Challenging some of the general allegations in the indictment and the testimony of Ibrahim Rugova, Vukasin Jokanovic, Slobodan Milosevic’s defense witness, noted that the protests mounted by Kosovo Albanians in 1981 had been put down by “Slovene special forces” and that the procedure to change the Serbian Constitution had been initiated by Milosevic’s predecessor, the late Ivan Stambolic, as the president of Serbia

Through the testimony of Vukasin Jokanovic, former speaker of the Kosovo Assembly, Slobodan Milosevic tried to refute some of the general allegations in the indictment in which the prosecution presented its version of the events that preceded the mass deportations, killings and other crimes the former president of Serbia and Yugoslavia is charged with.

Milosevic started from the prosecutor’s allegation that in April 1981 the Serb police that put down the protests of the Kosovo Albanians. He claims that, according to the Constitution as it was at the time, the Serbian police did not have the power to intervene in Kosovo, and his witness corroborated that. Instead, it was the federal army and the federal police that intervened against the Kosovo protesters, and the federal minister of the interior at the timewas a Slovene, Stane Dolanc, Milosevic stressed today. Milosevic’s argument about the role of the Slovenes in the suppression of the protests of Kosovo Albanians was expanded by Jokanovic with the story about a Slovene by the name of Franc, who was the commander of the special forces that were part of the Joint Forces, whose unit had “launched a fierce attack on the village of Prekazi.” As Jokanovic described, the forces commanded by Franc had surrounded a house from which fire had been opened on the police and – with supporting fire delivered by a helicopter – “liquidated all those who had refused to surrender.“

Milosevic then added that an identical event happened in the same village seventeen years later, in early 1998, when Adem Jashari and more than fifty members of his family, including women and children, were killed in Prekazi.

The other general allegation in the Kosovo indictment challenged by Milosevic today through the witness relates to the changes to the Serbian Constitution in March 1989. These changes “stripped Kosovo of most of its powers of autonomy, including the control over the police, the educational and economic policy”, according to the prosecution.

As Jokanovic indicated, the efforts to change the Serbian Constitution had began as early as in 1987, when the Serbian president was Ivan Stambolic. These changes, the witness continued, “did not in any way change the status of the province in the federation.” Milosevic tendered into evidence the minutes from the meeting of the leadership of the then Yugoslav League of Communists, where the chairman of the League of Communists – Stipe Suvar, a Croat – and officials from other republics expressed positive views of the constitutional amendments.

In addition to the general allegations of the indictment, Milosevic used Jokanovic’s testimony to refute the testimony of Ibrahim Rugova, who testified in the first stage of this trial and who claimed that the Kosovo Assembly deputies were under a great deal of pressure to vote in favor of the proposal to amend the Constitution, and that on 23 March 1989, when it was put to the vote, tanks were deployed around the Assembly and that there were a lot of secret police in the Assembly building.

Jokanovic refuted all this, claiming that the proposed amendments were supported by the overwhelming majority of the deputies, with only 10 votes against, while the adoption was “greeted by a standing ovation.” A TV broadcast from the Kosovo Assembly tendered into evidence by Milosevic corroborated his testimony.

The prosecutor started the cross-examination of Vukasin Jokanovic just before the adjournment and will continue tomorrow.