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 Thursday, 14 March, 2002, 21:09 GMT
UK politician testifies against Milosevic
Paddy Ashdown giving evidence at The Hague
Paddy Ashdown visited the Balkans during the conflicts
British politician Paddy Ashdown has told the war crimes tribunal trying former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic of his deep shock over what he believed were Serb military operations in Kosovo.

He saw evidence of ethnic Albanians being forced to leave their homes and of villages being shelled, looted and burned, he said.

What we were presented with was an entire amphitheatre of hills in which every village was ablaze and we saw and heard the reports of shellfire...

Paddy Ashdown
Lord Ashdown - who gave evidence for the prosecution - is the first major European political figure to appear at the trial in The Hague.

He also testified about a map drawn by the late President Tudjman of Croatia in support of allegations that Croatia and Serbia planned to carve up Bosnia, with no provision for separate Muslim areas.

Mr Milosevic is on trial for war crimes in Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia during the break-up of Yugoslavia. He has been accused of genocide in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995.

Lord Ashdown made several visits to the Balkans during the conflicts in the 1990s and had contacts with the region's leaders.

'Utterly trashed'

The bulk of his evidence so far involved two trips he made as the Kosovo crisis was unfolding ahead of Nato intervention.

He was not allowed into Kosovo on the first trip in June.

Racak massacre
The Racak massacre was one of the worst Kosovo atrocities
But, from the northern Albanian border, he witnessed Yugoslav tanks and other military units bombarding villages and homes.

Later, in September, he went to western Kosovo and saw evidence of villages which had been deserted, destroyed and "utterly trashed".

He said villages were being pounded by units which appeared to engage "indiscriminately" and there was no return fire.

"I regarded this as very shocking", he said - as Mr Milosevic sat in the defendant's dock a short distance away.

He described one valley south of the Kosovo capital Pristina: "What we were presented with, was an entire amphitheatre of hills in which every village was ablaze, and we saw and heard the reports of shellfire.. we concluded that the weapons being used here were artillery."

Smuggling for rebels

During his travels he also spoke to Kosovo refugees of all ages and genders over the border in northern Albania, who said they had been forced to leave and cross high mountain passes in harrowing conditions. Some had shrapnel wounds, he said.

"They all had the same or similar stories to tell: that they were ordered out of their villages by army, police.

Slobodan Milosevic
Mr Milosevic says he will call his own witnesses from among Western leaders
He also told the court that he saw substantial quantities of small arms being smuggled across the Albanian border for ethnic Albanian rebels.

Small arms, ammunition and grenades were carried by mules or men over the mountains for the rebels of the Kosovo Liberation Army who were fighting for independence from Yugoslavia, while Serbian security forces were responding with draconian force.

At the time, Lord Ashdown described the situation as "a humanitarian catastrophe of terrible proportions".

Banquet map

His testimony on Thursday also focussed on allegations that Mr Milosevic and the late Croatian leader, Franjo Tudjman, planned to carve up former Yugoslavia.

He displayed a copy of a map drawn by Mr Tudjman - at a dinner in London in 1995 - outlining the Croatian leader's vision of the future state of Yugoslavia in which Bosnia was divided between their two states.

Banquet menu with alleged map of carve-up of Bosnia
A map submitted as evidence of a planned carve-up of Bosnia
Asked about the provisions, if any, for Muslim areas "Tudjman said the Muslim areas had been incorporated in Greater Croatia and Greater Serbia ... Bosnia no longer existed", according to Lord Ashdown.

Mr Milosevic has now been on trial for just over a month and has put up a spirited defence, arguing that Yugoslavia was the victim of a western plot, and that it was Nato's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999 which caused most of the casualties in Kosovo.

Lord Ashdown, who has had a deep interest in the Balkans since the 1990s, is due to continue giving evidence for a second day on Friday.

He will also be cross-questioned by Mr Milosevic.

  The BBC's Jon Silverman
"Ashdown is taking the trial into a new phase"

At The Hague

Still wanted



See also:

12 Mar 02 | Europe
01 Mar 02 | Country profiles
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