DR CEES WIEBES + CHRIS STEPHEN INTERVIEWED BY CLIVE ANDERSON on BBC RADIO 5 LIVE 9 OCTOBER 2004
Clive Anderson: New light has been cast on this episode by Dr Cees Wiebes from Amsterdam University’s International Relations Department which may lend him [Slobodan Milosevic] some support. Dr Wiebes was commissioned by the Dutch government to look into the intelligence failings surrounding the fall of Srebrenica and spent five years researching it.
Dr Cees Wiebes: In our report, which is about 7,000 pages long, we come to the conclusion that Milosevic had no foreknowledge of the subsequent massacres. We did not find evidence in this respect. That doesn’t mean that there is no evidence but we didn’t find it.
What we found, however, is evidence to the contrary: Milosevic was very upset when he learnt about the massacres, we heard this from various diplomats, and also other witnesses who we interviewed. We also learnt from another Bosnian Serb person, who went to Milosevic two weeks after the attack, that Milosevic was very, very angry shouting words like “Which idiot ordered these massacres?”
And it’s understandable because Milosevic in this phase of the war was looking for a political settlement. Various sources inside the Yugoslav Tribunal in the Hague have told me that investigators in the case of Milosevic asked the prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, to drop the charges, the genocide charges, against Mr Milosevic regarding Bosnia because they couldn’t find any leads to Milosevic and the subsequent atrocities.
Chris Stephen: Well, I’m certainly very surprised to hear that the prosecutors ignored this report because it’s the most thorough report about Srebrenica, or perhaps about a war crime, that’s ever been done.
Clive Anderson: Chris Stephen again who wrote [the book] “Judgement Day: the trial of Slobodan Milosevic”.
Chris Stephen: I think he’s [Dr Wiebes] being marginalised because he will help to destroy the prosecution claim that Milosevic is guilty of genocide. They spent months and months trying to find people who can link Milosevic to the crime of genocide in Srebrenica and they’ve come up with nothing. And they’ve said that he was complicit that he supported the Serbs, he was giving them ammunition and petrol, but the way the genocide charge is framed that is not enough.Genocide is a very specific charge. It’s the most serious charge there is. It’s a charge that was built after Auschwitz and Dachau. It’s for the really terrible crime not just of extermination but of trying to wipe out a whole people. And the only place in Bosnia where this was relevant was Srebrenica and this terrible massacre. So the prosecution, because I think they feel that Milosevic is the big man he must therefore face the big charge, they’ve tried to charge him with genocide. But I think it won’t stick.
Clive Anderson: We asked the prosecution for an interview to talk about the relevance of Cees Wiebes’ findings and what is called the NIOD report and his allegations regarding Carla Del Ponte, but they declined. They did however give us this statement:
[read by actress] “We have read the report and believe it is not relevant to the criminal cases we’re conducting at the tribunal. We are dealing with individual criminals or those who are planning, aiding and abbetting crimes committed at Srebrenica. The purpose of the NOID [sic] report was not to deal with criminal cases relating to Srebrenica and was commissioned by the Dutch government for other purposes.
Dr Cees Wiebes: For the whole demise of the Former Yugoslavia I think Mr Milosevic bears big responsibility, but also the other leaders like Franjo Tudjman of Croatia and Izetbegovic, I mean, all bear a certain sense of responsibility, I think Mr Milosevic bears the biggest responsibility, However to portray the Bosnian Muslims as lily-white and the Serbs as the evils [sic] is simply not true. It’s not a simple black and white picture as regards the Bosnian war. I’ve never seen in my research so much grey. Of course the killings and the subsequent murder of 7,000 people is a huge atrocity but other elements are very much in grey tones. The tribunal in The Hague flies in experts from all over the world to testify: well, there are ten people in Amsterdam who did the most extensive research on Srebrenica and the Bosnian war.We were never invited in The Hague – we’re just living around the corner – and why?
What I heard from good sources at the tribunal is that Ms Del Ponte thinks we are too “nuanced” we are not seeing things in black and white, and good military experts in our team were never consulted.
Clive Anderson: A recent motion to remove the charge of genocide from Milosevic’s trial in The Hague was overruled by two judges to one. Of course Milosevic may use the NIOD report as part of his defence.After the news and sport we will look at the end of Milosevic’s regime and his legacy.
This is BBC Radio Five Live on AM, on digital and online.