Transcript: Dr Cees Wiebes and Chris Stephen interviewed by Clive Anderson on Radio 5 Live, October 2004


Clive Anderson:  New light has been cast on this episode by Dr Cees  Wiebes from Amsterdam University’s International Relations Department  which may lend him [Slobodan Milosevic] some support. Dr Wiebes was  commissioned by the Dutch government to look into the intelligence  failings surrounding the fall of Srebrenica and spent five years  researching it.

Dr Cees Wiebes: In our report, which is about 7,000 pages long, we come  to the conclusion that Milosevic had no foreknowledge of the subsequent  massacres. We did not find evidence in this respect. That doesn’t mean  that there is no evidence but we didn’t find it.

What we found, however, is evidence to the contrary: Milosevic was very  upset when he learnt about the massacres, we heard this from various  diplomats, and also other witnesses who we interviewed. We also learnt  from another Bosnian Serb person, who went to Milosevic two weeks after  the attack, that Milosevic was very, very angry shouting words like  “Which idiot ordered these massacres?”

And it’s understandable because Milosevic in this phase of the war was  looking for a political settlement. Various sources inside the Yugoslav Tribunal in the Hague have told me  that investigators in the case of Milosevic asked the prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, to drop the charges, the genocide charges, against Mr  Milosevic regarding Bosnia because they couldn’t find any leads to  Milosevic and the subsequent atrocities.

Chris Stephen: Well, I’m certainly very surprised to hear that the  prosecutors ignored this report because it’s the most thorough report  about Srebrenica, or perhaps about a war crime, that’s ever been done.

Clive Anderson: Chris Stephen again who wrote [the book] “Judgement  Day: the trial of Slobodan Milosevic”.

Chris Stephen: I think he’s [Dr Wiebes] being marginalised because he  will help to destroy the prosecution claim that Milosevic is guilty of  genocide. They spent months and months trying to find people who can  link Milosevic to the crime of genocide in Srebrenica and they’ve come  up with nothing. And they’ve said that he was complicit that he  supported the Serbs, he was giving them ammunition and petrol, but the  way the genocide charge is framed that is not enough.Genocide is a very specific charge. It’s the most serious charge there  is. It’s a charge that was built after Auschwitz and Dachau. It’s for  the really terrible crime not just of extermination but of trying to  wipe out a whole people. And the only place in Bosnia where this was  relevant was Srebrenica and this terrible massacre. So the prosecution,  because I think they feel that Milosevic is the big man he must  therefore face the big charge, they’ve tried to charge him with  genocide. But I think it won’t stick.

Clive Anderson: We asked the prosecution for an interview to talk about the relevance of Cees Wiebes’ findings and what is called the NIOD  report and his allegations regarding Carla Del Ponte, but they  declined. They did however give us this statement:

[read by actress] “We have read the report and believe it is not  relevant to the criminal cases we’re conducting at the tribunal. We are  dealing with individual criminals or those who are planning, aiding and  abbetting crimes committed at Srebrenica. The purpose of the NOID [sic]  report was not to deal with criminal cases relating to Srebrenica and  was commissioned by the Dutch government for other purposes.

Dr Cees Wiebes: For the whole demise of the Former Yugoslavia I think  Mr Milosevic bears big responsibility, but also the other leaders like  Franjo Tudjman of Croatia and Izetbegovic, I mean, all bear a certain  sense of responsibility, I think Mr Milosevic bears the biggest  responsibility, However to portray the Bosnian Muslims as lily-white  and the Serbs as the evils [sic] is simply not true. It’s not a simple black and white picture as regards the Bosnian war. I’ve never seen in  my research so much grey. Of course the killings and the subsequent  murder of 7,000 people is a huge atrocity but other elements are very  much in grey tones. The tribunal in The Hague flies in experts from all  over the world to testify: well, there are ten people in Amsterdam who  did the most extensive research on Srebrenica and the Bosnian war.We were never invited in The Hague – we’re just living around the  corner – and why?

What I heard from good sources at the tribunal is that Ms Del Ponte  thinks we are too “nuanced” we are not seeing things in black and  white, and good military experts in our team were never consulted.

Clive Anderson: A recent motion to remove the charge of genocide from  Milosevic’s trial in The Hague was overruled by two judges to one. Of  course Milosevic may use the NIOD report as part of his defence.After the news and sport we will look at the end of Milosevic’s regime  and his legacy.

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