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People Vs Slobodan Milosevic

Aired February 9, 2002 - 20:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: A man whose promise of a strong Serbian state brought death and destruction. At Slobodan Milosevic's hands, a nation crumbled to pieces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He realized that he could not prosper without the war. Whenever there was no war, he was in trouble in Serbia.

ANNOUNCER: Finally, chased out by his own people, he will get his day in court.

SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC, FORMER PRESIDENT OF YUGOSLAVIA: Why I have to defend myself in front of forced (ph) tribunal from forced (ph) indictments.

ANNOUNCER: On trial for war crimes, but can Serbia break free from his legacy?


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to CNN PRESENTS. I'm Aaron Brown. We, of course, are in the United Nations General Assembly here in New York, where the international community is preparing for a rarity: the prosecution of a former head of state for war crimes -- war crimes committed while in office. The former head of state is Slobodan Milosevic, the former leader of Yugoslavia. And his trial is supposed to begin on Tuesday at The Hague in the Netherlands.

If the buildup to these proceedings is an indication, this trial should be both contentious and surreal. Contentious because Milosevic doesn't even recognize the authority of the U.N. tribunal. He uses words like farce and absurdity and surreal, because Milosevic plans to defend himself. Because the way he sees it, he should be credited with bringing peace to the Balkans.

The prosecution sees it differently, of course. It's brought charges that include genocide, and prosecutors seem to have plenty of evidence. Evidence from a decade of war and ethnic hostility in Croatia and Bosnia and in Kosovo.So now, "The People Versus Milosevic," from CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the middle of the night on April 1, 2001, men wearing masks and brandishing automatic weapons came to the Belgrade home of Slobodan Milosevic. These were some of the same special forces who once terrified the population of Yugoslavia. Now, they turned up for the arrest of their former president and the removal of his armed bodyguards. The Milosevic decade of war, corruption and suffering was finally over. He was going to jail.

ZORAN DJINDJIC, PRIME MINISTER OF SERBIA: He said that he will conduct (ph) suicide if someone will arrest him, and then he would kill his family and then himself. I said, "No, no. I know him. He will give up." And after two hours he gave up. And after that his main condition was to drive of his car. To be driven in his car not to show that he was taken by police, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) willingly. And that is, of course, a joke.

AMANPOUR: Eighty-eight days later, under intense pressure from the United States and Europe, Milosevic was handed over to representatives of the International War Crimes Tribunal and he was flown to a prison in The Hague. In a flood-lit glare, he was marched to a cell block housing others indicted from the former Yugoslavia. He is charged with crimes against humanity. The reckoning had begun.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Case number RT9937I, the prosecutor versus Slobodan Milosevic.

AMANPOUR: At his arraignment, Milosevic played the court as though he was still president.

MILOSEVIC: I consider this tribunal false tribunal, and indictments false indictments. It is illegal.

AMANPOUR: In one decade, Milosevic had taken his country into four wars, losing all of them. A quarter million dead were left scattered across the Balkans. Despite the blood that flowed in Croatia and Bosnia, it was in Milosevic's own Serbian province of Kosovo that the tribunal's prosecutors saw their first chance to hold him personally responsible for the crimes of war.

When Milosevic's security forces battled Kosovo Albanian separatists, observers were alarmed by what looked like civilian casualties.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 15, I repeat, 15 bodies clustered together. It looks like they were all shot trying to escape. Over.

AMANPOUR: This scene from Kosovo in January 1999 would confirm the prosecutor's hunch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's been beheaded?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's (ph) affirmative. Over.

AMANPOUR: Here at Ratchac (ph) and in places like it lay Milosevic's undoing. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a layman, it looks like executions. It looks like people with absolutely no value for human life murdering these -- these -- these men who, to me, look like farmers. They look like workmen, they look like villagers who -- who certainly did not deserve to die in this fashion.

AMANPOUR: A few months later, an Albanian doctor shot this footage, 127 mostly old men slaughtered in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of Izbizet (ph). What he saw would match these U.S. satellite photos of graves in the same area.

(on camera): Slobodan Milosevic is the first ever sitting head of state to be indicted by an international court. And he continues to deny the charges against him. But prosecutors here at the tribunal say they can prove their case. But proving a president's criminal responsibility will take more than just videotape. More than even corpses.

CARLA DEL PONTE, U.N. WAR CRIMES PROSECUTOR: Our evidence will be witnesses and documents. Milosevic's responsibility -- personal responsibility for what he has done, or the international community will know exactly the facts.

