Written by: Andy Wilcoxson

The trial of Slobodan Milosevic resumed on Wednesday with the continued testimony of Prof. Branko Kostic, the former Montenegrin representative in the Yugoslav (SFRY) presidency.

Prof. Kostic testified that Milosevic was committed to the preservation of a multiethnic Yugoslavia.

The Prosecution has alleged that Yugoslavia fell apart because non-Serbs did not want to live in a Serb-dominated Yugoslavia. The problem with that thesis is the fact that Yugoslavia was NEVER Serb-dominated.

Kostic’s testimony detailed the ethnic structure the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA). In 1991 – the year Yugoslavia’s disintegration began – the JNA’s most senior generals had the following ethnic affiliations: one Yugoslav, two Serbs, eight Croats, two Slovenes, two Macedonians, and one Muslim.

At the same time Yugoslavia’s Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Minister of Development, and Minister of Finance were all Croats. The President of Yugoslavia’s state presidency was Stepjan Mesic, also a Croat.

Clearly, fear of “Serb domination” was not the motivation behind the secessionists. Kostic testified that Slovenia and Croatia were the most economically developed regions of Yugoslavia – not Serbia.

Kostic testified that war broke out in Slovenia in 1991 when Slovene paramilitaries illegally seized control of SFRY border posts. Yugoslavia’s Prime Minister, Ante Markovic (a Croat), sent JNA troops into Slovenia to retake the border posts, and that’s when the fighting broke out.

The prosecution claims that Milosevic provoked the wars in Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia. The prosecution alleges that Milosevic was the mastermind of an enormous conspiracy, or “joint criminal enterprise.” The prosecution previously claimed that the conspiracy was aimed at the creation of greater Serbia, but recently the prosecution has withdrawn that claim. It is not clear what the prosecution now believes the objective of the alleged conspiracy was supposed to have been.

Milosevic has a much simpler explanation. Milosevic claims that war broke out in Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia because secessionist forces illegally seized control of sovereign Yugoslav territory and unilaterally declared their secession, which violated the Yugoslav constitution as well as the rights of Yugoslav citizens (mostly Serbs) who wished to remain living in Yugoslavia.

To prove his case, Milosevic played a videotape of an interview with James Baker, the former U.S. Secretary of State (1989 – 1992).

In the interview Baker says unequivocally that civil war broke out in Yugoslavia because secessionists in Bosnia, Croatia, and Slovenia unilaterally declared independence from Yugoslavia. Baker said that their actions violated the Helsinki Final act, and caused the wars to break out.

Milosevic then played videotape of Baker’s successor, Lawrence Eagleburger (U.S. Secretary of State 1992-1993). Eagleburger stated flat out that Bush recognized the secessionists simply because he was trying to win Croatian-American votes in the 1992 presidential election.

Milosevic played videotape of Franjo Tudjman speaking to a crowd of supporters on Ban Jelacic Square in Zagreb. In this videotape Tudjman admitted that there would not have been a war if Croatia had not insisted on secession from Yugoslavia.

Prof. Kostic pointed out that Alija Izetbegovic had made similar statements. He made reference to Izetbegovic’s notorious statement that he would “sacrifice peace for a sovereign Bosnia.” It is worth noting that Izetbegovic made that statement in February 1991, more than a year before war broke out in Bosnia.

But the cherry on the cake had to be when Milosevic read the quotes from paragraphs 19 and 20 of the prosecution’s initial Kosovo indictment: “On 25 June 1991, Slovenia declared independence from the SFRY, which led to the outbreak of war.” “Croatia declared its independence on 25 June 1991, leading to fighting.” “On 6 March 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina declared its independence, resulting in wide scale war after 6 April 1992.”

As the text of the prosecution’s own indictment makes clear unilateral secession on the part of Bosnia, Croatia, and Slovenia caused war to break out.

Prof. Kostic gave testimony about the role of the JNA in Croatia. He said that the JNA acted as a buffer between Croat paramilitaries and Serbian villages.

He described the 1991 Krajina Serb log rebellion. He testified that the rebellion was not offensive in nature. It was called the log rebellion because the Krajina Serbs used logs to block the roads into their villages in order to keep Croatian paramilitary forces out.

Prof. Kostic noted that Croatia’s population was more than 12% Serb in 1991 and is less than 4% Serb today. Kostic attributed this change in ethnic structure to the hostile actions of Croatian armed forces towards Serbian civilians.

The witness said that Tudjman provoked fighting when he announced, on May 5th 1991, that Croatia’s economy should prepare for war. The very next day Croatian terrorists attacked a Yugoslav Navy facility in Split and killed a JNA soldier by pulling him from his APC and strangling him to death.

Kostic testified about the destructive and hypocritical role of the international community. In 1991 the Kosovo, Vojovodina, Serbia, and Montenegro representatives in the Yugoslav presidency blocked Stepjan Mesic’s promotion to chairman of the SFRY presidency because he had made public statements that he supported secession and that he would be “Yugoslavia’s last president”. Unlike their counterparts, the Slovenian, Croatian, Macedonian, and Bosnian representatives supported Mesic’s promotion.

The four against four tie caused a crisis in the Yugoslav presidency. The European Community (EC) intervened to resolve the crisis. The EC guaranteed that it would not recognize any of the secessionist republics if the presidency members blocking Mesic’s promotion changed their votes.

Mesic was then promoted. Then when Slovenia and Croatia illegally declared their secession from Yugoslavia the EC reneged on its promise and granted them recognition.

Prof. Kostic will continue his testimony when the trial resumes tomorrow. At the end of today's hearing the trial chamber postponed until February 6th their ruling on the possibility of Milosevic receiving medical treatment in Moscow.

# # #