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(E) Siege of Dubrovnik
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  04/4/2003 | History | Unrated
(E) Siege of Dubrovnik


 Siege of Dubrovnik

"This was the first time in its history that Dubrovnik had had to dependon arms to defend its freedom," he said. "In the past, it had alwaysrelied on diplomacy, trade, or even payments of money to maintain itsfreedom."

By Judith Armatta in the The Hague

The Croatian general who defended the city of Dubrovnik said last week hewas hampered because his former president, Franjo Tudjman, had made a dealWith Slobodan Milosevic to exempt the city from war, and no plans fordefence had been made.

General Nojko Marinovic was made commander of the beautiful port city in1991, after resigning from the Yugoslav People's Army, JNA, in September1991.

"I was really shocked at how disorganised and unprepared they were foranything that might happen," he said in a statement read out in theMilosevic trial. "I quickly formed the opinion that there was no effectivedefense plan for Dubrovnik."

While the general gathered what forces, equipment and weapons he could,and devised a strategy to defend southern Dalmatia, he was hampered in hisefforts to defend Dubrovnik by an earlier order by Tudjman.

In a meeting between Tudjman, Milosevic and the then federal defenceminister Veljko Kadijevic, the latter assured the late Croatian presidentthat the JNA would not attack Dubrovnik, Marinovic said.

The witness said Tudjman had clearly taken this to heart, as he onlypermitted him 670 troops to defend not just the city but the entireregion - with just 150 for Dubrovnik itself.

Facing him, he said, were 5,000-7000 JNA troops with far better equipment.

But he said Serb propaganda played a part in frightening the attackers,who believed their own TV reports that thousands of troops includingforeign mercenaries were waiting for them.

"Their own propaganda boomeranged on them," said Marinovic. "They becameextremely cautious as they moved closer and closer to the city."

Even so, he was angry when shells rained down on the historic city, aUnited Nations heritage site.

"It is hard for me to say why they shelled the Old Town. They (the Serbforces) felt like no one in Dubrovnik would fight - that these were hotelworkers, waiters, tour guides etc who had no stomach for warfare."

Despite the city's formidable walls, it had never had to battle for itsfreedom.

"This was the first time in its history that Dubrovnik had had to dependon arms to defend its freedom," he said. "In the past, it had alwaysrelied on diplomacy, trade, or even payments of money to maintain itsfreedom."

Marinovic stated that Croatian forces were not stationed in and did notfire from the Old Town. "I can say with certainty that we never fired fromthe Old Town, never conducted any military operations there," he said.

And he dismissed claims that the shelling of the Old Town was a fiction,created by the Croats by burning old tyres.

"For anyone who entertains such ideas, I would suggest that they watch thevideotapes of JNA missiles hitting the Old Town," he said.

He said the Serb commander, General Pavle Strugar, must have known whatwas happening to the city.

"There is no way that they could have not known what was happening, northat they could have failed to report it up to the General Staff. Thesebattles were too important and the JNA just did not work like that."

Marinovic said that by the time of the siege, the army was cooperatingwith civilian politicians in ways which "would have been unthinkable inthe old JNA".

In support, he quoted an intercepted conversation between BozidarVucurevic, mayor of Trebinje, and Major Bogdan Kovac, Commander of the JNA472nd brigade, where Vucurevic appeared to reprimand the major:

"What's wrong, I don't hear you killing those beasts down there?" Kovacanswered, "Don't worry, we will do it."

Before the JNA pulled out of the region, Mayor Vucurevic was overheard inanother conversation, telling Admiral Miodrag Jokic, to make sure theairport at Cilipi was mined. Jokic assured him it had already been done.

The general also referred to videotapes showing civilian politicians, aswell as most of the high ranking officers, visiting the front, includingMomir Bulatovic and Milo Djukanovic, then president and prime minister ofMontenegro respectively, who brought lambs for the Montenegrin troops inZvekovica.

Marinovic's statement will be used by prosecutors to show that the siege,which was condemned around the world, could not have been done withoutbeing planned at the highest level.

His testimony will also be used to convince judges there was no militaryjustification for the three-month siege.

His statement could be added to those of other witnesses, who havetestified that Milosevic had effective control over the joint Yugoslavpresidency at the time of the Dubrovnik campaign ? the presidency whichwas the supreme authority in control of the army who's shells battered thecity.

Cross-examination of Marinovic was delayed by Milosevic's second week ofillness.

Judith Armatta reports for the Coalition for International Justice.

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