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March 9, 2001
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 480
Cover Story

The Noose is Tightening

by Milos Vasic

A high MUP official, however, says that evidence against Milosevic for the criminal act of instigating murder would greatly ease Serbia’s final separation from him and his team: in that case, he says, we could not only extradite him to The Hague, but to Hades as well, and no one would say a word.

The arrest of Rade Markovic and friends, even if expected, is only the first step in Dusan Mihajlovic’s ambitious plan to purge the police force of politics, corruption and its “symbiosis” with organized crime. The ongoing investigations will now uncover exactly what activities the State Security Service dealt with, why it was so numerous and so secretive; and then also how many secret police forces really exist in Serbia, since we are no longer even sure of that; and finally – how much had those various services merged with organized crime, and how much were they also instruments of the Milosevic regime’s economic policies. This is where the greatest danger of continuity exists: in the temptation of the new government to continue using state bodies for acquiring and protecting gross monopoly and for covering up financial machinations. And Slobodan Milosevic is the least of the problems there…

Last Friday at 7:30 p.m. (a cleverly chosen time), the officers of MUP Serbia brought the former  State Security department chief and police lieutenant general Rade Markovic and some other individuals in for questioning; during the night a few others were picked up. All are interior ministry employees, and it seems the overall number is fifteen. The first three people, with Markovic in the lead, were handed over to an investigative judge of the District Court in Belgrade Nebojsa Zivkovic on Saturday, charged with having committed the criminal act of premeditated murder of a number of people, and possibly also other criminal acts for which the interior ministry bodies will bring charges. These charges pertain to the “Ibarska highway” case of Oct. 3, 1999, when in a car accident close to Lazarevac, four Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) officials were killed and the party president Vuk Draskovic was – by some miracle – only hurt. Rade Markovic and friends are charged of having organized and committed that traffic accident, with the goal to assassin Vuk Draskovic and his fellow passengers. Indeed, SPO had claimed from the very beginning that it was an assassination and conducted its own investigation which pointed to a possible dirty game: the police and judiciary had obviously avoided clearing up some of the key details; registration documents for the truck which caused the accident disappeared; the driver was never found; the investigation was tampered with from the top, on the line of subordination and political influence. SPO raised its own criminal charges which no one acted upon, but the then acting head of Belgrade’s Interior Affairs Secretariat (SUP) general Branko Djuric had privately sued SPO’s lawyer Ivan Primovic for slander due to the latter’s claims that he was involved in the incident. He was arrested on Saturday.  

Over the weekend the picture cleared up a bit: first of all, the two immediate executors of that murder, both of them MUP employees, seem to have reached the conclusion that it is better if they turned themselves in than to wait for their colleagues to catch them. Milomir Bujosevic, a policeman from Lazarevac, and Nenad Ilic, a policeman from Jagodina, told their story where they should have, in secret and on time. It then turned out that someone else had also said something, since a lead on the truck was found amongst the documents: the truck was seized by the Federal Customs officials and – according to the rules then imposed by Bracika Kertes – handed over to Serbian MUP’s State Security department. What use the Service would have for a huge dump truck was unclear, just like many other things were as well. It will now become clear why they needed that truck. By accident, the wreckage of the burned truck was taken for expert analysis; it turned out that the analysis didn’t provide the answer to the basic questions: who the owner of the truck is, who was licensed with its plates and who for the chassis number, motor etc. This is where the investigation stopped, although these days investigative judges and prosecutors, and especially Andrija Milutinovic in his recent interview on TV Politika, are trying to lay the blame on others and are playing dumb, like, they were doing everything according to the law… On top of that they are insolently lying, since they had all the means and authorization to ascertain the ownership of the truck and to bring the investigation to – as we now see – it’s current outcome. Namely, nothing new had happened in the meantime which would make the current team of prosecutors and investigative judges better informed than Milutinovic and others were. The fact, however, is that those very same investigative judges and prosecutors – with Milutinovic in the lead – indifferently looked upon the blatant and arrogant obstruction of the investigation by the police and politicians. The unavoidable Goran Matic from JUL, once he had invented the “Spider” affair for example, accused its so-called actors of being highly adept in using trucks with sand, as he chose to express himself. It will later turn out that those people were innocent on all charges, apart from carrying illegal arms, and especially with regards to the Ibarska highway, which they had nothing to do with. Thus Goran Matic had, for the umpteenth time, consciously lied to the public, while he was a member of the federal government…

