ICTY: LILIC'S TESTIMONY AGAINST MILOSEVIC A MIXED BAG

Identifier: 
03THEHAGUE1674

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 THE HAGUE 001674

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR S/WCI - PROSPER/MILLER, EUR - BOGUE, EUR/SCE
- JONES/GREGORIAN, L/EUR - LAHNE, INR - SPRIGG

E.O. 12958: DECL: 1.5 FIVE YEARS AFTER CLOSURE OF ICTY
TAGS: PHUM, PREL, BK, HR, SR, NL, ICTY
SUBJECT: ICTY: LILIC'S TESTIMONY AGAINST MILOSEVIC A MIXED
BAG

REF: THE HAGUE 2170

Classified By: Legal Counselor Clifton M. Johnson per 1.5 (b) and (d) a
nd 1.6.

1. (C) Summary. To outside observers, Former Yugoslav
President Zoran Lilic's testimony against Slobodan Milosevic
before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former
Yugoslavia (ICTY) last week looked like a mixed bag. Lilic
gave a detailed accounting of Milosevic's role in
decision-making in Belgrade and provided strong evidence for
Milosevic's responsibility for aspects of the conflict in
Kosovo. However, Lilic gave direct evidence against the
Prosecution's claim that Milosevic bears responsibility for
the July 1995 massacres at Srebrenica. Chief Prosecutor
Carla Del Ponte told embassy legal officers that the
prosecution was not surprised by the testimony and that it
was, apart from Srebrenica, "good" on all counts. A senior
trial attorney in the case, however, gave a much more
downbeat assessment of Lilic's performance, revealing that
there was "fierce debate" within the OTP about whether, in
light of his testimony on Srebrenica and the Sarajevo siege,
he should be called by the prosecution at all. End Summary.

2. (U) Lilic testified before the ICTY after the Government
of Serbia and Montenegro (SAM) granted him a release from his
responsibility to maintain state secrets. The testimony, at
SAM's insistence, was limited in scope and two government
representatives were present during the proceedings. The
representatives also made it clear that they objected to any
document dated between 1993 and 1997 being discussed in
public session. Most of the three days of testimony (direct
and cross-examination), however, were held in open session.

3. (U) During cross-examination, Milosevic referred to the
United Nations guarantee to respect the territorial integrity
and sovereignty of Yugoslavia and asked Lilic if their
resistance pushed former President Clinton back to the United
Nations, since NATO was unable to "set foot in Yugoslavia."
Judge May interrupted and stated that the witness "cannot
give evidence for Mr. Clinton." Milosevic responded that he
hoped when the appropriate time comes, Judge May will issue
an order for Mr. Clinton to testify.

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LILIC UNDERMINES PROSECUTION CASE FOR CRIMES IN BOSNIA
--------------------------------------------- ---------

4. (U) Lilic testified on direct that he was certain that
Milosevic had not ordered the massacre, stating, "I know that
he was personally very upset and angry; I think that he was
very sincere in his behavior and conduct." Lilic also
claimed that there was no way that the Yugoslav Army (VJ) was
involved in the massacre. Lilic attempted to say more, but
the Prosecution directed him to another topic. On
cross-examination, Milosevic noted that Lilic had mentioned
Srebrenica several times during his testimony the previous
day, but that lead Milosevic prosecutor Nice had kept
interrupting him. Judge May defended Nice's objections
saying that he was correct to object to Lilic's opinions of
Milosevic's involvement in Srebrenica. Milosevic argued that
Lilic had detailed knowledge of the events during that time
period. Milosevic asked Lilic to comment on Serbian
involvement in Srebrenica, saying that it was a truly tragic
and dramatic event. Lilic responded that no one from the
Yugoslav leadership could have issued an order or known about
the massacres. His impression was that Milosevic was
"genuinely angry...shaken about it" when Lilic told him what
had happened. Lilic testified that Milosevic said, "Those
crazy Serbs from Pale ...I cannot believe they did something
like this." Milosevic asked what the RS's response was to
their inquiries into the massacre; Lilic responded that the
RS leadership said they knew nothing about it.

5. (U) Lilic did confirm that in the Fall of 1995, the
Yugoslav army set up a military training center to aid and
train Bosnian Serb troops. He testified that General Perisic
helped set up the facility, but that Milosevic put
paramilitary leader Dragan Vasiljkovic in charge of running
it. Lilic said that when he found out about the training
center, he was "amazed, and I ordered the camp to be
disbanded."

