Atonement for wrongs against Franjo Tudjman and Croatia’s War of Independence

Franjo Tudjman

On November 16, 2012, the ICTY Appeal Chamber acquittal of Croatian Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac also acquitted the first president of Croatia dr. Franjo Tudjman of war crimes.

Those that criticise this ICTY Appeal Chamber decision criticise it in ways that have nothing to do with justice for the individuals convicted by ICTY Trial Chamber in April 2011 and acquitted by ICTY Appeal Chamber.

Certainly Serbian politicians and media as well as some convincingly pro-communist Croatian NGOs (e.g. Documenta – Centre for Dealing With the Past), when referring to the ICTY Appeal Chamber’s acquittal of Croatian Generals, keep pounding about how there were crimes committed during and after the Operation Storm in Croatia. It would seem that criminal justice, defined by the due process of presumed innocent until proven guilty, means nothing to these peddlers of communist propaganda.

They just do not seem to have the decency and patience to isolate their unnamed individuals who breached Dr Franjo Tudjman’s and his leadership’s orders not to commit crimes and who have or may have committed war crimes, and simply concentrate on those individuals as criminal justice should. These crimes perpetrated by their unnamed individuals have nothing to do with Croatia’s defense policy and practice at time of Serb aggression and liberating occupied territory. Despite that fact, these peddlers of injustice keep pestering the world into thinking that aggressor was the same as victim during the 1990’s Croatia’s war of Independence.

Swanee Hunt: “The bloody Serb incursion into Croatia and Bosnia happened while I served as U.S. Ambassador to Austria in the mid-1990s. In Vienna, I hosted symposia and negotiations to stop a war in which 90 percent of atrocities were committed by Serbs, although the percentage of indicted war criminals didn’t approach that balance. The Dayton Agreement ended the Bosnian war in 1995. Perhaps heartened by their reward of almost half the country (when they comprised one-third of the population), the Serbs enjoyed their role as the neighborhood bully until 1999, when NATO intervened with air strikes to protect the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo”.

As the deceptive political dust from Serbia and some Croatian NGOs that maintains hollow and baseless rhetoric of a Croatian joint criminal enterprise in 1995 Operation Storm continues much of the rest of the world – including myself – sees fragments of atonement for wrongs done to the first President of Croatia, dr. Franjo Tudjman and his leadership circle. The atonement may be discrete or invisible to the naked eye at this time, but it’s emerging nevertheless.

The 15 April 2011 ICTY Trial Chamber judgment against the Croatian Gotovina and Markac wasted no time in including the already deceased Franjo Tudjman (who had no opportunity to defend himself in court) in its utterly unjust ruling in which it “found that Tudjman, who was the main political and military leader in Croatia before, during, and after the indictment period, was a key member of the joint criminal enterprise. Tudjman intended to repopulate the Krajina with Croats and ensured that his ideas in this respect were commander of the armed forces…” 

ICTY Appeal Chamber finding of November 16, 2012, also acquitted Dr Franjo Tudjman and his leadership of this horrible conviction by the Trial Chamber.

Credible sources claim that Zarko Puhovski (the co-founder of the first alternative Yugoslav political organisation UJDI [Udruženje za Jugoslavensku demokratsku inicijativu/Association for Yugoslav Democratic Initiatiative] in 1988), Sasha Broz (granddaughter of Josip Broz Tito, long-time leader of Communist Yugoslavia) and Vesna Terselic (leader of controversial and highly political NGO the Documenta – Centre for dealing With the Past, in Croatia) went to Belgrade in 1998 and, in collaboration with Savo Strbac (rebel Serb politician), compiled the main thrusts of ICTY Prosecution charges against Croatia, i.e. Operation Storm and, hence, those charged for war crimes in relation to it, including the Croatian Generals. These trips to Belgrade occurred around the times when Croatia’s former President Stjepan Mesic appeared secret witness for the Prosecution at the ICTY.

These were the times when public vilification against Franjo Tudjman took a ferociously accelerated path.

Be it as it may, justice is slow and truth revealed in the end. As for dr. Franjo Tudjman, the thoughts that settle the heart of Independent Croatia after the ICTY Appeal Chamber acquittal could be summarised by Ian McEwan quote from ‘Atonement’:

I’ve never had a moment’s doubt. I love you. I believe in you completely. You are my dearest one. My reason for life.”

