To be published in the Voice of Canadian Serbs:


March 11, 2006 - Former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic has died in
captivity, in his cell in The Hague on March 11.  H.E. James Bissett, former
Canada's Ambassador to Yugoslavia from 1990 to 1992, took the stand at the
ICTY in The Hague, on February 23 - 24, as a defense witness in the trial of
the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic.
Bissett was the last high-ranking Western diplomat to meet and speak with
president Milosevic. In his interview to CKCU's "Monday's Encounter",
Bissett talks about his reaction to the news on Milosevic's death and about
their last meeting.
"I was shocked and very sorry to hear the news on Milosevic's death," said
Bissett. "It means that he will not be able to continue with his testimony
and therefore the historical record that he would like very much to have set
down during his trial will be incomplete. I am sorry that he died before he
could get all the evidence out. Unfortunately now we are not going to hear
the Milosevic's story. Anything that is said in his favor we don't hear
about. The consequence of that we will only have the legacy that we hear
today on BBC or through the Associated Press. The legacy that the US led
NATO countries would like to have us believe was the legacy of the beast of
the Balkans. We have had a news blackout on all of the evidence in his favor
that has been disclosed at The Hague." 

Bissett described the former Yugoslav president as quite relaxed and
absorbed with his trial, when he last saw Milosevic at The Hague. . 
"When I went to see him in the penitentiary in The Hague, said Bissett,
"Milosevic was dressed very causally. When I walked into the open area of
the prison he was mingling with other prisoners and they were joking and
laughing. Actually Seselj was there. His wife and children were visiting him
at this time. Milosevic broke away from that group and we carried out our
interview in a private room. He was dressed in a simple white tee shirt
covered by a plaid shirt, wearing soft slacks, a pair of slippers. He was
perfectly relaxed and seemed to be in a good health. In fact during the
visit a nurse came in to take his blood pressure. He took his blood pressure
and it was 140 over 85. So there was no indication at the first meeting that
he was suffering from ill health. He looked good. He had good color. He was
relaxed. He had a sense of humor. He was obviously busy trying to prepare
for my testimony and he struck me as being reasonable content with the way
the trial was going. The following day, however, it was in the afternoon
around five o'clock after 2 or 3 hours with him, he suddenly became flushed
in the face and clasped his hands to his head. I was startled and asked if
he was all right. He answered that he was O.K. and explained that he
suffered from a loud ringing sound in his ears that seemed as though he was
speaking into an empty pail. He told me that although his blood pressure was
under control he had this constant ringing and echoing sounds in his head.
This was caused, he said, by a problem with an artery in his ear. He
complained about it before to the Dutch doctors who simply said it was
psychological. But after increasing demands they gave him a MRI test and
found that indeed he was right there was a problem with the artery in his
ear. Artery had a "loop' in it and to correct it  surgery would be
necessary. That is why he wanted to go to Moscow to a clinic that
specializes in this type of operation. But, as you probably know, the
Tribunal refused to allow that," said Bissett.
Bissett added that Milosevic "seemed quite relaxed and absorbed with his
trial. He told me that he never had to do any of his cocking in the prison
or make his own bed or press his cloths because when he would come back from
the Tribunal hearings all of that would have been done for him by his fellow
prisoners. So it seemed to me that even in prison he commanded a good deal
of respect from his fellow prisoners. He certainly did not seem to me in a
depressed mood and was in full command in all of his facilities. He was
working very hard to set the historical record down in such a way that he
would not be made a scapegoat for everything that had gone wrong in the
Balkans in the 90's," Bissett said.
Mr. Milosevic chose to defend himself because he did not recognize the
authority of the Hague Tribunal. 
"Milosevic never referred to judge Robinson as "Your Honor" he always
referred to him as Mr. Robinson. His decision to defend himself was based on
the fact that he did have legal training and was very intelligent man," said
Bissett. "He felt that if he accepted a defense council in the form of a
lawyer that he could not really get across the message that he wanted to
convey without expressing it personally.  He knew his material. He has done
a very good job of cross-examining the prosecution witnesses and destroying
many of them who appeared before the Tribunal. He has discounted much of the
case against him but the public hears none of this because there seems to be
a deliberate news blackout on anything recorded before the Tribunal in his
favor. On the other hand I believe it was probably a mistake for him to
handle his own defense. He was a politician and not a lawyer and I think
that in the court setting he might have been better to have had a first
class criminal lawyer represent him. A lawyer who would know all the tricks
of cross-examination and the experience of court procedures," opinioned
"On the first day he asked me good and short questions, but in the second
day, as the day went on, I could see that he was tiring. He was beginning to
ask leading and quite long rambling questions. This irritated the judge and
he cut him off very often. The Judges accused Milosevic of wasting time and
of asking leading questions and not getting to the heart of the matter.'"
said Bissett. 
Mr. Bissett met with former president Milosevic in Belgrade several times in
his capacity as Ambassador of Canada to Yugoslavia from 1990  -1992. Bisset
was of the opinion that Milosevic was a very intelligent and shrewd
"I have described him as someone who was not interested in "Greater Serbia",
Bissett continues. "That [the notion that Milosvic worked on creating
"Greater Serbia"]  is a complete fantasy. He was not even particularly
interested in the welfare of the Serbian people. He was a politician, an old
apparatchik, and a communist party boss who had grown up during that period
of Yugoslav history, when Tito was in power. He wanted to maintain his
power, his prestige and his privileges for himself and his family. He was a
very typical soviet- block, Eastern-European communist boss. The politics of
those times were rough and not very democratic. There was lot of intrigue, a
lot of back room maneuvering and a lot of corruption among the party
faithful. Controlling the press and the media was taken for granted.
Milosevic was a product of his time and place. He was an opportunist but in
my view certainly not a strong Serb nationalist- not as nearly as much as
some of his political opponents. Not nearly as much as Vuk Draskovic was at
that time. He was a communist apparatchik, making the reluctant and painful
attempt at transition from a communist system to a more democratic form of
socialism," said Bissett.
Former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic worked hand in hand with
Holbrook, Albright and other Western politicians in brokering peace deals in
the war torn former Yugoslav republics. Bissett believes that Milosevic had
no desire to see Yugoslavia break apart and got caught up in circumstances. 

