JOKIC IN DUBROVNIK AND THE HAGUE “BY ACCIDENT”
At the end of his marathon testimony at General Strugar’s trial, Admiral Jokic blamed his ill fate on the death of his predecessor as commander of the Ninth Naval District. "Had it not been for his death, I would never have gone there or to The Hague.”
Miodrag Jokic, witness at the Pavle Strugar trial
General Pavle Strugar did not order the shelling of the Old Town of Dubrovnik on 6 December 1991, but he did nothing to prevent or punish those who carried out the attack that resulted in two people dead, several wounded and the destruction of or damage to several buildings that were part of the world cultural heritage site.
That could sum up Admiral Miodrag Jokic’s thirteen days of testimony at the trial of the former commander of the JNA 2nd Operations Group, General Strugar. In early October 1991, Jokic replaced Admiral Djorovic, who died in an accident, as the commander of the 9th Naval Sector. In the course of the Dubrovnik operation, he was subordinate to General Strugar. They were both indicted for the same crimes, but Jokic made a plea agreement with prosecutors last August and was sentenced to seven years in prison. He appeared at the trial of his former superior officer as a prosecution witness.
As Jokic testified, the attack on Dubrovnik on 6 December was carried out pursuant to an "unauthorized" order of the commander of the 3rd Battalion of the Trebinje Brigade, Captain Vladimir Kovacevic a/k/a Rambo. Although it was "unauthorized," the act of Captain Kovacevic was not, in Jokic's assessment, a "spontaneous response to the provocations from the Croatian side." Preparations for such an extensive artillery attack had to be carried out at least one day before.
Captain Kovacevic is also indicted for the shelling of Dubrovnik, but upon his arrival in The Hague he was declared incompetent to stand trial and is currently in the UN Detention Unit awaiting transfer to a closed psychiatric institution where he will be committed for treatment.
During the course of his testimony, Jokic claimed his attempts to prevent the attack on 6 December 1991 failed, just like his demands that Captain Kovacevic be removed from office because he opened fire on Dubrovnik in mid-November without authorization. Jokic claims in both cases, General Pavle Strugar protected Kovacevic.
Jokic claims no investigation was ever carried out in the 2nd Operations Group--either in November or after 6 December--to determine who was responsible for the attacks on Dubrovnik. Jokic explains that he himself was not able to launch an investigation without the appropriate orders of the 2nd Operations group command or General Strugar. Instead of an investigation and punishments, the officers who played a prominent part in the Dubrovnik operation were commended and promoted as early as mid-December. Among them were General Strugar and Captain Kovacevic.
The promotion decrees were signed by then-Federal Secretary for National Defense, Veljko Kadijevic, despite the fact that only a week before he severely criticized Jokic and Strugar for "having acted unwisely and allowing themselves to be provoked." Jokic says there was no intention to conduct an investigation into the shelling of Dubrovnik at the "level of the entire JNA."
During almost eight full days of cross-examination, General Strugar’s defense tried to impeach the witness, noting certain inconsistencies in the statements he gave before and after his guilty plea. The defense claims that Captain Kovacevic was directly subordinate to Admiral Jokic and that General Strugar and the 2nd Operations Group command were not informed about his intentions or the beginning of the attack on 6 December on time. Quoting the results of its own investigation, the defense claimed that the 9th Naval District command provided logistical support to the 3rd Battalion throughout the attack on Dubrovnik; this is contrary to Jokic's testimony that the officers had been trying to prevent the attack as per his orders.
Answering questions put by Strugar's defense counsel Goran Rodic, Jokic said that "this was the first he heard" of such activities by his officers, although he did allow that some people in his command may have acted without proper authority in contravention of his orders.
When asked by the defense why he first pleaded not guilty and then changed his plea, Jokic said he decided to plead guilty when the indictment against him was amended to include only the shelling of the Old Town on 6 December 1991. "I accepted my command responsibility and the fact that I failed to stop the unauthorized attack launched by the 3rd Battalion commander," Jokic said.
Jokic said he did not want to accept the previous indictment charging him as a participant in a joint criminal enterprise "because he had found himself there quite by accident." As he explained, "had it not been for Djorovic's death, I would never have gone either there or to The Hague.”