Croatian Generals at ICTY Appeal: we fought honourably, facts have been twisted

Croatian Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac

Like many throughout the world I sat for hours watching the live streaming of the Croatian generals’ Appeal hearing in the ICTY, Monday 14 May. Had I not heard the Appellants’ defence arguments first, had I tuned in at the point of prosecution’s arguments I could have easily concluded that the reason Operation Storm occurred in August 1995 was to expel Serbs from Croatia.

The prosecution’s view is that Operation Storm was not a military offensive (to liberate Serb occupied territory) that brought about undesired consequences, but an attack aimed at deporting the Serb civilian population out of Croatia. They said some 20,000 Serbs left Krajina due to fear from shelling by the Croatian Army. They argued that the transcripts from Croatian leadership meeting at Brijuni (July 31, 1995) and the events when Croatian army targeted whole towns for shelling where there were both civilian and military targets supported the prosecutions claim of joint criminal enterprise to drive Serbs out.

When asked by Presiding Judge Theodor Meron about the defence claim that there had been no civilian casualties during the shelling, the prosecution said that there was no need to prove that there had been civilian casualties because several witnesses said during the trial that they had seen dead bodies and wounded people in the streets of Knin.

The problem with these cited witness statements is that they had not been tested in court, nor had the credibility of the witnesses been tested; the Trial Chamber simply accepted as fact statements of witnesses who merely said that they saw some bodies lying on the streets of Knin, without proving that those bodies were in fact dead people and that, if they were dead, they were killed by the shelling… Gotovina’s defence attorney Luka Misetic brought the court’s attention to the fact that at no time, not even till today – 18 years after Operation Storm – had anybody come forth saying that a person they knew or was a family member had been killed in the shelling of Knin. Simply there were no civilian casualties from that shelling.

The prosecution pressed on with its case, saying that even if the Appeals Chamber should decide that Croatian artillery attacks during Operation Storm in the summer of 1995 were not illegal, it should rule that Croatian army did set out to expel Serbs from Krajina under joint criminal enterprise that had that goal.

Gotovina’s defence attorney Greg Kehoe challenged the use of t so-called “200-metre rule” by the Trial Chamber (2011) to determine whether artillery shells were aimed at military or civilian targets. The Trial Chamber had ruled that any shells falling more that 200 metres from a military target were aimed at civilians and Kehoe said that the Trial Chamber had introduced this rule after the prosecution failed to prove civilians were targeted.

Gotovina’s defence team sought the quashing of his convictions.

There’s no dispute that shelling was legal, it was a military operation to liberate occupied territory – legal operation whichever way one looks at it.

General Mladen Markac defence attorney John Jones said that a conclusion on the existence of a joint criminal enterprise aimed at the persecution of the Serb population could not be drawn from the transcripts of the Brijuni meeting. He said that all conclusions from the trial chamber’s verdict about the persecution of civilians were based on the conclusion on the illegal shelling, stressing that if there had been no illegal shelling, there had not been a joint criminal enterprise either.

The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) said on Monday, after a day-long appeal hearing, that a verdict would be handed down soon, adding the the key point would be the reasons for the departure of the Serb population from the territory which was under their control until the 1995 Operation Storm.

General Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac were given the opportunity to address the court themselves and this is what they said:

Gotovina spoke in the French language:  “During my entire military career, I endeavoured to perform my duties dignifiedly and honourably, and have always given my all as a commander and soldier in order to protect civilians. As a commander I am proud of the results of the Operation Storm. I’m proud not only because we won but because the damage to the civilians and their homes was minimal. As a man I very much regret every lost life and damaged property. I cannot, however, be responsible for that which others have done or omitted to do while I was away in Bosnia.

Even to this day I am convinced that I have fulfilled my duties in the best possible way. We were in a battle for life and death with the enemy, fought so we could liberate our country. We tried hard to maximally protect the lives of soldiers and civilians. If I made mistakes, such as refusing to give myself up to the court, I am the first to regret that. I am not saying that I am without sin, but I hope I will not be judged for not being perfect. But, even if you conclude that I had made wrong decisions you will not establish that I had ever wanted or agreed to that any soldier or civilian should be killed because he/she was a Serb or belonged to some other national group. 

