Croatian Operation Storm: “Serbs forced Serbs to flee”

Dr. Adalbert Rebic (centre) at the launch of his book "All My Refugees" Photo:Marko Lukunic/PIXSELL

On Wednesday 4 April the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has scheduled an appeal hearing in the case of Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac for May 14.

Gotovina’s and Markac’s defence teams will each have 90 minutes to present their submissions and the prosecutors will have as much time to respond. After the prosecution’s response, the two defence teams will each have 30 minutes to reply, and the two generals have been given ten minutes each to address the judges at the end of the hearing if they so wish.

Now, less than a week ago (on Sunday 1 April) ICTY prosecutor Serge Brammertz stated in an interview that ICTY is no longer insisting on the delivery of documents pertaining to the 1995 Operation Storm, when Croatia liberated a large part of its area previously held by Serb rebels.

Brammetrtz said that the Trial chamber has already made a ruling on the case and documents are no longer required, adding that “Croatian officials have pledged to continue an investigation about where those documents are regardless of our position, so that they can solve the problems for their own purposes”.

It’s a known fact that Brammertz, and Carla del Ponte before him, were on a vicious hunt for the so-called Croatian artillery diaries which according to their florid and twisted imagination would prove that there was excessive shelling during Operation Storm and that such excessive, nonselective shelling served as a strategy to expel Serbs from Krajina.

The alleged Artillery diaries could not be found anywhere, ICTY prosecutors accused Croatia of lying etc and Croatia’s EU accession negotiations suffered severely.

Gotovina and Markac defence motions to ICTY to subpoena documents from Serbia that would prove that shelling was not excessive were twice denied during the last half of 2011.

Perhaps Brammertz thinks it’s funny that Croatia will continue to look for those documents for “their own purposes”, or feels resentful about the possibility that Croatia may confirm such documents never existed when the ICTY failed to pursue the matter. In any case his comment is in bad taste.

Regardless of what the outcome of the Appeal may be the people will want the truth as the issue of whether the Croatians expelled Serbs from Krajina using excessive shelling or whether in fact the Serbs organised and orchestrated the exodus themselves needs to be resolved. Otherwise, one is looking down a very long dark road of recriminations and bitterness between Serbia and Croatia. That cannot be good for anyone. Truth must be known no matter what but it seems the ICTY isn’t going to be the one to confirm the truth.

Given that ICTY denied the motions to subpoena Serbia for documents perhaps there are other ones already there that would show, after all, that Croatians did not expel the Serbs from Croatia as a matter of joint criminal enterprise and as the ICTY prosecutor claimed.

If such documents are not already there, and given that Serbia has not been required to produce documents, let’s hope that the book “All My Refugees” by dr Adalbert Rebic in Croatia, released last week 29 March might make its way to the ICTY Appeals Chamber, in good time – as food for serious  thought, at least.

During the time of the Croatian Homeland War dr. Adalbert Rebic, a Theologist, was Head of Croatian Government Office for Refugees and Displaced persons. His responsibilities were not only Croatian refugees and displaced persons but also the Serb refugees at the time.

At the launch of his new book “All My Refugees” he said:

The international tribunal in the Hague has convicted our Generals Gotovina and Markac, for, among other things, forced expulsion of Serbs from Croatian regions using nonselective shelling. As a man who has worked for more than for years for refugees and displaced persons, who had contact with the Serbs and who had pleaded with them not to leave Croatia, that conviction not only saddened me but irritated me to extremes, because that theory keeps repeating. Hence, I decided to look into and publish the documents that the Serbs themselves had published; such as documents of civilian protection, directive for relocation, etc.”

The Serbs who ruled over the so-called self proclaimed Serbian Republic of Krajina (within Croatian borders) organised their departure by themselves. And this was done systematically, before the start of Operation Storm, they even held evacuation drills,” said Rebic remembering how on the day of the capitulation of Serbian Republic of Krajina he found himself in Topusko with two haul-trucks of humanitarian aid for the Serbs who were leaving Croatia.

There were drinks, milk, bread, cigarettes … I asked the International representatives what to do, how to stop them (Serbs) and have them return, and they said that we must let them go wherever they want. I spoke to one of their ministers, who was seated in a car, and told him not to go to Serbia, for how and where are they going to live, that Serbia is not their homeland, to stop the files of people and turn them back, as president Tudjman guarantees their safety. No, we are going to Serbia, he told me.

When on 9th of August (1995) we arrived in Obrovac, we met a group of women who had after five days come out of a cellar, in which they hid so they wouldn’t be taken to Serbia. They told us that Serbian soldiers beat people with battons and chased them to flee, and that they even killed some”, said dr. Rebic adding that the long lasting propaganda which portrayed Croatians as Ustashe and killers is to blame for everything, and this caused a panic and speeded up the exodus.

In his aforementioned interview last Sunday Serge Brammertz said: “We are aware that coming to terms with the past is a complex process. Many find it difficult to accept that their war heroes actually abused their position and committed serious crimes against civilians. Therefore it is important for the Hague tribunal to support by documents the irrefutable truth.”

It’s not clear what documents he is referring to here; it’s clear he has given up on searching for documents that he himself used to say are vital. Brammetrz should stop patronizing and offending the Croatian nation – if a hero has committed a crime, then that is accepted, but what’s not accepted is if a crime not committed by a hero is pinned to that hero by a malicious theory developed for political purposes of equating the victim with the aggressor. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps.(Syd)


  1. We pray, and pray with all our might, that our Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac receive a fair and honest Appeals Hearing in the Hague on May 14, leading to their aquittal..Your comments…”if a hero has committed a crime then that is accepted,but what’s not accepted is if a crime is NOT committed by a hero and is pinned by a malicious theory developed for POLITICAL purposes, equating the victim with the aggressor” then that is a crime of incedible magnitude!! we pray..we pray and PRAY!

    • Moving, heartwrenching, dviivly haunting. This is a courageous testimonial that helps bear witness to the atrocities that were being perpetuated. It’s important that the world knows and remembers the victims that can no longer speak for themselves. I agree with Wordgeyser: don’t be hard on your younger self. Be proud of yourself now for writing this when so many others would rather forget. It cannot have been easy to write this. I know I’m proud of you.

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