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Witness Claims Perisic Lacked Funding Authority
A defence witness told the war crimes trial of Momcilo Perisic last week that the former Yugoslav army, VJ, chief lacked the authority to decide where to allocate funding from the defence budget.
Borivoje Jovanic, the former head of the finance and budget directorate at the Republic of Yugoslavia, FRY, ministry of defence told the Hague tribunal that the ministry and the government in general were responsible for planning and spending the defence budget. They did not take orders from the chief of general staff, he said.
Perisic is charged with having provided material, personnel, logistic and other assistance to Serb armies in Bosnia and Croatia and thus contributing to their crimes in Bosnia and Croatia.
Perisic, the most senior Yugoslav army, VJ, officer to be accused of war crimes in Bosnia and Croatia, has pleaded not guilty to 13 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
These include aiding and abetting the 43-month siege of Sarajevo, the shelling of the Croatian capital Zagreb and the July 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica.
The witness said the VJ general staff was never part of the FRY defence ministry, "The chief of staff was in a military and command sense only subordinate to the FRY supreme council of defence."
Jovanic said Perisic had, as VJ chief of staff, no jurisdiction over him and was himself directly responsible not to the defence ministry, but to the supreme defence council, which included the president and the prime minister.
"Can you please clarify to the chamber which parametres there were between the ministry of defence and the general staff related to the usage, distribution of funds and planning of the budget?" asked defence lawyer Gregor Guy-Smith.
"The minister of defence was responsible for the implementation of the budget,” replied Jovanic, adding that he would transfer funds necessary for the functioning of the VJ by decree and order to the general staff.
Jovanic said the federal government would give “guidelines” to the ministry on the yearly budget, while the ministry of defence was fully responsible for implementing the budget and spending the money in a proper way. This, Jovanic said, meant that "what was destined for salaries, could only be spent on salaries".
“What was your jurisdiction and responsibility as director for finance and budget?" Guy-Smith asked.
Jovanic said, "The directorate I headed was in charge of making the defence budget, ie the budget for the needs of the ministry as a federal authority and for the needs of the VJ. The directorate was responsible for its implementation, for regulating the material needs in the Yugoslav army and for overall financial management."
The salary funds "came from the federal budget", Jovanic said, and their amount as well as the applicable taxes were determined by the government itself.
"Who regulated what your duties were? The ministry or someone else?" the defence counsel asked.
“I had no direct contact with or orders from the chief of the general staff, but from the minister, and everything that came from the VJ general staff had to go through the minister," Jovanic replied.
“Was the ministry in any way subordinate to the VJ chief of the general staff? Could he have ordered the ministry what to do?" Guy-Smith asked.
"I think not, as the minister only had to respond to the prime minister,” Jovanic replied.
“There was of course daily communication between the ministry of defence and the VJ chief of general staff because the life and work of the ministry and of the army demanded everyday contact and agreements related to individual tasks,” the witness continued.
“I, however, think that there was no possibility for the chief of general staff to order something to the ministry. When it comes to handling finances, the chief of staff and his own team had to fulfill anything ordered by the minister's acts - and not vice versa."
Jovanic said Perisic, as chief of general staff, could only have been able to partially redirect funds, but was not entitled to "take money designated for materiel and divert it into other logistical purposes".
This was possible only at the ministry level, Jovanic said.
“The chief of general staff could have asked the ministry to do a certain thing, but by no means could he order it," the witness said.
The trial continues next week.
Velma Šarić is an IWPR-trained reporter in Sarajevo.
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