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South Slavic: July 31, 2003

31 July 2003, Volume 5, Number 23


A program of RFE/RL's Radio Most (Bridge) by Mensur Camo.

RFE/RL: The recent testimony at former Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's war crimes trial in The Hague by Stjepan Kljuic -- a former member of the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina and president of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) in Bosnia-Herzegovina -- raised considerable controversy back home (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2003).... For example, the Bosnian Party suggested that since state official Kljuic acknowledged that he was aware of a plan to divide Bosnia-Herzegovina but failed to inform the authorities about it, he should face prosecution.

Media in the region generally agree, however, that the witness did not actually say anything new. But some analysts feel that the testimony will certainly affect the final ruling because Kljuic is an eyewitness who presented some very important evidence, [including] the deal Milosevic and [Croatia's then-President Franjo] Tudjman made to divide Bosnia-Herzegovina.... In the spring of 1991, soon after the Serbian and Croatian presidents met in Karadjordjevo amid great secrecy, Tudjman confirmed to Kljuic that the deal existed.

Stjepan Kljuic: President Tudjman said that Milosevic offered him Cazinska krajina [in the northwest]. I reacted as if he had been given Sardinia, because that territory, too, did not belong to either Mr. Milosevic or Mr. Tudjman.

RFE/RL: According to the witness, Tudjman and Milosevic stayed in touch with each other.

Kljuic: I had frequent meetings with President Tudjman, and during one of them, when I was in Zagreb, he insisted that I talk with [Radovan Karadzic's] Serbian Democratic Party [SDS]. I had had previous talks with Karadzic, [Momcilo] Krajisnik, [Nikola] Koljevic, and even with Mrs. [Biljana] Plavsic, but they simply did not want [to accept the existence of] Bosnia-Herzegovina. They also refused to recognize the Republic of Croatia.

They always criticized and blamed me for -- as they put it -- being loyal to [Party of Democratic Action (SDA) leader and President Alija] Izetbegovic. Well, because of that propaganda line, President Tudjman said to me, "Kljuic, you simply cannot talk only with the Muslims, you have to talk with the Serbs as well, and very seriously." I called Karadzic when I arrived in Sarajevo, the very next day, and he was not surprised at all. One could assume that Mr. Milosevic and Mr. Tudjman kept in touch...."

RFE/RL: Milosevic confirmed the deal to divide Bosnia-Herzegovina during an official meeting of Bosnian and Serbian state delegations in Belgrade in January 1992.

Kljuic: I must say that Mr. Milosevic received me with a warm welcome and even seemed to like me. At one point, we left the table and he told me that he understood that the people in western Herzegovina would like to be annexed to Croatia.

That was a well-known trick of the Serbian side: they would offer to cede to Croatia a tiny part of Bosnia-Herzegovina where the population was overwhelmingly Croat, with the unfortunate result that these people still hope to join Croatia.

However, I told him that we did not understand what western Herzegovina was supposed to mean, and I must admit that Mr. Milosevic was very precise in telling me exactly what he had in mind: "Half of Mostar, 70 percent of Capljina, Ljubuski, Posusje, Grude, Tomislavgrad, Citluk, Siroki Brijeg, 70 percent of Livno, and...," he smiled, "all of Prozor."

One should recall that there were no Serbs in Prozor, except for a policeman who had lived there for three years, but since he could not find himself a wife to marry, he left. So only Croats and Muslims lived there.

However, I told him that I still could not understand what western Herzegovina is supposed to be. But that does not matter. What is important is what I replied to Mr. Milosevic. "So, you intend to keep the rest of Bosnia-Herzegovina." Since he was a charming person and smiled, I applied my Bosnian sense of humor on that occasion and showed him the so-called Bosnian coat of arms [a raised middle finger]....

RFE/RL: Before entering the witness stand, Kljuic listened to tapes with intercepted conversations in order to identify the speakers.

Kljuic: I have known Karadzic for 40 years and had frequent contacts with him even before we became politicians. Mr. Milosevic's voice is easy to recognize. I have been listening to his voice on television for years, very carefully. I am also sure about the voices of [many others]....

RFE/RL: Milosevic repeated his position that intercepted conversations should not be accepted as evidence.

