Serb War Criminal Ratko Mladic Must Still Answer For Crimes Against Croats

Serb aggression – Skabrnja massacre victims in Croatia

After a very long legal battle in the Hague, Ratko Mladic, the Serb dubbed “butcher of Bosnia”, was finally and firmly pronounced guilty of genocide and imposed a life sentence by the UN Appeals judges during last week. It is a pity and a crying injustice for the international criminal justice that Ratko Mladic was neither charged nor tried in the Hague for the heinous crimes he committed in Croatia prior to moving to the Bosnian territory, which were just a brutal as those he committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

One wonders, therefore, in whose political or otherwise interest it is to deliver such piecemeal justice for victims of crimes committed by one and the same person!? Some might say, and many have said, that this case of Ratko Mladic and its verdict, despite the long time it took, remains an important warning to criminals, especially dictators, that, slowly but surely, they will be brought to answer for their crimes. Well, Mladic was not brought to answer for all the known crimes he committed, and the justice delivered in the Hague in his case is a selective justice – the one afforded to some and not to all victims.

On Tuesday 8 June 2021, the United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in The Hague Appeals Chamber, with the exception of Judge Prisca Nyambe, confirmed the 2017 Trial Chamber’s ruling, finding Mladic guilty of commanding violent ethnic cleansing campaigns across the country and sniping and shelling attacks against the civilian population of Sarajevo between May 1992 and November 1995, committing genocide against an estimated 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica between July and at least October 1995 using the forces under his command, and using UN peacekeepers as human shields after taking them hostage from May to June 1995.

But the Appeals Chamber also dismissed the parallel appeal against Mladic brought by the prosecution, which had sought a second conviction against Mladic for genocide committed against Muslims and Croats in other areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina (five municipalities) during the early phase of the war from 1992. Certainly, this ruling that excluded convictions for genocidal crimes in these other areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina will certainly weaken and undermine international community’s convictions that more robust and decisive actions by the international community at the time to curb, to stop, what has become known as “a slow-motion genocide” perpetrated by Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina should and could have been pursued. Foca, Kotor-Varos, Prijedor, Sanski Most and Vlasenica, the campaign of persecution escalated to such a degree that it demonstrated precisely the intent to destroy Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats as a group. The prosecution was not successful in achieving a conviction for these crimes of genocide that were a part of the Serb joint criminal enterprise in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It is alarmingly unjust and cruel towards victims and justice that similar crimes committed by Ratko Mladic in Croatia, prior to his criminal spree in Bosnia and Herzegovina were not included in his Hague international tribunal for war crimes indictment. While Mladic acted in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a commander of the so-called self-proclaimed Serbian Republic Army when he was stationed in Croatia he was a commander in the Yugoslav People’s Army that set out to quash the Croatian people who wanted secession from communist Yugoslavia and independence and, as such, rebel Serb agenda in Croatia suited him and his campaign of persecution and murder of Croatians in the own homes, on their own land escalated to such a degree that it demonstrated precisely the intent to destroy Croats as a group in all areas of Croatia where Serbs lived in larger numbers.

In July 1992, the County Court in the coastal town of Sibenik in Croatia sentenced Ratko Mladic to twenty years imprisonment for the attack on the village of Kijevo, which totally destroyed the village in the Dalmatian hinterland, on August 26, 1991.

Mladic was also sentenced for ordering attacks on the villages around the towns of Sinj and Vrlika in the Croatian Dalmatian hinterland in the period between September 16 until 23, 1991. In those attacks many civilians were killed.

In December 1995, Croatian prosecutors filed an indictment against Mladic for an attempt to destroy a hydro plant in the village of Peruca near Sinj.

By the time Mladic was appointed as the commander of the 9th JNA Corps in the Croatian town of Knin on June 3, 1991, the territory was already cut off from the rest of Croatia, because Croatian Serbs, who proclaimed the Serb Autonomous Territory of Krajina in 1990, barricaded the roads around Knin on August 17, 1990. Mladic aligned himself with rebel Serb forces and ethnic cleansing of Croats and other non-Serbs, persecution, killing, rape, plunder… commenced. Many civilians were killed and wounded during the shelling of Croatian villages and towns, and water and electricity supplies were blocked for months.

It is held that Ratko Mladic, as a Yugoslav Army commander that sided with Serb aggression against Croatians and Croatia, is responsible for the brutal massacres and slaughter of 88 Croatian people in the village of Skabrnja, near Zadar, on November 18, 1991 and the death of 30 Croatian people in the village of Saborsko in central Croatia, also in November 1991. 

