Has Slobodan Milosevic’s defense witness tried to “mislead the court on purpose” and is he avoiding telling “the truth and nothing but the truth” as he solemnly declared he would at the beginning of his testimony?

Ratko Markovic, defense witness for MilosevicRatko Markovic, defense witness for Milosevic

Geoffrey Nice had a hard time extracting an admission from Professor Ratko Markovic today that the fourth “state” whose constitution he had participated in drafting was SAO Krajina – the so-called Serbian Autonomous Region declared in the early nineties in the part of the Croatian territory controlled by the Serb forces.

On the first day of his testimony as Slobodan Milosevic’s defense witness, Markovic said that he had participated in drafting the constitutions of “four states”. He named three of them (Serbia, Montenegro and FRY), and stated that he could not reveal the name of the fourth one as it was a “professional secret”. After Judge Bonomy explained to him that “such a privilege is not valid before this court”, the prosecutor repeated his question and Markovic finally revealed the name of the “fourth state”.

Reminding him of the fact that the day before the witness had categorically stated that he “had not taken part in the drafting of the constitutions of Republika Srpska and of the Republic of Serbian Krajina”, the prosecutor accused the witness of a “deliberate attempt to mislead this court.” Professor Markovic replied that it “was a statute, which is an act of constitutional character, but not a constitution.”

The prosecutor’s goal at the beginning of the cross-examination was obviously to challenge the credibility of the witness and to show that Markovic was evading telling “the truth and nothing but the truth” as he had undertaken to do at the beginning of the trial. After he showed this to be the case on the example of the constitution or statute of SAO Krajina, the prosecutor went on to Markovic’s participation in the Serb-Croat working group, established after the famous meeting between Milosevic and Tudjman in March 1991 in Karadjordjevo. The prosecutor’s argument, corroborated by several prosecution witnesses in the course of its case, including Stipe Mesic and Ante Markovic, was that the working group was drafting maps for the division of BH, as agreed in principle in Karadjordjevo by Milosevic and Tudjman.

Professor Markovic, however, claims that this working group discussed “general problems in the country, not, God forbid, the division of Bosnia.” He denies that “any maps” were discussed. Yet, one of previous witnesses testifying in Milosevic’s defense, Professor Smilja Avramov, who also was a member of the working group, testified that they had “dealt with maps”, but not those for the division of Bosnia but for possible demarcation of borders between Serbia and Croatia.

When the prosecutor received confirmation from the witness that a spirit of collective endeavor and a sincere atmosphere prevailed in the Serbian Government, where he was the deputy prime minister for six years, and that all issues were discussed in plenary sessions and that no one was hiding anything from anyone, the prosecutor showed a video recording of another deputy prime minister in the same government, Vojislav Seselj, saying in March 1998 that “there will be many casualties among Serbs if NATO launches an aggression, but that there will be no Albanians in Kosovo”. In his previous answers, Professor Markovic confirmed that he had participated in the appointment of Seselj as a full professor at the Law School and that he considered him to be an “excellent lecturer and professor”. Commenting on the video, the witness said that he “does not know what Seselj meant by that”, but he does know that he said it “as the president of the Radical Party, not as a deputy prime minister.” Markovic shifted the blame for the fact that not one of Serbian officials had thought to distance themselves from such a statement by a deputy prime minister to the Serbian Assembly. According to him, it is the only body that has the power to take a vote of no confidence for members of the cabinet.

After that, constitutional issues were discussed and this debate will continue on Monday.