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March 7, 2005

Charges against General Momcilo Perisic, formerly Yugoslavia's highest-ranking military officer, were unsealed today after he turned himself over to the custody of the ICTY. The allegations reveal in comprehensive detail the full extent of Belgrade's financial, logistical and operational support of atrocities committed in Croatia and Bosnia between 1993 and 1995 by Serbian break-away forces fighting in those Republics.

As set forth in the indictment, General Perisic implemented a policy whereby the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (hereinafter 'FRY') armed, supplied and provided nearly the entire officer corps to the breakaway Serbian armies fighting in Bosnia and Croatia. FRY's support of the Army of Republika Srpska (hereinafter 'VRS') and the Army of the Serbian Krajina (hereinafter 'SKV') continued uninterrupted under Perisic's command despite official denials by FRY officials of any military involvement in the Bosnian and Croatian conflicts and notwithstanding United Nations Security Council resolutions prohibiting such military assistance.

VJ Provision of Military Aid to Serb Forces in Bosnia and Croatia

As Chief of Staff of the Yugoslav Army (hereinafter the 'VJ'), General Perisic was the highest-ranking officer in the VJ and possessed overall command and authority over its operations. He was subordinate only to the President of the FRY and the Supreme Defense Council (hereinafter 'SDC'), which was composed of the Presidents of the FRY, Serbia and Montenegro. In this position, he is alleged to have implemented a policy of providing weapons, ammunition, fuel, food, medical supplies, spare parts, uniforms and training to the VRS and SVK. Additionally, General Perisic is accused directly arranging for logistical assistance to VRS operations, including those actions that resulted in atrocities.

Officers Commanding Serb Forces in Bosnia and Croatia Under Ultimately VJ Control

The indictment concentrates on Perisic's provision of experienced military officers to the VRS and SVK. The indictment alleges that the VJ provided and financed the majority of officers comprising the officer corps of the VRS and SVK. Special VJ 'personnel centers' were established to disguise the provision and payment of these officers. Many officers seconded to the VRS were actually still officially on the roster and under the command of the VJ. This was most notably demonstrated by the fact that Perisic as Chief of Staff of the VJ personally promoted officers serving in the VRS and SVK. General Perisic also advised the SDC on promotions for ranks above that of colonel.

The list of VRS officers on the roster of the VJ personnel center who received their pay and benefits from the VJ and who were promoted under General Peresic's command reads like a who's who of indicted war criminals. The list included many of the leading operational officers responsible for orchestrating the massacre of thousands at Srebrenica, including: General Ratko Mladic, General Radislav Krstic, General Radivoje Miletic, General Zdravko Tolimir and General Milan Gvero.  In fact, the indictment notes that General Mladic remained on the rolls of the VJ until June of 2001 nearly six years after his indictment by the ICTY.

In fact, the prosecution alleges that the link between the VRS and the VJ was so close that political leaders of the Republika Srpska and General Mladic could request particular VJ officers to be transferred to serve them in the VRS.

The indictment alleges that General Perisic knew that the personnel and logistical assistance he provided to the VRS were being used to perpetrate crimes in Sarajevo and Srebrenica (including murder and forcible transfer), and yet did nothing to stop these atrocities. General Perisic knew of these war crimes through his position as the highest ranking VJ staff officer, through his contacts with the VRS and SVK, through receipt of intelligence briefings as well as through media reports.

VJ Provided Leadership and Arms for Crimes at Sarajevo, Zagreb and Srebrenica

General Perisic is accused of providing the officers, weaponry and logistical support for: 1) the terror campaign of shelling and sniping of Sarajevo's civilian inhabitants; 2) the indiscriminate shelling of Zagreb; and 3) the massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica. General Perisic is also accused of exercising his authority to close off the border between Serbia and Bosnia in the Srebrenica area in order to prevent Bosnian Muslims from escaping into Serbia and to return those who had already crossed.

Command Responsibility

General Perisic has been charged with crimes against humanity for murder, inhumane acts, persecution and extermination and violations of the laws and customs of war for murder and attacks on civilians both the basis of his individual responsibility in aiding and abetting such crimes, and on the basis of command responsibility. In particular, the Prosecution alleges that General Perisic had an affirmative duty to monitor the activities of his subordinates and investigate allegations of misconduct and criminal acts. However, despite being aware of allegations of war crimes being committed by members of the VRS and SVK, he did nothing to investigate, punish or prevent the criminal behavior of those VJ officers serving in the VRS and SVK. His ability to promote those same officers however demonstrated that he exercised authoritative control over them.