Croatian Cultural Council, on its Croatian Weekly portal has published an article written by dr Slobodan Lang in relation to the Croatia Vs Serbia genocide lawsuit and case currently being heard in the International Court of Justice at The Hague.
I have translated that article into English and bring it to you with the hope that it will increase your understanding of and knowledge about what Croatia had to endure during the Serb aggression of 1990’s. This is important for the whole of the humanity, for the world simply needs to cease saying “Never again (genocide)” while real threats of new genocide loom before us – it must punish the states whose policy was to employ genocide in order to take over territory of another sovereign state. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb) B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)
By dr Slobodan Lang,
Hrvatski Tjednik (Croatian Weekly), 10 March 2014
In its defence from Serb aggression Croatia has achieved a greater success in the prevention of genocide than anyone else in history. Genocide is the gravest of crimes among people. Its intentions are to kill, or at least deport a certain population from a territory in which it has jointly lived be it through aggression or conquest. The Convention on the prevention and punishment of genocide was passed in the night before the Universal Declaration of Human rights was adopted.
However, that was after the Holocaust had already happened. The entire humanitarian activity in WWII was weak and the new rules for the future were brought about on the basis of the experience of failure rather than success. The problem of genocide was avoided for many years, usually with the words “Never again”. It was the 1990’s wars of Serb aggression that prompted the world to confront itself with crimes against humanity and genocide. Again because of punishment, and not prevention.
The world has not solved the question of genocide: intent, prevention, stopping, judgment and punishment. The truth about genocide is the question and responsibility of the world. It is necessary to punish that which is done, but the most important thing is to contribute to the prevention of future genocide, anywhere in the world, using the new knowledge and experiences. For this reason, the primary task of the trial of Croatia’s lawsuit against Serbia for genocide, which commenced at the beginning of March, is to contribute to a better future world, and not just convict the evil that has already occurred.
It is difficult for me to write this text, but I must and I want to pass onto you the ideas and the experiences I carry with me. In order to achieve something one needs to have ideas, one needs to mobilise a group to join in and, to personal danger or risk, one needs to organize and implement an action, for which one hopes will be accepted by the people, and the desired results will be achieved.
Only through such jointly utilised ideas, actions, courage, influence and change in the way of life results are achieved in any sphere: humanitarian, economic, political … and so too in the sphere of prevention of genocide.
It’s difficult for me to write because I carry the painful inheritance of the Holocaust in my own family.
I have turned it into the post-holocaust with the aim to turn the Jewish suffering from hatred, persecution, camps, theft, ignorance and killing into the future strengthening of the prevention from such crimes for any nations. It’s difficult because I do not feel the awareness of the whole depth and the whole suffering of the people in today’s leadership of Croatia. I do not know that they had participated as war veterans, or even in the civilian actions in the defence of Croatia.
I listen to them as they attempt to explain the suffering, genocide, and so the Holocaust at well, as the suffering of some other people from the past who don’t concern us and for whom too much money or emotion shouldn’t be spent. I do not feel the presence of a soul in the Croatian leadership.
Likewise, I think that today’s Serbia and Serbs have not at all confronted themselves with their responsibility and are attempting to escape into a concept of equal guilt, into the forgetfulness of the past and into the well known phrase “who, on earth, pushed us into a feud” (‘tko nas, bre, zavadi‘). I feel an inadequate wish and will from the Serbian leadership, intelligence, Church, and consequently in their people to stop being a nation of hate and inequality and to start being a nation of tolerance and good. Such conditions make it most difficult for the International community and court to come to the truth and bring about a just ruling.
Nevertheless, the truth that in its defense from Serbia’s aggression, Yugoslav People’s Army and the rebel Serbs, Croatia had successfully prevented, stopped and warned about the danger of genocide, is very important. Croatia is responsible towards the whole world and towards its own people, its future and towards all the suffering victims as well as all war veterans to demonstrate and show to the ICJ court in The Hague why and how it defended itself and why and how it prevented the crimes of genocide while defending itself from the aggression that had as its aim the conquering of parts of Croatia by use of excessive military destructive force and by causing the Croats to flee their homes (in order to save their bare lives) through perpetration of the worst imaginable crimes (murder, rape, torture, incarceration in concentration camps).
This is the first time that a world court considers a lawsuit of one state accusing another for having perpetrated an aggression with the aim of taking away the conquered territory through the perpetration of crimes against the nationally undesirable population, using hatred, destruction, ethnic persecution – in short, genocide. The International court in The Hague had in the genocide case of Bosnia and Herzegovina Vs Serbia avoided to deliver a clear decision on guilt in its judgment, but it had in an unambiguous manner condemned Serbia for not preventing the genocide in Srebrenica.
