Herceg-Bosna: Non-Malignancy In Defending Croatian Life

Herceg-Bosna Six – From left: Jadranko Prlic, Milivoj Petkovic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Berislav Pusic, Valentin Coric
Photo: AFP

The former commander of the Bosnian Serb army, Ratko Mladic, dubbed the Butcher of Bosnia, has last week at the ICTY been found guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, participating in joint criminal enterprise and sentenced to life in prison.

This coming week an important verdict from the ICTY Appeal Chamber awaits six Croatian men (Jadranko Prlić, Bruno Stojić, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petković, Valentin Ćorić and Berislav Pušić) in relation to war crimes charges pertaining to the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The spin and mantra concocted by anti-Croatian political lobby that Croatians engaged in a joint criminal enterprise in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the early 1990’s, with view to creating a Greater Croatia/i.e. that Herceg-Bosna territory should become part of Croatia, made it to the ICTY war crimes charge sheet against these Croats. Should one concentrate upon facts as evidence, transcripts of tape-recorded conversations from the Security Council of the Republic of Croatia during the period 1992–95, for example, one would come across the justified and widespread fear that Croats would become dominated in an independent Bosnia and Herzegovina (by Serbs and Muslims/Bosniaks) but that Croatian leadership in early 1992 expressed strongly the idea that entertaining the idea of any part of Bosnia and Herzegovina becoming joined with Croatia was not the path Croatia would pursue with its military assistance, but defending Croats from attacks would be a matter of necessity, especially given the relatively much smaller number of Croats there as opposed to Serb and Bosniak population. Fears of political domination over Croats and Bosniaks came from Serb onslaught first, then subsequently this fear transformed into security concerns in the second half on 1992 due to the increasing tensions stemming from the escalation of Bosniak pursuits to take over control of areas where Croat majority lived. The presence of imported foreign Mujahedin forces (from Middle East and surrounds) fighting alongside Bosniaks added further weight to the Croatian fear for bare survival.

Back to Mladic case, the distressing reality is that Mladic got most of what he, the Serbs and Serbia wanted: a Bosnian Serb statelet (Republika Srpska/Serbian Republic) from which almost every Croat. Bosniak and other non-Serb was cleansed and banished or murdered. He is adored, his portrait adorns bars and office walls in Bosnia and Serbia, his name sung at football matches…the denial and lack of remorse for the criminal enterprise continues.

Mladic faced two counts of genocide: one for Srebrenica, the other for what happened in the “municipalities” elsewhere in Bosnia. He faced no charges for his heinous crimes in Croatia, which were as gruesome as the ones in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In Croatia as in Bosnia and Herzegovina serial atrocities were committed, while the international community remained indecisive, and worse – tolerating and even attempting to justify on some trumped-up historical ethnic hatreds the utter depravity of Serb aggression. In that, victims – dehumanised!

The whole idea of the Hague tribunal was as much an act of contrition for that failure as it was ambition for international justice. Mladic’s pogroms included more mass-murder, torture, mutilation and rape, in the camps at Omarska, Trnopolje and Keretem in northwest Bosnia. To the east, in Visegrad, civilians – including babies – were herded alive into houses for incineration, or down to a bridge to be shot, or chopped into pieces, and hurled into the river Drina. Then there was the wholesale demolition of countless towns and villages, and the ‘cleansing’ of all non-Serbs, by death or deportation; the razing of mosques and Catholic churches; the gathering of women and girls into camps for violation all night, every night. And the rest,” Ed Vulliamy (a prosecution witness at Mladic trial, one of the first western journalists to discover Serb concentration camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina), The Guardian.

The Hague ICTY’s (International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia), being wound down and replaced with Mechanisms for Criminal Tribunals (MICT), task was always to be judicial, but also to “promote reconciliation” in the Former Yugoslavia territories. There is no reconciliation and the Judges at ICTY have hopefully recognised that fact. There is no reconciliation!

The so-called “joint criminal enterprise” had, in political efforts demonising Croats, spilled into the courtrooms with an overriding political view of equating the victim with the aggressor and with the stark and blatant lack of attempting to fully address the Bosniak/Muslim onslaught against Croats within Bosnia and Herzegovina, the future looks most grim for all should the ICTY confirm a verdict of joint criminal enterprise against the Croatian six this coming week.

