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 Wednesday, 12 June, 2002, 14:08 GMT 15:08 UK
Milosevic 'knew of Kosovo killings'
William Walker
Mr Walker gave a graphic description of what he saw in Racak
A United States diplomat who led an international observer mission in Kosovo has clashed with former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic at the International War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague.

William Walker, former head of the Kosovo Verification Mission, told the court he believed Mr Milosevic had known of Serbian atrocities against ethnic Albanians in the province in 1999.

His knowledge was in many respects quite detailed. I never wavered in my opinion that I was dealing with the person who was in the maximum control of events in Kosovo

William Walker
He strongly rejected Mr Milosevic's claim that ethnic Albanian civilians found dead in the village of Racak were casualties of clashes between Serb forces and local rebels on 15 January, 1999.

"The first bodies I saw appeared to be elderly men with grey, white hair. All were in civilian clothes," he said. "There was no evidence of a battle having occurred there."

In 1999, Mr Walker spoke of a "civilian massacre" carried out by Serb forces - his comments played a key role in forming international opinion that led to Nato's military intervention in Kosovo.

In his cross-examination, Mr Milosevic tried to attack the credibility of the ambassador, who he accused of helping the rebels of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

In control

Mr Walker insisted that the former Yugoslav leader was well aware of how what was going on in Kosovo, and had been telling lies about the killing of Kosovo Albanians.


Slobodan Milosevic
Milosevic charges
  • Genocide
  • Crimes against humanity
  • Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions
  • Violations of the laws or customs of war

    Click here for a full list of charges

  • "His knowledge was in many respects quite detailed. I never wavered in my opinion that I was dealing with the person who was in the maximum control of events in Kosovo, at least from the Serb side," said Mr Walker, who met Mr Milosevic four times in the late 1990s.

    The accused sat back grinning while Mr Walker told the court "the meetings were dominated by him [Milosevic] all four of them".

    As with other witnesses, the former Yugoslav leader began his cross-examination by trying to undermine the credibility of the US ambassador.

    Backed up by press reports dating back to Mr Walker's role as a US representative in Central America in the late 1980s, Mr Milosevic painted him as a liar who was involved in efforts by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to train KLA guerrillas in Kosovo.

    And he used video-clips of western officials to allege that the KLA, with support from Mr Walker, carried out more atrocities than the Serbs.

    'Ludicrous'

    On the central issue constituting Mr Walker's testimony - the disputed Racak massacre - both men stuck to conflicting accounts.

    Mr Milosevic insisted the scene had been "staged or rigged" - the dead bodies had been rebel soldiers who had been redressed and placed there by the KLA.

    But Mr Walker said: "My firm layman conclusion from what I saw on the ground - the position of the bodies, bullet-holes, blood on the ground - is that I consider the interpretation that somehow these bodies were redressed during the night to be ludicrous."

    Mr Milosevic, who was at the time commander-in-chief of the federal army as well as president of Yugoslavia, is charged with responsibility for alleged war crimes carried out in Kosovo.

    His indictment includes five counts of war crimes in Kosovo for hundreds of deaths, and the expulsion of around 800,000 Kosovo Albanians, as well as charges relating to the alleged crimes in Croatia and Bosnia.


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    See also:

    19 Jan 99 | Europe
    15 Jan 00 | Europe
    19 Jan 99 | Europe
    18 Jan 99 | Monitoring
    29 Oct 01 | Europe
    26 Apr 02 | Europe
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