Written by: Andy Wilcoxson

Montenegro’s former representative in the SFRY state presidency, Prof. Branko Kostic, concluded his testimony at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic on Wednesday.

Prof. Kostic reiterated his testimony that Slobodan Milosevic had no control over Milan Babic or the Krajina-Serb leadership. He said that Milosevic only had political influence.

He also testified that Milosevic played no role in JNA activities, and that the JNA was commanded by the SFRY state presidency. To bear this point out he recounted an instance when the SFRY presidency took a decision to pension off a number of JNA generals. One of the generals that they pensioned off was Serbia’s Minister of Defense. Kostic recalled that Milosevic called him to ask how come he had not been notified in advance that his defense minister was to be pensioned off.

During the re-examination Kostic cleared up some matters in relation to a speech that he made in Borovo Selo in 1991. The prosecution accused him of using the speech to whip people up into a warlike frenzy. When Kostic was permitted to quote the actual text of the speech it emerged that the speech was aimed at reassuring the Croatian and Serbian population that the JNA would protect them.

Kostic also testified that the JNA did not destroy Dubrovnik. He said that the JNA was ordered not to fire on the old town, and that they did not fire on the old town. He said that Croatia staged phony attacks against the old town and used it as a firing point.

After Kostic withdrew, Prof. Dr. Marko Atlagic took the witness stand. Atlagic was a deputy in the Croatian Sabor from 1990 to 1992 representing the Benkovac area.

Prof. Atlagic testified that Slobodan Milosevic was not masterminding a joint criminal enterprise against Croatia. According to Atlagic, Franjo Tudjman was pursuing a joint criminal enterprise to destroy Yugoslavia, expel the Serbian population, and conquer parts of Bosnia, Serbia, and Montenegro.

To prove his thesis that Tudjman was the mastermind of a joint criminal enterprise, Atlagic quoted from the platform adopted at the first party congress of Tudjman’s political party the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). The party platform advocated a Greater-Croatian state, and a return to the borders of the WWII-era Independent State of Croatia (NDH), which was governed by pro-Nazi fascists, called “Ustashas”.

Atlagic testified that Tudjman had advocated a greater-Croatian ideology for quite some time. He read from a book that Tudjman wrote in 1964. In that book Tudjman advocated the destruction of Yugoslavia and a return to the borders of the NDH. This book ultimately landed Tudjman in jail when he wrote it.

The witness testified that fascist provocations began to resurface in Croatia as early as 1989. He recalled incidents where drunken gangs of Croats roamed the streets calling the names of Ante Starcevic and Ante Pavelic and saying that “Serbs would be hung from the willow trees” once Croatia got its independence. He said that these incidents were met with no reaction from the Croatian authorities.

Ante Starcevic is a well-known Croatian historical figure who opposed Yugoslavia. In 1870 he wrote that Serbs were “filthy spawn, horrible slaves, people only fit for the axe.”

Ante Starcevic founded the Croatian Party of Rights (HSP) in 1861. The HSP established an armed terrorist faction that later became the Ustasha. The Ustasha came to power in Croatia in 1941 when the Nazis occupied Yugoslavia and established the Independent State of Croatia (NDH).

In spite of his fascist ideology, Starcevic is widely revered in Croatia. The Croats call him “the father of the Croatian nation”, and the Croatian government prints his picture on the 1,000 Kuna bank note to this very day.

Ante Pavelic was the leader, or poglavnik, of the Ustasha/NDH during World War II. Pavelic is seen in this picture meeting with Adolf Hitler:

Prof. Atlagic testified that in the late 80s and early 90s the Croatian police did not do any thing to stop fascist provocations. He said that the Croatian authorities even joined in.

Atlagic testified that in Zagreb a monument to the victims of fascism was torn down and replaced with a monument to Mile Budak. Budak was the Ustasha’s education minister who drafted the so-called “Law on Protection of People's and Aryan Culture of Croatian People”, which banned Jews from holding public office in Croatia.

On July 22, 1941, Budak gave a speech that defined the Ustasha strategy. He said, "We shall kill one part of the Serbs. We shall transport another third, and the rest of them will embrace the Roman Catholic religion... Our new Croatia will become Catholic within ten years."

The witness recalled that at one point Croatia banned Serbs from placing memorial wreaths on the site of the Jasenovac concentration camp.

In addition to the destruction and removal of anti-fascist monuments, Atlagic recalled several chilling statements made by Franjo Tudjman.

In 1989, while attending a conference of the German diplomatic corps, Tudjman proclaimed that Krajina would be “red with blood” once he became Croatia’s president.

The witness also recounted Tudjman’s infamous statement where he said, “thank God my wife is neither a Serb nor a Jew.”

Prof. Atlagic presented the court with the text of a 1997 statement that Tudjman gave to the Croatian Sabor where he said that his greatest achievement as Croatia’s president had been the ethnic cleansing of the Serbs. The witness connected this to a statement that Tudjman made in 1990 where he said that 250,000 Serbs should leave Croatia.

In addition to hostile statements from the Croatian leadership, Serbs in Croatia were purged from schools and the police. Croatia even went so far as to rename the Serbo-Croatian language the Croatian language.

No fascist government would be complete without violence against “undesirable” minorities and Tudjman’s government was no exception.

Prof. Atlagic said that between 1990 and 1992, Tudjman’s government burned over 4,000 Serbian homes in Western Slavonia.

In March of 1991 Croatian fascists rampaged through the town of Zadar destroying 350 Serb-owned shops and homes in one night.

The witness also testified that Croatian fascists destroyed more than 160 Serbian Orthodox churches.

Even Croatian politicians who are called “moderates” made inflammatory statements. Atlagic testified that on March 2, 1990 Stjepan Mesic told a rally in Gospic “When we Croats establish our own state, all the Serbs in it will fit under a single umbrella.” Stjepan Mesic is currently Croatia’s president, and he testified as a prosecution witness earlier in the trial. He is also a convicted criminal having spent time in prison during the 1970s.

All of this evidence goes to show that the Krajina-Serbs were forced to go to war to defend themselves against a fascist Croatian state that made no secret that it was plotting their extermination. This runs completely contrary to the prosecution’s case that Milosevic was responsible for the war.

During Prof. Atlagic’s testimony, the judges and the prosecution both made frequent interventions to try and get Milosevic to focus his questions on the specific incidents alleged by the indictment.

Focusing on the specific incidents alleged by the indictments would be the dumbest strategy Milosevic could adopt. The only thing that links him to any of what’s alleged in the Croatian and Bosnian indictments is the prosecution’s assertion that he masterminded a gigantic conspiracy that was aimed at achieving an objective that the prosecution has left undefined. The prosecution used to say that the objective of the conspiracy was the establishment of “greater Serbia,” but they’ve dropped that thesis and replaced it with nothing.

By showing that war broke-out as the result of violent Muslim and Croat provocations, and by showing that no Serbian conspiracy existed, Milosevic completely negates the thesis put forward by the indictments thus rendering the specific incidents alleged in them irrelevant.

Milosevic will certainly focus his attention on some specific incidents in order to defend the Serbian people and establish the truth about certain events, but he does not have to do that in order to prove his own innocence, because there’s just no link between him and the alleged crimes.

Prof. Atlagic will continue his testimony when the trial resumes on Wednesday, February 22nd.

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