FROM FRENCH COLONEL TO MARTIC'S AMBASSADOR
Patrick Barriot renounced his carrier as high officer in the French Army in 1995 to become the "official representative" of the Republic of Serbian Krajina in Paris. He testified at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic in order to to set right “the distorted picture" painted by the Western media about the events in the former Yugoslavia
When in 1995 he was forced to make the choice between his rank as a colonel in the French Army and the title of the "official representative" of the Republic of Serbian Krajina in Paris, Patrick Barriot opted for the latter. At the beginning of his testimony today at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic he spoke about the criticism he had been exposed to in France and in Croatia for accepting the title conferred on him by Milan Martic, saying that he "considers that RSK existed and indeed that it still exists."
Former colonel and specialist in emergency medicine came to the Tribunal for the same reason that he accepted Martic's appointment in 1995: to set right, as he said, the distorted picture painted by the Western media about the events in the former Yugoslavia. There is, according to him, a "huge discrepancy" between this picture and what really went on on the ground, resulting in a "great injustice" to the Serb people, "because its suffering had been left aside". At the beginning of his testimony, Barriot spoke about the suffering of Serbs in Croatia caused by the symbols introduced by president Tudjman in 1990, which "terrorized the Serb population". "Physical assaults followed symbolical ones," the witness said, explaining that the "drama in Vukovar did not begin in November 1991 [when the JNA forces entered the town] but in the summer of the same year, with the crimes committed against Serbs by Mercep's men."
Presenting the witness as a leading French expert in terrorism, with connections in Western intelligence services, Milosevic asked the Barriot about the presence and activities of terrorist groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war. According to Barriot, Western intelligence services knew as early as in 1994 about the presence of terrorist groups linked with the Algerian Gia and Bin Laden's Al Qaeda, first in BH and later in Kosovo. When asked by the judges what he based his claims on and what the sources for his knowledge was, Barriot quoted his long career in the French Army and in UNPROFOR and his participation in the work of the "crisis cells" dealing with terrorism.
As his testimony today drew to a close, Barriot spoke about Operation Storm to which he said he had been an eye witness in August 1995. He claims that the operation began with a "direct intervention of the American air force," which carried out air strikes against the Serb air-defense positions around Knin, thus enabling the Croatian forces to enter the town. A "total ethnic cleansing" ensued, with more than 200,000 Serbs being expelled from Krajina.
The judges asked Milosevic several times to point to the relevance of this witness's testimony for the charges against him, noting that before the Tribunal the crimes committed by one side cannot be invoked in defense of the crimes the other side committed. Milosevic replied that in this case this was not a tu quoque defense, but that, according to him, "this was about the fact that the Serbs were only trying to defend themselves, both in Croatia and in BH."
According to Judge Robinson, this defense would be acceptable if Milosevic were able to prove that Serbs were defending themselves in situations described in specific counts of the indictment. For instance in Dubrovnik or Vukovar, Sarajevo, Zvornik or Srebrenica, in Racak or Izbica.
Patrick Barriot's testimony will continue tomorrow.
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