6. (C) Lilic's testimony relating to Srebrenica, and to
limited command-and-control over RS forces in Bosnia, did not
come as a surprise to the Prosecution, as Chief Prosecutor
Del Ponte told Embassy legal officers directly. Del Ponte
gave an impression of being at ease with the testimony and,
in particular, the positive points drawn out (paras 7 - 14
below). Yet Dermot Groome (strictly protect), a senior trial
attorney (and former Manhattan assistant district attorney)
with responsibility for the Bosnia portion of the prosecution
of Milosevic, was much less sanguine about Lilic's
performance. He told an Embassy legal officer that there was
a "fierce debate" within the prosecution team about whether
Lilic should be called to testify given what they knew of his
intended testimony. When embassy legal officer noted that
Lilic's testimony went beyond opinion, eliciting Milosevic's
alleged "angry" and "shaken" responses to word of the
massacres, Groome expressed his worry that the trial chamber
would treat the testimony as direct evidence laying the
ground for reasonable doubt that Milosevic knew of the JNA's
activities in and around the Srebrenica enclave. Moreover,
the testimony suggesting a lack of real control over the JNA
and Bosnian Serb officials could damage the prosecution's
case that Milosevic bears responsibility for the siege of
Sarajevo as well. Groome, whose team is already scrambling
to unearth evidence linking Milosevic to Srebrenica, left an
impression of deep frustration that Lilic was allowed to
testify at all.

-----------------------------------------
TESTIMONY SUPPORTING THE PROSECUTION CASE
-----------------------------------------

7. (U) The Prosecution extracted from Lilic support for its
case in two principal areas -- his dominating decision-making
role in Belgrade between 1993 and 1997, and his
responsibility for atrocities in Kosovo.

8. (U) Milosevic as decision-maker: Lilic testified that
nothing important happened within official Belgrade without
Milosevic's knowledge. He helped the Prosecution untangle
the web of relationships that tied the Milosevic circle
together, focusing, for example, on Jovica Stanisic, the Head
of the Serbian secret service within the Ministry of Interior
(MUP), a key ally for Milosevic and one of the most powerful
in the leadership at the time. According to the
Constitution, Stanisic was to report to the Minister of
Interior, but in reality reported directly to Milosevic.
(NB: Stanisic, in ICTY custody, pled not guilty to OTP
charges on June 13.) Lilic testified that the Socialist
Party of Serbia (SPS) and the Yugoslav United Left (JUL)
"were under the domination and authority of Milosevic."

9. (U) He also testified that Milosevic had a "great deal of
influence" over Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia as well as the
Yugoslav Army VJ, but that "'control' was too strong of a
word." Lilic testified that the VJ briefed Milosevic
regularly and that the General Staff of the VJ was the only
source of information they received. He said that a group of
Generals remained close to Milosevic to advance their
careers. Lilic alternated back and forth as to the Supreme
Defense Council's (SDC's) power and Milosevic's influence and
knowledge of all government matters. Lilic further said that
Milosevic did not do anything outside his right prescribed by
the Constitution, but that he did play a dominant role in the
SDC. When asked about Milosevic's relationship with Mladic,
Lilic confirmed other witness testimony that Mladic was very
unpredictable and unreliable, so the relationship between
Milosevic and Mladic varied. The relationship deteriorated
over time, but once the Vance-Owen Plan failed, efforts were
made to improve their relationship.

10. (U) Kosovo: Much of Lilic's testimony focused on a letter
sent from General Perisic to Milosevic on June 18, 1998. The
letter detailed the problems in Kosovo, particularly the
illegal activity of the police. The letter urged Milosevic
to order a state of emergency in Kosovo and reiterated that
without a state of emergency, the activities of the VJ there
were illegal and could be subject to reprisals from NATO and
the international community. The letter further accused
Milosevic of going along with the illegal decisions of the
SDC and that Milosevic did not have authority to do so,
violating the principle of subordination and unity of
command. In writing the letter, Lilic said that Perisic
wanted to draw attention to the seriousness of the problems
there and that any undermining of this would make things
worse. He stated that Perisic was replaced four months after
the letter was written. In response to Judge May's query as
to Milosevic's rationale for not responding, Lilic said that
Milosevic did not want to accept the seriousness of the
situation which was necessary to recognize and deal with the
problems. He also noted that in a state of emergency, the
police would have been united and attached to the VJ.

11. (U) During the first day of cross-examination, Milosevic
was nonconfrontational and at times rather complimentary
towards Lilic, often referring to "we" when inquiring about
the positive steps the Yugoslav government took during the
conflicts. Milosevic's actions and gestures appeared to be
the result of knowing that Lilic could help him on some
points. Milosevic asked, "Did we make every effort for peace
in Bosnia and Croatia?" Lilic responded, "Yes, we did. And
the product of our efforts was the peace plans offered to the
world." Lilic said that it was clear that Milosevic's
influence was dominant over foreign affairs. He also said
that there would have been no Dayton without the persistence
and pressure from Milosevic. He mentioned that Karadzic
obstinately refused all suggestions for a peace plan and that
no one trusted Karadzic. Milosevic said, "This is what I
wanted to hear...no doubt the efforts were crucial." Lilic
responded that "Yes, your efforts, your ability and
negotiations were crucial."