Although there’s no mention of Tudjman’s name, the atonement for wrongs done against him seeps through the words of Doris Pack, German member of the European Parliament and its rapporteur on Bosnia, who said during the past couple of days:

it would be good for the Serbian public to realise as soon as possible that the 1995 Operation Storm was a legitimate operation by the Croatian army, regardless of the fact that crimes were committed…Croatia fought a justified war to reclaim one-third of its territory that had been lawlessly occupied by Serbs and from which Serbs had expelled all Croats … the Hague war crimes tribunal’s recent acquittal of Croatian general Ante Gotovina meant that he was not responsible for war crimes in any way.

The perpetrators of the crimes committed by the Croatian side in the war are on trial and sentences are being handed down … crimes were committed against Serbs in the war as well but the perpetrators were convicted… The Hague’s acquittal of Croatian generals was a signal to everyone that the tribunal (ICTY) was working correctly and that it was not biased … Gotovina’s acquittal had helped Croatia close an unhappy chapter of its history.

The world would indeed be a nicer place if Serbia and those that support its wicked and false stance on Operation Storm were to heed Doris Pack’s above words. After all, Doris Pack was part of the European Union power brokers that served hardships and fired vilification against Dr Franjo Tudjman and Operation Storm during 2000’s and now have enough courage to admit a wrong. But, sadly, the pro-Communist threads run deep and there’s much still to be done for peace and reconciliation.

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


  1. Branko Miletic says:

    Imagine for a moment one third of the UK or the US or France was occupied by foreign forces – just how would they react?

    Having spent 42 years in the West, I know that one thing for sure- the West would NEVER allow Serbs or anyone else for that matter to pull the same they did in 1991.

    Sadly the people of HR never seem to understand is that if a minority pulled the same stunt in the West, yes in the same the so-called ‘civilised’ West. complete with its millenia of culture, literature and political development, that same minority would no longer exist. The Serbs know this all too well- sadly too many Croats grew up in the 50s-80s when there was a saturation PR campaign in the old SFRJ of blaming all Croats (regardless of political persuasion) for the excesses of Pavelic and the Ustashi.

    However Croatians are also to blame. We as a nation and people have never held the Serbs collectively responsible for their barbarism they started in 1843 – 11 genocides and/or mass murders in 170 years and not one complaint from mainstream Croatian historians or politicians.

    This has allowed the Serbs to control the politico- historical narrative. And then we are surprised that Gotovina et al get arrested?

    Control the narrative and you get to write you own history. If you don’t, then be prepared to put yourself at the mercy of your enemies.

    • “Control the narrative and you get to write you own history. If you don’t, then be prepared to put yourself at the mercy of your enemies”. True words spoken!

      • “Control the narrative and you get to write your own history” Yes, that is what post WWII Croatian emigrants and the subsequent generations of Croatians living in every corner of our world have been waiting for, praying for, working for……..and unfortunately we are still waiting. Whenever the discussion arises about how the world perceives us as a nation, as a people, inevitably we are always disappointed that the world doesn’t understand us. I suggest that we have to get our house in order first, before we can expect others to see us as anything other than “Eastern European” “Balkan” “Slavic” and all that those kind of terms and labels suggest. We as a people have to come to terms with who we are and what our history is –the true version–not some whitewashed, 10 second sound byte, denunciation of what we are not – but what and who we are! History is important – and lets for a change get it right this time- now that we have democracy, freedom of information, right to free speech etc. we have to learn to use these tools to not only our own advantage but to the advantage of our country and people as a whole. Lets ask the tough questions, lets be willing to dialogue, lets be courageous and face the skeletons in our closets and not sweep unpleasant things under the rug. It’s difficult to present a united voice to the world if in fact we as a nation are fractured. I suggest that we have to reconcile ourselves as a people with events of WWII and its aftermath before we can in any concrete way move forward. Like it or not we are all products of our history and until we realize this we are building our house on a foundation of sand.

        Bog i Hrvati!

      • Velebit, yes it’s so important to acknowledge and address the good and the bad in our WWII and post-WWII history – there’s strong resistance to face the communist crimes and deal with them, there has been acknowledgment and dealing with crimes committed associated with the Holocaust but not the other, which I dare say were much, much more numerous and horrific. So, until all good and all bad is dealt with there’ll always be discord and bitterness.

