Written by: Andy Wilcoxson

Prosecutor Geoffrey Nice continued his cross-examination of Serbia’s former Assistant Interior Minister, Gen Obrad Stevanovic, on Wednesday at the Hague Tribunal’s trial of Slobodan Milosevic.

Mr. Nice focused the cross-examination on Srebrenica. The prosecutor unsuccessfully tried to establish a link between the Serbian MUP and the July 1995 events in Srebrenica.

Mr. Nice asserted that Stevanovic was entrusted with the task of escorting the DUTCHBAT peacekeepers from the Serbian border at Bratunac to the Serbian border with Croatia only because he could be trusted to keep quiet the knowledge of massacres, a charge which the witness vehemently denied. Gen. Stevanovic explained that he escorted the DUTCHBAT soldiers through Serbia because they asked for a police escort.

Mr. Nice spent a great deal of time reading documents allegedly seized from facilities in Republika Srpska in 2004. These documents identified a unit called “Skorpions” as being part of the Serbian MUP. Stevanovic said that the Serbian MUP had no “Skorpions” unit, and had no idea what the documents were all about.

According to the documents, these “Skorpions” were sent to the Srebrenica area in the summer of 1995. Mr. Nice claimed that the commander of the “Skorpions” was Slobodan Medic, and that the Scorpions had been tasked with guarding the Djeletovci oil fields in Republika Srpska Krajina (RSK). Gen. Stevanovic had no idea what Mr. Nice was even talking about and consistently denied that the Serbian MUP had a unit called “Skorpions.”

The Milosevic trial has already heard evidence about the “Skorpions” from the former Deputy Defense Minister of the RSK, Mr. Milan Milanovic who testified as a prosecution witness.

Beginning on page 27492 of the 14 October 2003 transcript, Milanovic testified that he personally recruited Slobodan Medic to establish the “Skorpions” in order to guard oil fields in the RSK. Take a look at the following excerpt from Milanovic’s testimony:

SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC: Let's move on to the next topic. You testified about a Skorpions unit which was led by Slobodan Medic. Where were they from? Are they from your area? [i.e. the RSK]


MILOSEVIC: Did you engage them?


MILOSEVIC: Did you engage them in your area?

MILANOVIC: As far as the area is concerned, I proposed, as is stated in this text, in my statement, I proposed to the director of the oil company that they secure the oil fields that were on the separation lines.

MILOSEVIC: Does that mean that you personally found them, rallied them, organised them, and engaged them privately to protect the oil fields?

MILANOVIC: That is not true.

MILOSEVIC: Well, who engaged them, then, to defend the oil fields in your area?

MILANOVIC: I proposed Slobodan Medic as the person who should be in charge of that security, and then they were under the director of the oil company.

MILOSEVIC: So this was a security unit for the oil company, the head of which you yourself proposed.


MILOSEVIC: Why did it happen that you chose Medic to be at the head of the security detail in the oil company in your area?

MILANOVIC: Having toured the area, I realised that the oil fields were in jeopardy as they were along the very confrontation line. And it is common knowledge that if a shell were to fall, this would cause an ecological disaster. I toured the area. I met this young man for the first time. He was proposed to me by several people. And I even remember that I asked Badza even whether he had anything against this, and he said he didn't.

This young man was about 22 or 23 years old at the time, and he organised the task well and continued working at it until the end of 1996.

MILOSEVIC: But you also sent them to Bosnia and Herzegovina, didn't you?

MILANOVIC: I didn't send them. The command of the [VRSK] corps sent them to accomplish various assignments, and most of those units that went outside the area I would visit very frequently.

MILOSEVIC: Well, as deputy defence minister, I assume you had a decisive say. As you appointed Medic yourself, you would decide where you would send him.

MILANOVIC: As you know yourself, according to the law on defence, the ministry does not have the right to order the engagement of the army. This is a right vested in the government and the command.

MILOSEVIC: Very well. So the government [of the RSK] sent them.

MILANOVIC: Yes, the [RSK] government and the [RSK] army command.


As you can see from the transcript of Milanovic’s testimony, the “Skorpions” were not a unit of the Serbian MUP, they were a unit of the Army of Republika Srpska Krajina (VRSK). Milanovic, as deputy Defense Minister of the RSK, would certainly know which units the RSK had under its command. Milanovic, as the Deputy Defense Minister of the RSK, personally appointed Slobodan Medic to lead the unit, the Serbian MUP had absolutely nothing to do with it.

The fact that Mr. Nice had so many different documents containing the same wrong information suggests that somebody is forging documents in order to bolster the prosecution’s case.

At any rate, the whole thing confused the witness, he couldn’t figure out why the documents referred to the “Skorpions” as being a unit of the Serbian MUP. He asked for permission to call the MUP headquarters in Belgrade to see if there any records about the “Skorpions” there. He received permission from the Trial Chamber, and he will tell what he found out during his testimony on Thursday.

Following Mr. Nice’s exhibition of the falsified documents, he played a video that he claimed showed the “Skorpions” executing six Srebrenica Muslims. Of course, if the video comes from the same source as the documents, it’s liable to be nothing more than actors playing out a scene for the camera.

The tape shows men in various types of uniforms; some with Serbian flags on their caps, shooting prisoners whose hands are tied behind their backs and who appear to have been beaten.

In one scene, a group of prisoners is lying on the floor. One of the uniformed men kicks a prisoner in the head and curses at him.

A voice could be heard telling the prisoners, "when you were killing Serbs you didn't wait." This would seem to indicate that the men being executed were identified as Muslim war criminals who had previously massacred Serbs in Srebrenica, and in the surrounding villages.

Next is the execution scene, the prisoners are lined-up and shot. After three men are shot, a man’s voice is heard complaining that the battery in the camera is dying.

The varying types of uniforms coupled with the lack of insignia on the uniforms suggest that this is some sort of paramilitary group. Nothing on the tape indicates that the men seen shooting the prisoners are actually members of the “Skorpions” unit. For his part, Gen. Stevanovic did not recognize a single man on the tape.

Mr. Nice did nothing to authenticate the tape. He did not say who had shot it, whose possession it has been in for the last ten years, or where he got it.

After the prosecutor dealt with Srebrenica, he briefly questioned Gen. Stevanovic about events at the Dubrava Prison.

Mr. Nice is expected to complete his cross-examination tomorrow. Since most of Mr. Nice’s cross-examination has had nothing to do with evidence raised during the examination-in-chief it is logical to assume that re-examination will take quite a while. Gen. Stevanovic probably won’t conclude his testimony until sometime next week.

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