Back to Archive Hope on the Balkans   Kosov@ Crisis 2000
Back to Kosov@ Crisis
Threats from the Supreme Headquarters
Military leadership loses orientation

by Roksanda Nincic

For the first time "the highest professional and military rank office for preparing and using the army during times of war and peace" announced that politicians - that is to say civilians - "are threatening the security of the country"

The Supreme Headquarters of the Yugoslav Army began making threats to the leaders of the opposition. "Leaders of certain parties" have been accused in an announcement issued by the Supreme Headquarters on May 4 of "insulting the personality of the President of the FRY which culminates in threats of brutal physical liquidation." And not only that: according to the Supreme Headquarters ,such "insults, attacks and threats compromise the security of the country." That is why in their announcement it is observed that the "unquestionable obligation" of state institutions is to take action stipulated by the law against all those who make such threats.

What are the possible consequences of such a stance by the Supreme Headquarters, an institution which is defined in the Law on the Yugoslav Army as "the highest professional and military rank office for preparing and using the army during times of war and peace"?

First of all, the FRY President is, as experts put it, "the object of protection" in the Criminal Code of Yugoslavia. He is protected by the definition of a criminal act in Article 122 of the Criminal Code of Yugoslavia (killing of the president of the highest institution), Article 123 (violence against the representative of the highest state body), while his reputation and honor are protected by Article 157 (injury of the reputation of the FRY).

The Criminal Code of Serbia also stipulates that murder threats are subject to criminal prosecution, although such measures are no greater where the president is concerned than in the case of any other citizen. Article 67 of the Code says that "whoever threatens the security of any person with threats to the life of that person or to the body of that person or a person near to him" will be criminally prosecuted, or will be put in prison for the period of six months. Such cases are conducted charges made by private citizens, except in cases where such threats lead to "civil unrest" or "serious consequences", and then they are subject to charges leading to a sentence anywhere from three months to five years in prison. In each case such threats must be real in order for the courts to take action. That is to say, whoever was threatened must have taken that threat seriously - which leads to the conclusion that the FRY President got scared of, let us say, Nenad Canak.

The formulation about "undermining the defense and threatening the security of the country" doe not appear as such anywhere in the law, but the Criminal Code of Yugoslavia mentions, for instance, "the undermining of military and defense power" (Article 121). However, the context for this is the following: "Whoever destroys, renders unusable or makes it possible for defense facilities to be handed over to the enemy, including defense buildings, maps, arsenals or other military and defense facilities, or hands over troupes to the enemy, or disrupts or endangers military and defense activities in some other way" will be imprisoned for a minimum of three years.

It is clear that "the leaders of certain political parties" have done nothing of the sort, or are not doing anything of the sort, nor could ever possibly do anything of the sort. Furthermore, it would probably be difficult for the Supreme Headquarters to prove - even if it were authorized to do so - that "threats" against the FRY President could undermine the military and defense capabilities of the country. There is simply no cause and effect relationship between these things. Finally, these law decrees refer to war or the state of war, given that there is reference to the enemy, that is to say the handing over of this or that to the enemy.

"From such formulations it would seem that the Supreme Headquarters is treating all those who think differently as an armed enemy formation which should be attacked, and not as a part of the civilian population. Namely, politicians represent the civilian population - they are part of it. The job of the army is to protect the population," states lawyer Nikola Barovic, adding that this fits in with the government's attitude of being at war with everyone. "The Supreme Headquarters have taken the stance of an army in a colony, where the colony is in a state of rebellion. They behave as if they had come in from somewhere, like an interventionist army from a foreign state which is behaving against the interests of the entire population, like the Soviet Army during the occupation of Hungary in 1956, or of Czechoslovakia in 1968. The degree of disorientation with regard to who they are and where they are is frightening, given that they represent an armed force," Barovic assesses.

Finally, it is not part of the job description of the Supreme Headquarters to call upon state officials to undertake any kind of action. The fact that they did so in their recent announcement further indicates that they perceive themselves as a political subject. However, this does not obligate the justice system to take any action.

Still, it is difficult to assess whether the announcement by the Supreme Headquarters will result in any concrete consequences. Namely, this is the first time that they are making direct threats against politicians, with no prior experience to indicate what could result from this. Even when the SFRY disintegrated and when there was much speculation regarding the institution of martial law, this did not occur: at that time the Supreme Headquarters issued threats to "separatists" and not to politicians. On the contrary, they constantly kept calling upon politicians to agree and kept saying that they will respect their decision.

Source: Vreme news

Back to Archive | Back to Kosov@ Crisis