  2. Serbs refuse to accept the reality that they were wrong…and are working very hard to control the narrative and as usual we are on the defensive…we’re always guilty by accusation. Here’s an article stating the the Serbia is demanding evidence from the G&M trial and the Prosecutor is obliging of course so that Serbia can to pursue these innocent men…there will be an Interpol warrant shortly for G&M by Serbia.

    • I don’t know how Serbia would have the right of access to those documents given that they dodged subpoenas from Hague in relation to furnishing evidence that reportedly proves Serbs were ordered by their leaders to evacuate Croatia in 1995. Any way, I believe the Croatian State Attorney’s office has also requested or is requesting the Hague documents from the hearing in order to assess whether some crimes (not related to Gotovina & Markac case) are entailed in them and so that individual prosecutions could be pursued in Croatia.

      • Branko Miletic says:

        This is where we Croatians get it all wrong- its not about nor has it ever been about a battle over the truth or even about these 2 generals – its about scoring political points….runs on the political board or political goals– call it what you like- its about winning the silent war & not about some high minded notions of morality, truth and decency etc.
        Now if we had real politicians running HR and not a cabal of self-serving YU-apparatchniks and Euro-obsessed dandies who would collectively sell their country, mothers and children for 30 pieces of silver. this issue could be dealt with fairy easily.
        What we need is someone in ZG to start launching court cases in the EU, UN, wherever possible really, against Serbia.
        After all, if there is one thing the Serbs beat Croatians hands down is instigating mass murder and genocide…there are at least 11 to choose from, and I will bet my bottom dollar if Belgrade is faced with 11 court cases accusing it of genocide/mass murder ranging from the 1850s to 1999, they would very, very quickly forget about Gotovina & Markac.

      • Croatia has filed lawsuit against Serbia for genocide in 1999 and even though Serbia has filed a counter claim in 2010, it is getting nervous that’s for sure. They’re hunting for crimes that don’t exist against Croatia I would think

    • Luka Misetic says that Interpol processes for issueing arrest warrants have changed since the Tihomir Purda (a Croatian soldier who served in Vukovar) and Ejup Ganic (very high ranking Bosniak official during the war and one time part of the presidency of BiH) episodes – where Serbia concocted Interpol arrest warrants based on false and misleading evidence. Apparently, now there is a requirement for the country where the alleged crime was committed to authorise the issueing of an Interpol warrant. This is to stop bogus and political warrants being issued by countries like Serbia.

      Read more here:

      Since Gotovina (or any Croatian or Bosniak soldier) ever stepped into Serbia to a wage a war of aggression on the Serbia then they can’t do diddly squat except spin their web of lies and deceit. Why don’t they try prosecuting the thousands of war criminals in their own borders, starting with those Serbs who committed murder, rape, torture and ethnic cleansing in the so called ‘Krajina’ before Operation Storm.

  3. The battle for truth continues as long as things like this are going on…

    • Serbia appears to be seeking evidence where evidence doesn’t exist, at least not the sort they’re looking for. I suspect what they want to do is prove there was a “joint criminal enterprise” – orders from the top and a strategic military action to ethnically cleanse and displace Serbs – basically they want to prove that Croatia is guilty for the very crimes they were committng between 1991-1995.

      The overturning of the convictions must’ve really hit a sore spot with some individuals in Serbia who are seeing that they cannot rewrite history as they see fit. Sadly, I don’t think we’ll see an acceptance of truth from their side in the near future, but if the case of Gotivna and Markac is anything to go by, I don’t think they’ll get what they want very easily.

      Serbia needs to get rid of people like Nikolic being in power first, then maybe they can allow their country to move on from their past with some dignity. What a pathetic, sore loser he is.

  4. After reading the interview with Gotovina (thank you translating that, it’s not an easy task) and a few other posts, it got me thinking. I hope my comment makes sense, sometimes my thoughts on this matter can become muddled – I still have a lot to learn as well.

    While the acquittal of the Generals atones Tudjman of war crimes and involvement in the so-called joint criminal enterprise, the bad mark this has left on his character won’t diminish overnight. I say this because, as a young person trying to understand the past, that has sadly seen much twisting of truth, I have at times, found myself conflicted on my feelings towards Tudjman and his involvement. Perhaps this can all be attributed to the fact that there has been much misinformation spread about his involvement and supposed dealings with Milosevic, in I think 1991? In particular, I have come across numerous sources (and individuals) that claim Tudjman, much like Milosevic, sought a “Greater Croatia” at the expense of Bosnia and Herzegovina, so of course, the two of them “agreed” to split it between themselves, so to speak. (And it must be noted that this supposed policy of personal gain and its subsequent actions are to blame for numerous Bosnian-Croats being expelled from their homes, as well as ethnic Serbs living within Croatia – or so I’m told).

