centuries later [after Serb defeat at Kosovo Polje], we are again engaged in battles. They are not armed battles, though such things cannot be excluded. . . .' Markovic maintained this selection was taken out of context, that the reference was mostly to economic, cultural, and political battles. However, he also insisted that a state has the right to defend itself militarily.

Nice inquired if the following excerpt referred to the recent constitutional change eliminating provincial autonomy: 'By force of social circumstances, this great 600th anniversary is taking place in the year in which Serbia has regained its state, national and spiritual integrity.' Markovic responds in the negative. Milosevic, he testified, was speaking of the need for unity because disunity had led to defeat at Kosovo Polje. Nice pointed out that Milosevic did not mention Albanians in the speech and none were present among the one million plus people gathered to hear it. He noted that Ibrahim Rugova foresaw the speech as a Serbian chauvinist event and a provocation. The witness did not alter his opinion, answering that Milosevic did not mention Albanians because people expected him to criticize them and this was a speech of unity.

Nice ran into trouble at the beginning of his cross examination when he attempted to expose Markovic's biases against Albanians using an article summarizing an article Markovic wrote for the Praxis journal he edited from 1981 to 1986. Markovic categorically denied the statements attributed to him. Milosevic objected that Nice was 'duty bound' to present the witness with the original article, and the Court agreed. When Nice advised that the Prosecution was in the process of locating the original and if it had been possible to have it for the day's testimony, they would have, Judge Bonomy responded with some pique, 'One possibility is that you have simply wanted time without having the article. . . . and the evidence is completely valueless.' By the end of cross examination, the Prosecution still did not have the article, negating any use it might have had.

The Prosecutor was more successful in challenging Markovic's testimony that Kosovo Albanians expelled 200,000 Serbs in a 20 year period from the late sixties to the nineties, as argued in the Memorandum. Stating the Serbian State Survey concluded 60,000 Serbs left the province, 20,000 of them after 1989, Nice asked for the Witness's comment. Markovic allowed the numbers were subject to dispute and admitted that the 200,000 figure would have to be revised if further investigation revealed it to be inaccurate. When Nice asked if the figures included Serbs leaving the impoverished province for economic reasons, Markovic agreed it could happen, though not in normal circumstances. He went on to suggest that perhaps the 200,000 figure referred to those who left voluntarily, while 40,000 referred to the number expelled.

Nice asked the Witness about his earlier contention that Serbia, unlike Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo, had never expelled anyone, in light of testimony from prosecution witnesses that they were expelled from Vojvodina in Northern Serbia. Markovic denied it, then allowed that it might have occurred in one area but was done by individuals and members of the Serbian Radical Party, not the state. Oddly, Nice didn't ask him about the expulsion of 800,000 Albanians from Kosovo in 1999.

The Prosecutor also confronted Markovic with maps purportedly showing an enlarged Serbia in relation to the other republics, often referred to as 'Greater Serbia,' including large parts of Croatia and Bosnia. Markovic denied there was every any state policy for a Greater Serbia. Rather than showing an enlarged Serbia, the map showed Yugoslavia following Slovenian and Croatian secession, he claimed. Individuals may have advocated a Greater Serbia, Markovic said, but it was never state policy. He stuck to his view that Yugoslavia's disintegration and wars were caused by Croatian and Slovenian secession, which, he maintained, both republics had planned for years.

Markovic emerged as a man confirmed in his worldview, one that Milosevic shared. Given that he was a primary creator and propagator of that worldview, it is not surprising. That it is incomprehensible to many in the former Yugoslavia, particularly non-Serbs, throws light on a difficult future for the region, however it appears to the three ICTY trial judges who will decide Milosevic's fate.
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