In his closing argument, Martic’s defense counsel did not speak about Milan Martic’s defense but rather accused the Croatian side and its leadership of “organizing an armed rebellion in the territory of Yugoslavia, an European state”, went on to accuse Milan Babic, key prosecution witness, of giving false testimony and finally accused the Trial Chamber for admitting Babic’s evidence. As the defense counsel said, something like that “is unknown in civilized world”

Predrag Milovancevic, defense attorney for Milan MarticPredrag Milovancevic, defense attorney for Milan Martic

Predrag Milovancevic, Milan Martic’s defense counsel devoted most of his closing argument to the responsibility of the Croatian leadership and Milan Babic’s testimony, barely mentioning the accused. It was to describe Martic as a “hero” and a man beloved by the people who never expressed nationalist or chauvinist sentiments against his Croatian neighbors.

Despite the fact that in its final brief the prosecution stressed it would not be dealing with who was responsible for the war and the break-up of Yugoslavia, Martic’s defense considers this to be the key point in its case. The prosecution was wrong when it claimed that the Serbian leaderships in Belgrade and Krajina were part of a joint criminal enterprise aimed at occupying parts of Croatia and annexing them to Greater Serbia, the defense counsel contended, going on to accuse the Croatian government, under President Tudjman, of organizing “an armed rebellion in the territory of Yugoslavia, an European state”. According to him the rebellion was at least 20 years in the making: it was first planned in 1971, the time of the so called Mass Movement, Maspok.

This leads the defense to conclude that “the only joint criminal enterprise existed on the Croatian side”. Then, in the early nineties, the armed rebellion was staged and the federal government intervened. Serbs remained loyal to the federal authorities and this created an impression that this was an action launched by the Serbian side. “All means” can be used to suppress an armed rebellion, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, Milovancevic said, and the activities taken to this end are “not subject to the provisions of international law”.

Key prosecution witness Milan Babic committed suicide in the UN Detention Unit on 5 March 2006, a few days before completing his evidence at the Milan Martic trial. The evidence he gave before his death against his erstwhile collaborator in the Krajina government was quite damning and the defense counsel tried to devalue his testimony noting that Babic was “emotionally disturbed” when he gave evidence. This makes his evidence irrelevant, his defense contends. Although Martic’s defense lost the legal battle to suppress his evidence, it accused the Trial Chamber today of making a decision “unknown in the civilized world” when it ruled Babic’s testimony could remain on record. Milovancevic was forced to retract the statement after the presiding judge asked him whether that meant both the Trial and the Appeals Chamber were “uncivilized” because of their decisions.

The defense counsel mentioned the specific crimes alleged in the indictment just a few times. According to the indictment, several hundred civilians were killed in the crimes committed by the JNA, TO and Martic’s police acting in concert. According to him, those were actions in which the hand of the legitimate federal organs and the JNA was forced by the “rebel groups” stationed in Croatian villages; those groups had to be neutralized. Apart from the murder of ten civilians in Bruska, committed, according to Milovancevic, by “bandits masquerading as police”, he mentioned no other crimes alleged in the indictment. By the end of the session today, he did not touch upon the rocket attack on Zagreb and Martic’s role in the crime. He has already gone past the time limit and the Chamber will decide tomorrow whether to give him any more time to complete his closing argument.

In its closing argument yesterday, the prosecution called for a life sentence for he accused.