You’ve probably never head of General Momcilo Perisic, the former Chief of the General Staff of the Yugoslav Army. Unlike his comrade in arms, the Bosnian Serb commander General Ratko Mladic, Perisic avoided the limelight and worked behind the scenes. Which hasn’t saved him from being charged with thirteen counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Perisic’s trial started today at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The charges include including aiding and abetting the Bosnian Serb siege of Sarajevo, and the Bosnian Serb forces which massacred up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys after the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995.
Perisic is accused of being a key figure in the murky relationship between Yugoslavia proper and its armed forces and the Bosnian Serbs, whom Yugoslavia provided with arms, funds, men and materiel. Without Yugoslavia’s covert support the Bosnian Serb Army would not have been able to carry it out its campaigns of ethnic cleansing and murder. General Perisic’s trial at the UN War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague is likely to reveal significant details of the connections between the regime of the former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic and forces commanded by General Mladic, described in General Perisic’s indictment as his “subordinate”.
The trial is important both for reasons of historical justice and because the evidence that will be submitted will likely finally demolish the bizarre and fatuous claims by John Laughland and others that Milosevic, and Yugoslavia, had at most, a peripheral relationship with the Bosnian Serbs as they carried out their murderous campaigns of ethnic cleansing.
Laughland writes in his new book: ‘A History of Political Trials’:
‘To be sure, Yugoslavia gave help to the Bosnian Serb Army and therefore incurred some indirect responsibility for what that army did in Bosnia. But the link between it and Milosevic in Belgrade was tenuous.’
This is utter rubbish. General Perisic’s indictment details how he is accused of covertly transferring officers from the Yugoslav Army to the Bosnian Serb and Croatian Serb forces. The indictment also alleges that the Yugoslav Army provided the Bosnian Serbs and Croatian Serbs with weapons, ammunition, and integrated communications and air defence systems.
We can expect many more details to emerge of the web of connections between the Milosevic regime and the Bosnian Serb forces during the course of Perisic’s trial.