At the time of his command in Croatia in 1991, Mladic can certainly be linked to the crimes in Knin and its surroundings, in the hinterland of Zadar and Šibenik, and especially to the crime in Skabrnja, which in its blatant ethnic cleansing had the character of genocidal intent.

The Croatian prosecutor’s office had reportedly informed the ICTY about the verdicts in Croatia against Ratko Mladic and the investigations against Mladic in 2003. After Mladic was arrested in July 2011 (having hidden in Serbia and Serbian Republic for some 16 years under an assumed name and identity to avoid prosecution in the Hague for war crimes), then Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor announced Croatia would “insist” that the ICTY includes crimes in Croatia into Mladic’s indictment. But the ICTY did not include Croatia’s findings in its indictment causing public outcry in the country. The reported reason for that decision was that the Hague needed to economise its proceedings, so it pursued only the crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina.The Croatian authorities at the time, which included the former communist Yugoslavia operative Stjepan Mesic, was not about to represent on the international levels the truth about the Serb aggression against Croatia. If anything, they played it down and attempted to criminalised Croatia’s defence efforts of the Homeland War. All for the glory of the failed communist totalitarian and criminal regime of Yugoslavia.

Last week in a Press Release responding to the verdict against Ratko Mladic in the Hague the government of Croatia expressed regret and dissatisfaction that “Ratko Mladic was not indicted and convicted for numerous crimes committed during the aggression on the Republic of Croatia, where he started his bloody campaign, continuing it in Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Well now, the Croatian government achieves nothing but bitterness from the public by pretending it is sorry that the Hague tribunal did not consider Mladic’s crimes in Croatia. After all, the Croatian governments and its Presidents since the year 2000 did nothing much, nothing decisive, to truly ensure Mladic’s crimes are included in the Hague indictment. These were the years when the former Yugoslav communists took increasing hold of power in Croatia, these were the years that saw Croatian Government and Presidents enter into extraordinary measures, including fabrications and lies against Croats, in attempts to equate the Serb aggressor with the Croatian victim during that 1990’s war of Serb aggression. Nothing short of treason in my books. The Croatian Government should have made big noises throughout the world, within the UN itself, insisting that crimes perpetrated by Ratko Mladic be included in the indictments against him. They did no such thing, and one must ask why, or rather, one must conclude that the very top echelons of Croatian power at the time did not want the world to see how truly brutal and depraved Serb aggression against Croatia was. I just hope that new indictments will, at Croatia’s instigation, be raised against Ratko Mladic in the near future for the crimes committed in Croatia. It is very important for the victims of these crimes, their families and for justice that those responsible are held to account.

It is likely that the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals – the institution that succeeded the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague – will hand down a first-instance verdict by the end of this month to Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic, wartime heads of Serbia’s State Security Department and Slobodan Milosevic’s closest informants. They are accused of participating in a joint criminal enterprise aimed at “forcibly and permanently removing most non-Serbs, primarily Croats, Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats, from large parts of Croatia and BiH, by committing the crimes of persecution, murder, deportation and forcible transfer.”  The eventual conviction of Stanisic and Simatovic could be the first, and the last, in which the heart of the Milosevic regime, which was the Department of State Security, is singled out and declared a key link in the chain of Serb criminal enterprise in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Viewed from the perspective of the current Serbian state policy that denies genocide and aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, finding Stanisic and Simatovic guilty would be a heavier blow to them than the vast majority of previous Hague verdicts, including Mladic’s. Serbs may at last start looking truth in the eye and see themselves for what they were and are in their depraved imperialistic appetites for Greater Serbia. Ina Vukic

Croatia Local Elections 2021: Winds Of Change – Still A Matter Of Forecasts!

Apart from a small town or two in Croatia (for example Kraljevec on Sutla) that will need to undergo a Third round of local elections due to resulting ties between candidates at First and Second rounds, the political map of Croatia’s local networks for the coming four years has been cast. The results portray a mosaic of old and new, the established and the establishing, the left and right, the “new left” and the confused that come with them.

While the main governing HDZ party won the posts of County Representative (Župan) in 15 out of 20 counties across Croatia (13 with its own candidates and 2 with its political partner candidates), it’s mayoral and Council Assembly results barely managed to hang on by the skin of the Party’s teeth. The Social Democratic Party (SDP) received an electoral lashing so severe that the once powerful party may indeed cower in pain, into a dark corner, and take quite a few years to return as a political force of note. Hopefully it never will as far as I am concerned because its name used to be Communist League of Croatia and it never wanted an independent Croatia and it never changed its mindset.

