www.slobodan-milosevic.org - March 5, 2009

Written by: Andy Wilcoxson

Last month the Hague Tribunal convicted five senior Serbian political, military, and police officials for their roles in the 1999 Kosovo war. They were convicted of crimes against Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian population during (but conspicuously not before) NATO’s 1999 attack on Yugoslavia.

Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister, Nikola Sainovic, Yugoslav Army General, Nebojsa Pavkovic, Serbian police General Sreten Lukic, Yugoslav Army General, Vladimir Lazarevic and Chief of the General Staff, Dragoljub Ojdanic were each given prison sentences ranging from 15 to 22 years each. Serbian President Milan Mulutinovic was acquitted and released from prison.

Criminal liability for each of the Accused fell into one or more of the following three categories:

1) Command Responsibility: A superior officer is held criminally responsible for the acts of his subordinates if he orders them to commit crimes or fails to prevent and punish criminal conduct in his ranks. This judgement does not cite a single instance of a crime being ordered. In this context, command responsibility is limited to crimes of omission – i.e. failure to prevent and punish crimes.

2) Joint Criminal Enterprise: A conspiracy. Under this mode of liability, the participants in a conspiracy are held criminally responsible for crimes committed in the pursuit of the conspiracy. In its judgement the Tribunal found that the Accused had “participated in a joint criminal enterprise to modify the ethnic balance in Kosovo in order to ensure continued control by Yugoslav and Serbian authorities over the province.” And that “the purpose of the joint criminal enterprise was to be achieved through a widespread or systematic campaign of terror or violence against the Kosovo Albanian population, including the various crimes specified in each of the counts of the Indictment.”

3) Aiding and Abetting: Providing material support to the members of the joint criminal enterprise.

Although the trial lasted for more than three years and the judgement was four volumes and nearly 2000 pages long it doesn’t hold up to even the most basic scrutiny.

I’ll start with the issue of command responsibility. The crimes charged in the indictment are all alleged to have happened during the NATO bombing, which ended upon the withdrawal of Serb and Yugoslav forces from Kosovo. Investigating allegations against your own troops at a time when your country is fighting a ground war with the KLA and being bombed by a 19-nation NATO military alliance wouldn’t have been at the top of any competent commander’s list.

Carrying out a proper criminal investigation while the country is being attacked by the largest military alliance on Earth would be difficult if not impossible. No rational person could blame the Yugoslav authorities if they had other priorities during the NATO bombing.

What is remarkable, and the Tribunal noted this in its judgement, is the fact that orders were issued to the police and military to respect human rights and Yugoslav military courts were set-up to prosecute soldiers who committed crimes. Although the judges don’t consider those measures to have been adequate, most countries wouldn’t have done near as much under the same circumstances.

While “command responsibility” pertains solely to crimes of omission in this judgement, the far more serious finding is that of a “joint criminal enterprise” or conspiracy.

With this judgement, the Tribunal has found that the government of Slobodan Milosevic undertook a massive conspiracy “to modify the ethnic balance in Kosovo” by means of “a widespread or systematic campaign of terror or violence against the Kosovo Albanian population” for the purpose of “ensuring continued control by Yugoslav and Serbian authorities over the province.”

That conspiracy theory is the keystone of the entire judgement and the foundation of the whole trial. That conspiracy theory is the only thing linking the military, political, and police leadership to the crimes alleged in the indictment. Debunking that conspiracy theory blows the whole premise of the trial out of the water.

This particular conspiracy theory faces two insurmountable problems (1) all of the crimes charged in the indictment are alleged to have happened during the NATO bombing -- not before it, and (2) no military, political, or police official is on record in any of the transcripts, documents, or trail exhibits discussing or referring to any kind of a plan, policy, or conspiracy to terrorize, kill, or expel the Kosovo Albanians.

The judgement attempts to overcome the timing of the alleged crimes -- the glaring problem that each and every crime charged in the indictment happened during the NATO bombing -- by claiming that Serbia wanted the NATO bombing.

According to the judgement, Serbia sabotaged the 1999 Rambouillet talks. Serbia’s motive in doing so, the Tribunal would have you believe, was that Serbia wanted to be attacked by NATO. Serbia wanted to be attacked by the biggest military alliance on the planet for two reasons we are told: (1) NATO bombing would “gain time” for Serbia to carryout its dastardly conspiracy against the Kosovo Albanians, and (2) NATO bombing would give the evil Serbian conspirators “plausible deniability”.

