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Yugoslavia: Ethnic Albanian Leader Cross-Examined By Milosevic At UN Tribunal

  • Ron Synovitz

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian President Ibrahim Rugova completed a second day of testimony today at the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague in the trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Rugova again faced tough questioning by Milosevic, who is defending himself against charges of genocide and war crimes.

Prague, 6 May 2002 (RFE/RL) -- A second day of testimony at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague by Kosovo's ethnic Albanian President Ibrahim Rugova was marked by a sharp exchange with the defendant in the trial -- former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Rugova today accused Milosevic of lying and "mixing up" details about what had happened in Kosovo during the 1990s. He made the allegation after Milosevic said that the reason he first sent Yugoslav troops into Kosovo had been to deal with what he called "genocide" against the Serbian community there.

Milosevic is defending himself against charges of war crimes and genocide that are linked to Belgrade's crackdown against Kosovo Albanians during the late 1990s.

In particular, prosecutors are trying to prove that the killings, rapes, and forced deportations of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo during the 1990s were the result of direct orders from Milosevic aimed at changing the ethnic composition of the province.

On 3 May, Rugova told the court that Milosevic had launched a campaign of violence against Kosovo Albanians during the 1990s in an effort to stop their drive for independence. He also accused Milosevic of wanting "to destroy Kosovo through violence and war."

Today, Rugova repeated parts of his testimony from 3 May, saying that ethnic Albanians had faced more than 10 years of repression and daily violence from Serbian authorities.

Rugova said he had met with Milosevic on three different occasions during 1998 and 1999. But despite those meetings, Rugova said he was unable to provide any evidence on the way decisions were made by Milosevic's cabinet. "I do not know much because I was not in those circles or a part of that system. It is known who were the leaders at that time. And it was the accused and the other [indictees]."

Prosecutors from the tribunal also asked Rugova today if he could provide specific evidence that would help them prove a key point in their case against Milosevic -- the allegation that Milosevic had been involved in decisions to ethnically cleanse Kosovo. But again, Rugova said he had no new evidence to offer other than events that already are well-known.

"The facts I know are those that I have seen, those that have happened. The accused had the office he had. He was president, commander in chief of the armed forces and head of the police of Belgrade. This doesn't need further comment."

Milosevic's cross-examination of Rugova today included questions aimed at linking Rugova's LDK party to the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK). Milosevic's defense has been focusing on the UCK's role in the violence that broke out across Kosovo during the late 1990s. His questions today appeared aimed at supporting his claim that the UCK was a "terrorist" movement responsible for "terrorist activities."

But Rugova brushed aside those allegations. The ethnic Albanian leader says the UCK was "an organization that responded to repression and violence for the purpose of winning freedom" for ethnic Albanians.

Rugova told the court today that he had neither a role nor any knowledge of any attacks planned by the UCK during 1998 and 1999. He also said his records show he had tried to bring an end to the anti-Serb violence that erupted in Kosovo in June 1999 after Yugoslav military forces left the province and a UN administration took over. "I know nothing about [any] killings [in 1998 and early 1999]. But as far as the killings after the war are concerned, we opened investigations in cooperation with the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the common government of Kosovo. We have arrested people. They are in jail, and they will be punished. Of course, now we must continue the investigations with the cooperation of the institutions -- with UNMIK and KFOR and with the Kosovo police force."

Rugova admitted there had been some contacts between members of his LDK party and the UCK during 1998 and early 1999. "We received information [about the UCK] from the district level and that information did reach us. There have been contacts between [the LDK and the UCK]. But it [wasn't our main source of information because it was] very difficult to communicate at that time."

Instead, Rugova told the UN court that his main source of information about the UCK was to monitor television, radio and newspaper reports: "The UCK activity was shown in the media -- the confrontations that occurred between the UCK, the Yugoslav army, and the [Interior Ministry] police of Belgrade. And everybody saw the consequences of these confrontations."

Other testimony by Rugova today focused on the background of his LDK party and the parallel Kosovo government that he had headed since 1992. Rugova also discussed a series of questions linked to constitutional law in Yugoslavia during the 1970s, '80s, and '90s.

In Belgrade, there have been fresh complaints about the way the UN tribunal is operating in the Milosevic case.

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's party -- the Democratic Party of Serbia -- issued a statement this weekend criticizing the tribunal for calling on Rugova to testify on Good Friday of the Orthodox Christian calendar.

A statement from the party said that by calling for Rugova's testimony during such an important Orthodox Christian holiday, the tribunal had undermined every attempt to establish normal relations with the state institutions of Yugoslavia.

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