As to the larger cities for Croatia SDP retained Rijeka, which has always appeared as a stubborn and staunch supporter of the former Yugoslavia criminal and totalitarian communist regime. Ivan Puljak from Centre party has conquered as Mayor of Split, beating the HDZ candidate Vice Mihanovic. HDZ’s Ivan Radic managed to win the mayoral race for Osijek and Patriotic Movement’s candidate Ivan Penava (mayoral incumbent and formerly HDZ) won sweepingly the city of Vukovar.

The “new left”, green-left “We can!” (Možemo) Tomislav Tomasevic won the mayoral race for the Capital of Zagreb in the second round of voting held 30 May 2021. He is given just over 65% of the cast votes while his opponent Miroslav Skoro, Patriotic Movement, received about 35%. Voter turnout at these Second-round local elections was alarmingly low, in most polling places below 20%!

Tomislav Tomasevic, a perpetual, green-left activist on the streets of Zagreb who has reportedly never held down a real job but made his living depending on grants for various projects, promotes an aggressive environmental policy, transparency and equal opportunity in public procurement and a subtle but repulsive nostalgia for the fallen criminal regime of former Yugoslavia. Tomasevic has also promised the public to clean the house, i.e., clean the Zagreb Holding which controls and manages almost all facets of Zagreb’s infrastructure and business and services.  Tomasevic’s promise to clean up Zagreb Holding also shows that corruption is rife there and he intends to clean it up! This promise may be as superficial as the rest of “We can” promises appear to be, unless, of course, Tomasevic and his team do not know the barriers imposed by the relevant employment legislation. They will need to break open and apart the 20-year rule over Zagreb by the late Milan Bandic and unless done with knowhow and real determination Tomasevic could spend almost all of his mayoral mandate trying to fix or expose Milan Bandic’s corrupt handiwork and legacy.

But then, one wonders if Tomasevic’s promises to tackle corruption head on are nothing but hot steam and empty phrases? After all, he has done nothing of note since 1998, when he set out on his life of activism, to truly tackle corruption in Zagreb or elsewhere!

Miroslav Skoro, on the other hand, promotes new job-creation, new investments, healthier business environment in which corruption and widespread clientelism and wasteful spending of public money will have no place and their eradication sped up.

“Clientelism and corruption have marked the long reign of the late mayor, and unfortunately the corrupt ‘octopus’ has permeated politics at the national level as well, so I understand very well why citizens feel [apathetic],” said recently Miroslav Skoro, the leader of the Patriotic Movement.

The local elections result in the Croatian capital is also significant because, for the first time since the country’s independence in the 1990’s, both traditional parties – the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) – were left out of the race for Mayor of Zagreb at the First round of mayoral elections. This also occurred in Split, the second largest city in the country, a “new entry” in Croatian politics has emerged: Ivica Puljak – at the head of a centrist civic list. In the first two cities of Croatia, HDZ and SDP are now relegated to the margins, unable to influence decisions.

Judging by this newly arisen political climate across Croatia, especially in its capital city of Zagreb, it becomes rather apparent that changes, or rather a display of dissatisfaction and disappointment with major political parties, HDZ and SDP, have arrived through the “back door”. That is, at local rather than national levels. “We can!”, the Patriotic Movement (Domovinski pokret) and the Centrists (in Split) are relatively new political platforms in Croatia, propelling the electorate to think, again, as to which one of them (if any) may indeed one day form the “third” political force needed to beak up the stale HDZ/SDP political bipolarism or duopoly. Their presence in the Council Assemblies across Croatia, not just the Capital City, will be felt during the coming four years as each won a comfortable number of seats on municipal assemblies, local government!

Whether both “We can” and the Patriotic Movement will be able to keep this newly bestowed momentum of political power through the coming four years and turn it into a national political force to be reckoned with is yet to be seen. It would appear that a great deal of effort is needed to maintain that force of influence that promises changes for the better; neither HDZ nor SDP are about to curl-up and die! Croatia had in the past decade seen the rise of a possible third political force in “MOST” (BRIDGE) coalition of independents, but it soon dissipated into not much except wishful thinking. The same occurred with the “Live Wall” (Živi zid) lot which can easily be tagged with the “Gone with the wind” tag given to the film based on 1939 Margaret Mitchell’s legendary novel by the same name! There one day, gone the next!  

