Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Milosevic trial part II: Former British foreign secretary calls Milosevic a 'pragmatist'

This is the second of a fascinating series of recent testimonies in the "forgotten" trial of Slobodan Milosevic. Lord Owen's testimony seems to me to be a defense of Milosevic. David Owen, who served as an EU envoy to Yugoslavia in the early 1990's, accuses Milosevic of not stopping the war when he could have in the early days, but concedes (and this is what's important as far as the tribunal is concerned) that he had little influence over the Bosnian Serb army by the time of the Srebrenica massacre.
It seems that the titles of the story in the British media are quite misleading, as sampled both in the BBC and the Guardian coverage.
From the BBC story:
But Lord Owen also gave some support to Mr Milosevic's claims that he had less control by the time of the massacre of thousands of Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995.

and from the Guardian:

But he depicted Mr Milosevic, facing genocide charges for his role in the war, as a pragmatic nationalist who made a "massive mistake" a decade ago in not exerting what influence he had. Lord Owen, a former foreign secretary, spent three years mediating in the Balkan conflict...
..."Milosevic is not fundamentally racist... He is a nationalist, but even that he wears very lightly. He's a pragmatist who wanted the Serbs to be in the majority. I don't think he was an ethnic purist."

[comment: he concurs with Markovic's opinion mentioned in the last post, "pragmatist" being polite english talk for Markovic's "somebody who was ready to use everything at his disposal to secure power for himself"]


Lord Owen testified that in April 1993, Mr Milosevic had expressed concern about a confrontation between Muslim and Serbian forces at Srebrenica, where more than 7,000 Muslims were murdered in 1995.
"He feared that if the Bosnian Serb troops entered Srebrenica there would be a bloodbath, because of the tremendous bad blood that existed between the two armies," Lord Owen said.

Belgrade's (anti-Milosevic) B-92 reports the following:

Owen also said that Milosevic was neither a racist nor an advocate of ethnically pure states and did not want to expel all Muslims from the Bosnian Serb Republic.
However, he added, the former strongman of the Balkans probably had a long-term goal of uniting all Serb territories in one state.
Unlike Milosevic, said Owen, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman openly demanded the annexation of a significant part of Bosnia to Croatia, saying that Bosnia could not survive as an independent state.

I'm waiting for the full transcript to be published in the ICTY website, and might return to this story soon.

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