Serbian general testifies against Miloševic
by Mirko Klarin
In his testimony General Aleksandar Vasiljević, former head of JNA counter-intelligence, described the complex nature of Milošević’s involvement in the wars against Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. According to him the JNA, later renamed VJ (Army of Yugoslavia), played a crucial role in the creation and arming of the Army of the Krajina in Croatia and the Army of Republika Srpska in Bosnia-Herzegovina. He stated that FRY treated these two armies as if they were its own, i.e. it financed them and supplied them with weapons and commanding officers. According to Vasiljević, around 13,000 officers of the VJ served in the armies of the two ‘Serb states’ between 1992 and 1995.
Milošević in his capacity as Serbian president was de jure commander of the republic’s territorial defence units. When in the autumn of 1991 the JNA had problems with manpower, since a large number of conscripts and reservists refused to answer the call for mobilization, the Serbian territorial defence offered its own troops. These were then deployed at the front in eastern Croatia. Vasiljević said that Serbian territorial defence forces could be lawfully engaged in Croatia ‘solely with the permission of the president of Serbia, i.e. Slobodan Milošević’. The network through which Milošević controlled the events in Croatia comprised a triangle made up of the Serbian ministry of the interior, various paramilitary formations, and the local territorial defence units in Krajina and Eastern Slavonia.
As president of Serbia Milošević exercised de jure control also over the ministry of the interior and over both police departments - public and secret. The secret police (state security service) was at the time headed by Jovica Stanišić, Frenki Simatović and Radovan Stojčić: all three were named as members of the ‘joint criminal enterprise’ in the Milošević indictment. As early as the autumn of 1990 Frenki Simatović set up camps for the training of volunteers in Krajina, i.e. the part of Croatia which at the start of the conflict in the summer of 1991 came under the control of the JNA and local Serb forces. Before the start of the war in Croatia Radovan Stojčić established such camps also in eastern Slavonia, for the training of volunteers sent from Serbia. These belonged to paramilitary formations created by ‘opposition’ parties such as Š ešelj’s Radical Party, Vuk Drašković’s Serb Renewal Movement, and the ‘Tigers’ led by Željko Ražnatović (Arkan) - who later also formed a political party.
In early 1991 Arkan was arrested in Croatia for trying to smuggle a large quantity of weapons into Krajina. The fact that Arkan was freed on the intervention of Radmilo Bogdanović, who at the time was Serbian minister of the interior, means that the Serbian interior ministry was behind the smuggling operation. Vasiljević also recalled Vojislav Š ešelj’s public statement that Jovica Stanišić, head of the Serbian secret police, engaged him to recruit volunteers whom the ministry would then supply with arms and train in the camps operated by the state security service. Since the interior ministry never denied the truth of Š ešelj’s assertions, they should be taken as ‘trustworthy’.
General Vasiljević mentioned other paramilitary formations active in eastern Slavonia, such as the ‘Dušan the Great’ unit led by Mirko Jović, which he said ‘was responsible for the crime committed in Lovas’; the ‘Montenegrin’ battalion under the command of Radovan Stojčić; and the special police unit led by Vasilije Mijović, which was stationed in Baranja. Arkan and his ‘Tigers’ were a special story, since they had a privileged status in regard to the personnel of both interior and defence ministries. He recalled how once, on entering the Serbian ministry of defence, he was asked to hand in his gun, although he was in uniform. When he protested, saying that Arkan was always allowed to enter the ministry armed, the official answered: ‘But you are not Arkan.’
According to General Vasiljević, in January 1992 the JNA general staff asked the Serbian interior ministry to inform Arkan that his forces had to evacuate eastern Slavonia, in conformity with the order of the Yugoslav ‘rump presidency’. Radovan Stojčić told the representative of the general staff that they would have ‘no problems with Arkan, since the "Tigers" are to be included into a special unit organized by the Serbian ministry of the interior’.
In Vasiljević’s view, the fact that in February 1992 two officials of the Serbian state security service were appointed commanders of the territorial defence staff in Vukovar shows that the Serbian secret police controlled also the local territorial defence units. These appointments, he said, were quite unusual, since normally such posts were filled exclusively by JNA officers.
Translated from a longer text in Helsinška povelja (Belgrade), February 2003