www.slobodan-milosevic.org - December 6, 2005

Written by: Andy Wilcoxson

The trial of Slobodan Milosevic continued at the Hague Tribunal on Tuesday. Lt. Col. Janos Sel's cross-examination did not continue as scheduled. No explanation was given for that change.

Instead, the tribunal heard the continuation of the testimony of Gen. Krsman Jelic, the commander of the 243rd Armored Brigade of the Yugoslav Army, stationed in the Urosevac area of Kosovo.

The witness gave evidence refuting the indictment's charges relating to alleged crimes in: Kotlina, Dubrava, Kacanik, Slatina, Stagovo, and Urosevac.

In Kotlina, the indictment alleges that Serbian troops massacred civilian men and threw their corpses down wells.

The Milosevic trial has already seen photographic evidence proving that these so-called "wells" were really KLA bunkers disguised to look like wells. The pictures produced by Gen. Stevanovic showed that there were ladders going in and out of the "wells" and there were heaters inside the "wells".

As further proof that KLA terrorists, not civilians, were killed in Kotlina; Milosevic read-out a report that had been drafted by ICTY investigators working for the Office of the Prosecutor.

According to the report, ICTY investigators spoke to villagers in Kotlina on September 17, 1999 and were told that the bodies found in the wells belonged to KLA fighters, not to civilians.

For his part, Gen. Jelic noted that the 162nd Brigade of the KLA was stationed in Kotlina.

Obviously, armed KLA terrorists were killed in combat in Kotlina, and the ICTY is now trying to palm their death off as the massacre of innocent civilians.

In the village of Dubrava, the indictment alleges that on May 25, 1999 Serbian troops killed several Albanian residents and forced the rest of them to go to Macedonia. Prosecution witnesses have even alleged that the army gathered villagers at the Dubrava school and organized their deportation.

Gen. Jelic testified that neither the army or police ever entered Dubrava. He said that his unit was the only unit in the area, and that if what is alleged in the indictment had really happened, then he would have had to know about it. He said that nobody from the army tried to force the villagers to leave.

He said that there was combat on the road outside of Dubrava, but nothing inside the village itself. The combat was provoked when the KLA attacked and tried to ambush army personnel traveling on the road. Jelic confirmed that during this combat KLA terrorists, not civilians, were killed.

According to intelligence that Gen. Jelic received, Dubrava was home to some 50 KLA terrorists.

The indictment alleges that between March and May 1999, forces of the FRY and Serbia attacked villages in the Kacanik municipality and the town of Kacanik itself, which resulted in the destruction of houses and religious sites.

Gen. Jelic denied that any large scale offensives were launched. He said that the army's primary task was to hold its defensive positions and be ready for a possible NATO ground invasion.

He said that, aside from some skirmishes with the KLA, the Kacanik area was pretty well controlled by the authorities and there wasn't any reason to attack it.

The indictment alleges that on April 13, 1999, Serbian troops surrounded and shelled the village of Slatina. After shelling the village, infantry troops allegedly entered the village and looted and burnt the houses. It is then alleged that 13 civilians were shot and killed.

Gen. Jelic testified that there was no fighting in the village. He said that the KLA opened fire on the army from Slatina during the night and that the army returned fire. He did not know whether anybody had been killed in these gunfire exchanges or not.

The witness also pointed out that his unit was the only unit in the area, and that it did not have any infantry troops. This is important because the indictment specifically accuses "infantry troops."

The indictment accuses these infantry troops looting and burning the village. According to Jelic this was impossible for two reasons. One there weren't and infantry troops, and two nobody from the army ever entered the village, so they could not have burned and looted it.

The indictment accuses Serbian troops of surrounding the village of Stagovo and killing at least 12 civilians as they tried to escape on May 21, 1999. The indictment says the village was burned and looted and that thousands of people from Kacanik came to Stagovo to board trains bound for Macedonia.

