A DOUBLE STANDARD FOR CROSS-EXAMINATIONS
www.slobodan-milosevic.org - December 7, 2005
Written by: Andy Wilcoxson
The trial of Slobodan Milosevic resumed on Wednesday with Mr. Nice’s cross-examination of Gen. Krsman Jelic, the commander of the 243rd Armored Brigade of the Yugoslav Army.
Mr. Nice spent the first hour and twenty minutes asking the witness questions about the manner in which the army compiled documents.
Ultimately this exercise led to the Tribunal issuing an order to for the Serbian authorities to produce the war diaries of the 243rd Armored Brigade and its subordinate battalions by Friday. Unfortunately, these documents may not exist. They may have been destroyed during the NATO bombing, or they may have been lost when the VJ left Kosovo.
Several defense witnesses have already presented their war diaries to the Tribunal, and in every instance their war diary has confirmed their oral testimony.
Mr. Nice complains that he does not have access to documents and that defense witnesses do not bring contemporaneous material to court with them. The only problem is that the prosecutor is wrong. The prosecution has served a million pages of documents, and defense witnesses have been bringing contemporaneous documents to court – thousands of them. Mr. Nice’s problem is that those documents just don’t say what he would like them to say.
As far as cross-examination arising from Gen. Jelic’s actual testimony went, Mr. Nice spent most of his time asserting that the VJ took part in the anti-terrorist operation at Racak on January 15, 1999. Gen. Jelic spent an equal amount of time denying that the army took part.
The prosecutor embarked on the same tired strategy that he uses in all of his cross-examinations. He makes an assertion and then accuses the witness of lying if the assertion is not agreed with. Undeterred that the witness does not adopt the assertion, Mr. Nice proceeds to base his following questions on the denied assertion.
After Jelic denied that the army took part in Racak, Mr. Nice asked a series of questions that pre-supposed that the army took part in Racak. The witness was forced to repeat time and again that the army was not involved with any fighting in Racak.
Mr. Nice read two documents to Jelic, one was a document of the VJ general staff dated January 16, 1999. This document literally said, "an element of the forces of the 243rd Armored Brigade is sealing off Racak where (MUP) forces are engaging the Shiptar terrorist forces".
The second document that Mr. Nice read was Gen. Jelic's own daily report for January 15, 1999. This document stated that the MUP was fighting terrorists in Racak and that "None of our forces entered the village of Racak".
The documents confirm exactly what the witness has been saying all along. They confirm that the MUP was fighting Albanian terrorists in Racak and that the Army did not take part in the fighting. The Army was on the road 1 km outside of Racak, providing security, and sealing off the terrorists.
According to Mr. Nice, these documents proved exactly the opposite of what they said. Mr. Nice said that Jelic's daily report for January 15th, which literally said "none of our forces entered the village of Racak," actually meant that the VJ did enter Racak. Mr. Nice said that Jelic knew that "horrible things had happened in Racak" so he wrote that the VJ did not enter in order to cover-up the involvement of the military.
Mr. Nice did not explain who Jelic would have been trying to conceal anything from by writing this in his daily report. The document was only written to inform the command of the Pristina Corps of what was happening on the ground. Why would Jelic, if he were taking part in the conspiracy that Mr. Nice alleges, lie to his commanders, who according to Mr. Nice were involved in the same conspiracy?
Mr. Nice spent hours asserting that the Army was in Racak and that it took part in a massacre there, and the witness denied it over and over again. This sort of cross-examination would have never been permitted during the prosecution case. The tribunal never would have allowed Milosevic to spend hours making the same assertion ad-infinitum to a prosecution witness who disagreed with it.
Milosevic would have been told, “The witness has already answered, now move to another topic or we’ll bring the cross-examination to an end.” Milosevic was threatened with the premature termination of his cross-examination hundreds of times during the prosecution case. Of course no such threats have ever been made against Mr. Nice, no matter how irrelevant or repetitious his cross-examination gets.
This is basically how the day went today: Mr. Nice made assertions and the witness denied them. Gen. Jelic stuck to the testimony he gave during his examination-in-chief, and Mr. Nice accused him of lying.
Of course Gen. Jelic did not stoop to Mr. Nice’s level. He did not engage in the sort name-calling that has become the hallmark of Mr. Nice’s cross-examinations. He simply dismissed the prosecutor’s slurs by saying, “That’s your opinion Mr. Nice.”
Mr. Nice also questioned the witness about the
Joint Command. The prosecution alleges that the Joint Command was an illegal
body that allowed Milosevic to bypass the legal chain of command. Gen. Jelic
gave the same explanation as all of the witnesses before him. He said that the
Joint Command was a body established to coordinate the activities of the Army
and Police. He said that all of his orders came to him through the regular chain
Mr. Nice will continue to cross-examine Gen. Jelic when the trial resumes tomorrow. In other trial related news, the Judges announced that Lt. Col. Janos Sel will continue his cross-examination sometime next week. They also announced that the last hour of tomorrow’s hearing will be devoted to the question of whether the defense will be given more time to present its case.
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