by Milos VASIC
"Their bloodthirsty leader, Slobodan Miljkovic Lugar, killed people for no reason," Zaric said.
Then, judge Viktor Lindholm, a former officer in the Army of Finland, interrupted him; he asked whether he was armed at the time. Zaric responded that he was.
"As an officer of the Yugoslav People's Army, why did not you kill Lugar?" judge Viktor Lindholm asked Zaric.
"Do you really think I should have done that?" Simo Zaric was startled.
Viktor Lindholm affirmed.
"If I had done that, today I would not be in this court room, and my family would have never seen me again," Zaric said.
"That is not a correct reply," Viktor Lindholm responded. Unfortunately, at that point the president of the panel of judges interrupted the dialog and instructed Zaric to continue his testimony.
What was the correct reply in this case?
Let us consider some hypothetical choices facing Simo Zaric at the time. Simo Zaric could have come out to the courtyard and ordered the paramilitary scum to immediately stop maltreating prisoners, under the threat of arms, if necessary (it would not be unprecedented, as we shall see later). Simo Zaric could have followed the advice of Viktor Lindholm and shot Miljkovic Lugar, as an example for others. That would have most likely achieved two things: the rest of the scum would have suddenly quieted down; tragic death of Slobodan Miljkovic Lugar in the courtyard of the Police Station Bosanski Samac on April 20, 1992, would have saved the Serbian State Security Service (RDB) later problems with the tragic death of Slobodan Miljkovic Lugar in Kragujevac. Namely, an agent of the State Security Service killed Lugar in a pub brawl from his official weapon, which caused many problems; from the discovery that Lugar had been indicted by the Hague Tribunal, to the lawsuit filed by the RDB against Lugar's lawyer, for "slander", that is the doubts whether the brawl was really an accident, given what Lugar was prepared to talk about...
It is clear enough what and who Lugar was; the question is, what about Zaric? Had Simo Zaric, as an officer and gentleman, killed Lugar that day in Bosanski Samac, he may have lost his life. True, in those times any drunk and toothless "Chetnik" could humiliate officers of the YPA, could force them to violate rules of conduct and other obligations, including their oath; all of us saw a lot of that during 1991 and 1992. That is also not a correct reply. If an armed force such as the YPA was at the time allowed as an organization to lose its honor, that still does not oblige any particular officer to follow the suit. Do you remember the inscription of that sword kissed by Veselin Sljivicanin on posters? "Do not pull me out unnecessarily, do not put me back without honor". Simo Zaric's death perhaps would not have saved Lugar's unfortunate victims in the courtyard of the Bosanski Samac Police Station - but perhaps it would have... it would have most definitively saved lives of Lugar's victims, since that episode in Samac all the way to his death in Kragujevac. Besides, it would have saved the officer's honor of Simo Zaric and secured a place for him among the righteous ones; perhaps even a monument one day, in peaceful Serbia; but, that's less important.
Here, we come to examples from history. Let's consider the most recent ones first.
First example: At that horrible time, in the spring of 1992, a woman came to the offices of Vreme and told the following story. A certain YPA major picked up in a town near the Sava river, similar to and close to Bosanski Samac, about ten men and women, Muslim Bosniaks, told them that they were on "a list", put them into a military vehicle and drove them over the Sava River to Srem [Serbia] and gave them all the money he had on himself, with the advice to keep running, as far as they can. The woman said: "I am going abroad, but cannot leave until I tell this to someone".
Second example: A military policeman (name known to the author) risked his life during the fall of Vukovar saving a family that was hiding in a cellar. Two drunk "Chetniks" wanted to toss a bomb inside, he confronted them and got two bullets in his bullet-proof vest. He killed both of them. He was not prosecuted.
Third example: Also during the fall of Vukovar, a military police captain received information that a massacre of prisoners of war was about to take place in Ovcara. He went there with 50 selected soldiers, but was ordered just before reaching Ovcara to turn back. More than 200 prisoners were killed in Ovcara after that. The captain told this journalist that he "would not forget that"; had he made it to Ovcara then, Mrksic, Sljivicanin, and Radic today would not be indicted, he says. He also says that he knows who ordered him to turn back and that he will reveal that "when the time comes".
Fourth example: During a massacre of Vietnamese civilians in the village of Mi Lai (true name Son My; more than 500 dead), on March 16, 1968, several American soldiers summoned courage to refuse orders or to actively oppose their superiors. Commander of the reconnaissance helicopter UH-1G military clerk Hough Thompson distinguished himself; he saw that soldiers were killing villagers and that villagers were running towards an underground shelter; he landed the helicopter between the villagers and soldiers who were pursuing them and ordered his crew to aim their machine guns at the soldiers. He chased away his own American soldiers from the spot, he picked up villagers in the helicopter and took them to safety. He later came back and saved a two-year-old child from a mass grave. He was not prosecuted. At the trial of Lieutenant William Calley, the officer responsible for that war crime, he testified and was denounced as a "traitor"; at that time, in 1971, "councils for defense of William Calley" existed in every town in the USA, and 80 percent of Americans believed that Calley should not be prosecuted. Soldiers who refused Calley's orders to murder unarmed civilians, however, were not prosecuted.
Fifth example: During the African campaign in 1940-1943, British commandos, whose task was to penetrate behind enemy lines and destroy everything they could, had orders not to take prisoners. Lieutenant Colonel Lloyd Owen, however, captured 17 Italian soldiers and - contrary to specific orders of his superiors to kill them, he loaded them onto military vehicles, drove them about hundred kilometers from the front line, gave them food and water so that they could go back, and released them, as the information they could offer on their return to their unit would have been useless. He was not prosecuted.