While justice is done and seen to have been done via Mladic verdict as relating to the Serb aggression, Serb joint criminal enterprise, and its consequences, a verdict of similar weight in the case of Herceg-Bosna Six would neither be justice nor would justice be seen to have been done.

The United Nations human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, called the verdict against Mladic “a momentous victory for justice” and declared that “Mladic is the epitome of evil.”

The problem here is that Mladic did not act alone – the whole of Serb-aggression was the epitome of evil that had to be stopped for humanity’s sake. So, let’s not lose that picture!

Regardless of the verdict that we all feel as part of the campaign against Serbs, Ratko Mladic remains a legend of the Serb nation,” said Milorad Dodik, the president of the Serb statelet in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was carved out and retained via ethnic cleansing of non-Serbs.

Before the start of Serb aggression in Bosnia and Herzegovina there were more than 760,000 Croats (17.4% of the country’s total population) living there and today there are barely 450,000. The loss of Croatian population in Bosnia and Herzegovina far exceeds that of the Serbs and Bosniaks (Muslims) and it unequivocally points to not only the many murdered and banished but also to a still-existing oppression of Croats with view to annihilating them as a constitutional ethnic group with equal rights as Serbs and Bosniaks in that country.

While Serbs ethnically cleansed Croats from the so-called Serb statelet “Serbian Republic” within Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croats, faced with Serb aggression and subsequent the added Muslim or Bosniak onslaught against them, managed to hold on and preserve their lives, where they made up more than half of the population, in towns that were at the time defended with the help of HVO (Croatian Defence Council) and include: Grude, Posušje, Široki Brijeg, Čitluk, Dobretići, Domaljevac, Ljubuški, Kupres, Tomislavgrad, Livno, Usora, Neum, Orašje, Kreševo, Prozor-Rama, Odžak, Žepče, Čapljina, Kiseljak i Mostar.

In an interview in the German magazine Der Spiegel in January 1995, President Franjo Tudjman of Croatia said: “The Muslims wanted to reign over the whole of Mostar then gain ground to the sea, and finally create an Islamic state. That is what our Croats are defending themselves against.”

Should injustice from the ICTY Trial Chamber be cemented when it comes to joint criminal enterprise waged against the six Croats in the Hague on 29 November 2017 then, besides injustice and conviction on false and twisted evidentiary grounds, it is as clear as day that both Serbs and Muslims (Bosniaks) will get what they wanted out of Bosnia and Herzegovina from day one: to control parts of the country’s territory and oust the Croats; to ensure Croats become marginalised and eventually disappear.

The active plan to banish Croats from any significant roll in the life of Bosnia and Heregovina did not end with brutal attacks against them during the war from both the Serb and Bosniak side, but it continued with its implementation even after the 1995 Dayton Agreement (which blessed a continued life to the Serbian Republic within the country), after the war. In 2000, for example, a good part of the International community instigated electoral reforms that would give Bosniaks within the Bosniak-Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina the power to rule and “call the shots” over Croats; similar moves were previously put in motion for Serbs within the Serbian Republic in that country. The resulting developments saw and see the increasing loss of equality of Croats within Bosnia and Herzegovina and the increasing numbers of Croats leaving the country under the pressure of oppression and inequality in that constitutionally triethnic state.

Contrary to any interpretations vying to paint Croatia and Croats as aggressors within Bosnia and Herzegovina the fact is that the Croatian leadership never took the decision to attack, but to defend. The full-scale war between the Bosniaks and Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina did not break out until the Mujahedins abducted Živko Totić and killed four soldiers in his entourage, the Croat head of the HVO Military Police in Zenica, on 15 April 1993, even if drive-by shootings and threats did occur with great intensity prior to that date.

The fact is that Croats’ war efforts in Bosnia and Herzegovina followed no joint criminal enterprise but were, indeed, efforts of non-malignant intent and defensive posture regardless of whether they fought to save themselves from Serbs or Bosniaks.

While the ICTY Prosecutor is seeking increased sentences for the Herce-Bosna Six from the Appeals Chamber, the defence seeks acquittal of all charges, or a retrial. The acquittal or retrial are sought on basis of wrong conclusions by the ICTY Trial Chamber regarding the existence of a joint criminal enterprise and the participation in the same by the Herceg-Bosna Six. Acquittal is surely the only just outcome. Ina Vukic

Comments

  1. I understand that Mladic is ill at the moment. Let’s hope that his medical issue is a particularly prolonged and painful one.

