At the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, General Obrad Stevanovic said that the Joint Kosovo Command “was never a command body.” The kind of things that can be proved by statistics

The testimony of General Obrad Stevanovic, who was the assistant minister of the interior of Serbia at the time of the conflict in Kosovo, was used by Milosevic to contest the prosecution theory – which has been confirmed by several witnesses for the prosecution – about the existence of a “parallel” or even “private chain of command” there. Such a chain of command would have enabled the then FRY president to command the VJ (Yugoslav Army) and MUP (Ministry of the Interior) forces in Kosovo through Nikola Sainovic and Nebojsa Pavkovic in the course of 1998 and 1999.

Today, General Stevanovic confirmed Milosevic’s claim that the so-called Joint Kosovo Command “was never a command body.” According to him, that term was in use for a “horizontal coordination and cooperation of military, police and state bodies”, engaged in Kosovo in 1998 and 1999. Practically, Stevanovic says, the Joint Command boiled down to a “series of meetings to exchange information and facts” about the state of events and developments in Kosovo.

In order to contest the argument of the prosecution about the Joint Command acting “outside the regular chain of command in the army and the police”, Milosevic mentioned the minutes of one of its meetings. Apart from Milosevic himself, that meeting had been attended by Nikola Sainovic, Milan Milutinovic, Dragoljub Ojdanic, Vlajko Stojiljkovic, Vlastimir Djordjevic, Sreten Lukic, Vladimir Lazarevic and the witness Obrad Stevanovic, the only one among them not to have been indicted although he had been under investigation by the Tribunal’s prosecutors for a while. According to Milosevic, the list of attendees indicates that the Joint Command – which was “no command body” – included the representatives of “all the links of the official command chain.”

After that Milosevic and General Stevanovic resorted to statistics in order to prove not only the continuity but an escalation of terrorism after the Serbian security forces withdrew on 20 June 1999 and the KFOR arrived in Kosovo. According to the statistical surveys, which were reportedly obtained by Milosevic’s associates from the Serbian MUP, a total of 7738 terrorists attacks were launched in Kosovo between 20 June 1999 and the end of September 2004, killing twice the number of persons killed in the period prior to the deployment of KFOR - and resulting in the abduction of three times as many.

These figures, according to the accused and his defense witness, show quite clearly that the situation in Kosovo since the KFOR was deployed has been “worse than it was before.” And that, Milosevic believes, means that the presence and the conduct of the Serbian security forces was not the cause of violence in Kosovo since, as he pointed out today, “terrorism and ethnic cleansing have continued even under the auspices of the UN” without any Serbian army or police presence and “regardless of who is in power in Kosovo.”

When asked by Judge Bonomy how the statistical surveys could have been compiled without any representatives of Serbian authorities present in Kosovo, the witness explained that the Serbian MUP has its Headquarters for Kosovo and Metohija, and also that the Kosovo municipal secretariats of the interior “have been redeployed to Serbia”, from where they have been following what goes on in their respective municipalities and recording all the “security developments”. General Stevanovic responded to an additional question by the judge by saying that the international authorities in Kosovo “probably” have similar records, “but the question is how they have been qualifying individual security developments.” In order words, whether they consider them terrorist acts or “ordinary crime.”

What remains to be seen is how such statistical figures will stand up to cross examination since the British Prosecutor Geoffrey Nice must be aware of the so-called “gradation of lies”, attributed to a former British prime minister according to whom there are three types of lies: “lies, damn lies and statistics.”

General Stevanovic continues his testimony tomorrow.