Vindication or travesty ? Operation Storm’s Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac acquitted

Marko Attila Hoare: “Seventeen years later, Bildt’s red herring regarding the bombardment of Knin has met its ignominious demise. Since the Appeals Chamber ruled that the existence of a JCE could not be deduced from the pattern of Croatian artillery fire, the central premise of the prosecution’s case was thrown out. And since Gotovina and Markac had been selected for indictment on the basis of this premise, the rest of the case against them collapsed with it: the Appeals Chamber ruled that they had either attempted to prevent crimes against Serb civilians and property, or had not had effective control of those Croatian forces that had committed them. Had the prosecutors not focused on a supposed JCE, but instead sought to indict Croatian perpetrators who could actually be definitely linked to actual killings, they would no doubt have succeeded”.

Greater Surbiton

‘The largest single ethnic-cleansing operation of the Yugoslav wars’ – such was the soundbite that was linked to Operation Storm (Operacija Oluja), from soon after the successful Croatian military operation was waged back in August 1995. That atrocities were carried out by Croatian soldiers and civilians during and after the operation has never credibly been disputed. But the attempt to paint Oluja as an ethnic-cleansing operation – indeed as an ethnic-cleansing operation larger in scale than the Serbian assaults on Croatia and Bosnia in 1991-1992 – has always been rightly contested. Yesterday’s acquittal by the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) of Croatian commanders Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac for crimes against Serb civilians between July and September 1995, above all during ‘Operation Storm’, leaves the victims without justice, but represents a defeat for long-running attempts in the West to redistribute guilt from the aggressors…

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Comments

  1. Question if Oluja and actions of the HV were not criminal, then we can argue that the idea of a greater Serbia is criminal, and what are the ramifications of that especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina? The Serbs ethnically cleansed large swaths of territory slaughtered people in places like Srebrenica and yet when the tables were turned and the Serbs were on the ropes, instead of militarily defeating them, the Serbs were given 49% of Bosnia.

    Makes me wonder if we can take that momentum and use it to our advantage?

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    • Let’s just hope that the coming years don’t see Serbian Republic (the political entity within Bosnia and Herzegovina) that arose in crime and joint criminal enterprise become a fully independent state as Dayton agreement falls apart. Krajina in Croatia would have seen the same destiny were it not for Operation Storm. I guess the “idea” of Greater Serbia is not criminal on its own, it becomes criminal when crimes are committed to place the idea into reality. That’s what happened.

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  2. The idea of a greater Serbia is criminal simply because its goal to the expansion of foreign territories to expand the borders of Serbia – it is stealing.

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    • In our minds yes Sunman, but legally the idea might fall into “motive” and motive itself is not a crime but the crime itself one commits as led by the motive. Certainly ideas or motives breed criminals. I agree there.

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  3. I’ve been reading and participating in several news site commentaries and I’d like to share some of the great contributions my made various authors…hopefully it’s ok to copy them here. From the Economist:
    By guest-iwlnjlo:
    Gotovina and Markac – contrary to the Yugoslav People’s Army (YPA / JNA) cabal of (still unidicted by the ICTY) war criminals who authored the genocidal Rampart (RAM) plan that outlined the genocidal conduct of the JNA and Serb paramilitary and terrorist forces (as it explicitly listed the targeting of civilians as a means of “demoralization” – which was the fanatically applied norm applied by JNA / Serb forces), and the JNA, “Army of the Republic of Serbian Krajina” and “Army of Republika Srpska” Operational Zone Commanders 1991-1995 – Gtovina and Markac never gave criminal orders.

    Indeed, Gotovina and Markac forced all subordinates to undergo classes on the Laws of Land Warfare and Geneva Conventions before al Operations, including Storm.

    In addition to Gotovina threatening his Generals at a meeting that he was going to break them down to the rank of private and send them to the front lines if they did not reign in the, as he put it, “barbarians” that were shaming the nation and proud and honorable Croatian military and police uniform(s) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4nyXhLHDgHI), during and in the weeks immediately after Storm, there were over 1,000 civilian trials and courts martials, including 741 convictions – to date there have been 2,380 convictions for crimes committed by Croats (civilians or troops) during and after (mostly after, as 98% of illegal incidents took place when Gotovina and Markac were in Western Bosnia crushing Mladic’s forces) Storm.

