Milosevic questions old foe at trial

Milosevic questions old foe at trial

Misha Savic

Milosevic questions old foe at trial

COURT: Kosovo’s president says he was under duress when denounced bombing runs by NATO.

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Slobodan Milosevic confronted a longtime foe in his war crimes trial Friday, cross-examining Kosovo’s president after he accused the former Yugoslav leader of oppressing ethnic Albanians. President Ibrahim Rugova, the highest-ranking official to appear at Milosevic’s trial, told the U.N.court he met several times with Milosevic during the Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanians in 1998-1999, once during the 78-day NATO bombing of Yugoslavia that drove Serb government troops from the contested territory.

Rugova, then an ethnic Albanian independence leader, said he was forced to appear with Milosevic in Belgrade, the Yugoslavcapital, and denounce the bombing or face the “consequences.”

In April 1999, Rugova said he reluctantly met Milosevicand warned him about “what was happening in Kosovo . . . expulsions, murders, killings.” Rugova said he told Miloseviche would be held accountable.

During cross-examination, Milosevic accused Rugova of endorsing “terrorism” by supporting the province’s isolation from Belgrade.

Under the tribunal’s statute, Milosevic could be convicted as a superior authority for failing to prevent or punish atrocities committed by his forces.

Milosevic stands accused of five counts of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war for the murder of hundreds and expulsion of at least 800,000 ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, the focus of the first part of his trial.

Hearings will later move to the wars in Croatia and Bosnia in the early 1990s for which Milosevic faces an additional 61 war crimes counts, including genocide in Srebrenica, eastern Bosnia. Rugova recounted how years of tensions turned into violence in 1998, prompting a U.S. ultimatum that Milosevic accepta peace agreement granting broad autonomy to the province or face NATO airstrikes.

“We returned to Kosovo, we were afraid about the future, but also hoping that there will be anintervention by NATO,” Rugova said.

As NATO missiles started hitting Serb targets in March 1999, Milosevic’s securityforces burst into Rugova’s home in the province’s capital, Pristina, and put him under house arrest, Rugova said. He was forced to appear in public and denounce the Western bombing campaign.

“I was under house arrest . . . If I refused,there would have been consequences,” he said.

Milosevic was indicted in May 1999 along with four of his aides. Milosevic was ousted in October 2000 when Serb voters turned against him, and he was arrested and sent to the U.N. court for trial last June.

Copyright Copley Press Inc. 2002

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