(Reuters) 26 June 2012 – “Serbia’s special war crimes court on Tuesday sentenced 14 former Yugoslav Army soldiers and paramilitaries to a total of 128 years in jail for the 1991 killings of 70 Croat civilians, some of whom were ordered to walk through a minefield.
In a ruling Belgrade hopes will boost its chances of joining the European Union, the court said it had been proven beyond doubt that the defendants were guilty of the killings, and of mistreating and torturing the civilian population.
In October 1991, the Serb-controlled Yugoslav People’s Army, allied with paramilitaries and local Serbs, swooped on the village of Lovas in eastern Croatia, immediately killing 22 ethnic Croats in their homes, the court said.
‘They also killed another 23 people in improvised prisons … and forced civilians to walk through a mine field, which resulted in the deaths of 22 people,’ it added. ‘Another three people were killed in isolated incidents.’
‘With this (ruling) we have sent a reconciliatory message to all the war crimes victims throughout former Yugoslavia,’ Bruno Vekaric, the assistant war crime prosecutor, told reporters in Belgrade…”
Yes indeed, it seems that Serbia wants to think it’s sending messages of reconciliation by convicting several persons of individual war crimes. But, the truth is that it is Serbia’s responsibility to process and convict individual crimes and war crimes as such is the case with any country. This has little to do with needed level reconciliation – it’s just criminal law in action that must be applied.
A true message of meaningful reconciliation would be if Serbia owned up to its criminal regime of 1990’s and produced to the international criminal tribunal in the Hague (ICTY) all the evidence it holds on genocide and ethnic cleansing in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. It would do well not to expect to be subpoenaed by the ICTY to produce documents but to simply produce them and in that way bring peace to the whole region. It would do well to come to terms with its brutally aggressive past of 1990′s.
It’s most difficult to accept the idea that Serbia is, by convicting several war criminals, sending a heartfelt message of reconciliation, when in fact all it’s doing is feeding the world crumbs in order to advance from EU candidate to EU accession negotiations.
Greater Serbia ambitions are still much alive in Serbia and that is as evident today as it was in 1990’s.
The nationalist Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) won the May 6 vote and on May 20 their leader, Tomislav Nikolic, won a presidential run-off, but they have been unable to form a government until yesterday’s announcement.
Although Nikolic, the nationalist leader, says he is in favor of Serbia joining the EU, he once openly professed to want to build a “Greater Serbia” – a dream that inspired much of the carnage in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s in which more than 125,000 people died.
And let’s not forget, he recently said Croatians need not return to Vukovar because Vukovar was Serb city and that genocide did not occur in Srebrenica (Bosnia and Herzegovina).
And now Serbia will have a new Prime minister – Ivica Dacic, also known in the region as “Little Slobo” (Little Slobodan Milosevic). He comes from the Socialist party previously led by the late Slobodan Milosevic – the inventor of ethnic cleansing and subscriber to genocide, all in the aim of spreading Greater Serbia wings on neighbouring countries’ territory.
According to Tomislav Karamarko, president of Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ, leader of the Opposition in Croatia “Serbia must reform itself. I’ve talked about Tomislav Nikolic several times. If that is Serbia’s European path, which it seems is slowly turning to Greater Serbian fascism, then that is not good. We follow what’s happening over there and will need to have adequate responses.”
Adequate responses to Serbia’s histrionics, misrepresentations and cover-ups of the truth in the Balkan War aggression and motives need not only come from Croatia’s opposition, the government and the president must speak up too. There’s still a great deal that Croatian authorities must do to enlighten the world about the truth of 1990’s and Serbia’s direct role in the atrocities that forced Croatians and Bosnians (Muslims) to defend their bare life from brutal aggression and ethnic cleansing. Serbia must come clean as a nation and stop throwing small blinding crumbs into the world’s eyes. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps.(Zgb)