Sixth example: In October 1941, a German soldier, Josef Schultz, refused to execute unarmed civilians in Velika Plana. He did not get away with insubordination. He was executed together with the civilians. Today, his act is commemorated by a memorial in Gornji Milanovac.
Therefore, what is the correct reply judge Viktor Lindholm was talking about?
It seems the correct reply has to do with the sense of duty of officers, soldiers, but also policemen and every state official. The reply is simple. By joining the military or police a person makes a conscious choice of profession; that profession entails a system of values and priority, which is confirmed by an oath; taxpayers pay the salary of such professionals on the assumption that they will be doing their duty; they also provide a pension for their families, in case they die in the line of duty, and their "families never see them again" (Simo Zaric). Briefly, to be an officer involves a lot more than parading around in uniform, kissing swords and making "patriotic" noises; to be an officer also means to risk your life defending your honor, the honor of the profession and the army you belong to. If someone permits a violation of the Geneva Conventions, all rules of warfare and basic ethical norms, and has a duty to prevent them, such a person fails the test of honor and duty; he gave an oath in vain, in vain he paraded around in uniforms and kissed swords. Military profession has an inherent greatness, but it is also demanding. It is not easy to protect officer's honor...
There are also various mitigating circumstances that are, however, not mentioned by various "councils for defense". The first mitigating circumstance is that during 45 years of peace and comfortable life the YPA grew increasingly soft and wimpy, so that in the end it fell without resistance to Milosevic's infiltration and propaganda. Thus, it could happen that the YPA without resistance accepted paramilitary formations of all sorts of toothless and drunken criminals, who, on the other hand, figured everything out from the start, and started humiliating officers, growing enormous beards, decorating themselves with all sorts of uniforms and insignia. If only that YPA major pulled out a gun in Sid in 1991 and shot three or four "Seselj's Chetniks" who spit on him and humiliated him in the street, perhaps everything would have ended up better, and such examples can be counted in thousands. Gentlemen officers got scared of all sorts of paramilitary scum - let us be brutally honest - and allowed that their honor be soiled without punishment, because they were simply afraid. Is that what they learned in military academies? Is that why we paid them so well over decades, gave them apartments and found jobs for their wives? Some of them shat into their pants, while other spotted a new chance for speedy promotion through the ranks, accepted the new "party line", which appointed "Chetniks" instead of party commissars. That careerist gang, which overnight transformed from Communists into "Chetniks" and unquestioningly adopted the new "party line" according to which "Ustashe, Balijas and Shiptars" [derogatory terms for Croats, Muslims and Albanians] should be massacred without superfluous questions, as that was "normal" and desirable.
Consequently, Simo Zaric did not shoot Lugar in that courtyard; consequently Mrksic, Sljivicanin and Radic did not try to protect their prisoners of war (captured by units under their command, which makes them responsible for their wellbeing) from local free artists and paramilitary scum that would murder them in Ovcara, in Lovas and a few other spots. Namely, Vukovar was taken by the YPA. If the YPA was not capable of maintaining public order and peace in the taken territory, it was not capable of making sure that its orders and rules of conduct and relevant conventions were observed, that it is a problem of its commanders - from Kadijevic and Adzic downward, all the way to Mrksic (brigade commander), Sljivicanin (head of security) and Radic (commander of a military police brigade).
Their failure allowed certain Lugar to do what he wanted, until he was stopped by a bullet fired by those who initially unleashed him.
In his defense attorney Lekovic stated that several days before his death Slobodan Miljkovic had given him a sealed envelope that, according to Miljkovic, contained documents that prove that the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs (Police) was involved in events in Bosnia in 1992. Lekovic was instructed to deliver these documents to the Hague Tribunal if something happened to Miljkovic. Lekovic stated in the court that after Miljkovic's murder he opened the envelope and found in it, among other, a document signed by Radovan Stojcic Badza, the then deputy Minister of Internal Affairs (Police) of Serbia, which states that late Slobodan Miljkovic Lugar was a volunteer in Croatia, within the unit of the Territorial Defense of Slavonia, Baranja, and West Srem, under the command of Radovan Stojcic Badza. The envelope also contained a document from 1992, issued by the commander of the Sava Valley Brigade from Bosanski Samac, confirming receipt of war material owned by the State Security Service, which that unit used in fighting. The defendant, attorney Tatomir Lekovic, stated in his defense that the documentation left behind by his client Slobodan Miljkovic Lugar also included a badge of the paramilitary unit "Grey Wolves", a photo of Miljkovic in uniform as he repairs a Serbian Police vehicle, a photo of a freight vehicle of make Renault, which carried freight between Bosanski Samac and Kragujevac. According to Miljkovic, the Kragujevac Police ordered Miljkovic to find the owner of the vehicle and the vehicle in Bosanski Samac, to kill the owner and take the vehicle to Serbia... The defendant, attorney Tatomir Lekovic stated in court that he surrendered all the documentation left by Slobodan Miljkovic Lugar to the Hague Tribunal immediately after the murder...
The documents include an arrest warrant for Slobodan Miljkovic, sent by the Hague Tribunal to the Yugoslav authorities; then, marked by "top secret", a memo of the then Minister of Justice in the government of Serbia Arandjel Markicevic ordering the competent investigative magistrate to start an investigation with "the goal of establishing the identity of the wanted person"...
In two years, the court failed to establish identity of Slobodan Miljkovic, although at the time he was involved in several cases handled by the District Court in Kragujevac.
After the defense by Tatomir Lekovic the court adjourned the trial and scheduled a new hearing for October 4, 2000.
Source: Danas, June 6, 2000