    The point I am trying to make here is, if the acquittal of the Generals clears Tudjman’s name of wrongdoings during Operation Storm, what is being done to clear his name of other lies and misinformation that is spread to this day? If these “dealings with Milosevic” are fact, they should of course, be acknowledged. If not, is there enough real information and facts being spread, to educate people about what actually occurred? If my experiences are anything to go by, there is still much to be done because I’ve found myself often confused by two conflicting narratives – one praising the former president for his actions, the other being quite the opposite. If lies are being heralded as fact, how have we allowed such propaganda to manifest itself so deeply within society and the minds of individuals?

    I won’t go so far to say there weren’t crimes committed by all sides involved – as I’ve said in other comments, it’s the nature of war to see crimes and misconduct on all sides, but how does this equate to the idea that there was a Greater Serbia and Greater Croatia policy? If such a thing had been ordered by Tudjman and agreed upon with Serbian politicians, surely there would have been much more compelling evidence (real evidence, that is) against our Generals and others of a high rank because the policy itself would have been carried out across different military operations?

    And also, I ask – if these accusations are false, I’m guessing much of it can be attributed to lies spread by Croatia’s Communist-nostalgics, but what then, is a good place to start for getting factual information? (Where do these accusations even come from, what basis, if any, is there for them?) I’ve been through your blog – perhaps I’m employing poor search tactics but I am still rather confused on this matter as I don’t think I’ve found a clear answer. I am very curious about this issue, as you can surely see, and I thank you in advance if you can shed some light on this topic. I’ve found your blog a great source of information for my curious mind. 🙂

    • Your question Kat is a question that many might ask. Please don’t forget that it is generated from lies spun by Stjepan Mesic and his political agenda – Mesic when he was last president of former Yugoslavia never wanted an independent Croatia etc – he wanted a new form of Yugoslavia/ a confederation! Then when he saw that the overwhelming majority of people did not want that at the referendum he quickly mellowed and fell into high political positions in Croatia. He to my opinion (based on a fair amount of facts) continued his anti-Croatian undermining by spinning highly suspect statements such as “Tudjman and Milosevic” agreed to divi-up Croatia/Bosnia and Herzegovina. Now, logic and reason tell us that if the agreement Mesic spun out occurred the events in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina would have taken an entirely different shape from the brutal Serb aggression that it was. Mesic’s statements about this came out publicly around the same time when Lord Ashdown came out with the supposed map of Bosnia and Herzegovina Tudjman drew on a serviette at a party! Ashdown spinned his own interpretations into a supposed push for a Greater Croatia. Mesic picked up (if not worked in political concert with Ashdown?) quite well on this because it suited him. We have seen that he has never supported the Croatian Generals who were in the Hague, indeed he stripped them off their military ranks while they were still on trial or at the time of their indictment – Mesic is certainly in this not a just person or a fair person who considers those charged with crimes innocent until proven guilty. He simply could not wait to add another layer of guilt against Croatia. Thank God justice has won in the end and the Generals found innocent.

      Because of such lies and misinformation and political spin there has been a great deal of mud thrown at Croatia and Croatians and it will take years to peel it off. There will always be those who have written negatively and wrongly about Tudjman and the Croatian Generals in the past 15 years who will not re-write and correct their former statements because they would want to save face and their own image. That is unfortunately a part of human nature, in many humans. But, bit by bit all will be revealed – there is a mammoth task in correcting the political wrongs against Croatia which are affecting the very lives of ordinary innocent people.

      • Thank you for your reply.