    So the Prosecution – who opened their case with a poorly edited Serbian counterintelligence propaganda video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cuefdyuyFA) they received from the “humanitarian” they have been working with since 1993, “Krajina” Secretary, seven Joint Criminal Enterprise Participant (Milosevic, Babic, Martic, Hadzic, Stanisic, Simatovic, Mrksic) Savo Strbac, who formed the “Veritas” NGO with Milosevic’s direct funding and on his order; all of which placed and keeps the ICTY in a conflict of interest by dealing with the multiple JCE participant Savo Strbac who effectively wrote the indictment for the ICTY – had no case whatsoever to begin with as Markac and Gotovina took every reasonable step to prevent and also prosecute (mostly revenge crimes for Serb atrocities preceding Oluja) by Croat forces, but mostly returning Croat / non-Serb refugees ethnically cleansed by the Krajina fascists in 1991 and barred from ever returning by the fascist “Krajina” government.

    Gotovina and Markac forbade ’91 refugees from taking part in operations near their homesteads specifically to minimizer the chance of a revenge crime.

    No need to go into any details regarding the 94.5% accurate / within the 200 meter parameters “excessive and indiscriminate” shelling, Gen. Dr. Huffman (https://www.jagcnet.army.mil/DOCLIBS/MILITARYLAWREVIEW.NSF/20a66345129fe3d885256e5b00571830/b7396120928e9d5e85257a700042abb5/$FILE/By%20Major%20General%20%28RET.%29%20Walter%20B.%20Huffman.pdf), UK Artillery officer and UK Army General Chapman and other artillery and legal experts debunked, as did Misetic and the Defense, and the fact that only one armed paramilitary was killed in the shelling – meters in front of the VRSK HQ in Knin – meaning there could not have been “excessive” or “indiscriminate” shelling if one armed paramilitary in front of the VRSK HQ in Knin was the ONLY casualty, and if even by the prosecution’s own evidence, the artillery fire was 94.5% ACCURATE.

    Even Sonja Biserko of the Serbian Helsinki Watch said that the original indictment against Gotovina and Markac was a political one, so that it is no surprise they were acquitted.

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  4. Here another posting by the same author on the Economist:
    ts fascinating how nearly every article that mentions Operation Storm never mentions the reasons why it was launched / what led to it being launched, namely;
    1. The Yugoslav People’s Army, along with Serb terrorists / paramilitaries (Chetnik bands and the so-called “Army of the Republic of Serbian Krajina” that the YPA began forming BEFORE any free elections ever took place in then Yugoslavia, i.e. before the Serbs were “threatened” with liberal democracy and calls for joining the then EC) aggression against Croatia March 1991 through August 1995 (through to Dayton as the war continued after Oluja) that killed 10,000 Croatian / non-Serb civilians (including over 300 children), but also democratically oriented Serbs who rejected the neo-Fascist (Draskovic / Seselj) / Yugoslav Nationalist Socialist (national Socialist) anti-democratic alliance Milosevic led against the non-Serbs of Yugoslavia; with 30,000 Croats and non-Serb civilians maimed (3,000 of them children), and 400,000 ethnically cleansed and BARRED by the “Krajina” government from ever returning. Massacres of Croats / non-Serbs by both JNA forces and their subordinate Chetnik / so-called “VRSK” forces taking place in 1991 in Antin, Antunovac, Baćin, Balinci, Beli Manastir, Berak, Bilje, Bogdanovci, Bruška, Bučje, Cerić, Cetingrad, Čakovci, Čanak, Četekovac, Ćelije, Dalj, Donji Čaglić, Drežnik, Drniš, Erdut, Ernestinovo, Ervenik, Glina, Glinsko Novo Selo, Glinska Poljana, Grabovac, Gređane, Hrvatska Kostajnica, Hum, Ilok, Ivanovo Selo, Jankovci (Novi and Stari), Jasenice, Joševica, Kijevo, Korlat, Kostrići, Kraljevčani, Kusonje, Lipik, Lisičić, Lovas, Lovinac, Maja, Marinci, Medviđa, Mikluševci, Mohovo, Nadin, Negoslavci, Okučani, Pakrac, Pakrački Vinogradi, Petrinja, Pecki, Petrovci, Plavićevac, Poljanak, Saborsko, Selište, Skela, Smilčić, Smoljanac, Slunj, Sonković, Sotin, Struga, Svinjarevci, Široka Kula, Škabrnja, Šopot, Tenja, Tordinici, Tovarnik, Vaganac, Viduševac, Voćin, Zemunik Donji;
    2. The massacre and murder of over 400 Croatian / non-Serb civilians and mixed marriages on the territory of the ethnically purified of non-Serb “Krajina,” without a single investigation, let alone a single trial, of anyone for those murders – which took place during the UN’s “peacekeeping,” the UN also not investigating a single one of the over 400 murders Jan 15, 1992-August 4, 1995;
    3. The excessive, indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas by the JNA (VJ) and RSK forces August 3, 1991 through August 4, 1995 from so-called “Krajina” territory – in 1991 the city of Vukovar leveled completely, with 3,000 civilians there killed by the shelling and by Serb bullets and massacres (with not a single YPA General officer who took part in the operation / who was a General Officer at the time of the operation ever indicted by the ICTY). Damage from the Serbs’ excessive and indiscriminate shelling totaling over 27.1 Billion USD in by 1995;
    4. The “Krajina” leaders point blank refusal to all peace negotiations conditioning mutual (read, non-Serb as well) refugee returns;