Gen. Jelic denied killing any civilians. He said that the KLA was launching attacks against the army from the village of Stagovo. In response, the army laid mines between its position and the village.

Jelic confirmed that several KLA terrorists had been killed upon entering the mine field. He also confirmed that gunfire was exchanged between the army and KLA terrorists from Stagovo.

He said that the army never entered Stagovo so it was not possible that the army could have looted the village. He also denied that the army had the man power to surround that village.

He also denied that the Stagovo train station could accommodate the "thousands" of people who were allegedly forced to board trains there by the indictment.

The indictment claims that during the period between 24 March and 14 April 1999, forces of the FRY and Serbia shelled Urosevac and forced the residents to flee to Macedonia.

Gen. Jelic, who served as the commander of the Urosevac garrison, dismissed this accusation as complete nonsense. He pointed out that if the army had shelled Urosevac, then they would have been shelling his position. He denied that anybody forced the residents to leave. He said that NATO bombing and the threat of a ground invasion is what caused people to flee.

In addition to testimony about specific crimes alleged by the indictment, Gen. Jelic gave evidence about the orders and the culture within the Army itself.

The indictment accuses Milosevic or masterminding a conspiracy to ethnically cleanse Kosovo. It also accuses him on the basis of command responsibility.

In light of the charges against Milosevic, it is important to see what orders the army was given. Only by looking at the orders can one determine whether the army was engaged in a defensive war against the KLA and NATO. Or if it was carrying out a conspiracy to ethnically cleanse Kosovo.

Unfortunately, the Judges do not seem to care what the orders were, and they prevented Milosevic from dealing with the orders in as detailed of a manner as he wanted to.

In spite of the Judge's attempt to obstruct the evidence, it emerged that VJ soldiers were repeatedly ordered to adhere to international humanitarian law. Each soldier was given a laminated copy of the rules of conduct and was required to keep it with him at all times. The rules of conduct explicitly forbid: the torture of captured enemy combatants, looting, the needless destruction of property, and the mistreatment of civilians.

Gen. Jelic testified that measures were taken to prevent and punish criminal conduct within the ranks of the army. For example, military police would search soldiers after combat operations. The purpose of these searches was to detect and punish looters. Jelic said that these searches resulted in 12 men from his unit being prosecuted for looting.

Gen. Jelic explained that the army publicized the criminal prosecution of soldiers as a means of discouraging others from engaging in criminal conduct.

The witness denied that the army ever received orders to carry out ethnic cleansing. He said that ethnic cleansing was a clear violation of the orders. He explained that the orders called for the protection of the civilian population, and for assistance, such as food and medical care, to be given to displaced persons.

He insisted that the NATO bombing caused the civilian population to leave Kosovo. He recalled an incident that took place on April 16, 1999 when a group of refugees was attempting to return to Kacanik from Macedonia. He said that NATO bombed the road the refugees were traveling on so mercilessly that the refugees were forced to turn around and go back to Macedonia.

Gen. Jelic ended his examination-in-chief by testifying about the OSCE/KVM. He presented OSCE documents to the court dating from late February to mid-March 1999. The documents, which were written on the very eve of the NATO bombing, expressed the verifier's satisfaction with the level of cooperation they were receiving from the army.

Disturbingly, Gen. Jelic made note of an incident that occurred in the village of Raka. The police carried out an anti-terrorist operation there and, upon searching the KLA base, found several files that Jelic's 243rd Brigade had turned over to the OSCE verifiers. Clearly, somebody within the OSCE/KVM had supplied these documents to the KLA.

Several previous witnesses have testified that OSCE/KVM Observers were spotted taking GPS coordinates of bridges and various other targets that NATO ultimately bombed during the war, but this is the first evidence that has come out suggesting that the OSCE was feeding intelligence to the KLA too.

With that the Judges cut-off the examination-in-chief. The trial will resume on Wednesday when Gen. Jelic will be cross-examined by prosecutor Nice.

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