        Why am I not surprised that the name Stjepan Mesic shows up? What’s much more concerning though, is how I am not surprised that there are people who still do not question him and his motives. It is incredibly sad to see Croatians and Bosnians who are bitter about Tudjman/HDZ because they think he is responsible for their displacement, for the “carving up” of Bosnia. If he could lead the successful Operation Storm to regain Croatian territory, I ask myself, why do we not then see a political entity called the “Republika Hrvatska” within Bosnia and Herzegovina? I know well that politicians are not perfect and we shouldn’t take our preference for one into saint-like worship because after all, they’re human, but doing the opposite, that is, demonizing a person because you disagree with their worldview, is quite toxic as well. (Let me not forget to mention – there are even people who claim he could’ve stopped the Vukovar massacre, but decided to do nothing, or close to nothing). Maybe he could have done certain things differently, but no one person can do everything right, especially when almost every individual has a different idea of what doing the right thing is by them. Tudjman couldn’t have possibly been everyone’s saviour, but if Croatia/Bosnia’s desire for independence was recognised in the proper manner…well, we wouldn’t need discussions like this today.

        If a serviette drawing is all the evidence it takes to incriminate Tudjman, I wonder why flimsy evidence against our Generals didn’t work against them in the end. Honestely, it sounds like something one writes as part of a fictional story about a tyrant. How can this fly as evidence with anyone who can form some sort of cohesive thought process? And what do British, American, and other politicians or prominent media figures, hope to gain by feeding into the victim-complex and anti-Croat sentiment seen in Serbian politics? Perhaps they’re bitter that Tudjman would never side with people like them and their vision for Croatia? Feeling a little guilty that they stood by idly when they could’ve urged their colleages to do more, or helped spread the truth?

      • Tudjman did not carve up Bosnia, if you look back he only encouraged and supported the creation of Croatian entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the early days so that Croatian voice does not get lost or does not become smothered. When it all started – Serb aggression in BIH – only Serb and Muslim representatives from BiH went to Brussels etc for talks with EC, then came Herceg-Bosna as entity so that Croat representatives could also be heard. Certainly Tudjman did not do what Serbs did: create a “Republic” within B i H on criminal enterprise. Stjepan Mesic was the one who put the idea to the world, with his lies, of Tudjman supposedly wanting a bit of B i H. It is a mammoth task to clean up the garbage Stjepan Mesic sowed around. We won’t give up though!

      • I see no “reply” button on your last comment, but I hope this works. Anyway, this is in reply to that last comment, stating that Tudjman supported the creation of a Croatian entity in BiH. Personally, I don’t find anything wrong with that, if done for the purpose of giving Croats in BiH a voice. Since Bosnia is comprised primarily of three entities and religions, it’s only fair that all three have their voice heard, fairly and clearly and their needs taken on board. What is not fair is giving one portion of the population their own entity while smothering the voice (and perhaps even rights) of the other two, and stemming from that, further smothering the voice of the group with the smaller population from the other two and I dare say, that would currently be Bosnian-Croats. In my unprofessional opinion, it would really only be logically fair if entities for all three groups within BiH were created through lawful means (which currently isn’t the case), or we have no division in BiH at all. Easier said than done, with so much misinformation flying about, but like you said, we won’t give up! If the least one can do is give people a brief overview of what is myth and what is fact, it’s still a start.

  5. Branko Miletic says:

    It is sad to see Croatians get all in a knot over this. Firstly, the so-called serviette drawing has been proven to be a fake. Paddy Ashdown was nothing more than an MI6 plant. Secondly I refuse to take lessons on geopolitical niceties from Anglos, Americans, French, Germans,Russians et al….fact is that countries that are the biggest aggressors in the history of humanity and who are guilty of multiple genocides themselves seem also to be be the loudest when it comes to criticizing Croatia…Croatia has every historical right to claim the Croat- majority areas of BiH, Croatia has every legitimate political right to defend ethnic Croats near any of its borders and beyond and Croatia also has a clear cut responsibility to ensure that its borders and its people are safe and secure- this is a standard human, political and even UN- articulated right. Its time we grew up as a people and forgo the “we were once slaves of our neighbours’ syndrome and turned over a new leaf. If we need an example, take a look at the Koreans for one outstanding example. That country was a vassal kingdom of China for hundreds of years, a colony of Japan and its people were used as slaves for the first half of the 20th Century, it was then split into two, racked by an awful war in the 1950s, then for 20 years, South Korea (half the country basically) was run by a military dictatorship, which was only overthrown in the 1980s. Today, South Korea has one of the world’s highest standards of living, is home to the worlds largest electronics company, is Asia’s fourth largest economy and is also the world’s largest shipbuilder. All it took was a change of mentality. Food for thought really. We should learn from this.


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