I am conscious of and content that my actions during Operation Storm were correct and my commands are witness to that fact. Therefore, I do not seek any favours from you, nor do I ask you to do anything other than what my defence has asked of you in my name. I live with the feeling of satisfaction that my actions were in harmony with the actions of an honest and diligent military officer who had given his all in hard circumstances.

If this Chamber could simply examine my actions in that context, I will be content and would not ask anything else”.

Markac spoke in the Croatian language: “I am surprised at the statements made about Storm that were not based on facts. Moved by the attempts to reshape the facts from the Homeland war I want to say that I am not a member of a joint criminal enterprise nor am I a war criminal. I have heard about existence of a joint criminal enterprise for the first time during these proceedings. Neither the representatives of the European Union or anyone from Croatia had shown me that joint criminal enterprise exists. Never had anybody shown me illegal actions by members of the special police MUP, whose professionalism makes me especially proud. I have not committed nor hidden any crime because that is not my way of viewing life. I am a police-military officer who has performed the tasks given to him by the Minister of internal affairs of Croatia responsibly. My job was to defend and liberate illegitimately occupied Croatia.”

Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Comments

  1. At the end of the day, I can only conclude that the Gotovina and Markač verdicts recklessly ignored the burden of proof, the most questionable of evidence plucked from a three-year-long trial to support a conspiracy theory for which there is little basis except in the suspicious imaginations of those who made up their minds that Gotovina and Markač were guilty before they even came to trial. On the other hand, what has been consistently proven is that Generals Gotovina and Markač, during a war of Serbian aggression against the republics of Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina, liberated Croatian and Bosnian territory, saving tens of thousands of people from starvation and potential slaughter and paving the way for peace in the Balkans. The UN may have some of the finest soldiers in the world at its disposal, but the UN mandate is an indiscriminate bridle of impotence, and the original ICTY verdict reflects this. General Ante Gotovina did more for international peace and justice in a few days than the ICTY has done in almost two decades. The verdict under appeal is an ominous legacy of twenty-one years of political spin, a cowardly compliance with the doctrine of moral equivalence that proclaims the war in the former Yugoslavia was an internecine feud between equally-culpable barbarians. It is a triumph of moral cowardice that betrays the vulnerable and punishes the stout-hearted. It is an affront to the very notion of justice. And the question we all want answered remains unanswered: will the verdict be upheld or will justice prevail?
    More on :
    http://mishkagora.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/gotovina-2/

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  2. The only JCE is the Greater Serbia ideology. This is what caused the war in the first place. This is what should be on trial.

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  3. The Nazi State of NDH commited more crimes which have no match in their cruelty. During Ante Pavelic’s regime, 250,000 Serbs and Jews have been murdered by their hands, while today we have HDZ and Gotovina followers who glorify their crimes, which, btw, are tend to be forgotten by everyone.

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    • Don’t know which sleeve you’ve pulled your figures out regarding NDH crimes, but in any case, any crime is abominable.Just like the Serb crime. Serbia and Milan Nedic’s regime exterminated 94% of Jewish population in Serbia by May 1942 as they rushed to aid the Nazis in this dirty game and I do not see you condemning this. Ante Gotovina has not been convicted of crimes as a final ruling but if, at the end of the day, if he is, Croatia will not glorify them any more than Tito and Yugoslavia glorified theirs, than Serbia is glorifying theirs, than Stalin glorified his, than Britain glorified theirs and so forth, to reply in the train of your thoughts. I personally condemn every crime and believe that it is just to punish it, if a true crime has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt. For Croatia to glorify its hard won freedom from brutal aggression and bloody threats to life is, by anyone’s standards, a just thing.

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    • Često čujemo prigovore od strane hrvatskih neprijatelja, osobito onih izvana, kako je suvremena Republika Hrvatska samo nova NDH. Pod tim oni podrazumijevaju “nacionalističku, pa i na zločinu izraslu državu”. To se nastoji dokazati optužnicama protiv čitavog višeg vojnog kadra hrvatskih branitelja pred Haškim sudom. Pa i poneki dobronamje­ran rodoljub znade se ograditi od usporedbe s ustašama riječima: “Jesam Hrvat, ali nisam ustaša”, ili sličnim izrazima. Otkuda takove usporedbe i sasvim negativne ocjene ustaša i po njima stvorene ratne NDH?