TOMA FILA, MILOSEVIC'S ATTORNEY (through translator): The head of a state cannot in any absolute way be held accountable for the behavior of soldiers. I know that from the talk. Orders were always given to act in accordance with the Geneva Convention.

AMANPOUR: To his own people there is much more than the alleged war crimes. The Milosevic years literally broke the bank. Since Milosevic started waging war across Yugoslavia in the early 90s, Serbia has been crippled by rampant corruption and international sanctions that have reduced it to poverty.


MILORAD SAVICEVIC, SERBIAN BUSINESSMAN: He destroyed the Serbian states, actually. And, finally they destroyed, of course, the economy.

AMANPOUR (on camera): How high is the bill?

SAVICEVIC: It depends how we measure the bill, you know. If we measure in time, this is 10-20 years to recover completely, you know. If we measure in money, that's a few hundred billion dollars.

RICHARD HOLBROOKE, FMR. U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: His legacy is the debris of an economy that should have been a strong one, the destruction of a moral fiber and strength of a potentially great people. And it is now essential that we have justice done.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Milosevic once was a hero to his people, vowing to create a strong and proud Serbia. Today, the Serbian state and virtually every promise Milosevic ever made have been broken.


AMANPOUR: A few weeks after Slobodan Milosevic had been elected president of Serbia, more than a million people came to cheer him on Kosovo's Field of Blackbirds (ph).


AMANPOUR: It was June 28, 1989, the 600th anniversary of the battle of Kosovo; a legendary defeat that had come to symbolize Serbian martyrdom. And the new president was warming to that theme. In a multi-ethnic region scarred by centuries of warfare, Milosevic -- a former communist bank official -- cast himself now as Serbia's new savior.

HOLBROOKE: But before the war started, when our ambassador in Belgrade described him as a "Yugoslav Gorbachev," there were a lot of misperceptions about him and people called him charming because he had a certain ability to speak colloquial English. But there was nothing ultimately very charming about what he did.

AMANPOUR: In 1989, he removed Kosovo's autonomy, turning the province's Albanian majority into second-class citizens.

VOJIN DIMITRIJEVIC, POLITICAL SCIENTIST: Let's face it, he enjoyed a tremendous, tremendous support. And of course he -- people were not aware for a number of years that (ph) initially that this was leading to bloodshed, that this was leading to crime. That this country would be totally isolated.


AMANPOUR: Milosevic's display of Serbian authority helped stoke the fires of nationalism in other parts of Yugoslavia. One by one, the republic started to break away; Slovenia, Croatia and then Bosnia. Beginning in 1991, Milosevic sent troops and paramilitaries (ph) to fortify Serb communities in both Croatia and Bosnia. This escalated into what the world quickly came to know as ethnic cleansing.

HOLBROOKE: He was a man who instituted an evil regime in much of the region. He is ultimately responsible for these wars. He started them; or, alternatively, he stimulated them by his words and his actions.

AMANPOUR: With Serbian soldiers being killed, Belgrade's citizens began protesting the young men's deaths. They were labeled traitors and they were beaten by Milosevic's police.

DIMITRIJEVIC: Fear was prevalent here. Not only fear from the secret police, but fear from your neighbor -- neighbors. No, it's a terribly unpleasant thing, even for physically courageous people, to be regarded by their neighbors as traitors. And many of us were regarded like that. AMANPOUR: In the spring of 1992, soldiers from the Yugoslav National Army joined Bosnian-Serb forces in the hills above Sarajevo, reigning terror on the Bosnian capital, in the hopes of crushing the fledgling state. The siege of that multi-ethnic city cost more than 10,000 lives and lasted almost four years. In the summer of 1995 came the single worst atrocity of the entire Balkan war: the massacre at Srebrenica by Bosnian-Serb forces. To this day, more than seven thousand Muslim men and boys remain missing.

MILOSEVIC: Due to successful conclusion of the negotiations in Dayton (ph), this day will enter into the history as a date of the end of the war in the area of the former Yugoslavia.

AMANPOUR: With the wars now over, at home, Milosevic found his authority increasingly challenged.

DIMITRIJEVIC: Summer of 1998, Milosevic realized that he has really lost the initial Hitler-like support he had in the population.

