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

Witness Describes Meetings Between Perisic and Mladic

He also said he thought Mladic was on Yugoslav army payroll until 2002.
By Rory Gallivan
A witness in the Hague war crimes trial of former Yugoslav army, VJ, chief Momcilo Perisic testified that Ratko Mladic remained in contact with the accused well into the late 1990s.



Djordje Curcin – a former Yugoslav general and long-time friend of Mladic – said that Perisic had met the ex-commander of the Bosnian Serb army at VJ facilities on more than one occasion from 1997 onwards.



The witness, who was chief of operations and training in the First Army of the VJ from 1993 to 1998, also said he believed that Mladic was a member of the VJ until he retired in 2002.



The indictment against Perisic, Yugoslav army chief from 1993 to 1998, also says that Mladic retired from the VJ at this time.



Perisic’s indictment further alleges that as head of the Yugoslav army, he exerted control over Serb forces operating in Bosnia and Croatia. He is charged with crimes against humanity for the Srebrenica massacre, the siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, and the shelling of the Croatian capital Zagreb.



Curcin testified in the Perisic trial after the tribunal issued a subpoena ordering him to appear at the request of the prosecution.



Prosecutor Mark Harmon said that the prosecution believed the witness was involved in harbouring General Mladic.



The Hague tribunal indicted Mladic for genocide and crimes against humanity in 1995.



This week, Curcin described several days that he spent with Mladic, playing chess and chatting, at military facilities at Rajac and Stragari in Serbia in the late Nineties.



He spoke of equally congenial meetings taking place between Perisic and Mladic at the same military bases around that time.



Asked about his first meeting with Mladic at Rajac in July 1997, Curcin said they played chess and cards and had lunch over the course of a few hours.



Mladic was accompanied by several members of a security team, he added, noting that while some of the bodyguards were in civilian clothes at the time, he later saw them wearing the camouflage uniform of the VJ.



He said he was unclear about who paid these men’s salaries although added that he thought it was the same source that paid that of Mladic, which he assumed was the Yugoslav ministry of defence.



However, when questioned later by Perisic’s defence lawyer Novak Lukic, Curcin said the men were not members of the VJ and denied he had said they were.



Curcin also described meetings between Perisic and Mladic. The first one was in July or August 1997 at Rajac, and was instigated by Curcin himself, said the witness.



“As I emerged from a facility to take a walk on the road, I noticed a dark coloured Audi with tinted windows,” said Curcin.



“I went up to the vehicle and when the windows came down, I saw General Perisic there dressed in civilian clothes, driving the car. I said: ‘Why don’t you drop by and visit us?’



“He didn’t want to, but then I talked him into it and he came to the facility and spent some time there. He played chess with General Mladic – maybe also some table tennis – and after they had lunch, he left for Belgrade.”



Curcin said he did not know why Perisic had been reluctant to meet Mladic.



The witness said that he himself had subsequently visited Mladic three or four times at the Stagari facility.



He said he knew of an occasion when Perisic met Mladic at Stragari, in early autumn 1997, and confirmed that he had also been present at the time.



“We spent the majority of that day together,” he said. “We talked, we walked through the woods, we played chess, some cards, table tennis, we had lunch, then we walked some more.”



Asked by Harmon whether Perisic knew about the indictment against Mladic at that time, Curcin said he was not sure, adding that he himself had been unaware of it. Curcin added he did not know if Perisic had visited Mladic at Stragari on any other occasion.



Curcin later said that he himself had been visited by Mladic several times at his apartment. When asked by Harmon if Mladic had been taken there by a driver, he replied that he was not sure.



During his examination by Lukic, the witness said he had no knowledge of who had organised Mladic’s stay at the military facilities, adding that the general appeared to be in charge of his own security.



He also confirmed that he met Mladic socially on several occasions in Mladic’s apartment in Belgrade after that meeting at Rajac in 1997.



In response to a question by Lukic, the witness explained why he believed Mladic to be a member of the VJ until his retirement seven years ago.



“Because he had a health insurance card of the same sort as our officers, he could be treated in the health institutions of the military medical academy, and he received his salary via the ministry of defence,” he said.



“Through these structures, he received the decree on his retirement on March 8, 2002,” said Curcin, adding that this was signed by the office of the president of Yugoslavia, as is the normal procedure.



Asked by Lukic about reports that Mladic had attended football matches during this period, Curcin said he had indeed attended two with Mladic at the Red Star stadium in Belgrade – one between Yugoslavia and Croatia in August 1999 and one between Yugoslavia and Greece.



Mladic did not try to disguise himself or conceal his appearance at this time, said Curcin.



Curcin confirmed that he stopped seeing Mladic once former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic was arrested on March 31, 2001.



At this point, he said, Mladic became fearful that he, too, would be arrested, either by NATO troops or specialist teams within Serbia.



Rory Gallivan is an IWPR contributor in London.