Sparked by this decision, I wrote an open letter (3 November 2012) to the president of Serbia asking him to seek the release of Croatian Generals Gotovina and Markac from the Hague, to state how the Operation Storm prevented genocide in Bihac and, as a state condemned for not having prevented genocide to call for a world summit on the prevention of genocide. But he did not reply to my letter. Does he understand at all that my letter was an offering of the hand of the future to him, to Serbia and to Serbs?
In the modern times, the idea of hatred, inequality and violence was set in motion in 1986 by only 15 SANU Academics (Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts). They wrote the following in their Memorandum: “The achievement of equality and independent development for the Serbian people have a deeper historical sense. For less than fifty years, in two consecutive generations, twice exposed to physical destruction, forced assimilation, religion change, cultural genocide, ideological indoctrination, devaluation and denial of own tradition under the imposed complex of guilt, intellectually and politically disarmed, the Serbian people have been exposed to most difficult of temptations, which have surely left traces in the spiritual state, which, at the end of this century of great technological advances in human intellect, should not be ignored. If the Serbian people count on its future in the family of cultured and civilised people of the world they must receive the opportunity to once again find themselves and become a historical subject, to renew their conscience of their historical and spiritual being ...”
Slobodan Milosevic became their entrepreneur. He firstly maimed Serbia and the Serbian people by turning them into a nation of hate. Just as Hitler did against the Jews, he started with initiating hatred and actions against Albanians within Serbia. After that he went forth with the aggression and rebellion in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The attacks always followed the same pattern: excessive military artillery shelling against all buildings regardless of what they were, which resulted in enormous destruction and numerous civil casualties.
Many survivors fled and found shelter in the surrounding areas. After conquering the areas, armed soldiers, volunteers from Serbia and the local Serbs looted, burned the houses, chased people away, killed and raped. Therefore, cleansing had been implemented. Unlike this pattern, Croatia’s defence had from its first day emphasised antifascism and rejected crimes and hatred.
The Serb aggression was based upon the attitude that hatred and genocide are worthwhile, that they are the path to the realisation of Greater Serbia. The people were to follow and accept such a leader and leadership. The Croatian defence leaned upon the good and upon tolerance as the path toward realising the freedom of Croatia and Croats. The people decided for responsibility of freedom at the referendum. The whole nation had linked itself into one so that it could defend the Homeland and the homes.
The civilian initiatives (Wall of Love, Convoy Libertas, emigrants …) were in 1991 the greatest force in the Croatian defence. The mere defence of Vukovar was, in fact, an attempt to prevent that which was to happen after the conquest: killing of patients, rape of women, torture, looting, taking to the concentration camps, persecution, only because they are Croats. There were more and more veterans every day. And so it was all until the victorious Operation Storm with which the Croatian army had prevented genocide in Bihac, in August of 1995.
I do not know how Croatia will present itself at the court in The Hague, I do not know how the politicians will trade among themselves either in secret or publicly nor do I know what the final court verdict will be. But I do know that the Serbian aggression was made up of the plan to conquer by employing hatred and crimes all the way to the full genocide. I know that the Croatian defence, despite all the sufferings, had prevented this in Croatia. The Homeland war, therefore, contains more experience in the prevention of genocide than any other war in the world. Judge Theodor Meron, with his origins, his experience and knowledge had recognised this, made a judgment and freed Gotovina and Markac.
How much of this do the Croatian political leadership and defence understand? When you read this you will know one more thing that is of worldly importance: how our Croatia was created and defended. Be justifiably proud of the past, but it needs to be passed onto the future of the world as well as into the success of today’s Croatia.
About dr. Slobodan Lang. Born to Jewish family 8 October 1945 in Zagreb, Croatia. Physician, author, writer, politician and former personal adviser to the first Croatian President dr. Franjo Tudjman. His paternal grandfather Ignjat was the president of the Jewish community in Vinkovci (Croatia) and his grandmother Terezija was a housewife. In 1941 Catholic priest Hijacint Bošković, distinguished Dubrovnik and Croatian Dominican, was engaged in an extraordinary attempt to rescue the Langs from Nazi persecution. Bošković traveled from Dubrovnik to Vinkovci with a special permit that allowed him to relocate the Langs to Dubrovnik. Langs grandfather refused to leave, saying that he “was the president of Jews in peace and he will stay one in the war”. Both of his grandparents were killed in the concentration camp during the Holocaust. He graduated at the University of Zagreb School of Medicine and is a specialist in social medicine. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slobodan_Lang)