In an attempt to discredit Lord Ashdown, Slobodan Milosevic showed a video tape of his visit to the village of Studencane in September 1998. The tape, however, served as an illustration and corroboration of a part of Ashdown’s testimony at the Tribunal on 15 March 2002, when he described this visit in detail

Slobodan Miloševic during the cross examinationSlobodan Miloševic during the cross examination

Slobodan Milosevic amended his “indictment” against Lord Ashdown, former leader of the British Liberals, who is currently the High Representative of the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In addition to the charges of false testimony before the Tribunal, violations of the Dayton Accords, the Constitution and law and of criminal offences against the Serb people in Republika Srpska, Milosevic today charged Ashdown with “controlling the KLA weapons and instructing the terrorists on how to use them.”

Milosevic corroborated the charge with a video tape made in September 1998. The footage had obviously been shown on Serbian state TV, which misrepresented Ashdown as a “UNHCR representative”. In late September 1998, Ashdown visited Kosovo and Belgrade as the personal envoy of the British PM Blair, carrying his letter for the then FRY president, Slobodan Milosevic. The tape first shows Ashdown with a group of KLA members armed with automatic rifles and then Ashdown entering a house where the hosts, wearing civilian clothes, bring out and show him weapons. Ashdown inspects the weapons, says the rifles and submachine guns date from the WWII or even earlier, tries to cock them, notes that most of them are useless and advises the host to be “very careful” when handling the weapons. At the end of the tape, Ashdown can be heard saying that it was “a scandal that the international community doesn’t see and doesn’t know what is happening”, promising he would inform PM Blair about what he had seen and that he would do all he could.

Although the sound is very bad and only parts of the conversation are audible, Milosevic claims that Ashdown said that it was “a scandal for the international community that the terrorists have such bad weapons”. Judges Bonomy and Kwon noted that they “did not hear” Ashdown say what Milosevic claimed he had said. Prosecutor Nice warned that the accused was trying to achieve “a different effect”, unrelated to the trial, by making such claims. Milosevic said that indeed it was his intention for “what was shown to have effect”. Judge Robinson then switched off his microphone and proposed that the subject be changed.

The irony lies in the fact that the video tape Milosevic showed “has effect” – in fact, it illustrates and corroborates part of Ashdown’s testimony before the Tribunal. On 15 March 2002, he testified how on 28 September 1998 he had visited the village of Studencane, together with the British ambassador and military attaché . The Albanian villagers told them that some people had asked them to surrender their weapons, threatening them that if they refused, their village would be burned. Since they did not have any weapons, they were told to buy some on the black market. The villagers put together 10,000 German Marks and got some old, rusty rifles and submachine guns for that money. They showed the weapons to Ashdown, who subsequently described them as a “collection of unusable trophy arms”. In conclusion of that part of his testimony, Ashdown hypothesized that the weapons, after the villagers handed them over, “went back on the black market, to be sold to another village”.

Neither the judges nor the prosecutors were able to recall that part of Ashdown’s testimony from three and a half years ago, but the witness himself should refresh their memory. He will return to The Hague, probably in the rebuttal stage.