Judith Armatta

Excerpt from the Book

B-129 was a courageous woman who testified against her former president. The following is my report of her testimony. Following that is her story of what happened to her after she testified. I sincerely hope other witnesses were not treated so poorly.

"Those young men died for no reason. . . ."

[Excerpted from Chapter 9: War Comes to Bosnia, pp 230-233]

B-129 was a secretary in the headquarters of Arkan whose Tigers were involved in some of the most brutal operations of the wars in Bosnia and Croatia. She saw and spoke with Arkan on a regular basis from 1993 until the Tigers were 'disbanded.'

The witness testified to Arkan's connection to the Serbian MUP: "Arkan would always say that without orders from the SDB [Serbian State Security] the Tigers were not deployed anywhere." She described a chain of command from Arkan Bosnia: Road to the Coast to Franko Simatovic and on up to Jovica Stanisic, head of the SDB and Milošević's right hand man. During operations, and they were frequent, Arkan’s men joined SDB units and took orders from SDB commanders. Referring to conversations with Arkan’s personal secretary with whom she shared an office, the witness testified, "She always said Frenki was in charge of the unit for Special Operations and he could decide about certain things but without the approval of Stanisic he could not make a decision." While she stopped short of identifying a direct link to Milošević, it challenges credulity to believe an autocratic ruler did not know what his secret police were doing. Moreover, police expert Dr. Budimir Babovic concluded Milošević maintained direct contact with the heads of State Security and Public Security, bypassing the Interior Minister, well before he signed a secret decree in 1997 making the link official.i

Intertwined Relationships, Regular Contacts

In unequivocal language, the former secretary described an intertwined relationship between Arkan and the SDB that included regular telephone and radio contact, as well as exchange of soldiers. She identified the voices of Arkan and Milorad Ulemek "Legija" on an intercepted telephone conversation, where they refer to the "Stinkers," concerning a joint operation in which they were involved. "Stinkers" was a code name for the SDB. All operations occurred in Croatia and Bosnia. B-129 described many in detail, including names of SDB officers who led them, where and when they occurred and the number of SDB and Tigers killed or wounded. She testified about the financial and material support the SDB gave the Tigers, describing how, during one operation in Banja Luka, Arkan handed her three to four million German marks to pay the salaries of his men. The money, he said, came from the SDB. B-129's extensive testimony was corroborated by the contemporaneous diary she kept.

Serbia's secret police were not the only ones supporting the Tigers. According to B-129, the VJ did so as well. "The Guards were often told to contact him [General Dusko Loncar, in charge of the VJ in Eastern Slavonia in 1995] because he supplied us with weapons, fuel and part of the money from the VJ." ii Following the secretary to the stand, a former member of a Yugoslav army unit popularly known as "the Scorpions" testified he flew missions into Bosnia to assist operations being conducted there under Frenki's command.iii For all intents and purposes, the witness said, Simatovic was in charge of VJ personnel as well as Serbian police and paramilitary forces operating in East-Central Bosnia.

Yet another source of money was Arkan’s smuggling operation. When the prosecutor asked her if "trafficking in alcohol and tobacco was Arkan’s business in reality," she agreed.

You Remember Things Your Entire Life

Despite Milošević's best efforts over several hours, he failed to sway witness B-129 from the core of her testimony: the Serbian State Security Service directed the combat operations of Arkan's Tigers in Bosnia and Croatia. One tactic he used to try to discredit the one-time secretary was to suggest someone must have helped prepare her testimony because it was not logical a person in her position could have remembered details from so long ago. His arrogance backfired, giving her the opportunity to add to her direct testimony and explain why she came forward: "I have to tell you that you over there, had you worked over there, you would have remembered things your entire life, because to bury 12 young men who were fighting for the Serbian people is a very difficult thing, and that is why I wanted to say what I know, because it would appear that the war boiled down to smuggling and that those young men had died for no reason whatsoever."

If her motives were not crystal clear from this exchange, Milošević gave her another opportunity when he challenged her claim that 5,000 Krajina Serbs who fled the Croatian army onslaught of 1995 were arrested in Serbia in September/October 1995. It was merely a mobilization of RSK members, he said. But witness B-129 would not go along with his distortion: "[T]hat was not the army of the Republic of Serbian Krajina. Those were refugees . . . who had fled to Serbia in August, after the Operation Storm of 1995." In Serbia, the refugees were sought everywhere, "in coffee bars, in the streets," she explained. They were arrested and imprisoned in Sremska Mitrovica, then sent to Arkan's training camp in Erdut to prepare for fighting on the front lines, as army intelligence agent Slobodan Lazarevic and a Chetnik paramilitary (C-47) also testified. Milošević countered the RSK considered them deserters, who were mobilized to fulfill their military duty. To this cynical statement, the witness responded, "I personally do not consider them deserters because, after the Operation Storm in August 1995, those people lost everything. And if you had seen them at the camp in Erdut, you would share my opinion."

It was this kind of cynicism and disregard for ordinary people that motivated an ordinary secretary to confront the power behind the machinations that caused so much suffering. During her years in Arkan's office, she heard and saw horrible things. From wounded Tigers, no longer fit for combat, she learned of the brutal torture and murder of Muslim prisoners. She testified how one form of torture left an indelible imprint in her memory - the anal rape of a Muslim prisoner with a bottle.

Isolation and Ethnic CleansingSarajevo Bomb Ruins

In addition to the stories she heard of Tiger and SDB military operations in 1991 and 1992, she provided crucial testimony about an operation in which they engaged in 1995. In the critical month of July, 60 to 70 Tigers joined the SDB at Treskavica in Bosnia, under the command of Vaso Mijovic (SDB), to cut the Muslim communication lines with Sarajevo. It left the Bosnian capital cut off from the rest of Bosnia, including the safe areas, Srebrenica among them. It aided Mladic and his forces in not only taking the enclave, but ethnically cleansing and massacring thousands of Muslims without interference. It was like shutting the door to a death chamber. From Jugoslav Simic, one of the Tigers who took part, she learned SDB members tortured most Muslims they captured, then killed them. During the defense case, Nice produced a series of orders and a videotape that made the prosecution’s contention of Serbian involvement in Srebrenica nearly unassailable.

Milošević attempted to capitalize on the distinction she made between looting and smuggling, insinuating the prosecution's investigators tried to get her to say Arkan tolerated looting by his troops. "So I think that you owe this to your dead commander so that his name shouldn't be slandered and that things should not be attributed to him that he didn't do." The witness appeared to have less regard for her "dead commander" than Milošević anticipated as she promptly snapped, "I don't owe him anything."

It is ironic that in the trial of a man who reportedly did everything for power, the testimony of an ordinary secretary provided a key piece of evidence that might have convicted a dictator had the trial been completed. Together with the RS Assembly transcripts, Milošević's admission to the Belgrade police and what Deronjic had to say, the secretary's testimony left Milošević's carefully constructed defense that he had nothing to do with the war in Bosnia in tatters.


i Babovic Expert Report, par. 79-84.

ii Funds also came from Fikret Abdic, who led a maverick Bosnian Muslim force in support of the Serbs and against Bosnian Government forces in the Bihac area. He paid Arkan's Tigers 1500 German Marks per month each to fight for him.

iii The former Scorpion was designated B-104 at trial.

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