AMANPOUR: So that year he again resorted to violent nationalism. This time, in Kosovo, the place where he had first planted those seeds a decade earlier. The ethnic Albanians here disenfranchised then had now built their own army, the KLA -- the Kosovo Liberation Army.

DIMITRIJEVIC: He realized that he could not prosper without the war. Whenever there was no war, he was in trouble in Serbia.

AMANPOUR: But the West had had enough of Milosevic's wars. And when he refused a deal that would bring NATO peacekeepers into Kosovo, NATO instead bombed Milosevic into submission. It took 78 days for him to finally back down.


AMANPOUR: But for the people of Serbia, this was one defeat too many.


AMANPOUR: The NATO bombing of Yugoslavia during the spring of 1999 seemed at first a gift to Milosevic. A chance for him to reenergize his people's sagging nationalism. Crowds on the streets of Belgrade taunted NATO with bulls eye targets. But after NATO bombed Serbian state television in Belgrade, the public turned their rage upon Milosevic. Popular perception was that the president knew the building was a target, but the workers inside weren't warned. Sixteen young technicians were killed.

DIMITRIJEVIC: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) believed that these people (UNINTELLIGIBLE) left there in order to have more victims for propaganda. It was their families who didn't believe; their colleagues who didn't believe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I accuse Milosevic who made this happen. He destroyed the country, destroyed the people, destroyed our children and many more. AMANPOUR (on camera): By the time NATO stopped bombing in the summer of 1999, popular anger against Milosevic was spreading around the country. He remained firmly in control, but local elections had greatly eased his grip, not only here in Belgrade, but also in the heartland.

(voice-over): Now the opposition decided to turn Yugoslavia's upcoming presidential election into a do or die confrontation.

DJINDJIC: If he would lose this opportunity, last chance, many of us would not survive. And it was the situation of a final decision to be free and to upset him, to replace him, or to -- to be dead.

AMANPOUR: The plan was ambitious and dangerous. But at election time, Milosevic played right into the hands of the opposition. On election day, he was beaten in the race for the Yugoslav presidency by a respected former law professor, Vojislav Kostunica. But Milosevic's hand-picked election commissioners claimed that Kostunica had received less than the required 50 percent of the vote. They ordered a runoff two weeks later.

VOJISLAV KOSTUNICA, PRESIDENT OF YUGOSLAVIA: I was, from that moment on, quite sure and decided not to accept any sort of compromise about the truth. There should be no compromises about the truth.

AMANPOUR: As Djindjic cried foul, opposition leaders now saw their best chance to overthrow Milosevic. They had been working on a plan for the past 18 months.

DJINDJIC: The idea was, actively organize people general (ph) strike with a deadline, one day coming to Belgrade. And we planned to take television, to take parliament, to take (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and then negotiate.

AMANPOUR: Opposition leaders set October 5th for a general strike and a coordinated five-prong march on Belgrade. The day before, at Kalubra (ph), outside Belgrade, striking workers at the country's largest coal mine clashed with police. Incredibly, the police backed off. But a still greater threat loomed for Djindjic and the opposition: Milosevic's feared special operations unit. That night, Djindjic went to see the colonel in charge.

DJINDJIC: I asked what orders they did receive and what they will do. And he said he didn't receive an order but he will receive order tomorrow, and the order will be to use violence.

AMANPOUR: This is the man Djindjic was talking to, Colonel Milarad Ulimec (ph), more commonly known as Legya (ph). Legya (ph) insisted that he and Djindjic meet alone.

DJINDJIC: It was very high risk for me to have this meeting. His condition was to have this meeting outside of the city without bodyguards, without weapons, and he was, of course, with weapons.

AMANPOUR (on camera): This is the man Milosevic had ordered to kill you. DJINDJIC: Yes.


DJINDJIC: And he said, "I'm not a politician. I'm a professional. I see that Milosevic lost the election."

AMANPOUR: And the revolution was about to begin. At daybreak, on October 5th, a long column of buses, cars and trucks left the city of Utzizet (ph) for Belgrade. Groups of riot police just stood and watched, as the men from Utzizet (ph) pressed on. Ahead of them, on the same road, another determined group from Cacak. And they weren't wasting any time with roadblocks.

VELJA ILIC, MAYOR OF CACAK (through translator): As I watch those videos I can't believe myself. Where did we get all the strengths? Where did we get all the force?

AMANPOUR: With one goal in mind, convoys from all over Serbia converged on Belgrade and they kept on coming. Ten years after they swept him to power, the people were now marshaling all of their forces against Milosevic. By noon, half a million people jammed all the streets around the parliament.