    5. The joint “Army of the Serbian Republic of Krajina” and “Army of the Republika Srpska” joint operation against the 200,000 Bosniak populated Bihac pocket that was ongoing in July and into August 4, with “RS” and “Krajina” television, as well as Mladic and Karadzic, openly boasting it would be another Srebrenica.

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    • One last posting from the same poster on the Economist:
      Yeah, in addition to conveniently ignoring the fact that 99.5% of Croats and non-Serbs were ethnically cleansed and barred from returning by the “Krajina” fascists and JNA in 1991; and that the JNA / VRSK / Chetnik terrorism and aggression killed over 10,000 civilians (including 300 children), maimed 30,000 civilians (over 3,000 children) and in all ethnically cleansed (including W Slavonia and East Slavonija / Podunavlje and Banovina, Kordun, occupied Lika and occupied Northern Dalmatia) 400,000 Croats and non-Serbs; and that the city of Vukovar alone had 7,000 shells a day fall on it for 90 days, and that Croatia was indiscriminately and unselectively shelled from “Krajina” territory on a 24 hour, daily basis even after the UN “peacekeepers” arrival on Jan. 15, 1992 until Operation Storm (during which time there were over 400 murders of sick / elderly Croats / non-Serbs – the 0.5% of the pre-war population that managed to stay in “Krajina” – and that there was not a single investigation by “Krajina” police or military police, or UN “peacekeepers,” into those murders) – they repeat the fallacious (and legally invalidated last Friday) claim that Serbs were “expelled” during Storm when the fact is that all who left fled following the orders of their war criminal leadership they elected in sham elections that barred non-Serbs from voting, before Croatian forces even arrived.

      The fact is that they withdrew on the pre-rehearsed (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJICyxsiaXw), pre-planned withdrawal routes after the convicted war criminal Milan Martic issued the ORDER for all Serbs to withdraw on to RS, in the early afternoon of August 4, 1995 – something that “Veritas” founder, “Krajina Secretary” and seven joint criminal enterprise participant Savo Strbac (a guest moderator at the ICTY’s information session in Belgrade this month) defended repeatedly August 5, 1995 and in the weeks following on “Republika Srpska” and Serbian television.

      Even their “Vodz” Slobodan Milosevic complained (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsyjCBA_qIg) about how the “Krajina” Serbs FLED on their own accord; please see the minutes of the 43th meeting of the Supreme Defense Council of Yugoslavia of 29 August 1995:

      QUOTE: “I beg of you, 6,000 Croats defended Vukovar for half a year; the entire 1st Army attacked, the air force, a miracle, all the force that the JNA had, and they [Serbs] didn’t defend Knin, which can only be approached from three directions; they couldn’t defend it even 12 hours?

      They did not defend it, because according to all reports that we have received from the police, citiizens and the rest, as soon as the artillery preparations ended at seven in the evening, they ordered – a fleeing! According to this, there was no resistence nor even an armed encounter with Croatian forces. (…) – There came the order that all leave Krajina the same day, even without a single engagement with the Croatian Army on most of the front. If we that same day made the idiotic decision to help them, who would have made it to Knin by the evening to help them?