12. (U) However, during the second day of cross-examination,
the tone turned confrontational as Lilic testified to
Milosevic's accountability for Kosovo. Lilic became angry at
one point and said that he wants his son to be proud to be a
Serb, but that "there are more Serbs in the ICTY prison than
there are in Kosovo now" and that they should have done more
to intervene in Kosovo. Milosevic focused many of his
initial questions on the actions of the KLA and seeking
Lilic's confirmation that there was no discussion within the
government to expel Albanians from Kosovo. Lilic testified
that Milosevic never gave an order to launch an attack on the
civilian population, and in fact they sought investigations
into such attacks. With regard to the Perisic letter,
Milosevic asked Lilic if the letter was a "smokescreen" for
what was to have been done in Kosovo and that the necessary
actions could have been done without a state of emergency
being issued. Lilic responded that he could hardly agree and
that it was Milosevic's opinion at the time that the army
could have responded to terrorist activities without a state
of emergency, but that the JNA could have done more if a
state of emergency had been implemented.

13. (U) Milosevic inquired about a letter Lilic sent to
Milosevic that urged Milosevic to accept the latest United
Nations proposal given to Milosevic after a G8 meeting in
Berlin and championed by former German Chancellor Kohl to
accept a UN peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. Lilic stressed
that all Milosevic had to do was make a public statement that
he would accept the proposal. Milosevic then referred to a
letter which had handwritten notes from both Milosevic and
Lilic dated around May 5, 1998. Milosevic was adamant that
he told Lilic to accept the proposal and said so in the note.
In response, Lilic referred to his handwritten note that
said "useful ambiguity." Lilic insisted that Milosevic did
not authorize him to accept the proposal, but more
importantly, he made it clear to Milosevic that he would have
to publicly accept the proposal himself. After Judge May
asked for clarification, Lilic said that he tried to reach
Milosevic for almost 2 weeks after the UN proposal was given
to discuss an end to the conflict. After that, he sent the
letter to Milosevic outlining the problems in Kosovo, the UN
proposal, and urging Milosevic to act quickly.

14. (U) Milosevic and Lilic subsequently entered into a
heated exchange where Milosevic said, "...that is why we
responded favorably (to the proposal)." Lilic responded
with, "But...we did not favorably respond." Milosevic
countered, "You said you would send the note to Chancellor
Kohl--my favorable response." Lilic responded with, "Did you
really think I would fax Kohl your handwritten notes?" Judge
May then intervened and asked what happened next. Lilic
testified that after he noted that Milosevic instructed him
to be ambiguous in his response, Milosevic was scheduled to
appear on television to accept the proposal. Since that did
not happen, Lilic did not transmit any response to Kohl. At
that time, Milosevic told Lilic that he wanted to
re-establish contacts with the foreign interlocutors.

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THE HEALTH OF THE ACCUSED
-------------------------
15. (C) Throughout Lilic's testimony, on both direct and
cross-examination, Milosevic looked vigorous, alert and
healthy, buoyed especially by those aspects of Lilic's
testimony that seemed to be given in his favor. Registry
legal adviser Christian Rohde (strictly protect), who sees
Milosevic regularly, confirmed to an embassy legal officer
that the accused's health has been improving markedly since
the middle of the spring. He said that his blood pressure is
in control and that he seems to be less stressed than in
earlier portions of the trial. With no hint of sarcasm,
Rohde attributed the upturn in Milosevic's health to the
absence of the accused's wife, Mira Markovic, from The Hague.
Early in the spring, many close observers of Milosevic saw
the dip in his health as a sign of his concern for his wife,
on the run from Belgrade prosecutors, and the impact of the
round-up of his Belgrade support network in the aftermath of
the assassination of Zoran Djindjic. Rohde reports that
during her previous visits to The Hague, Markovic -- widely
known to be the organizing force behind Milosevic's defense
-- would leave her husband demonstrably stressed and anxious.
Her calls from "some former Soviet republic" do not seem to
impose the same kinds of rigors on him, Rohde reported.

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COMMENT
-------

16. (C) The OTP took a gamble with Lilic's testimony and, in
retrospect, may have miscalculated. While the testimony
confirmed many points the Prosecution is trying to prove,
such as direct links to individuals, the army and
paramilitaries, knowledge of events, and most importantly his
involvement in Kosovo, it was very damaging on Srebrenica.
Given that the OTP already had a relatively strong case for
Milosevic's responsibility for crimes committed in Kosovo, it
may have been prudent, as some OTP lawyers urged, to forgo
testimony that undercut the already shaky case on Srebrenica.
Limiting direct examination to non-Bosnia topics (with the
resulting limitation on the scope of the cross examination),
would at least have deprived Milosevic of an opportunity to
be cleared by Lilic for any role in Srebrenica. Lilic's
value may be further diminished when he returns, "at a
convenient date," for one additional day for
cross-examination by Milosevic and the amicus curiae, as well
as a chance for re-direct and to authenticate the documents
recently turned over to the OTP.
SOBEL