Judges warn Slobodan Milosevic and Vojislav Seselj, testifying as his defense witness, that general comments and claims unsubstantiated by any evidence, factual basis or sources don't do much for the defense of the accused

Vojislav Seselj testifying in defense of Slobodan MilosevicVojislav Seselj testifying in defense of Slobodan Milosevic

Count by count, paragraph by paragraph, Vojislav Seselj today contested all the charges in the Kosovo indictment against Slobodan Milosevic. The allegations made by the prosecution about mass expulsions of Kosovo Albanians, murders, destruction, plunder, the climate of terror created by Serbian security forces… are labeled as "incredible" or "pure fabrication."

The question remains, however, to what extent Seselj is really helping the accused. According to the judges, very little or not at all. As judges Robinson and Bonomy noted today several times, all Seselj is saying amounts to general comments and claims unsubstantiated by any evidence, factual basis or sources. As the judges said, this is not helping the accused to answer the specific charges in the indictment in the least.

The judges had a similar opinion of Seselj's testimony about Racak, based – as he said – on "information he received as the deputy prime minister of the Serbian government." The judges noted that the witness's opinions about what happened in Racak – without any reference to sources and facts this opinion is founded on – "are of no use", not even as hearsay evidence. Milosevic's attempt to rehabilitate the testimony noting that as the deputy prime minister Seselj "could not have received wrong information" was dismissed as "nonsense" by Judge Bonomy. When the accused asked the witness whether Racak was "used to pin the blame for the crime on Serbia," the same judge termed the question as "pointless and leading."

Judging by the reactions of the judges, Milosevic did not benefit much from Seselj's testimony about the remains of Kosovo Albanians found in recent years in the mass graves in Batajnica and other locations in Serbia. Seselj endorsed Milosevic's conspiracy theory according to which the bodies were moved from Kosovo to Serbia by the new Serbian authorities – in collusion with NATO and the OTP – in order to create a climate for Milosevic’s transfer to The Hague. The witness added a few juicy details: names of people who were involved in this scheme. According to him, the conspiracy was led by Jovica Stanisic and Momcilo Perisic, who were "recruited by the CIA to participate in the operation to topple Milosevic." He added for good measure a few unnamed police generals "who played a prominent role in the mob-style coup d'etat in October 2000," who sided with the "traitorous pro-Western regime”. As he said, "if any bodies were moved, they were the ones directly responsible for that." The bodies were "moved by those who wanted them to be found in order to use it as a pretext to surrender Milosevic to the Tribunal." Seselj of course failed to say, just as some other defense witnesses before him did, that NATO never bombed the Batajnica base of the Special Anti-terrorist Unit (SAJ), where the largest mass grave was discovered in a training area there. Seselj did not say so explicitly, but it could be read between the lines that the future location of the mass grave was not spared by accident and for no reason.

Noting that this was a "very important part of the case", the judges tried to get the information, facts and sources he was basing his claims on, but to little avail. The witness kept repeating the same claims, which lead Judge Robinson to note that this was "pure conjecture" and to warn Seselj that his personal opinions "will not become evidence simply because he is characterizing it as evidence."

After the presiding judge told him his testimony might be cut short if he continued with his practice of not getting up when the judges enter and leave, Seselj promised today he would comply with the courtroom protocol in the future.