Continuing his evidence at the trial of Vojislav Seselj, protected witness VS 037 confirmed that the takeover of Zvornik and the ethnic cleansing that followed were organized and coordinated from Serbia. The witness now denied what he had stated earlier, that the SRS volunteers played a significant role in it. The Trial Chamber referred Seselj’s request for a telephone press conference to the Tribunal’s Registry for consideration

Vojislav Seselj in the courtroomVojislav Seselj in the courtroom

‘My impression was that it was all organized and coordinated in advance’, said former police chief and Serbian Democratic Party official from Zvornik. In April 1992, the JNA and volunteers from Serbia captured the town, which had a Muslim majority. Muslims were then expelled and many were brutally killed.

The leader of the Serbian Radical Party is charged with crimes against humanity and violations of laws and customs of war committed as part of the joint criminal enterprise. Slobodan Milosevic, Jovica Stanisic, Radovan Karadzic, Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan were among other participants of the joint criminal enterprise. As alleged in the indictment, the volunteer units, called ‘Seselj’s men’ sent to Croatia and BH by the SRS committed many of those crimes.

Witness VS 037 confirmed that he had met Arkan before the conflict in Zvornik. According to the witness, Arkan was driving a car with the Federal Interior Ministry license plates. The witness also noted that most of the weapons used in the attack came in either through the Serbian police or from the army.

The witness described his contacts with Marko Pavlovic and Radoslav Kostic, Serbian State Security Service agents. Pavlovic and Kostic also took part in organizing the takeover of Zvornik. When he was shown a video tape, the witness was able to recognize a number of State Security officials described in the indictment as participants in the joint criminal enterprise.

The witness today at first denied his previous statement that the arrival of Seselj’s men in Zvornik was organized. ‘Volunteers came in wearing civilian clothes, without any weapons, in threes or fours, and we didn’t care what party they belonged to’. Prosecutor Marcussen then reminded the witness that in December 2008 he said that ‘the SRS organized the arrival of most of the volunteers’. The witness’s lawyer then asked the court to go into closed session.

The prosecution had previously interviewed witness VS 037 as a suspect; he is testifying in the presence of his lawyer, there to protect him from possible self-incrimination. At one point, the witness’s lawyer said that the accused didn’t say the truth. ‘Well, forget about truth, what do you care about the truth’, Seselj shouted, and the judge admonished him.

During the cross-examination, the Radical Party leader tried to prove that Serbs had been expelled from Zvornik when ‘the Muslim Patriot League started arming the local criminals’. Seselj claimed that in early April 1992, Serbs organized a counter-attack in order to return to the town. In Seselj’s words, the JNA intervened because it ‘had to prevent the destruction of bridges, of the hydroelectric power plant and the red sludge dams’. According to Seselj, Arkan and his men were responsible for the crimes in Zvornik, not the SRS volunteers, who were all ‘exemplary, brave and disciplined soldiers’. This is what Colonel Radovan Tacic wrote down in the statement he sent to Seselj. In 1992, Tacic commanded the JNA in Zvornik.

The witness was adamant that Seselj did not attend the rally in Mali Zvornik in the spring of 1992, as a prosecution witness had claimed. The rally was held two years earlier, witness VS 037 said.

The judges decided with a majority of votes to let the Registrar decide about Seselj’s request to be allowed to have a telephone press conference. The Registrar was ordered to respond to the request by Thursday noon. Presiding judge Antonetti was outvoted yet again: he considers that Seselj’s request should be granted, because ‘civil and political rights of the accused are an integral part of the presumption of innocence’.