      And, no one would be able to make it there from their [military] columns that congested all roads in their fleeing together with the population. (…) The question is, indeed, who made the decision that the Krajina leadership leaves the Krajina? That decision, when they had all of the means to defend, caused an exodus. Now that has to be the reason that Yugoslavia rushes there to defend that territory, from which they fled like rabbits?!” ENDQUOTE

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  5. Just one more posting from the Economist commentaries:
    from Goran 1983:
    it’s amazing watching the serb propaganda machine in action – I’ve never seen anything like it. They’re constant reference’s to world war 2 in the context of the recent struggles is just an example, especially since all the statistics are arguable hence they always take upper limits when it suits they’re interests. what is the relevance?

    Dont forget, serbia was a nazi ally with the Nedic government whilst the royalist chetnik movement were also allied with the nazi’s and mussolini’s italy and committed heinous atrocities.

    Dont forget, that operation storm was a legitimate action, that rebels expelled 125,000 croatians from those regions and killed thousands of others, often systematic executions of civilians or the injured – its all documented. what was croatia suppose to do? accept the status quo? they tried for a peaceful integration via the Z4 plan which gave serbs large autonomy, their own flag, anthem, etc which they rejected. ANY country in the world, in Croatia’s position would of done exactly what croatia did!

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  6. All, some great commentaries from the Economist commentary site. Here’s one from
    Sapienti sat:
    …you do not understand the reality of this conflict or are so biased toward Serbian side that the reality is completely out of your sight.
    First of all it was guaranteed in former Yugoslavia’s constitution that all the Republics (not provinces) have the right to proclaim their independence. That was in the constitution! Croatian constitution does not give right for provinces, such as Dalmatia or Slavonia or Istria or Krajina, and so on to declare their independence. So, when Serbs decided to go their own way there is no sovereign country in the world that would approve of that. It is insanity! Imagine Italian minority in the State of New York declaring their independence from that State(sic)?!? .

    The unfortunate Serbian minority was not expunged from Croatia but was used as pawns of Milosevic’s regime who played them for their dirty political schemes. They organized Krajina Serbs’ exodus promising them that they will be back in few days and then Krajina region will be annexed to Republic Serbska and ultimately to mother Serbia thus finishing the dream of Greater Serbia. Well, as it turns the Croatian army was too organized and too swift and they defended their own country from the bloodthirsty intruders from the east. Serbian paramilitary and militia were faced with defending the land without people. Of course they lost.

    The Serbian war criminals are in Hague, and rightly so, because it is them that started the war in Slovenia, in Croatia, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They are only reaping what they sowed.

    I had to laugh on your false construct of history when you say that Serbs “most heartedly accepted the ‘brotherhood’ ideals of the ‘Yugoslavia’ concept”. Yes, but why? Because it was more than they could dream of. They ruled the whole society from top down and were the true masters of this most unfortunate former country.
    And you dare to speak of ethnic cleansing! It is Serbs and Serbs only who committed the most appalling war atrocities extinguishing whole towns and villages. Do I need to remind you what they did to Vukovar, Srebrenica, or Sarajevo?

    The funniest thing is that in the beginning of the conflict Croatia was offering Serbians a loose confederation. Were they smart enough to accept it they would still be in one country, Yugoslavia probably, people would be alive and nations would flourish. But, no! They thought that with JNA they were strong enough to rule as sole despots! Well, welcome to reality. They lost it all and now they pout and accuse all and everybody for their stupidity and greed!

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  7. Why anyone ever trust the Serbs when the ‘father’ of the modern Serb nation, Dobrica Čosić said, “Lažemo da bi smo obmanuli sebe, da utešimo drugog; lažemo iz samilosti, da nas nije strah, da ohrabrimo, da sakrijemo svoju i tudju bedu, lažemo zbog poštenja. Lažemo zbog slobode. Laž je vid našeg patriotizma i potvrda naše urodjene inteligencije. Lažemo stvaralacki, maštovito, inventivno.”

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    • Translation of Sunman comment: Why anyone trust the Serbs when the ‘father’ of the modern Serb nation, Dobrica Cosic said: “We lie in order to mislead ourselves, to comfort others; we lie out of compassion, so we’re not scared, to encourage, to hide our own and the misery of others, we lie for honesty. We lie for freedom. Lie is a face of our patriotism and confirmation of our inborn intelligence. We lie creatively, imaginatively and inventively.”

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