AN EXPERT'S OVERVIEW The Yugoslav Peoples Army


The judges of the War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague called on Professor Paul Garde to give an historic overview of the Balkans region and Garde then fielded questions from the judges. Garde's testimony was given June 27-28, 1996. He is a professor of Slav literature and languages and has written many lingustics books. Since 1991 Garde's research and writing have focused on the break-up of Yugoslavia.

Q: Could you briefly give us some clarification about the JNA (Yugoslav Peoples Army)?

A. The army was basically the only federal institution that survived (the collapse of Yugoslavia.) Gradually, at the time when authority was given to the Republics and when the federal Presidency disappeared, all that was left was one single federation institution, i.e. the army. The army has several characteristics. On the one hand, the Serbs for historical reasons, had always occupied dominating positions. I think there were about 60 per cent of Serb officers while the Serbs only represented 36 per cent of the population in Yugoslavia. If you include the Montenegrins, it increases the proportion.

So the Serbs had the dominating positions or posts in the army, and then the army was a federal institution, but lived on the communist regimes since in any communist regime the military were privileged. So the army as a whole, wanted to maintain the federation and, as far as most of the officers are concerned, they wanted to maintain the federation which was directly connected with defending the Serb people.

You have General Kadijevic who was the Commander-in-Chief of the army during the crucial times all the way until January '92 who wrote that, as far as he was concerned, both objectives were merging into one single objective, i.e. defending the federal institutions and defending the Serbs or defending the rights of the Serbs against all the other peoples.

So, when the federal authority disappeared, and it disappeared when the federal Presidency no longer operated on 15th May '91, you find yourself in front of this rather strange position where you have an army without any Commander, an army that becomes fairly autonomous.

Thanks to the European mediation in July '91, Europe managed to impose the elections of Mesic who is a Croat as a President of the federation. So, theoretically, he was the Commander-in-Chief of the army, but the army never obeyed him. Mesic, although theoretically the Commander-in-Chief of the army was considered by that army as its No. 1 enemy. So the army did not have any Commander-in-Chief, no superior authority. So the army behaved as an autonomous body and that autonomous body sided with the Serbs and acted in close co-operation with the Serb authorities, that of Milosevic.

At that time a Party was created for Yugoslavia, a Party whose leadership was by Milosevic's wife, Mrs. Markovic, and a few of the commanders of the army. So you see that from that time on the army operates in full autonomy, but in close co-operation with the Serb authority.

 


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