      Polustoljetna srpska i jugokomunistička propaganda je upornim pona­vljanjem laži o ustaškim zločinima te umnoživanjem do besmisla (slučaj Jasenovac) stvarnih, pojedinačnih ili masovnijih zločina , a što nitko nije mogao ni smio opovrgavati, uspjela uvjeriti ne samo svjetsku javnost, nego i hrvatsku mlađu generaci­ju, izraslu u vrijeme vladavine jugokomunizma u bivšoj Jugoslaviji, kako su ustaše zapravo bili izdajice i sluge okupatora, jedna prava zločinačka organizacija, a NDH politički okvir za njihove zločine. Zapravo, najtežim i neoprostivim ustaškim zločinom držala se sama uspostava nezavisne hrvatske države. Poradi toga hrvatski neprijatelji nisu priznavali ni samo postojanje NDH kao prave države te se uz njezino ime redovito dodavao atribut “takozvana”. A preko svega pozitivnog, bilo u političkom bilo u kulturnom pogledu, što se zbivalo tijekom četiri godine trajanja NDH, u svim školskim knjigama i drugim povijesnim pregledima prelazilo se sa šutnjom kao da je vrijeme bilo stalo, kao da upravo ničega nije bilo osim masovnih ustaških zločina. Takav potpuno klevetnički i negatorski stav prema NDH proizlazi otuda što za neprijatelje hrvatskog naroda ne bi smjela postojati nikakva, pa ni najdemokratskija i najsocijalnija hrvatska država. Zato je ovu ustašku NDH i ustaše kao njezine tvorce trebalo toliko oklevetali i oblatiti da nekoj budućoj hrvatskoj generaciji ne bi palo na pamet u danim povijesnim okolnostima uspostaviti ponovno neku samo­stalnu hrvatsku državu. Zato bi željeli skrenuti pozornost onima kojih se to tiće, niste uspjeli, Republika Hrvatska je stvarnost .
      Pozdrav Hrvatice i Hrvati.

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      • Translation of comment by Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources: We often hear complaints from Croatian enemies, especially the external ones, how the modern Croatia is only a new NDH. With that they mean a “nationalistic, and even a state that grew out of crime”. Charges against the whole of upper military personnel of Croatian defenders before the court in the Hague are used as attempts to prove of that. Even some well-meaning patriots at times know how to fence themselves from being compared with Ustasha words: “I am Croat, but I am not Ustasha”, or with similar phrases. Where do such comparisons and negative appraisals of Ustasha and the NDH created according to them come from? Half a Century of Serbian and Yugo-communist propaganda has relentlessly repeated lies about Ustasha crimes as well as multiplied to the senseless (case of Jasenovac) the number of true, individual and mass crimes, and no one could, nor was allowed to dispute it, managed to convince not only the world public, but also Croatia’s younger generation, that grew up in the time of Yugo-communist rule in the former Yugoslavia, how Ustashi were traitors and slaves to the occupying forces, one real criminal organisation, and NDH the political frame for their crimes. In reality, the establishment of the Independent State of Croatia was considered to be the worst and unforgivable Ustashe crime. Due to that, Croatian enemies did not recognise the existence of NDH as a true state and the attribute “so-called” was regularly attached to its name. Everything that was politically or culturally positive, that so occurred during the four years of NDH’s existence, in all school books and other historical events was ignored in silence as if time stood still, as if nothing else existed except mass Ustasha crimes. Such utterly defamatory and negating attitude towards NDH comes from the fact that the enemy of the Croatian people considers that there should not be any, not even a most democratic and most social Croatian state. That’s why the Ustasha’s NDH and Ustashe as its creators had to be so deeply vilified and muddied that any future generations would not even dare to think about establishing again some independent Croatian state, at any given historical moment. That’s why we want to attract the attention of those concerned, you have not succeeded, the Republic of Croatia is a reality. Regards, Croatian ladies and gentlemen.

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  4. I’m impressed with this website, truly I’m a fan .

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  1. […] the Operation Storm (1995) which liberated Croatian territory from the brutal Serb occupation. The Appeal of this conviction is currently under consideration by the ICTY Appeal […]

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