VLADAN BATIC, MINISTER OF JUSTICE, SERBIA (through translator): My role was to jump start the reaction of the people, the reaction of the masses.


BATIC (through translator): I agreed with the people close to me that the moment I speak they should try to answer the federal parliament.


DJINDJIC: And I saw hundreds of people running, running from this (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And they recognized me and said, "Will you come back? Just a few minutes to recover and then you'll come back." And I saw -- at this moment, I said to my wife, "It is over. For these people, Milosevic cannot stay. It is not possible."

AMANPOUR: That's when Djindjic took a call on his cell phone from Legya (ph), the special forces commander.

DJINDJIC: And he said, "It is all over (ph)."

AMANPOUR: Their orders had been to crush the rebellion. But in the end, the most feared unit of Milosevic's security forces backed down.

KOSTUNICA: For me the most decisive moment that Milosevic had lost the battle was, of course, the reaction of the police and the army. AMANPOUR: When dawn broke on October 6th, the opposition had won.


AMANPOUR: Later on television, Milosevic conceded the election. But it wasn't over yet. Even though Yugoslavia had a new president, elections to the powerful Serbian parliament were not scheduled until December. Until then, Milosevic's socialist party still controlled Serbia's security apparatus. Radhe Markovich (ph), Milosevic's secret police chief, would continue in office for four more months, burning papers and shredding secrets until the very end.

(on camera): And how much damage has he done in those four months in terms of evidence and getting rid of vital documents?

DJINDJIC: All of what was interesting for this criminal phase of our history is destroyed. We don't have proof, we don't have (UNINTELLIGIBLE), we don't have physical evidences. We must find witnesses.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): But as they started digging, they did find both witnesses and documents.


AMANPOUR: At the same time Serbia was celebrating the fall of Milosevic, his loyalists were caught red-handed, trying one last time to loot the National Bank.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The intention was to withdraw some 50 million of German Marks from the accounts of the central bank (UNINTELLIGIBLE). So we stopped this operation. They received the order from the federal government to empty totally the federal budget.

AMANPOUR: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the, the governor of the National Bank blocked that as well. And the next morning, he and his team started digging.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a false document, because it's not yours for this (UNINTELLIGIBLE). This was money laundering, OK?

AMANPOUR: They would uncover epic corruption during the Milosevic era. Everything from money laundering to smuggling to banking schemes. "At the center of it all," says Dinkidj (ph), "was this man, Mikhail Curtez (ph), the head of Milosevic's customs service." He is now under investigation and he refused to comment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Simply speaking, public forms (ph) were used in private purposes. With the custom revenues starting to be put into the budget, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) put into the special treasury in the Belgrade (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and transfer abroad (ph), mostly in Cyprus.

AMANPOUR (on camera): In what, in bags of cash?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In bags. In big bags of cash. AMANPOUR (voice-over): During years of U.N. trade sanctions, the black market generated vast sums of money for the Milosevic regime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The market for the illegal secret operation was created in Yugoslavia, and he supported this, because one of the main dealers of cigarettes was his son, Marcus (ph) Milosevic.

AMANPOUR (on camera): How much money did this illegal cigarette smuggling bring in?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's say that between 500 million and one billion of German Marks was the income from this illegal trade in cigarettes, which was not paid into the budget.

FILA (through translator): At no time had they said that he put a single Mark of that money in his pocket. Not a single Mark.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Profits from the black market went to a network of paramilitaries (ph). Many of whom Milosevic had enlisted in his wars against Croatia and Bosnia..


AMANPOUR: Men like Arcan (ph), a career criminal.


AMANPOUR: For Arcan's (ph) tigers (ph) and other paramilitaries (ph), murder and looting were part of the job. And when the ethnic cleansing campaigns were over, many returned to new careers in Milosevic's underworld.

DUSAN MIHAJLOVIC, INTERIOR MINISTER, SERBIA (through translator): Once the decision regarding state smuggling was made, the job was given to them as people who could be trusted. From there, ordinary criminals then grew into well organized criminal groups.

AMANPOUR (on camera): By the time U.N. trade sanctions were eased in 1995, a vast apparatus had developed that both supported Milosevic and depended upon him. From top to bottom, from presidential palace to cigarette kiosk, the people running this state, says the new interior minister, had turned it into a "vast criminal enterprise."