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  2. therealamericro says:

    Ina dont forget the massacre and ethnic cleansing of Croats from Dusina in January 1993.

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    • therealamericro says:

      I encourage Ina and all her readers to buy a copy of US Army Col. Dr. Charles Reginald Schrader’s expose of muslim Bosniak aggression “The Muslim-Croat Civil War in Central Bosnia 1992-1994.” I encourage all readers to send a copy to their nearby high schools and colleges across the western world.

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    • Cannot forget that, never, therealamericro

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  3. Croatia never should have agreed to participate in the ICTY…It should have done what all victors do, prosecuted crimes within its own judicial system. How the aggressor won the war that it lost militarily is quite amazing and something that should be studied by Croatia; which won the war but the lost the peace. And yes Serbia essentially won…they gained a Serb statelet created on aggression, territorial plunder, ethnic cleansing and genocide all blessed and sanctioned by the international community – wow! They have marginalized Croatia internationally and have divided its society and political life. It devastated Croatia’s economy and it’s people lives with not a penny in compensation financially, and not an ounce of moral remorse and reckoning of their aggressor role. To add insult to injury, Croatia unblocked Serbia’s EU accession chapters even though it had legitimate reasons to block Serbia; how pathetic and cowardly. Well, if this isn’t a win, I don’t know what is. Greater Serbia at all costs and by all means works. When will Croatia hold it’s inept leadership responsible for this miserable state? When do we stop making excuses? When is enough, enough? I am disgusted.

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    • Your sentiments are replicated many times over, Sunman. Disgust is a good description for reactions to what several Croatian leading politicians have been up to

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      • Ina, our people, our defenders answered the call of duty for Croatia honourably, valiantly and without hesitation, and paid with their lives, blood, sweat and tears. Victoriously they passed the torch to political leaders who failed miserably to lead and to honour the sacrifices made for an independent Croatia and our realization of a millennial dream. No vision, no ability to unify or to create a cohesive society. They were and are parasites, or are at very best inept with the exception of a rare few. They systematically de-valued and robbed Croatia and committed treason. They are a despicable lot. I am tired of the excuses too of UDBA, Yugos, Chetniks etc, etc. If our defenders could beat the overwhelming military might of the 5th largest army in Europe with no where near the military hardware they needed, then surely we could beat the Yugos and UDBA? If Poland, Hungary and other nations can lift their societies out of their communist legacy, can Croatia not do the same? It’s long past time for Croatians to demand more, demand better. But I guess in the absence of leadership that’s where things go awry – what is best –
        old yugo leftist ways. Where is the hope that we had in Kolinda? She could surely have and could still be a catalyst to change. Hello Kolinda – it’s not about re-election, it’s about something bigger!

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      • The strength to resist and fight change out of communist heritage is now at the stage of obscene, Sunman. Disregard of truth is there also. Twisting history that affects the whole nation as if it were a toy. The fight for Croatia continues,

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  4. What do you think about that guy who took poison before he was sentenced. Wow. I think of you when I think about that region of the world.

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  5. Suman Thank you for your words. Today I am in mourning for our Gererals and for Croatia. May god give us strength to battle against injustice.

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  6. This is a tribunal that has very far reaching future ramifications that would seem to be ignored by most of the media. It is so incredibly upside down in its justice and legality – wherein the victim has become the aggressor. Protecting ones borders and sovereignty is now being seen as a war crime?

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  7. Very sad ending of the ICTY for Croatia. But even today Croatian politics is NOT united. We have idiots and fools who continue to proclaim Croatia an aggressor and won’t stand for any moment of silence to honour Praljak. I don’t know what these fools wish to accomplish – do they think a 3rd Yugoland is in the future? Based on evidence and context, it should have been Serbia guilty of JCE, not Croatia. Well, might is right…facts on the ground are always the determining factor…the RS is a prime example of this this. So sad. And even sadder is that there are so many fools and idiots that surround us.

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    • Yes, Sunman, RS or Serbian Republic entity in Bosnia is a prime example of might is right…communists have never forgiven for the breakup of Yugoslavia and will continue digging until stopped

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