Police chief 'to testify against Milosevic'

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The Independent Online

War crimes prosecutors may have found a key "insider" to testify against the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, whose trial opens tomorrow in The Hague.

Unconfirmed reports from Belgrade suggest that a former high-ranking officer in the Serb police may give evidence to the UN tribunal, which embarks this week on the biggest war crimes prosecution since the Nuremberg trials.

Mr Milosevic is the first former head of state to be held to account for war crimes, and faces a life sentence if convicted on charges of crimes against humanity and genocide for his role in the conflicts in Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia.

The three hearings are expected to take up to two years, and the prosecution alone could take as long as 18 months to outline its case.

In Belgrade there is considerable pressure on potential witnesses not to give evidence to a tribunal that is seen as anti-Serb. But Vlastimir Djordjevic, 53, a senior officer in the Serb police during Mr Milosevic's rule, might apparently be willing to testify in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Mr Djordjevic resigned after the downfall of Mr Milosevic in October 2000, and left Belgrade abruptly for Moscow last May.

He attended a meeting in Mr Milosevic's office in March 1999, as Nato air raids began. Last May, Serb officials revealed the plan to conceal ethnic cleansing in Kosovo agreed by Mr Milosevic and his aides at that meeting. Bodies were dug up and transported by freezer trucks into Serbia. At least one truck was dumped in the Danube river, hundreds of miles from Kosovo.

Mr Milosevic refuses to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the court and has not appointed a defence counsel.