THE HAGUE | 07.12.2005.

GENERAL JELIC CHALLENGES GENERAL STAFF

Although the daily operational report of the VJ General Staff of 16 January 1999 states that "an element of the forces of the 243rd Mechanized Brigade is sealing off the Racak village where Interior Ministry (MUP) forces are engaging the Siptar terrorist forces," the then brigade commander claims that his forces were in the area on "regular training tasks"

General Krsman Jelic and other high-ranking VJ officers testifying in Slobodan Milosevic's defense categorically deny any involvement of the military in the events in the Kosovo village of Racak on 15 January 1999.

General Jelic continued to deny this even after the prosecutor showed him in cross-examination a daily operational report of the VJ General Staff dated 16 January 1999. The report states that "an element of the forces of the 243rd Mechanized Brigade is sealing off the Racak village where (MUP) forces are engaging the Siptar terrorist forces".

Last week, answering Milosevic's questions, Jelic said his combat group, armed with tanks, Praga guns and armored personnel carriers was on "regular training" at Canovica brdo – about a kilometer from Racak as the crow flies. He stuck to his claim even after the prosecutor read out to him a General Staff document stating that the combat group was "sealing off the village of Racak". He explained that its very presence in the area could be interpreted as "a kind of seal-off operation".

The prosecutor wanted to know in particular why the general wrote the following sentence in the combat report on the activities of his brigade on 15 January 1999: "None of our vehicles entered the village of Racak". The witness replied this was written in order for the Pristina Corps Command to "know what happened in the field". Prosecutor Nice then said that it in fact describes "what did not happen," where his forces did not go. According to the prosecutor, this shows that when General Jelic wrote the report he "knew that horrible things had happened in Racak and that he had been trying to cover up the involvement of the military" in the events. The witness rejected the prosecutor's claim with indignation.

The second military document that caused General Jelic some trouble today was the order of the Joint Command for Kosovo and Metohija of 24 March 1999, which envisaged the deployment of elements of the 243rd Mechanized Brigade "in support of MUP forces engaged in routing and destroying the Siptar terrorist forces" in some areas in Kosovo. The prosecution argument is that Milosevic bypassed the legal chain of command in the air forces through the Joint Command, which was under the control of Nikola Sainovic. Milosevic's defense witnesses all deny that the Joint Command ever existed, or claim it merely "coordinated" the activities of the military, police and civilian authorities. General Jelic took a similar course today: he said he could not remember whether he received the order", allowing that it may have been "some kind of a coordination".

At the end of the hearing today, the Chamber issued an order to the authorities in Belgrade to locate and send to The Hague the "war logbooks" of the 243rd Mechanized Brigade and its three armored battalions by Friday. The prosecution had applied for such an order to be made. General Jelic said today that those logbooks "probably exist… unless they were destroyed in NATO air strikes". The prosecutor asked the Chamber for assistance, noting that the prosecution had been asking Belgrade to deliver the war logbooks and other documents from the relevant period for years. He added that they would be of enormous importance for the efforts to determine the truth about the events in Kosovo in the first half of 1999.