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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    TUE, 16 JUN 1998 19:10:13 GMT

    The Fifth Victim in the "Process Against the Foursome"

    Ten years after the "process against the foursome" in Ljubljana the former culprits have been proclaimed innocent and one of the participants in their trial - was without a trial was stripped for life of all his civil and social rights.

    AIM Ljubljana, June 10, 1998

    Last week in Ljubljana an unusual celebration was organized marking the tenth anniversary of the arrest of Janez Jansa and three of his colleagues - ensign Ivan Borstner, the "Mladina" journalist David Tasic and Franc Zavrl, the "Mladina" Editor-in-Chief. The mentioned arrest was remembered under the name "process against the foursome" or "J.B.T.Z." after the initials of surnames of the main protagonists. Let us remind ourselves - in spring 1988 in Ljubljana three civilians and one YPA officer were charged before the Military Court which provoked large-scale demonstrations in Slovenia and caused inter-ethnic tensions and the final denouement of the Yugoslav crisis.

    Some ten years later the situation has drastically changed - there is no more YPA (Yugoslav People's Army) and Yugoslavia of those times, the Supreme Court of Slovenia has pardoned all the four convicted after Slovenia had won its independence and the entire process was remembered as the beginning of the Slovenian spring and demands for its autonomy... Therefore, in early June in Ljubljana, on the tenth anniversary of these events an exhibition of photographs from that time was opened, "Mladina" organized a party under the title "Ten Years of Resistance" and "We Had Had Enough" and the TV broadcast a talk show in which two former friends and today's irreconcilable enemies appeared together (after a long time) - Igor Bavcar and Janez Jansa.

    At the celebration of previous anniversaries major differences between individual protagonists of this process came to the surface. For example, Jansa marginalized the role of his once-like-minded colleagues and friends Igor Bavcar, Spomenka Hribar and many others who had fought for his liberation. At the same time, he promoted as "veterans" some new men who were at that time unknown and politically inactive - a rightist Sasa Lap (one of those who faked as a "hunger-striker" after Jansa was dismissed as Minister of the Defence), some loyal journalists and several other of his current followers..

    Seeking Revenge

    That was, however, not enough. Filled with enthusiasm he called a press conference and on the basis of documents he brought with him (but never showed) he presented to the public a list with some forty names of people from some secret "Organization" who had allegedly planned the process against the foursome and him personally. The list included all kinds of names, a true mishmash. It consisted of individuals of different profiles, from the then President of the Central Committee of the League of Communist of Slovenia, Milan Kucan, lower clerks in criminal services (who took fingerprints of the accused) to the secretaries in the Department of the Interior who typed documents. Equally interesting was the information that, again on account of political needs of the retoucher, the list did not mention the one-time Security Service officers who had transferred to the VOMO (Slovenian Military Secret Police) on time and pledged their allegiance to Janez Jansa.

    At the time when in that distant 1988 the Federal Army brought before a military court these civilians and tried them in another language, for the majority of Slovenians the central part of this process was not the separation of the military sphere from the civil one or a desire for the process to be conducted in the Slovenian language, but a logical conclusion of all such requests - a demand for independence. The disputable conduct of the then Slovenian State Security Service and of military judiciary (search of flats without a court warrant, denial of permission to engage a civil defence attorney, etc.) have certainly deserved all the criticism and created an urge to to change something.

    However, in the name of the defence of that ultimate aim, homogenized media never published the other side of the story, i.e. that the trial was, in principle, conducted according to the laws of that time and that the controversial military document was removed without authorization. The thoroughly investigated way the document passed from the barracks, from which ensign Borstner "borrowed" it, to the editorial offices of "Mladina" and Tasic, Zavrl and Jansa was also disregarded. But, despite all the efforts, the truth did not remain enclosed within schematic interpretations of the then confronted sides. It was true that a highly confidential military document No.5044-3 did envisage a controversial use of the army in breaking up possible demonstrations and that Jansa and his colleagues, who kept the mentioned document in their desk drawer, did not alert the public to its contents (for which they were charged), but it was also true that according to the letter of the law of that time (aside from numerous procedural errors) because of the theft of the mentioned document the army had all the right to act as it did. Instead of searching for the truth, a whole theory of conspiracy was constructed around this case which today only its greatest victim - Janez Jansa - continues to promote it with persistence and conviction.

    Meatballs and Ice-Cream

    It is therefore not surprising that testimonies of individual retired officers who had conducted the entire action on behalf of the YPA back in 1988, differ from Jansa's version. According to these testimonies, the document was not "planted" on Borstner (as he claimed in his defence), but he stole it on his own initiative. The KOS (Counterintelligence Service) grew suspicious of the sticky-fingered I.B. only after it had carefully analysed some 100 suspects who were in a position to take it. Despite the legendary meatballs (statement of the KOS Chief at that time in connection with the claims of the Slovenian media that Jansa was on a hunger strike), allegedly even the life in prison was quite different from what Jansa recalled in his memoiristic "Moves Ahead". For example, Jansa liked to drink coffee or tea (as he wished) with his investigators in pre-trial detention and have long and exhaustive discussions on military doctrine, computers and political problems. He used to eat ice-cream and cherries and allegedly, in the end all of them confessed to the way they got hold of the controversial document (which was the key issue in the process) Janez Jansa, Borstner, Zavrl and Tasic included.

