THE HAGUE | 19.10.2005.

GENERAL VS. CAPTAIN

General Milos Djosan spent most of his testimony today to contest the testimony of Captain Nik Peraj, his subordinate in the command of the VJ 52nd Artillery Rocket Brigade in Kosovo in 1999

Captain Nik Peraj is "an honest man, who can be trusted", General Milos Djosan said about the officer who was his subordinate in the command of the VJ 52nd Artillery Rocket Brigade in Kosovo in 1999. Djosan nevertheless went paragraph by paragraph through the testimony Captain Peraj gave as a prosecution witness at the Slobodan Milosevic trial in May 2002, contesting all the claims Peraj made.

Testifying as Milosevic's defense witness, the general contested the captain's claims that Arkan's, Seselj's and Frenki's paramilitaries were deployed in Kosovo in 1999, as was an armored brigade from Republika Srpska. He claims there were "no paramilitary formations", and that the only person from Republika Srpska in his units was a woman by the name of Dragojanka, a volunteer. He denied that the soldiers would get drunk in Djakovica and that they had various patches on their uniforms.

Djosan was particularly categorical in his denial of the claims Peraj made about Operation Meja, on 27 April 1999. According to Peraj, the VJ units burned the Albanian villages in the Caragoj valley, forcing thousands of civilians to move towards Djakovica. The police and paramilitary forces intercepted the convoys in the villages of Meja and Korenica, separated men from women and children and summarily executed them on the spot. Peraj claims that the next day, he saw a report in the Djakovica HQ stating that 74 "terrorists" were killed in Korenica and 68 in Meja.

General Djosan challenged the testimony made by his former subordinate by saying first that "it was not an operation, but an anti-terrorist action". It is true that one of his units took part in it, but it was deployed on the "blockade line", which the terrorists never reached. The unit thus never fired a single bullet. Peraj's claim that he "attended a meeting at which the massacre in Meja was planned" is "simply preposterous" in Djosan's words. He asked a rhetorical question, "who would invite an Albanian to discuss a massacre of his own people in front of him?" After all, Milosevic's defense witness concluded, "there was no massacre in Meja; there was only an anti-terrorist operation".

General Djosan was, however, unable or unwilling to answer a question Judge Bonomy repeated several times, "were some terrorists in fact killed in Meja and Korenica?" He claims he has "no knowledge of that", adding that he "was not informed about that by anyone", and that he "was not competent for that". The judge reminded him that yesterday, as he denied some of the allegations in the indictment, he made some categorical claims that "this did not happen: if it had, I would have heard about it", going on to ask him how the events in Korenica and Meja differed from the incident he had been talking about the day before. When Djosan repeated that "no one informed" him, Judge Bonomy noted in a resigned tone that the witness "wither doesn't understand or is trying to avoid answering the question", giving up on pursuing the issue.

Presiding Judge Robinson asked Djosan why he was contesting Captain Peraj's testimony when he said Peraj was "an honest man", one that "could be trusted". Djosan's reply was that at the Milosevic trial the captain "probably gave his testimony under duress and blackmail, because he has three children". He added that he understood him and that he would probably be saying the same things if he lived in Djakovica.

Despite his understanding for Peraj, the general did not refrain from telling on his former subordinate. He said Captain Peraj had been working for the military security service and that he had "indebted the service" with the information he had given them about the weapons and forces of the KLA.

General Djosan will be cross-examined tomorrow by prosecutor Nice. Before the cross-examination, it was announced today, there will be a half-hour status conference on Milosevic's "use of time" or the time needed for the defense case.