Noting that General Momcilo Perisic ‘defended his honor, the reputation of his army and the dignity of his nation’, defense counsel Novak Lukic asked for the acquittal of the former chief of the VJ General Staff on all counts in the indictment

Novak Lukić, branilac Momčila PerišićaNovak Lukić, branilac Momčila Perišića

‘Truth has to be your priority, only truth can lead to justice for all the victims and to peace among the nations in the former Yugoslavia. We believe that General Perisic defended his honor, the reputation of his army and the dignity of his nation’, defense counsel Novak Lukic said, seeking the acquittal of the former chief of the VJ General Staff.

In his closing argument, the defense counsel tried to prove that General Perisic had no effective control over the officers that, as alleged by the prosecution, were part of the VJ and who committed the gravest crimes in Sarajevo and Srebrenica. The defense maintains that the officers were part of the VRS chain of command and obeyed orders they received from their superior officers. To corroborate his claims, the defense counsel quoted from the minutes of the Supreme Defense Counsel meetings, where Milosevic urges the commander of the VRS Main Staff Ratko Mladic to accept the peace agreements because it was ‘impossible to fight the entire world’. Mladic refused, the defense counsel noted, ‘leaving the negotiations to the politicians’.

General Perisic may have had mechanisms of influence at his disposal, the defense counsel said, but did not have any mechanisms to exert control over the officers in the VRS and the SVK. The defense counsel called on the judges not to take into consideration the prosecution claims that the accused was able to pay, promote or impose disciplinary measures to punish VJ officers serving in the VRS. The defense counsel urged the judges to dismiss Mladic’s ‘spectacular’ claims that ‘the VRS could never have survived without the FRY’ and that he felt as a soldier of a ‘single united army’. This evidence shows ‘only that the efforts were made to sway Mladic. Mladic reacted by rejecting the influence, by not listening to either Milosevic or Perisic and explaining that he was just a soldier serving his nation’, the defense counsel argued.

According to the defense, Perisic had no effective control or influence over those who launched the rocket attack on Zagreb in May 1995. The defense counsel quoted an intercepted conversation in which Perisic told Milosevic that he had asked Milan Martic to stop targeting Zagreb. But Martic dismissed Perisic’s demand, saying ‘he has to defend himself as the VJ will not help him’. ‘The man is crazy, brother,’ Milosevic remarked on Martic’s behavior.

As the defense contends, at the time when the crimes were perpetrated and afterwards, Perisic never had the power to punish the persons the prosecution described as Perisic’s subordinates because they were not part of the VJ chain of command. Isolated cases that showed, according to the prosecution, that Perisic had the power to impose disciplinary punishment, were the result of an order received by the chief of the VJ General Staff from Milosevic and the Supreme Defense Council, the defense counsel emphasized. According to the defense, the involvement of an element of the special unit corps in the attack on Mount Zuc near Sarajevo was also an isolated case. The attack ‘has nothing to do with crimes’, the defense counsel noted. In all other cases, the FRY didn’t participate in the war and the allegations that Perisic supported the war and that his actions contributed to the crimes ‘are not true and have not been proved’, the defense argued.

Responding to the defense arguments, the prosecutors insisted that Perisic had ‘a substantial influence’ on the crimes he is charged with because he maintained a body of officers in the VRS and made sure they enjoyed their benefits in the VJ. The prosecution also contends that under the Law on the VJ, Perisic had the power to institute disciplinary proceedings against those who committed infractions or crimes.

After the prosecution and the defense completed their closing arguments, judges Bakone Moloto, Pedro David and Michelle Picard withdrew to deliberate. The judgment will be rendered ‘soon’.