On 7 December 2012 the New York Times’ (NYT) Opinion section published an article by David Harland titled “ Selective Justice for the Balkans” in which Harland wants the public to think that the Serb victims of the 1990’s war in the former Yugoslavia are unfairly treated, ignored by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the Hague because the ICTY prefers the “friends of the West”. This is the same David Harland who was behind the myth that “ it was unclear who fired the shells” at Sarajevo Markale 2 market on 28 August 1995 which resulted in a massacre of civilians.
There was no doubt that Serbs fired the shells but Harland thought it best not to point the finger at Serbs in order to avoid Serbs being alerted to a possible NATO Strike (!).
(The first Markale Massacre occurred on February 5 1994 when 68 people were killed and 144 wounded in Sarajevo. The second Markale Massacre occurred on August 28, 1995 when a mortar shell killed 37 and wounded 90 people.)
In his “Selective Justice for the Balkans” Harland is at it again!
Creating and/or peddling another myth to protect the Serbs who waged a horrid aggression in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
He says: “Altogether, almost all of the West’s friends have been acquitted; almost all of the Serbs have been found guilty. These results do not reflect the balance of crimes committed on the ground”.
If anyone is selective it is David Harland. That is what his article in New York Times represents.
Friedrich Nietzsche once said: “Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torment of man”. The Italian proverb “live in hope and die in despair” would lead us to believe that while we happily may live in hope that things will change for the better, unless we actively contribute to realising our hopes, we may die in despair, indeed.
For just over one week I have lived in hope that New York Times would publish my response to David Harland’s article. This was not to be and there was no way I was going to die in despair – tormented by Harland’s crafty bias that purports to create or feed the insidious myth of persecution of Serbs. So I’m publishing here my reaction sent to NYT.
The write-up by David Harland, entitled “Selective Justice for the Balkans”, which resembles more a cheap Serb propaganda flyer than an article, published New York Times OP-ED on 7 December 2012 is truly disturbing especially as Mr Harland is the executive director of Center for Humanitarian Dialogue. A dialogue requires two sides and Mr Harland failed miserably in presenting many facts that are pertinent to his story.
He omits to point out who started the war in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. He says not a single word who, how and why destroyed Vukovar, ethnically cleansed it of non-Serb population and murdered hundreds of innocent people on Ovcara in 1991. He says not a word of mass murders of Croatians in Skabrnje in 1991 days after Vukovar massacres. He mentions not a word about who ethnically cleansed one third of Croatia and occupied it, he mentions not a single word of the fact that by end of 1993 there were 1 Million displaced and refugee Croatians and Muslims in Croatia – it is therefore not true that “more Serbs were ethnically cleansed than any other community” in that war. He says not a word about who killed civilians in Sarajevo Market from a nearby hill in August 1995. He says not a word about Srebrenica genocide in 1995. But he talks about living in “a town in Bosnia where the decapitated heads of captured Muslims were displayed in the marketplace” – he does not say which town nor who put the heads there, nor how he knows the decapitated heads were of Muslims. He talks of displaced Serbs from Croatia and that someone will have to answer for that. Perhaps Mr Harland should investigate records in Belgrade, where he may find that in 1995 Croatian Serbs were ordered to evacuate in 1995. Perhaps he may find that the reason why so many Serbs who fled Croatia then still remain displaced not because of what Croatian authorities have done or omitted to do, but because the very displaced persons are burdened by their own guilty conscience of the horror they put the Croatians and non-Serbs through before August 1995, when Operation Storm liberated the Serb occupied and ethnically cleansed Krajina.
Mr Harland says that, given the number of crimes committed during that war, by all sides, it’s not just that mainly Serbs have been convicted of war crimes. He goes as far as saying that “these results do not reflect the balance of crimes committed on the ground”. He omits to inform that crimes committed or suspected of having been committed by individuals have been and are still being processed in courts in Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. These though, are a different “breed” of war crimes than those that have reached the corridors of ICTY. Those that are processed by the ICTY fall into a category that is massive and that often took the form of the so-called joint criminal enterprise, genocide…
“Convicting only Serbs simply doesn’t make sense in terms of justice, in terms of reality, or in terms of politics”, says Mr Harland. Convictions in criminal courts only deal with justice and reality, or evidence. And the evidence so far assessed in ICTY has reflected the reality that was: Serb aggression – most brutal at that. It is only logical that there will be more Serbs than any other ethnic group represented in convictions dealing with that war.
“The Croatian leaders connived in the carve-up of Yugoslavia, and contributed mightily to the horrors on Bosnia and Herzegovina,” claims Mr Harland in his cheap pamphlet (as Croatian lawyer and journalist Zvonimir Hodak of www.dnevno.hr called Mr Harland’s article). Evidence and corroboration does not cross Harland’s mind!
Perhaps Mr Harland considers that the Croatian democratic referendum in 1991 to secede from Communist Yugoslavia was a conniving plan to carve up Yugoslavia?
Mr Harland seems to know a great deal (?). So, given that, does he know that the Serbian Republic entity within Bosnia and Herzegovina was created with crimes, on genocide and ethnic cleansing? One wonders why Mr Harland cares so little and so selectively about all the victims of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Croatia. One possible reason that springs to mind is that he wishes to perpetuate the preposterous idea that it was the Serbs who were persecuted. He feeds into the Serbs’ persecution complex so as to validate it! What other motive could explain his utterly outrageous assertion that Serbs were the ethnic group that was ethnically cleansed the most, in that conflict. Is it persecution when one is justly convicted of crimes one has committed? Not in my book, but in Mr Harland’s or Serbia’s book that seems to be the case.
Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps.(Syd)
New York Times did publish a Letter to the Editor regarding Harland’s article on 11 December 2012. The regretful thing is that Letters to the Editor can only be up to 150 words long and this is a miserable rule which in no way contributes to a healthy balance in journalism.
In “Selective Justice for the Balkans” David Harland claims that recent acquittals of Croatian and Kosovar defendants accused of war crimes against Serb civilians in front of the U.N. war crimes tribunal demonstrate bias in favor of West’s “friends.” But he misses the point of the tribunal, which is not to deliver justice for past wrongs equally for “all sides,” fostering reconciliation, but to carefully measure each case on its own merits. The case against Croatian generals rested on a technical reading of the legally allowed distance between legitimate targets and civilian objects; the case against Kosovar defendants collapsed due to poor witness protection and lack of clear evidence. We should judge the work of the tribunal by its legal expertise, not by the political outcomes we desire.
Jelena Subotic, Atlanta
The author is assistant professor of political science at Georgia State University and author of “Hijacked Justice: Dealing with the Past in the Balkans.”