Clark testimony against Milosevic will be private
December 14, 2003
When retired Gen. Wesley Clark testifies against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on Monday and Tuesday in the Netherlands, he’ll do so in private. And the U.S. government will censor any transcripts before they make it out of The Hague.
At the request of the State Department, reporters will be barred, and the usual live video feed will be switched off. Streaming Internet coverage, too, will dry up.
This has all proved controversial, as the former commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Europe and current Democratic presidential hopeful, has already written a memoir on the Balkans. And other notables — including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright — testified without such measures.
But the United States maintains that the temporary blackout is necessary to protect its security.
“Basically, we’re all for his testifying,” said Julie Moyes, spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in the Netherlands. “But they’ve come up with a procedure to protect against inadvertent disclosure of sensitive U.S. government information.”
According to a State Department release, the “vast bulk” of Clark’s testimony will be available to the public after a U.S. review of the transcript. The United States approved Clark’s testimony two years ago, and has since been in discussion with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on how to go about it.
On Thursday, the tribunal announced that footage will be shown Friday after American officials have had a chance to screen it. Journalists will be allowed to record the edited testimony.
According to the tribunal’s rules, a nation can seek protective measures when one of its citizens testifies.
“It’s in the rules,” said Ljiljana Pitesa of the tribunal prosecutor’s office in The Hague.
Still, the stealth treatment of the retired general’s appearance has riled some Clark fans and international justice officials. Columnists have accused the Bush administration of trying to bury Clark’s testimony to deny the presidential hopeful a media moment. Critics associated with the tribunal worry about transparency.
“Milosevic will make huge hay of this,” said Nina Bang-Jensen, executive director of the Coalition for International Justice, the advocacy group assisting the tribunal. She feared Milosevic would play upon public suspicions that a great amount of testimony was withheld.
Though she dismissed the notion of a Bush gag order on a political rival, she questioned the necessity of closed testimony for Clark.
“I’m not sure why a different procedure was necessary for him,” Bang-Jensen said from Washington, D.C. “The decision was not a decision of General Clark, but was a decision of the State Department and others. But he’ll be there, and we’re sure he’ll be an excellent witness.”
Clark was the chief military negotiator during the Dayton peace talks, which ended the civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He later commanded allied forces in their fight to stop Milosevic’s crackdown on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
“He’s someone who paid a lot of attention to details,” Bang-Jensen said of Clark. “It was [Richard] Holbrooke that negotiated the cease-fire, but it was Clark who had to go over the details. He’s dealt with Milosevic. He won’t be surprised by his tactics, and he’ll be able to hold his own.”
Milosevic has a reputation for trying to intimidate witnesses.
For his part, this week’s star witness has been mum on the State Department move.
“The campaign has nothing to do with it, so we’re not going to comment on it,” said a spokesman for Clark for President in Little Rock, Ark.
“It’s apolitical. It has nothing to do with the campaign.”