Interview with Vladimir Krsljanin, International Secretary of the Socialist Party of Serbia, published on 2 March in the Internet addition of Halo Noviny (Czech Republic). Interviewer Jan Hrobar. Kindly translated from the Czech by Colin Meade.
Q: You were recently in The Hague. Did you personally meet President Milosevic?
Vladimir Krsljanin: Unfortunately not this time. The ‘tribunal’ restricts Milosevic, who is the President of our party, to only one meeting a month, lasting a few hours, with members of the party leadership. One such took place about a month ago. I was present at the opening of the ‘trial’ as a visitor. We sat in the gallery behind a glass screen and could only wave to him.
Q: What impression did Milosevic make on you?
V.K. He made an absolutely superior impression not only on me, but perhaps on all those present. There were about a thousand journalists there from the whole world. I think we could agree on this assessment. This impression was certainly strengthened by the fact that Milosevic stood alone before the ‘tribunal’ which is a huge machine in the service of NATO, but with admirable fearlessness he put forward his defence and defeated everything which the staff of NATO experts, employing immense technical resources, had built up over a period of months. I think that it is impossible to exaggerate Milosevic’s achievement.
Q: Milosevic has usually addressed the ‘court’ in English. What language did he use in his defence speech?
V.K.: Serbo-Croatian. He had spoken English in dealing with some procedural issues at the start of the process but gave up doing so and for the past few months has only used Serbo-Croatian before the ‘tribunal’. He continues to do so, and it couldn’t be otherwise because the main Serbian TV channel is broadcasting direct from the ‘courtroom’ and Milosevic is making full use of this to address the whole nation.
Q: How did his speech go down in Belgrade?
V.K.: Let me give you some figures, which speak louder than any words. At present, according to our polls, 77% of the citizens of the FRY are behind Milosevic. They feel he is defending not only himself but the whole nation, which has been denigrated and humiliated in The Hague. 67% believe that Milosevic will win and together with him truth and justice, that the Serbian nation will be vindicated before the world.
Q: How long did Milosevic speak?
V.K.: For a total of eleven hours over three days. He started speaking at the end of the second day (13 February), but only for about half an hour before the ‘court’ rose. Three more days were given over to Milosevic’s defence, but on two of those days, the ‘court’ only sat in the morning for three hours. An hour or so of that time was taken up with the showing of videos displaying crimes committed by NATO in the aggression against the FRY.
Q: The foreign media used superlatives in describing Milosevic’s performance. Did you expect him to be so brilliant?
V.K.: We expected him to speak very effectively. We had seen how strongly he performed at his previous appearances before the ‘tribunal’, the great weight of each argument he used to show that the ‘tribunal’ is an illegal manipulated instrument in the service of NATO and of US policy in particular.
I have to say that Milosevic’s cross-examination surprised both his friends and his enemies. Parts of his appearance were seen by an estimated billion people. It is especially important that it left a strong impression. The prevailing view now is that Milosevic is a politician without equal not only in Serbia but also the Balkans, that he is a political figure of international stature. Everyone could satisfy themselves of this.
Q: As a result of this impression, people have begun to speculate about who helped Milosevic to prepare such a convincing presentation. What do you think about this?
V.K.: I’m being asked this question a lot at press conferences. I think that two factors are working together here. The force of Milosevic’s personality, his great intellectual powers, and the fact that he is not alone, that behind him stands the whole of our party, all genuine patriots and practically the whole nation, and many friends around the world. He feels this support and the responsibility to destroy with his words every lie.
Q: In his political career, he showed himself to be a capable economist and financier who succeeded in taming runaway inflation. Did he also study law?
V.K.: Yes, he studied in Belgrade and was an outstanding student. It is notable that the majority of professors from his faculty are supporting him. About 30 formed a group opposing the ‘tribunal’. They show its violation of legal norms and therefore the illegality of the ‘trial.’ Many people from all walks of life want to support President Milosevic and are offering to testify to prove he is innocent and must be released.
Q: Some observers are surprised at the fact that Milosevic, even after long imprisonment, seems in excellent physical and mental condition….
V.K.: Yes, it’s remarkable. When I met him about a month ago, I was much impressed by his vitality. All the more so because he is held in isolation in conditions which destroy people’s strength. In a tiny cell with minimal facilities, exposed to constant physical and also psychological pressure. The awareness that he is struggling for justice for his people gives him the boundless moral strength to resist such destructive conditions…
You ask how I see the future of the ‘trial’. I’m convinced that his jailers and their NATO paymasters are also preoccupied with these matters and are coming to the conclusion that the way to beat him is to break him physically. He has destroyed the prepared scenario for the ‘trial’, exposed the weakness of their fabricated arguments and the lies of their witnesses; he has dazzled the public and he has gained the backing of fair-minded people around the world. In the predictions being made by the Hague ‘tribunal’ that the ‘trial’ may last two years or even longer, I see an attempt, through endless delays, to wear him down.
No one is made of iron; intolerable conditions can destroy anyone. Milosevic is waging a battle in which he deserves the support of all who believe in democracy and care about truth and justice. Demand his release so that he can defend himself in freedom! The International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic is supporting this demand in the context of the broader demand that he be freed unconditionally and the Tribunal be abolished. His jailers know that other than physical abuse, they have no way to defeat him.
Milosevic’s courage requires not only recognition and admiration, but defence and support from all decent people.