In critical evidence at Slobodan Milosevic's war crimes trial, former NATO commander Gen. Wesley Clark testified that the former Serbian president knew Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic was planning a civilian massacre in Srebrenica, Bosnia, in 1995 and warned him "not to do this," according to a transcript released Thursday.
Clark, now a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. presidency, testified as a prosecution witness in closed session at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague on Monday and Tuesday. A transcript was released on the court's Web site on Thursday after it was reviewed and edited by State Department lawyers.
Prosecution spokeswoman Florence Hartmann said Clark's testimony was "extremely important for us." It was the most direct evidence so far in the two-year-old trial about Milosevic's advance knowledge in the massacre of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica, the deadliest civilian wartime incident in Europe since World War II.
Questioned on Srebrenica massacre
Clark, who met with Milosevic for more than 100 hours during the Balkan wars, said he was part of a U.S. delegation negotiating a Bosnian peace plan in August 1995 when he questioned Milosevic about the massacre in the eastern Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica just a month earlier.
Negotiators had asked Milosevic at the start of the meeting if they had come to the right person. Milosevic was then the president of Serbia and had no formal authority over events in neighboring Bosnia.
"Should we be dealing with you or should we be dealing with the Bosnian Serbs?" Clark asked. "And then President Milosevic said, 'With me, of course."' ””
Shortly later, Clark said he talked privately with Milosevic during a brief break in the negotiations.
"I approached President Milosevic as he was standing there in a casual setting outside the formal meeting, and I was still wrestling with the idea as to how it is that Milosevic could maintain that he had the authority and the power to deliver the Serb compliance with the agreement," Clark said.
"And so I simply asked him. I said, 'Mr. President, you say you have so much influence over the Bosnian Serbs, but how is it then, if you have such influence, that you allowed General Mladic to kill all those people in Srebrenica?' And Milosevic looked at me and he paused for a moment. He then said, 'Well, General Clark,' he said, 'I warned Mladic not to do this, but he didn't listen to me."'
Clark said he understood the remark to mean Milosevic had advance knowledge that the massacre would take place.
Judges also could interpret the remark as indicating Milosevic did what he could to prevent a slaughter of Muslim civilians, and that he had no power over the Bosnian Serbs who committed the murders.
Like Milosevic, Gen. Mladic and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic have been indicted by the U.N. tribunal for genocide in Srebrenica, which was at that time a U.N.-declared safe area.
Milosevic denies conversation
During cross-examination, Milosevic denied the conversation ever happened.
"General Clark, this is a blatant lie. First and foremost because we did not talk about Srebrenica at all, and secondly because I, throughout this time, through all of those years, I never issued a single order to General Mladic or was I in a position to issue him an order."
Milosevic said to Clark, "I, for example, believe firmly until the present day that General Mladic did not order any execution of people in Srebrenica. I believe that this was done by a group of mercenaries."
Clark agreed when asked by Judge Patrick Robinson that Milosevic's remark showed he was trying to distance himself from Mladic. "It was the kind of reply that I came to expect from the accused. He indicated foreknowledge, and then he attempted to disassociate himself from the responsibility for it," he said.