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War Crimes Suspect Talks to Media

One of Milosevic’s closest allies says he felt no responsibility for Balkan war crimes.
Former Yugoslav defence minister and war crimes suspect Veljko Kadijevic told Serbian TV this week that he would not appear at the Hague tribunal either as a witness or a suspect.

He was responding to rumours that he may be summoned to testify in the trial of Serbian ultranationalist leader Vojislav Seselj, which opened this month in The Hague.

Kadijevic - who was indicted by Croatian authorities for war crimes earlier this year, and has been living in Moscow “as a refugee” since 2001 - told journalists that he felt no responsibility for any war crimes committed during the Balkans wars.

In March 2007, Croatia and Interpol issued an arrest warrant for the general for “war crimes against the civilian population” in Croatia during the conflict in the early Nineties.

General Kadijevic, 82, was one of the closest allies of the former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic.

He has never been indicted at the Hague tribunal for war crimes allegedly committed in the former Yugoslavia, despite pressure from Croatia to do so.

Kadijevic told Serbian television, RTS, this week that he fled to Russia when he was contacted by tribunal investigators, as he wasn’t sure whether they wanted to talk to him as a suspect or a witness.

He also told RTS that the shelling and siege of the Croatian cities of Vukovar and Dubrovnik by the Yugoslav People’s Army’s, JNA, were “justified” because Croatian forces were launching attacks on JNA from these cities.

He added he had found out about the 1991 massacre of some 200 captured Croats from the Vukovar hospital only after his retirement, and felt no responsibility for that, either.

In September, former JNA commander Mile Mrksic was sentenced to 20 years in prison for aiding and abetting murder, torture and cruel treatment of prisoners at Ovcara farm near Vukovar. Veselin Sljivancanin was sentenced to five years in jail for aiding and abetting cruel treatment of the prisoners, while the third accused, Miroslav Radic, was acquitted.

In the RTS interview, Kadijevic claimed the JNA committed no crimes in the former Yugoslavia arguing that because it was the only legal armed force at the time, it was trying to defend Yugoslavia from emerging paramilitaries.

In a separate interview for Croatian Television, HRT, this week - the first he has granted the Croatian media since the war - the retired general said he was "aware that his image in Croatia is negative".

"In Serbia too, nationalists believe I should have taken the chance to physically destroy Croatia. This is why I am the arch-traitor to the Serb people, while in Croatia I am the epitome of evil and a war criminal,” he said.

HRT journalist Josip Saric, who interviewed Kadijevic, said it was difficult to make contact with the general because his name is on an Interpol arrest warrant and that it took him months to arrange a meeting in an unknown location in Moscow.

Merdijana Sadovic is IWPR’s Hague programme manager.

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