Jump to content
Clubplanet Nightlife Community
Sign in to follow this  

Croat Leader Says Milosevic Made "Rivers of Blood"

Recommended Posts

Croat Leader Says Milosevic Made 'Rivers of Blood'


THE HAGUE, Oct. 1 — Two men intimately involved in dismantling the Yugoslav state came face to face today in a confrontation that was notable as a milestone in international law, and as the first encounter of two Balkan leaders in a court examining the region's wartime atrocities.

The president of Croatia, Stjepan Mesic, 69, was on the witness stand.

Slobodan Milosevic, 61, the Serbian leader charged with war crimes, including genocide, was in the dock.

The adversaries met under the bright lights of the international war crimes tribunal — both aging politicians, both important players in the period when Yugoslavia spiraled into nationalist warfare and tore apart. They had not seen each other for almost a decade.

Even before Mr. Mesic walked in, Mr. Milosevic called him a criminal.

What followed was an exceptional passage in Mr. Milosevic's trial.

The Croatian president accused Mr. Milosevic, who was long the Serbian leader and eventually the Yugoslav president, of staging land grabs to enlarge Serbia, and of provoking warfare that created "rivers of blood."

"He subordinated everything to his war goals, he was always working for the war option," said Mr. Mesic, facing the three judges and never turning toward the accused. Mr. Mesic told the court that in 1990 and 1991, Mr. Milosevic led a slow but well-prepared "coup" in which he seized control of the Yugoslav military and the National Bank, without regard for the Constitution and the collective presidency of Yugoslavia, fomented rebellion among Serbs outside Serbia and "destroyed Yugoslavia."

"Did the accused ever express concern for individual suffering?" the prosecutor asked.

"No," said Mr. Mesic, who was president of Yugoslavia for part of 1991 and who said he met Mr. Milosevic numerous times. "I never saw any sign of feeling in him, ever. All he had were goals he was implementing."

Mr. Mesic was the first head of state to appear as a witness at the tribunal, a landmark in international law in the view of several jurists following the trial.

"The world has changed," said Richard Dicker, an international lawyer who monitors the proceedings for the New York-based group Human Rights Watch. "This was remarkable, a sitting president testifying against a former president in an international criminal court. It's a harbinger of a future when there will be more trials like this."

During almost four hours of testimony, the Croatian president calmly took the court back over a decade, to the planning of the breakup of the Communist Yugoslavia. It had been created by Tito, who after World War II fashioned the jigsaw of six semiautonomous republics.

Prosecutors consider Mr. Mesic a vital witness because he was the last Croatian to have been president of the Yugoslav Federal Republic before its breakup. He assumed that position in July 1991.

Mr. Mesic confirmed that a crucial meeting took place at the end of March 1991 between Mr. Milosevic and the Croatian leader, Franjo Tudjman, who died in 1999. The two talked at the meeting about carving up Bosnia and Herzegovina and dividing it between them, he said. The meeting took place at Karadjorgevo, on the Serbia-Croatia border, three months before large-scale fighting began and Serbian rebels occupied a third of Croatian territory.

The meeting, which became public knowledge only a year later, was crucial because it signaled that dismemberment of the state would become a reality, Mr. Mesic said. Mr. Milosevic has always denied that such a meeting took place.

Mr. Mesic said he was not at the meeting, but that Mr. Tudjman briefed him and several other top politicians a few days later. "Tudjman had always been in favor of Bosnia and Herzegovina remaining one entity," said Mr. Mesic. "But after that meeting, Tudjman changed his opinion."

"Milosevic told him, `Franjo, you take Turkish Croatia, I don't need that,' " Mr. Mesic quoted Mr. Tudjman as saying. Turkish Croatia meant the northwestern corner of Bosnia, which had a large Muslim population. "The public did not know what was discussed in Karadjorgevo. But the agreement began to work on the ground. Separate parts of Bosnia began to announce their independence."

Throughout his testimony, Mr. Mesic presented himself as a peacemaker who, during the summer months of 1991 — as he held the rotating presidency of Yugoslavia, tried to avert war — called for talks and issued repeated warnings.

As war began, Mr. Mesic pleaded with the United Nations secretary general to intervene. He came away empty-handed. "I believe if international forces had come to the borders of Serbia and Croatia and Serbia and Bosnia there would have been no war," he told the court.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this