The judgement says: “The international negotiations of 1999 sought to bring about a resolution of the crisis. The FRY/Serbian delegation, along with the other interlocutors, all contributed to the failure of these negotiations, the decision of the NATO Council to use force was put into effect, and the NATO bombing began. The partial responsibility of the FRY delegation in causing the talks to fail, when viewed in light of the movement of additional forces to Kosovo, gives rise to the inference that this was being done to gain time.”

The judgement goes on to explain that “The NATO bombing provided an opportunity to the members of the joint criminal enterprise — an opportunity for which they had been waiting and for which they had prepared by moving additional forces to Kosovo and by the arming and disarming process described above—to deal a heavy blow to the KLA and to displace, both within and without Kosovo, enough Kosovo Albanians to change the ethnic balance in Kosovo and maintain control over the province. And now this could all be done with plausible deniability because it could be blamed not only upon the KLA, but upon NATO as well. While some orders may have been issued directing the police to prevent the departure of civilians from Kosovo after the mass exodus was underway, these orders do not create doubt as to the existence of the common purpose and its execution by VJ and MUP forces.”

The Tribunal did not even attempt to overcome lack of any reference to a conspiracy in the trial record. The judgement simply announced that it was going to ignore that inconvenient problem.

Here’s how the judgement tries to gloss over the lack of evidence: “The Chamber places little stock in the witnesses who testified that there was no common plan, design, or purpose to displace the population or in the lack of any reference to such a common purpose in official meetings of entities such as the VJ Collegium. The Chamber largely accepts the Prosecution’s arguments on this point, namely that witnesses who testified that there was no plan (a) had a motive to lie about it to protect themselves, their colleagues, their friends, and the institutions of which they were members; (b) were not told or were not in a position to know about it; or (c) were merely speculating based upon inadequate information.”

This is the dumbest conspiracy theory that has ever been imagined. How could such a massive conspiracy have been undertaken out without any record being made? Without any plans being drawn-up, and without any orders being given to the troops on the ground? Are we supposed to believe that the Serbs did this through some kind of mental telepathy? A person would have to be stupid to believe that the conspiracy being alleged here actually happened.

The Judgement lists several hundred Kosovo Albanians (mostly military aged men) that it claims were victims of Serbian war crimes. The trial record contains evidence going to show that a great many of these “victims” were members of the KLA, but even if they were civilians, it doesn’t take much imagination to see how NATO bombing Serbia on behalf of the Albanians could have provoked some Serbian servicemen to carry out reprisals against the Kosovo Albanians. Not because of any conspiracy, but because they were angry that their country was being attacked because of the Albanians.

It also isn’t hard to imagine that the military and police leadership would have been more concerned with defending the country from NATO and KLA attacks than they were with investigating allegations against their own men. Especially given that the crimes charged in the indictment are without exception alleged by the Prosecution to have happened during the 78-day NATO bombing campaign.

Although their conclusions about so-called “joint criminal enterprise” and the criminal liability of the Accused are obscene and an anathema to justice, the judges do concede some interesting points in this judgement -- points that refute their conclusions.

Especially interesting are the passages related to Rambouillet. According to the judgement, “The Chamber is of the view that the FRY/Serbian delegation went to Rambouillet genuinely in search of a solution.” but “the international negotiators did not take an entirely even-handed approach to the respective positions of the parties and tended to favour the Kosovo Albanians.”

That is an interesting concession for the judges to have made, since it undermines a key pillar of their conspiracy theory. If the Serbs “went to Rambouillet genuinely in search of a solution” that obviously contradicts the thesis that the Serbs went to Rambouillet to sabotage the negotiations so that NATO would bomb them and create an opportunity for them to persecute the Albanians.

Another interesting passage in the judgement relates to Bill Clinton and the reasons he gives for the NATO bombing campaign. According to the judgement, “President Clinton stated that the provision for allowing a referendum for the Albanians in Kosovo went too far and that, if he were in the shoes of Milošević, he probably would not have signed the [Rambouillet] draft agreement either. Although President Clinton initially referred to the intervention of NATO in terms of responding to a humanitarian crisis, he also said that the issues that led to the bombing no longer mattered and that the main issues, which ensured the bombing would continue indefinitely, were that the credibility of the U.S. was at stake, the credibility of NATO was at stake, and his personal credibility as President of the United States was at stake.”

If anybody deserves to be prosecuted for war crimes its Bill Clinton. Here’s a guy that comes right out in the open and says that he’s bombing a country because its leader refuses to sign an agreement that he wouldn’t sign himself, and the reason he’s doing it is for the sake of his own vanity -- to preserve his “personal credibility as President of the United States”. It’s more than a little bit ironic that this judgement contains better evidence against him than it does against the men it convicts.

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