Arcan (ph) the hit man became a businessman, and started his own political party. But according to his former associate, Arcan (ph) took his orders from much higher up.

BRANKA SIPKA: I was a connection between Serbian secret service and him. When, for example, secretary from Serbian secret service call us, she said, "Please give me Arcan."

AMANPOUR: Arcan (ph) dealt in black market cigarettes, alcohol and gasoline, among other things. Until he was shot dead in Belgrade's Intercontinental Hotel in January 2000, he was virtually untouchable for one reason... SIPKA: Arcan (ph) all the time was by controlled secret service.

AMANPOUR (on camera): And, therefore, do you think he was controlled by Milosevic as well?

SIPKA: Yes, of course.

AMANPOUR: How was he paid? Who paid him?

SIPKA: They bring to us to headquarters here in Belgrade sacks of moneys, big sacks with moneys. A lot of money.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Like other smugglers, Arcan (ph) could rely on Milosevic's cronies when he ran into trouble.

SIPKA: When he had some problems on the customs with Macedonia, he used to call Mikhail Cartes (ph) and he arranged all.

AMANPOUR: The black market and money laundering weren't the only ways the Milosevic machine amassed its fortune. Billions were taken directly from the people through shady banking schemes. In the early 1990s, to get hold of individual personal savings of so called hard currency, Milosevic's government licensed new state-approved banks. These banks promised to pay depositors an interest of about 15 percent a month. As interest rates skyrocketed, the government printed more money and the value of the Yugoslav currency plummeted. As for the foreign currency that people that deposited with the banks, it vanished overseas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are talking about billions of dollars. According to my estimations, some $4 billion of U.S. dollars for (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SAVICEVIC: I tell you, the foreign bankers and the foreign businessmen were very helpful to them. Sympathizing, making the business.

AMANPOUR (on camera): Are you saying at a time when Yugoslavia and Serbia were under sactions...


AMANPOUR: ... that foreign banks, perhaps in London, in the United States...

SAVICEVIC: Cyprus, Switzerland...

AMANPOUR: ... were helping him launder his money, essentially?

SAVICEVIC: Moving the money. I'm pessimistic that we will ever know exactly what happened, you know, with the money. Money finished.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Milosevic may be behind bars at The Hague, but the tribunal doesn't have the power to investigate local charges. Milosevic has denied any personal connection to corruption, but the long suffering Serbian people want his regime held to account for the vast sums of money they say was stolen.

GORAN SVILANOVIC, FOREIGN MINISTER, SERBIA: What do people expect? They expect to see those who have got very rich during these ten years while sending the other people's kids to the wars, and all of us to poverty behind the bars (ph).


AMANPOUR: As the 1990s drew to a close, former friends of Milosevic -- associates and others who may have known too much -- began to die violent and public deaths.

(on camera): The truth behind the body bags began to emerge once the democratic opposition of Serbia took power in January of 2001. Investigators then began to uncover many of Milosevic's long suspected secrets. Allegedly including state-sponsored murder and enemies lists kept my his secret police.

BATIC (through translator): We came across incredible information. For example, Mr. Djindjic has more than 800 reports in his dossier. Mr. Kostunica was third in line, with 550 something. And myself, with 549 reports that were dubbed onto a hard disk.

AMANPOUR: Some political figures faced a lot more than surveillance. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) escaped by a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in October 1999, when a truck hit his convoy, killing four of his staff. According to the new interior minister, Dusan Mihajlovic, it was a blatant assassination attempt by the secret police.

MIHAJLOVIC (through translator): We have established that members of the secret service were involved, using an official truck that belonged to the service.

AMANPOUR: Warnings and death threats would reach his most prominent public critics, including this man, Slavco (ph) Curuvija. Curuvija was a Belgrade newspaper publisher who relentlessly denounced Milosevich, his wife, and their political parties.

DR. BRANKA PRPA, CURUVIJA'S WIFE (through translator): He showed at one moment that one man completely alone can fight against a system which he found inhuman.

AMANPOUR: In October 1998, the Serbian government shut down Curuvija's "Daily Telegraph (ph)," but still, he wouldn't keep quiet. In March, the following year, a court in Belgrade sentenced and two other journalists to five months in jail.

PRRA (through translator): I kept saying, "You entered a serious political fight. That means that you better have some sort of a place to escape to." His answer was, "Branka, if the state wants to kill you, you've got no where to hide.



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