Written by: Andy Wilcoxson

Gen. Obrad Stevanovic began his third day of testimony at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic on Wednesday. Stevanovic was Serbia’s assistant interior minister during the 1990s.

Stevanovic’s testimony has been accompanied by hundreds of documents. Among his exhibits were KLA documents seized by the Serbian police during raids on KLA facilities. These particular documents were seized in 1998 during anti-terrorist operations in Leskovac.

The documents showed that the KLA had established elite squadrons for kidnapping and assassinations. The KLA had also established illegal prisons and so-called “execution squads.”

The seized KLA documents spoke of the civilian population moving as the result of fighting, not as the result of any Serbian ethnic cleansing. One of the documents spoke of an incident on the Albanian border where forty armed KLA terrorists clashed with the Yugoslav Army while illegally attempting to cross from Albania into Yugoslavia. The document said that the result of the fighting was panic among the civilians and the fleeing of the population.

The documents showed that the KLA was engaged in the intimidation of Albanian civilians. One of the documents was a letter written by the KLA that was intended for a particular Albanian. The letter threatened that this Albanian would be kidnapped or killed if he did not give his car, his pistol, and thousands of Deutsche-marks to the KLA.

Gen. Stevanovic gave testimony regarding the actions of the police. He said that the police only used force in special circumstances, and that they did not use excessive force. Stevanovic’s testimony stands in direct contradiction to what Paddy Ashdown said when he testified as a prosecution witness.

To bear this point out, Milosevic had Stevanovic read out the orders the police were given. The police were ordered to protect the civilian population regardless of their ethnicity, and to abide by the Geneva Conventions.

The police were specifically ordered to arrest military and police personnel who committed crimes against the civilian population. Not only were the police issued those orders directly, the orders were published in the Politika newspaper so that everybody would be aware of them.

Stevanovic testified that the police mostly reacted to terrorist attacks, although there were special circumstances where anti-terrorist operations were planned. Force was only used in these planned operations when civilians would not be placed in jeopardy. Force was used in a gradual nature. The witness said that force would start out minimal and then build-up as the situation warranted.

Crime statistics also feature in Stevanovic’s testimony, as the former assistant Interior Minister; he has access to the official crime statistics for Kosovo. Today he focused on crimes against Albanians.

According to the official statistics of the Serbian Interior Ministry, between January 1, 1999 and June 20, 1999, 3,614 Albanians were reported to be the victims of violent crimes in Kosovo. The MUP arrested 2,788 persons, including members of the army and police, for the commission of those crimes against the Albanian population.

The statistics showed that the NATO bombing killed 617 people in Kosovo, of whom 305 were Albanians, 253 were Serbs, and 59 were others.

The NATO bombing killed more people than the anti-terrorist actions of the Serbian police. The anti-terrorist actions killed 564 people in Kosovo, the vast majority of whom were Albanian terrorists.

During Stevanovic’s testimony Judge Robinson acted like he had trouble understanding the nature of Milosevic’s defense.

Milosevic’s defense is simple. The indictment alleges that Milosevic planned and participated in a grand conspiracy, or “joint criminal enterprise,” to ethnically cleanse Kosovo and parts of Bosnia and Croatia so as to establish an enlarged Serbian state.

The prosecution charges Milosevic with specific crimes on the basis that those crimes were committed in the pursuit of the alleged master conspiracy. The prosecution has not shown a single order that Milosevic, or the Serbian government, issued advocating the commission of a crime. Nor does the prosecution allege that Milosevic directly perpetrated a war crime. This alleged “Joint Criminal Enterprise” is the only thing the prosecution has that links Milosevic to any of the specific crimes alleged by the indictment.

Milosevic’s defense is very simple. Milosevic claims that the joint criminal enterprise, alleged by the indictment, never existed. The primary aim of his defense is to show that there never was a conspiracy to create “Greater Serbia” or to ethnically cleanse the non-Serbian population.

Gen. Stevanovic’s testimony is aimed at showing that steps were taken by the police to prevent and punish war crimes. The prevention and punishment of war crimes does not jibe with the prosecution’s claim that the police were part of a conspiracy to commit war crimes in Kosovo.

Milosevic uses his defense as a platform to defend Serbia and the Serbian people. He has conclusively shown that the Racak massacre was a hoax, and that the Serbian police never executed prisoners at the Dubrava prison.

His defense rests on two main pillars. First, the Joint Criminal Enterprise did not exist. Second, the crimes attributed to the Serbian military and police never happened or were exaggerated.

Milosevic does not deny that individual crimes were committed. He is showing through witnesses like Gen. Stevanovic and Gen. Gojovic that those crimes were punished, and that they were committed in violation of the orders that the army and police were given.

The trial will resume on Thursday. Gen. Stevanovic is expected to take another two days in chief.