Sunday, 25 April 2010

Public testimony about secret documents

Sense News Agency
23. 04. 2010.

Public testimony about secret documents

THE HAGUE – In his evidence at the trial of Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic, General Manojlo Milovanovic confirmed what he had stated in the documentary The Unit. Milovanovic identified the owner of the ‘work notebooks’ currently under seal at the Tribunal. The prosecution contends that the notebooks are in fact Ratko Mladic’s ‘war diaries’. General Manojlo Milovanovic, former chief of the VRS Main Staff, has been subpoenaed by the Trial Chamber to testify in The Hague. Today, at the trial of the former chiefs of the Serbian state security service, Milovanovic demanded to testify in open session. The judges granted Milovanovic’s request. The trial did go into private session at one point, but the prosecutor indicated that during the 10 minutes in private session the witness wasn’t asked any questions.

The prosecution had two strong reasons why it wanted to get Milovanovic to testify in the case against Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic. First, Milovanovic is expected to confirm what he stated in the documentary The Unit, about the Serbian state security service’s Special Operations Unit (JSO). Secondly, General Milovanovic has known Ratko Mladic for more than three decades and he ‘saw Mladic’s handwriting on a daily basis ’ in the years they spent together working in the VRS Main Staff. This is why Milovanovic is expected to identify the author of the notes taken in what the prosecution alleges is Mladic’s ‘war diary’.

General Milovanovic today confirmed the statements he made in the documentary The Unit. When he first met Stanisic, Milovanovic ‘was surprised how well Stanisic knew the situation in the Podrinje area: who is fighting where and who is in command over whom’. Milovanovic also confirmed that in February 1995 Stanisic conveyed to him the decisions of the Yugoslavia’s Supreme Defense Council and the Republika Srpska Supreme Command to appoint Milovanovic the commander of Operation Spider, launched to support Fikret Abdic’s troops. Milovanovic declined the appointment because he ‘didn’t want to exercise command over Muslims’. Milovanovic also confirmed what he said in the documentary when he described the problems with paramilitary units. According to Milovanovic, the paramilitary units ‘joined the fight without proper authority’ and their goal was not to defend the Serb population but to loot. This applied in particular to Arkan and his unit, the Tigers, the witness noted.

Parts of the documentary were admitted into evidence together with some other statements Milovanovic had made, and then the trial went into a brief private session to deal with the problem of the witness’s wish to testify in open session about secret documents. The problem was solved by declaring the secret documents – or at least parts of them shown to the witness – public.

Milovanovic was shown excerpts from ‘work notebooks’ in which Ratko Mladic described the meetings attended by Jovica Stanisic. In his notes from a meeting in Slobodan Milosevic’s office on 30 June 1995, Mladic wrote that Jovica Stanisic wanted to know what forces General Mrksic had at his disposal. Mrksic was at the time the commander of the Serbian Krajina Army. Stanisic didn’t trust General Novakovic, because his officers told Stanisic’s men in Krajina ‘on the first day there that they are paramilitaries’. Stanisic suggested that ‘Pecanac and 400 of his men should be detached, given a week to get some rest and then seconded to Mrksic’. Stanisic went on to say that he ‘could find 120 perfect men in Sector East and send them there’. However, they shouldn’t be used ‘since we have already sent them 80 men from Erdut and 80 men from Djeletovci’, Stanisic noted.

The witness confirmed that Mladic wrote it all down, but couldn’t remember ‘where Djeletovci is and who is located there’. General Milovanovic’s memory was refreshed when the prosecutor showed a segment of the famous video footage of the Scorpions unit in Djeletovci and in Trnovo. Jovica Stanisic’s and Franko Simatovic’s defense will cross-examine Milovanovic next Wednesday and Thursday.

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