Milosevic: 'no link to genocide found'

Milosevic: 'no link to genocide found'

Chris Stephen
Sunday October 10, 2004
The Observer,2763,1324024,00.html

Fresh controversy has hit the war crimes trial of Slobodan Milosevic with a
claim from a senior intelligence analyst that the Yugoslav leader is
innocent of genocide.
Dr Cees Wiebes, a professor at Amsterdam University, now says there is no
evidence linking Milosevic to the worst atrocity of the Bosnian war, the
massacre of 7,000 Muslims at the town of Srebrenica.

Srebrenica, which was overrun by Serb forces in July 1995, forms the basis
of the genocide charge against Milosevic, but Wiebes, a member of a Dutch
government inquiry into the atrocity, said there is nothing to link
Milosevic to the crime.

'In our report, which is about 7,000 pages long, we come to the conclusion
that Milosevic had no foreknowledge of the subsequent massacres,' he says
in a radio programme, The Real Slobodan Milosevic, to be broadcast by BBC
Five Live tonight. 'What we did find, however, was evidence to the
contrary. Milosevic was very upset when he learnt about the massacres.'

The prospect of the former Balkan strongman being cleared of the most
serious charge he faces is a fresh blow to an already troubled case, which
begins hearing defence evidence this week after several months of delays.

Any failure to prove genocide will cast a shadow not only over this case
but over the whole practicality of holding tyrants to account in war crimes
trials, most obviously in the case against Saddam Hussein.

Wiebes headed a team of intelligence specialists commissioned by the Dutch
government to look into the massacre because its own forces were present in
the town under the UN flag.

He had access to secret files, key diplomats and hundreds of witnesses to a
massacre in which Muslim men and boys as young as 12 were butchered by
Bosnian Serb forces. But while clearly implicating senior Serb field
commanders, including General Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian army chief
still on the run, Wiebes says Milosevic played no part.
He said it was understandable that Milosevic was upset 'because in this
phase of the war he was looking for a political settlement and this was not
very good for him'.

Wiebes also says his team offered their evidence to the Hague tribunal
chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte, but were brushed off. 'What I heard from
good sources in The Hague is that Miss del Ponte thinks that we're too
nuanced and not seeing things in black and white,' he said.

Hague prosecutors insist this is not so, saying that the report was not
relevant. Prosecution spokeswoman Florence Hartmann said: 'The purpose of
the report was not to deal with criminal cases relating to Srebrenica, and
was commissioned... for other purposes.'

Wiebes is the first senior figure to say publicly what many Hague sources
have been saying privately for some time - that there is simply no evidence
to back the genocide charge.

Prosecutors have spent months trying to prove otherwise, but have drawn a
series of blanks, despite the appearance of high-profile witnesses. These
have included former Nato commander Wesley Clark, whose evidence in The
Hague last December was that Milosevic told him he knew about the crime and
tried to stop it.

Milosevic undoubtedly facilitated the killing by providing Bosnian Serb
forces with guns, fuel and cash. But for a genocide conviction to stick,
prosecutors must prove that he gave the order.

· Chris Stephen is the author of 'Judgement Day: The Trial of Slobodan
Milosevic', published by Atlantic Books