Defense witness for Slobodan Milosevic, police general Obrad Stevanovic, was himself investigated by the Tribunal prosecutors and was put on an EU “black list” as one of the “persons responsible for repressive operations in Kosovo” as early as March 1998

Obrad Stevanovic, witness in the Milosevic trialObrad Stevanovic, witness in the Milosevic trial

On the first day of his testimony at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, General Obrad Stevanovic spoke about the organization and the functioning of the Serbian Ministry of the Interior (MUP) forces in the last decade. In the period covered by the “Kosovo indictment” against the former President of Serbia and Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia, General Stevanovic was the assistant minister of the interior. He was dismissed in January 2001 by decision of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, and currently teaches at the Police Academy in Belgrade. The largest part of his testimony today sounded like a lecture about how the MUP forces functioned, by law and theoretically. Anything done by the Serbian police in Kosovo, the witness said, was “within the law”.

Through this witness, Milosevic tried to refute some grave accusations against Serbia as a “police state”, which has had a “politicized and militarized police force”. According to the witness, there were no more than 25,000 policemen in Serbia at the time – “two and a half per each 1,000 inhabitants”. That is significantly fewer than in France, Croatia or Belgium, according to General Stevanovic,. Denying the claims about the “militarization of the police”, General Stevanovic stressed that the current Serbian gendarmerie “looks much more like a military formation than the Special police units (PJP) did” at the time he commanded them. Stevanovic also dismissed the claims that the PJP had been “special” or even “punitive units” as “nonsense”, pointing out that the special units had been “formed from regular police ranks” without having any kind of “special training.”

As a PJP commander at the time covered by the “Kosovo indictment” General Stevanovic himself was under investigation by the Hague Tribunal prosecutors. As early as March 1998, he was put on a European Union “black list” as one of the persons “responsible for the repressive operations in Kosovo”. At home, he was decorated for special merits in Kosovo and promoted to the rank of Major General in 1999 (together with Sreten Lukic, who has since been indicted). The then Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic presented a Decoration of the Yugoslav Flag to Stevanovic (along with Nikola Sainovic and Vlastimir Djordjevic, who have also been indicted in the meantime). Since the Chief Prosecutor’s Office has obviously “skipped over” General Stevanovic, he was given the opportunity of appearing before the Tribunal as a witness, rather than the accused.

The testimony of General Obrada Stevanovic continues next week.