There is rather a widespread fear that Tomasevic and his green-left or new left, that’s now present in large numbers of Council Assemblies across Croatia, will usher in a new lease of life to the communist mindset and values of the former communist Yugoslavia. This, of course, would mean further erosion of Homeland War values and the reasons why 94% of Croatian voters voted at referendum in May 1991 to secede from communist Yugoslavia. All until the “antifascist” elements of World War Two Croatia are removed from the Croatian Constitution as a foundation of independence of Croatia such fears will be fuelled and sadly justified. Justification, though, means nothing unless actions are taken up to remove the fear.

Tomislav Tomasevic and his political partners in the “We can!” movement are constantly voicing how they want Zagreb to be equal for all, equal opportunities for all but they seem to overlook that equality is not possible in the surroundings that operate on political suitability of individuals and undermining those who fought and died for independent Croatia. Surely – there can be no equality there where many (pro-left usually) still live in houses and apartments stolen by Yugoslav communists from either Jews or Croats who fought for an independent Croatia during WWII. Surely – there can be no equality in a place where one category of mass killing victims (victims of communist crimes) are not afforded respect and justice and the crimes which led to their deaths – covered up.    

Surely, there can be no equality unless the equality is measured against the national goals or values and for Croatia these goals and values are attached to the 1990’s fight for independence from communist Yugoslavia and not to Yugoslavia itself.

The point is that while certain steps towards the change for the better can be made locally, it is the national steps that actually bring real change all across the land. Ina Vukic

Croatia – Election Results In Capital Zagreb Crucial For Continued Affirmation Of Harshly Won Sovereignty

30th May is Croatian Statehood Day! The date that marked in 1990 the inauguration of the Croatian Parliament as we know it today, the guardian as it were of a sovereign Croatia.

Happy Croatian Statehood Day!

In 2021 it is also the day when the Second round of local elections will be held. If the new left green We Can (Možemo) coalition wins lead positions in the Capital of Zagreb local government it will also signal an attack (either by large or small voter turnout) on Croatia’s sovereignty away from communist Yugoslavia.    

People in Croatia during the last 15 years, at least, have been crying out for change! Change in political leadership that would bring about a solidification of values fought for during the 1990’s Homeland War, when almost 94% of Croatian voters said a big YES to secession from communism and Yugoslavia. Whichever way one turned it seemed the popular consensus was that Croatia needs to rid itself of HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union and SDP/Social Democratic Party as leading political parties because their governments since year 2000 had increasingly failed to modernise laws in order to move away from former communist practices, increasingly failed to cut corruption and nepotism, increasingly failed to usher in investment and development that would battle alarming unemployment and brain drain away from the country… Yet voter turnout had consistently been low for this change to actually occur.  

Today, in 2021, Croatia still lives in an era of unprecedented income inequality, unnatural political elitism, corruption, non-responsive legislation to the evident needs, and skyrocketing childhood poverty just as it did under the communist/socialist regime in former Yugoslavia. In 2019 and according to the research of the Institute of Economics [“Child Poverty and Strategies for Coping with Household Poverty in Croatia”] almost 300,000 children in Croatia lived in poverty, often without basic necessities. The situation is not better today and that is an unacceptable number of children living in poverty; in a country of just over 4 million people those numbers are debilitating and devastating. The 2019 survey cited another devastating statistic: one in five members of poor families said at least one member of the household had gone to bed hungry in the month prior to the survey.

No doubt, financial insecurity increases someone’s odds of poor psychological and physical well-being. And so, one must wonder if many voters in Zagreb who have at the first round of local elections on 16 May 2021 voted significantly for the new ultra-left green hybrid of communism and socialism under the name “We Can” (Možemo) into the Council Assembly are actually still walking the communist Yugoslavia tightrope of wilful self-deception, being a Pollyanna, who only wears rose-tinted glasses and pretends the glass is half-full when it’s really not! The We Can voters as those activists involved in this political platform have certainly not learned the lesson of sustainable good life and that is: without hard work and productivity there can be no permanent exit from poverty and financial insecurity. They say they will get rid of corruption, yet corrupt and non-transparent ways define their funded activist histories! Their employment or productivity history reads activist, paid activist, NGO activist with no services provision but lots of pro-communist political claptrap, LGBTQIA intrusive pressure against mainstream Christian family values (whether you want the pressure or not) … evidently carrying the badge of approval of the communism coined phrases “State-led Corruption” and “State-led Mass Murder”!