It turned out that the crime on the Ibarska highway was committed by policemen, and that is the greatest scandal of all – only following the realization that they had committed it under instigation and in the organization of the Service’s top officers. It turns out that the blatant murder of a political opponent – regardless of “collateral damage” – was deemed to be a normal form of political battle in the former regime and that too many people shared that belief, since a lot of accomplices were needed for Ibarska highway, and at least as many others knew of it, all from the Service and under oath and obligation to pursue the perpetrators of a criminal act. It also turned out that the top officials of the ruling coalition had unscrupulously lied, claiming that “foreign services” were committing the political murders, since they roamed Serbia to their heart’s content, killing whom they wished, and our police simply never managed to catch them. That we were dealing with a lying team was something we knew from the start; that they were prepared to murder without batting an eyelid – we only suspected. 

On Feb. 23, the day of the arrest, the interior minister Dusan Mihajlovic gave television B92 an interview and – amongst other things – said that the Ibarska highway case was about to be resolved, the case of the murder of Slavko Curuvija was close to being resolved, and that work has intensified on the other investigations. During the night and the next day some other security-wise interesting people were also brought in for questioning: for example Milan Radonjic, the former head of the  State Security Department Center for Belgrade, and Branko Crni, a high ranking officer of the Service. Due to some reason, on Sunday Milorad Ulemen called – among other things – Legion, the commander of the special operations unit (JSO, Red Berets) of the State Security department was replaced. No one even mentions why State Security had a combat unit, what that unit had performed and what it was involved in, although that too will come when the time is right. 

A key question is being raised now: can enough elements be attained from the thus-far conducted investigations for future police activities in disassembling the criminal organization which stands behind the political and other murders in the last ten years? Has the thread been caught which, if it is carefully uncoiled, could rip out that structure like an old sweater?

Rade Markovic is defending himself with silence, they say. If enough witnesses and other evidence is found, that won’t be of much help to him. His silence, however, is helping others, although it won’t save them from the final outcome: if the police conducts all its investigations thoroughly and without any obstructions, new leads and indications for further criminal processing will be uncovered. And there are abundant motives, reasons and legitimate questions not only for Rade Markovic and friends but for many other gentlemen as well: policemen, soldiers, politicians and top officials of the former regime. Namely, there’s no chance that no one knew anything about the series of unresolved murders (not to mention other serious crimes…); it is hard to believe that no one in the police, state security, military security, the judiciary and the remainder of the government administration had absolutely no knowledge, data nor indications on what direction the investigations on those murders and other serious criminal acts should take – if one wanted to resolve those criminal cases. It is even more difficult to believe that absolutely no one from the top structures of the political parties of the national-socialist alliance which had ruled over Serbia for ten years had any knowledge of this. They appointed the ministers, chiefs of the Service, government officials; they appointed police generals by decrees; they were the ones who were presented every morning (and even more often that than) with classified reports on the state of public and state security, but also of the concrete affairs, cases and people, including various grapevine intrigue, illegally acquired tapes (audio and video) and similar spiritual food. Therefore, the policemen, ministers, heads and generals were answerable to them – and they answered, oh did they answer. All those who don’t believe it - should ask them.

A danger now appears that one could think that this snake we are talking about has only one head – Rade Markovic (or Slobodan Milosevic, whatever), and, if that head is crushed or severed, there will be no more danger that anyone else could be swallowed by “darkness and fog” in Serbia (Nacht und Nebel in the German original from 1934). It would be nice and beneficial to the state if that were so. We should however beware that this particular beast we are dealing with is of the multiple-headed kind. That means that not only one person made the decisions, implemented them in an organizational-logistic manner and committed them in the dark streets – or in broad daylight; more people were needed for such dark deeds: one suggests, the other agrees, the third has people who can do the job, the fourth issues an oral command calling upon the first three, the fifth organizes and prepares a plan of action; and the sixth and seventh load their guns and go out onto the street, into the darkness and fog, and kill whoever they have to, while the fourth and fifth watch over their safety. So, since word is of an organization which is disciplined and well managed anyway, all of it is completed without a hitch and no one is any the wiser after it all… When such an undertaking is successfully completed once, and then twice, and then a number of times – the process of ruling over the country becomes seductively simple.

