Monday, July 10, 2006

Profile: Kosovo trial accused

Six top Serbian officials have gone on trial at the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, charged with alleged war crimes committed by Serb troops during the Kosovo conflict in 1999.

The BBC's South-east Europe analyst, Gabriel Partos, profiles them:


Mr Milutinovic, 63, inherited the presidency of Serbia from his political mentor, Slobodan Milosevic, when the latter became Yugoslav president in 1997.

He was also a member of Yugoslavia's Supreme Defence Council, which was chaired by Milosevic. He shared ultimate responsibility for the army's actions in Kosovo.

A year earlier, Mr Milutinovic barely managed to scrape through the presidential elections. The turnout, according to controversial official figures, was just 0.9% above the required 50% of the electorate.

But he achieved Milosevic's objective on the fourth attempt - to beat ultra-nationalist opposition leader Vojislav Seselj, who is now also awaiting trial in The Hague on separate charges.

Mr Milutinovic was a loyal associate of Milosevic and served as Yugoslavia's foreign minister. He accompanied the president at the Dayton peace talks in November 1995 which ended the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina.

At one time he was Yugoslavia's ambassador in Athens - a key posting because Greece, a fellow-Orthodox Christian country, was the only Nato member with a pro-Serb public opinion during the wars in the former Yugoslavia.

Although Mr Milutinovic was indicted during the Kosovo conflict in 1999, he served out his full five-year term as president until the end of 2002.

It was only after he lost his immunity as president that he surrendered.


Mr Sainovic, 57, was deputy prime minister of Yugoslavia for six years until Milosevic was defeated during the presidential election of September 2000.

He was also instrumental on all matters relating to Kosovo, co-ordinating policy and engaging in diplomatic talks.

He attended the Kosovo peace talks in Rambouillet, France, in February 1999 as one of the senior members of the Belgrade delegation.

Ultimately the talks failed and Nato launched a military intervention in Kosovo.

A few weeks earlier, US officials said they had intercepted a phone call in which Mr Sainovic allegedly ordered Serbian security forces to move in hard on Kosovo Albanians.

Mr Sainovic is an experienced political operator who performed a number of sensitive errands for Milosevic.

A former economics minister, and then briefly, Serbia's prime minister, he maintained close links with the Bosnian Serb offshoot of Milosevic's Socialist Party during the war there.

It was during the final phase of Milosevic's rule, especially at the time of the Kosovo conflict, that Mr Sainovic carried out his most important assignments for his leader.


Gen Ojdanic, 65, was the Yugoslav army's chief-of-staff at the time when the Kosovo war was in its most intense phase.

A relative latecomer to Milosevic's inner circle, Gen Ojdanic was appointed to his post in November 1998 after his predecessor, Gen Momcilo Perisic, had disagreed with Milosevic's plans to use the army in Kosovo, Montenegro and against the opposition in Serbia.

Unlike Gen Perisic, who argued that it would be suicidal to resist Nato's threatened air strikes, Gen Ojdanic was willing to go along with Milosevic's policy.

The military's importance greatly increased with the escalation of the Kosovo conflict and Nato air strikes and placed Gen Ojdanic on centre stage.

As a reward for his loyalty, he was appointed Yugoslavia's defence minister after the war. He served less than a year due to Milosevic's fall from power.


Mr Pavkovic, 62, was appointed commander of Yugoslavia's Third Army - the force that had responsibility for Kosovo - at the end of 1998.

He had previously served as commander of the Pristina Corps where he was based from 1994 onwards.

During the war he became one of Milosevic's favourites after he backed the president's refusal to accept the Rambouillet accords.

Following the end of the Kosovo conflict, he was promoted to chief-of-staff of the army when Gen Ojdanic was appointed defence minister.

Unlike Gen Ojdanic, he survived in his post for a further two years following Milosevic's fall - not least because he refused to deploy the army against the huge crowds in Belgrade that were demanding that Milosevic accept his electoral defeat.


Mr Lazarevic, 57, followed in Gen Pavkovic's footsteps, first as commander of the Pristina Corps during the Kosovo war, and then as commander of the Third Army after the conflict.

During the war, his corps took the brunt of the impact of Nato air strikes.

Gen Lazarevic's own vehicle was hit, but he emerged unscathed.

Although a close Milosevic supporter who accused the former president's political opponents of being the "extended arm of Nato and the Albanian rebels", Gen Lazarevic stayed for three years after Milosevic lost office.


Mr Lukic, 51, served as head of the ministry of the interior's staff for Kosovo during the war.

He was in charge of police forces that included heavily-armed special units which did much of the fighting.

After the war, Gen Lukic was promoted to assistant minister of the interior, and he was regarded as a competent professional by Serbia's democratic leaders in the post-Milosevic. They kept him on to reform the police forces.

Like Gen Pavkovic and Gen Lazarevic, he was charged in 2003 - four years after the indictments against Milosevic, Mr Milutinovic, Mr Sainovic and Gen Ojdanic.

The fourth person to be indicted in 2003 was police Gen Vlastimir Djordjevic who was Gen Lukic's superior and had responsibility for police units in Kosovo during the war.

However, Gen Djordjevic is not in the dock because he remains on the run. Tribunal prosecutors believe he is hiding in Russia.


Mr Milutinovic was a loyal associate of Slobodan Milosevic; Mr Sainovic played a leading role in Kosovo policy; Gen Ojdanic was rewarded for his loyalty during the war; Gen Pavkovic was one of Milosevic's favourites during the war; Gen Lazarevic stayed on in the army until 2003; Gen Lukic was kept in the army in the post-Milosevic era

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