    The well-versed say that David Tasic was the last to confess because he was convinced that in case of betrayal (i.e. if someone else confessed how it really happened) he would be most suspicious because of his Serbian origins, so that he stuck to his story like a leech.

    Later, the process against the "foursome" caused destructive consequences in the society only because of inter-ethnic tensions (which were visible already in the one-party system of former Yugoslavia) which is corroborated by the belated admissions of individual Slovenian lawyers that even today the military judiciary in democratic states of Europe and the USA is organized in different ways, although, in principle, rather similarly to the organization of military courts of the former YPA. For example, some European states recognize the jurisdiction of regular courts for military offences, while other states have special regular military courts for these purposes (such as was the case in the YPA).

    Similar is the situation with the right to attorney: while some states allow civilian attorneys in military courts, others allow the accused to select a defence attorney from among a restricted number of military attorneys or those appointed by the court (eg. in Denmark or USA). This notwithstanding, in late eighties artificially overblown and unfounded fear of the institute of military courts caused harmful consequences even to the present Slovenian army apparatus. That is why Slovenia has no extraordinary military courts as they are prohibited by the Constitution both in peace and war, nor it has special, regular military courts.

    The Constitution allows the establishment of military courts, as regular ones, in case of war, but until now no regulation more precisely regulating this matter has been adopted. Even the most recent changes introduced in the judicial system do not envisage laws which would regulate the work of military courts. Thus, because of the traumas caused by the "trials of the foursome" as well as never disclosed truths, the Slovenian Army in today's independent Slovenia has no system of military courts which exists in most armies of the world. This is not as harmless as it may seem which is best testified by the recently published critical statement of Milan Kucan, President of the state and the Supreme Commander of Slovenia, who called the situation in the Slovenian Army "barely satisfactory". Protests of individual Slovenian officers against the Slovenian Defence Minister Krapez support his assessment.

    Finally, another, until recently unknown consequence of the process against the group of four should be recalled. Until now the Slovenian public thought that ten years ago military courts implemented repression against the Slovenian citizens (admittedly, under a legal disguise), in which the moral integrity of the "civilian society" remained untainted. Today, we could say that it was not quite like that: with the change of the regime the main levers of power in Slovenia were taken over by none other than the leaders of the Human Rights Committee and victims of the mentioned process. After that there is only one step to "vendetta".


    Thus, for example, in 1995 the Ministry of the Interior of Slovenia rejected the application for citizenship of B.M., a retired high official of the military security services who had participated in the process against the "foursome" precisely for these reasons and despite the fact that there were no legal grounds for such rejection.

    "Together with some other people and in cooperation with his superiors from Belgrade he had planned and later carried out the process against the "foursome". The well known events from 1990 and 1991 were, among other things, a result of his actions against the Republic of Slovenia. The applicant knew that his application for the Slovenian citizenship would be rejected because had he been granted it he would have been a true threat to the security of the state", concluded Slavko Debelak, Undersecretary of the SUP of Slovenia, in the explanation of his decision. And all this was done on the basis of the opinion submitted by the Military Intelligence. Chief of the Defence Ministry at that time was Janez Jansa.

    Both the decision and its explanation are absurd because the mentioned B.M. was pensioned off already in 1990. No court has succeeded in proving anything given as a reason for the rejection of his application for citizenship. He was only guilty for acting according to the law. Equally absurd is the fact that the whole top political leadership of Slovenia was fully informed of the entire process, i.e. the arrest of the three out of the four accused and that they were handed over to the military authorities by the Slovenian policemen. Later on, not a hair on anybody's head was harmed. As many as three parliamentary commissions worked on this case from 1988 and discovered nothing dramatic to this very day for things to finally break against the head of one YPA intelligence officer whom the Defence Minister has chosen as the object of his small personal revenge. And not only that. The punishment imposed on B.M. is disproportionate to what the JBTZ foursome have experienced. They were convicted at some kind of trial and were defended by attorneys of sorts, though appointed by the court. They were convicted to time sentences which they "served" in open-type prisons. They were released after they served a minimum term, as envisaged by the law...

    In contrast to them, the intelligence officer B.M. was convicted without a trial and court and his citizenship has been permanently withdrawn from him. In other words, he was sentenced to the worst possible punishment which only totalitarian systems resort to. And not only that. In this way B.M. was actually sentenced (according to the law which is in procedure) to a lifelong loss of pension and other social rights (eg. health care, etc.) Despite all said, one of those most responsible for the fate of B.M. and people like him - Janez Jansa, saw it fit to criticize the Slovenian state for forgetting to adequately mark the tenth anniversary of this process during which the Slovenian people "became aware of human rights as an universal category for the first time". Unfortunately, some who were allegedly aware of "the universal value of human rights" already ten years ago couldn't care less for the current violation of the human rights of others.

    Igor Mekina

    (AIM Ljubljana)