This entire story resembles a tin: once it is punctured, there is no way to close it again nor can its contents remain in their original form, since the contents are highly perishable. Viewed politically, it seems as though not everyone is totally aware that there is no going back; that Serbia will no longer live in fear of the darkness and fog; that there is no way to avoid responsibility for committed crimes. In that sense the question of responsibility of the state employees and political leaders is inevitably raised for all that shouldn’t have – nor dared have – happened without their knowledge. That is precisely why we have launched the initiative to form a special investigative body. Some of those who are responsible in this story are justifiably absent (Radoslav Stojicic Badza, police general and acting interior minister of Serbia; Zoran Sokolovic, former interior minister of Serbia and Yugoslavia; Pavle Bulatovic, former interior minister of Montenegro and Yugoslavia and former defense minister), but the majority are still here. They are: Radmilo Bogdanovic, former interior minister of Serbia in interesting times; Zoran Janackovic and Jovica Stanisic, former chiefs of Serbia’s State Security; Uros Suvakovic and Svetozar Simovic, former high ranking interior ministry employees; Mihalj Kertes, former high ranking MUP officer and former director of the Federal Customs Office; the aforementioned people in this article in the context of police interrogation during the last couple of days; the complete MUP and DB teams for Belgrade and Serbia, managing structures and others; a number of former chiefs and members of the highest structures of the Security Department of the Yugoslav Army and general staff; the highest officials of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), Yugoslav United Left (JUL) and Serbian Radical Party (SRS), and especially the following – Matic Goran, Markovic Ivan, Vucic Aleksandar, Sainovic Nikola, Stojiljkovic Vlajko, Milosevic Slobodan, Markovic Mira and others just like them. It is justifiably suspected that all of those people could have – and some, in their line of duty, even had to – have information of interest for the investigation of these thirty or so murders and kidnappings we are talking about. Their eventual refusal to assist in the investigations which were being carried out would point – unfortunately - to their involvement; the discovery that they had lied to the authorized bodies would prove their involvement. Let’s for example take Matic Goran: in his statement from May 14, 2000, given at a press conference, in the role of federal secretary of information, Matic accused Otpor of receiving instructions in Laktasi (Bosnia/Herzegovina) from Robert Frovick on how to topple and destabilize the country; the first instruction which Matic listed would have been “to raise the question who killed Curuvija” (quoted from Tanjug’s report of the time). The person Matic Goran, therefore, proclaims that an elementary and logical question – who had, in broad daylight, killed an unarmed man who was returning home while holding hands with his wife –“destabilizes the country”, and that while he was a member of the federal cabinet… That statement can also be interpreted as a criminal act of assisting the perpetrators of a criminal act (premeditated murder); however, that is up to the investigative bodies. What is a public issue is why did the person Matic Goran feel the need to say something like that? Why would questions on who killed Slavko Curuvija bother anyone? Isn’t the task of the interior service to raise questions about the perpetrators of a criminal act of murder? And that isn’t the only example of obstruction of the investigation from the political circles… Therefore, there are ways and means, motives, reasons and indications for a number of legitimate criminal and judicial questions to be raised and resolved with the assistance of the aforementioned individuals. Will the investigative steps which, with such assistance, will eventually be launched lead us to Slobodan Milosevic – a favorite issue which the media is dealing with these days – is secondary. A high MUP official, however, says that evidence against Milosevic for the criminal act of instigating murder would greatly ease Serbia’s final separation from him and his team: in that case, he says, we could not only extradite him to The Hague, but to Hades as well, and no one would say a word. What should be of more interest to us at this moment isn’t so much the brain of the snake, as it’s fangs; if they remain, it will easily find itself a new brain, for such is the nature of this snake…

Everyone – and especially business people – know only too well that the police (the normal one and DB) in Milosevic’s regime was used, amongst other things, also as an instrument of economic and fiscal policies and privatization (of cafes and motor vehicles belonging to someone else) etc. That conviction is slowly spreading amongst the public, and politically that is an issue which is a lot more important than whether and how Milosevic will end up in The Hague or in Zabela. Milosevic is a political corpse, and the clinical aspect is irrelevant here; that is Kostunica’s proverbial “ninth hole of a flute”. The masters who executed Milosevic’s works and who are listed above are important – as individuals and government bodies. They are the snake’s fangs – if not it’s head. 

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