These We Can political activists are really of the same breed as the major political parties like HDZ and SDP, who have held government both nationally and locally. The fact that they brandish the symbols and insignia of the former communist Yugoslavia as something to be celebrated, even though it murdered in cold blood at least one million of innocent people, even though the EU has branded it as criminal totalitarian regime – tells you everything about them even though the tattoo “democracy” is “embedded” upon their foreheads.  

As to how much this new left hybrid of unwelcome communism and socialism that’s hiding under “We Can” name will rock Croatia’s political and economic stability in the coming four years will be seen on this coming Sunday 30th May when the 2nd Round of local elections will confirm the leading positions of Mayor, Deputy Mayor and County Governors. What happens in the Capital city of a country is usually the guiding rule as to what political mood will spread throughout the country in the coming four years. Should the We Can Tomislav Tomasevic win the Mayoral seat of Zagreb instead of Miroslav Skoro of the Homeland Movement party, for instance, Croatia should also brace itself for some serious reckoning on the streets directed against the communist past being kept alive in Croatia.

The fact that a portion of Croatia’s voters may be realigning to the Left after the Social Democrats have lost much footing on the ground in past couple of years is not so much of a concern, given the Left has always been there, but what is of grave concern is the fact that with this new Left (under We Can brand) comes a mad and brazen attempt at reaffirmation of values of communist regime of former Yugoslavia against which 94% voted in 1991! It would be communism and socialism creeping back into the Capital City, walking without recognition or respect over the dead bodies and bones of thousands upon thousands who sacrificed their lives to rid Croatia of that political and social plague in the 1990’s. I shudder at this possibility.

In local elections held in 576 local and regional government bodies in Croatia on Sunday, May 16, in 70 cities, the heads were elected in the first round of voting. Of these, the HDZ won 36 mayorships and the major opposition party, the Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP), managed only 13. Of the six counties that elected prefects in the first round, HDZ secured four. Other counties and cities will have runoffs on May 30 to elect their mayors and prefects.

In three major cities, the incumbent HDZ failed to achieve major breakthroughs. In Zagreb, Tomislav Tomasevic, leader of Mozemo! (We can!) from the green-left coalition, secured 45.15% votes while his nearest rival Miroslav Skoro, leader of the right-wing Homeland Movement, won 12.6% votes. In the 47-seat Zagreb City Assembly, the green-left We Can coalition won 23 seats, falling one seat short of simple majority.

In Split, the second largest city in Croatia, Ivica Puljak from the liberal Centre party won 26.82% votes and will take on Vice Mihanović from the HDZ (23.23% votes) in the second round on 30 May. In Rijeka, the third largest city and a traditional SDP stronghold, Marko Filipović from the SDP (30.25%) will take on independent centre-right candidate Davor Stimac (16.10%) in the second round.

Local elections in Croatia as elsewhere in Europe, are considered a second-order election and not so important for the national agenda. They are called as such because regularly they attracted less interest, as well as lower voter turnout, and are perceived less crucial than parliamentary and presidential elections, which form a national constellation of political relations. However, one must heed a warning that local elections in Croatia are quite pivotal because, for example, many political parties do not possess the same amount of strength or public recognition at the national level, when compared to local politics. Such parties invest all of their efforts in building local-level networks that include not only politicians but entrepreneurs and interest groups, which subsequently helps them in pushing forward with their national-level policies. This is particularly important in the atmosphere where state-controlled mainstream media outlets is very biased and discriminates against political candidates. Local elections are also significant due to the fact that decision-makers on the local level can, at the same time, perform duties on the national level. For example, one who holds a position of city mayor or county governor, can be elected to legislative body on the national level, that is, the Croatian Parliament. Therefore, this local election race is quite significant as it will showcase the strength of two of the major political parties HDZ and SDP) as well as the strength of the emerging political forces that seem to be seen as filling the “third option” shoes in the country. At this moment the two competing for these shoes are the ultra-leftist and green We Can and the right-wing Homeland Movement led by Miroslav Skoro. Whichever wins the top position for Zagreb will signal the way that the political climate is likely to move in the immediate future. If Tomasevic wins nostalgia towards the criminal communist regime of Yugoslavia is likely to grow causing major unrests on the streets and beyond. If Skoro wins a stronger orientation towards business and new job development and a deserved strengthening of Homeland War values. The later would be what Croatia needs and must have in order to become politically and economically stable. Ina Vukic

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