SOLDIERS WERE TRANSFERRED TO SERVE ABROAD WILLY-NILLY?
The prosecution contends that the VJ transferred its officers to the VRS and the SVK ‘without their consent’. In his evidence in the defense of General Momcilo Perisic Stamenko Nikolic denied this, claiming that ‘nobody was forced to go’ anywhere
Stamenko Nikolic, defence witness of Momcilo Perisic
The prosecution today cross-examined General Stamenko Nikolic, former chief of the Administration for System and Status Affairs in the FRY Defense Ministry, arguing that the VJ officers were transferred to the VRS and SVK ‘without their consent’. The prosecution contends that the VRS and SVK were staffed through the 30th and 40th Personnel Centers. Former chief of the VJ General Staff Momcilo Perisic established the two centers in late 1993.
Nikolic was shown documents of the Defense Ministry, the VJ General Staff and its chief, Momcilo Perisic. The prosecution alleges the documents indicate that transferring Yugoslav officers to the VRS and SVK was ‘semi-legal’. One of the documents quotes Perisic’s words before the FRY Supreme Defense Counsel: the VJ ‘doesn’t have a solid legal base’ to transfer active military personnel outside of FRY ‘without their consent’. Perisic believed however that the problem could be solved if all professional soldiers born in BH and Croatia and sent to the JNA to undergo training were obliged to respond to the call-up issued by the Main Staffs of the SVK and VRS. If not, their service in the VJ would be terminated. According to Perisic, the superior officers of the VJ would send such persons to a special organ of the General Staff, the Personnel Administration, headquartered in Belgrade.
Nikolic didn’t agree with the prosecution’s suggestion that there ‘was an intent’ to second officers to the VRS and the SVK ‘regardless of their views’. Nikolic clarified that ‘nobody was forced to go and nobody was ordered to act accordingly’.
The prosecutor went on to show Nikolic documents from the 3rd Army Command of the VJ, proposing measures against officers who either refused to serve in the SVK or deserted from it. Such officers were ‘given an opportunity to report to the units of the 40th Personnel Center if they do not want to terminate their service in the VJ’, the documents stated. Nikolic agreed that ‘according to the document’ it was the only way to avoid the termination of their military service, only to add later that ‘nobody was transferred without signing a written statement accepting the transfer’.
In his examination-in chief, the witness said he ‘went through a difficult period in the Defense Ministry’ when the federal government imposed sanctions on Republika Srpska in August 1994 and stopped paying the VJ officers in the VRS. In an attempt to contest the witness’s claim, the prosecutor showed Nikolic a document General Ratko Mladic sent to the VJ General Staff, requesting that ‘the problem with the salaries be solved successfully” as it has been for other VJ personnel. The prosecutor asked the witness if he knew that General Perisic transferred 500,000 dinars for the salaries of the VJ personnel in the SVK. The witness will reply tomorrow if the Trial Chamber overrules the objection raised by Perisic’s counsel.