Slobodan Milosevic: I question the authenticity of all the tapes until confirmed by experts. My voice has been taped on thousands of occasions for at least 15 years, so one might edit anything, even my conversation with the Dalai Lama.

RFE/RL: The judges decided not to accept the conversations as evidence, but to accept Kljuic's identification of the voices. The transcripts and tapes will be accepted only after other witnesses' testimonies about the origins of the material. During the cross examination, Milosevic tried to confirm some of his favorite theses in this trial.

Milosevic: I wanted to save Yugoslavia, wasn't it obvious?

Kljuic: I must say that on the surface you were trying to save Yugoslavia.

Milosevic: What else was I doing?

Kljuic: ...The tragedy is that Mr. Milosevic pretended to want to save Yugoslavia, but in reality he did his best to destroy it.

RFE/RL: Milosevic's trial entered a phase of a strange sort of familiarity, since the protagonists know each other very well, and that determines the way they act in the courtroom.

Judge Richard May often shows impatience when the defendant insists on raising issues that have nothing to do with the trial....

Richard May: What makes this relevant for the indictment?

Milosevic: It is relevant because....

May: Does it cite Bosnian Serbs' responsibility for these crimes against Croats?

Milosevic: The mujahedin are responsible.

May: Ah, mujahedin. What makes it relevant for the indictment?

Milosevic: It is relevant for the truth, Mr. May, and I have...

May: That is not an answer.

Milosevic: ...already told you that the indictment is bogus. This confirms my stand, Mr. May. Obviously, however, it is not relevant for you, so I will stop.

Kljuic: Back then [before the war], every normal person knew that you and the Yugoslav People's Army [JNA] would not refrain from using force....

Milosevic: Mr. Kljuic, you were arming yourselves, the Muslims were arming themselves, and you knew that there would be a war five months before it actually started.

Kljuic: Come on, that was the most logical thing to expect after what had previously happened in Slovenia -- as a sort of operetta -- and after that in Croatia, the greatest tragedy of all.

Milosevic: Well, Mr. Kljuic, what happened to the Serbs during World War II?

May: No, please, let us not discuss it now. Next question, Mr. Milosevic.

Milosevic: All right, Mr. Kljuic, tell me how did the conflict between the Muslims and Croats start?

May: Once again, I do not think we are interested in that for the moment.

RFE/RL: Asked about the Bosnian government's arming for the coming war, Kljuic said:

Kljuic: Well, you cannot possibly think we were going to wait and get killed by the JNA, without trying to get some arms first....

Milosevic: So, that means....

May: Let him finish. Don't interrupt him. Your claims are very serious, [and] he must be allowed to comment. Mr. Kljuic, please go on.

Kljuic: If only I had had the chance, I would have bought arms for us from the devil.

RFE/RL: Milosevic presented the transcript of the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina's meeting on 26 April 1994 -- it is not known how he got the document -- dealing with the issue of camps in which, besides prisoners of war, Serbian civilians were detained.

Kljuic: My condition for returning to the presidency was that irregular troops -- whose job was to apprehend civilians -- be eliminated. That was done, the first time in the region that legal authorities acted against illegal groups.

Regarding the transcript presented by Mr. Milosevic, the meeting took place in April 1994, when it became obvious -- especially to me, and information came from different places -- that camps or prisons existed. It does not matter what we call those places, the point is that there were Serbian civilians [held] together with prisoners of war. I was clearly against it, together with many other members of the presidency.

RFE/RL: Citing the same document, Milosevic quoted Alija Izetbegovic talking about the merits of Sefer Halilovic, who had previously been replaced as commander of the Bosnian Army.

Milosevic: "He did so much for the army, particularly by organizing it before the war. I met him at least six months before the war, in October. As one of the leading organizers of the resistance in 1991, he remained in the army until May 1993."

So, Izetbegovic confirmed that the army was created six months before the war, crediting Sefer Halilovic for that achievement.... Is there any doubt that the Muslim army in Bosnia-Herzegovina was organized six months before the war?

Kljuic: Well, that was Izetbegovic's boasting. Believe me, there was no army whatsoever. I wish there had been. Sarajevo would have been much better defended, and there would not have been so many victims....