"Once Slovenia seceded and Croatia started to break away and violence
erupted, the federal army was sent in to try in put the rebellion down.
Milosevic who was the president of Serbia at the time was kind of caught in
the middle. He did not have a control of the federal Army in those early
days. He had some influence, but he had no control over it. It was a federal
institution," said Bissett.  "The Army itself was very pro-Yugoslav and did
not want to see Yugoslavia break up. It was the federal Prime Minister of
Yugoslavia who happened to be a Croatian who ordered the army into Slovenia
and Croatia When the republics of Slovenia and Croatia did break away and
Bosnia and Macedonia left the federation, Milosevic was left in the position
as the leader of Serbia, of having to support the cause of the Serbs in
Croatia and Bosnia. With the legacy that those people had experienced during
the Second World War the genocide of the Serbs in Croatia particularly but
also massacres of Serbs in Bosnia by Croat and Muslim fascist forces,
Milosevic had no choice. In the final analysis, however, there are many
Serbs who feel that Milosevic let them down and betrayed them," said
Milosevic, right from the very beginning, was the key person in the former
Yugoslavia who was striving for a peaceful solution to the problems there. 
Bissett stated that "Milosevic fully supported the EU initiative to
intervene to protect the Serbs in Croatia and to stop the fighting that was
going on there. When Milan Babic, who committed suicide just couple a weeks
ago, reneged on the agreement to let the EU in, Milosevic disowned him and
published a front page article in Politika condemning Babic and in effect
forcing him to sign the agreement permitting the EU forces to separate the
two sides and to bring the fighting to an end in Croatia. Milosevic was key
figure in the negotiation of Vance-Owen plan, the Vance - Stoltenberg plan,
and finally the peace agreement at Dayton. Part of the reason for much of
the confusion about Milosevic's role is because Holbrook and Americans
refused to negotiate directly with the Bosnian or the Croatian Serbs. This
forced Milosevic to be interlocutor for those Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia.
This has caused many people to the feel that it was Milosevic who started
the war and was responsible for the actions of the Croatian and Bosnian
Serbs," said Bissett.
Former Canada's Ambassador to Yugoslavia expressed his dissatisfaction with
mainstream media and their reporting about the war in the Balkans.

"When you read Associated Press report on his [Milosevic's] death, it is
full of factual errors," continued Bissett. "They say for example that
Milosevic sent tanks into Slovenia to secure the borders. He did not. It was
Croatian federal PM Ante Markovic, who ordered it. The AP said that Serbs in
Croatia were encouraged by Milosevic to take up arms. That is absolute
nonsense. He did everything to stop the Serbs in Croatia from fighting with
the Croatian forces. The AP said Milosevic responded by sending the Yugoslav
army to intervene in Croatia, which was not in accordance with the facts.
Some reports say that he took away Kosovo independence but of course Kosovo
never was independent. Many of the media representatives no longer do any
research nor do they bother checking the facts. Most of them simply repeat
what was said in the past and assume it was true," Bissett said. 

At the end the West betrayed Milosevic.
"Holbrook and Albright championed him as the man of peace in 1995,"
continues Bissett. "There was no indictment against Milosevic until the
bombing started over Kosovo (in 1999). I do not believe there was any intent
to indict Milosevic, Tudgman or Izetbegovic for crimes committed in Bosnia.
When the bombing of Yugoslavia started and public opinion in some of the
European countries began to turn against the bombing. The people realized
that the whole infrastructure of Yugoslavia was being destroyed. Cluster
bombs were dropped over the market place in the city of Nis, cigarette and
automobile factories were destroyed, the electrical grid was knocked out, TV
stations and passenger trains were targeted, the bridges on the Danube blown
down. Public opinion, especially in Germany, began to turn away from the
NATO bombing. The leaders of the NATO countries were desperate in trying to
find the means of getting the public support back. That was why they
persuaded Louse Arbour, the chief prosecutor of the Hague Tribunal to
suddenly indict Milosevic for genocide in Kosovo and then later for crimes
in Bosnia. It was a convenient thing to do because who could blame NATO for
the bombing a country whose leader was a war criminal," Bissett said. 
There is a sense of relief in Molosevic's death at The Hague, "because the
Tribunal was having a very hard time bringing forth any hard evidence to
prove that there was genocide in Kosovo or that Milosevic entered into the
criminal conspiracy with Karadzic and Boban to establish a "Greater Serbia,
" said Bissett.  " Nevertheless they would have found him guilty of
something you may be sure. He was under no illusion that the Tribunal would
find him guilty but he wanted to put the facts on the historical record.
Unfortunately this is no longer possible and so it will be  NATO's
interpretation of events that the world will have."
"Milosevic will leave a mixed legacy. A lot of Serbs feel that he was the
cause of lot of their misery. Whether he made mistakes or not, the people
who are paying for those mistakes are indeed the Serbian people," concluded
========= (click on to CKCU and the show you
want to hear)

                                   Serbian News Network - SNN



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