Croatia – Election Results In Capital Zagreb Crucial For Continued Affirmation Of Harshly Won Sovereignty

30th May is Croatian Statehood Day! The date that marked in 1990 the inauguration of the Croatian Parliament as we know it today, the guardian as it were of a sovereign Croatia.

Happy Croatian Statehood Day!

In 2021 it is also the day when the Second round of local elections will be held. If the new left green We Can (Možemo) coalition wins lead positions in the Capital of Zagreb local government it will also signal an attack (either by large or small voter turnout) on Croatia’s sovereignty away from communist Yugoslavia.    

People in Croatia during the last 15 years, at least, have been crying out for change! Change in political leadership that would bring about a solidification of values fought for during the 1990’s Homeland War, when almost 94% of Croatian voters said a big YES to secession from communism and Yugoslavia. Whichever way one turned it seemed the popular consensus was that Croatia needs to rid itself of HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union and SDP/Social Democratic Party as leading political parties because their governments since year 2000 had increasingly failed to modernise laws in order to move away from former communist practices, increasingly failed to cut corruption and nepotism, increasingly failed to usher in investment and development that would battle alarming unemployment and brain drain away from the country… Yet voter turnout had consistently been low for this change to actually occur.  

Today, in 2021, Croatia still lives in an era of unprecedented income inequality, unnatural political elitism, corruption, non-responsive legislation to the evident needs, and skyrocketing childhood poverty just as it did under the communist/socialist regime in former Yugoslavia. In 2019 and according to the research of the Institute of Economics [“Child Poverty and Strategies for Coping with Household Poverty in Croatia”] almost 300,000 children in Croatia lived in poverty, often without basic necessities. The situation is not better today and that is an unacceptable number of children living in poverty; in a country of just over 4 million people those numbers are debilitating and devastating. The 2019 survey cited another devastating statistic: one in five members of poor families said at least one member of the household had gone to bed hungry in the month prior to the survey.

No doubt, financial insecurity increases someone’s odds of poor psychological and physical well-being. And so, one must wonder if many voters in Zagreb who have at the first round of local elections on 16 May 2021 voted significantly for the new ultra-left green hybrid of communism and socialism under the name “We Can” (Možemo) into the Council Assembly are actually still walking the communist Yugoslavia tightrope of wilful self-deception, being a Pollyanna, who only wears rose-tinted glasses and pretends the glass is half-full when it’s really not! The We Can voters as those activists involved in this political platform have certainly not learned the lesson of sustainable good life and that is: without hard work and productivity there can be no permanent exit from poverty and financial insecurity. They say they will get rid of corruption, yet corrupt and non-transparent ways define their funded activist histories! Their employment or productivity history reads activist, paid activist, NGO activist with no services provision but lots of pro-communist political claptrap, LGBTQIA intrusive pressure against mainstream Christian family values (whether you want the pressure or not) … evidently carrying the badge of approval of the communism coined phrases “State-led Corruption” and “State-led Mass Murder”!

These We Can political activists are really of the same breed as the major political parties like HDZ and SDP, who have held government both nationally and locally. The fact that they brandish the symbols and insignia of the former communist Yugoslavia as something to be celebrated, even though it murdered in cold blood at least one million of innocent people, even though the EU has branded it as criminal totalitarian regime – tells you everything about them even though the tattoo “democracy” is “embedded” upon their foreheads.  

As to how much this new left hybrid of unwelcome communism and socialism that’s hiding under “We Can” name will rock Croatia’s political and economic stability in the coming four years will be seen on this coming Sunday 30th May when the 2nd Round of local elections will confirm the leading positions of Mayor, Deputy Mayor and County Governors. What happens in the Capital city of a country is usually the guiding rule as to what political mood will spread throughout the country in the coming four years. Should the We Can Tomislav Tomasevic win the Mayoral seat of Zagreb instead of Miroslav Skoro of the Homeland Movement party, for instance, Croatia should also brace itself for some serious reckoning on the streets directed against the communist past being kept alive in Croatia.

The fact that a portion of Croatia’s voters may be realigning to the Left after the Social Democrats have lost much footing on the ground in past couple of years is not so much of a concern, given the Left has always been there, but what is of grave concern is the fact that with this new Left (under We Can brand) comes a mad and brazen attempt at reaffirmation of values of communist regime of former Yugoslavia against which 94% voted in 1991! It would be communism and socialism creeping back into the Capital City, walking without recognition or respect over the dead bodies and bones of thousands upon thousands who sacrificed their lives to rid Croatia of that political and social plague in the 1990’s. I shudder at this possibility.

In local elections held in 576 local and regional government bodies in Croatia on Sunday, May 16, in 70 cities, the heads were elected in the first round of voting. Of these, the HDZ won 36 mayorships and the major opposition party, the Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP), managed only 13. Of the six counties that elected prefects in the first round, HDZ secured four. Other counties and cities will have runoffs on May 30 to elect their mayors and prefects.

In three major cities, the incumbent HDZ failed to achieve major breakthroughs. In Zagreb, Tomislav Tomasevic, leader of Mozemo! (We can!) from the green-left coalition, secured 45.15% votes while his nearest rival Miroslav Skoro, leader of the right-wing Homeland Movement, won 12.6% votes. In the 47-seat Zagreb City Assembly, the green-left We Can coalition won 23 seats, falling one seat short of simple majority.

In Split, the second largest city in Croatia, Ivica Puljak from the liberal Centre party won 26.82% votes and will take on Vice Mihanović from the HDZ (23.23% votes) in the second round on 30 May. In Rijeka, the third largest city and a traditional SDP stronghold, Marko Filipović from the SDP (30.25%) will take on independent centre-right candidate Davor Stimac (16.10%) in the second round.

Local elections in Croatia as elsewhere in Europe, are considered a second-order election and not so important for the national agenda. They are called as such because regularly they attracted less interest, as well as lower voter turnout, and are perceived less crucial than parliamentary and presidential elections, which form a national constellation of political relations. However, one must heed a warning that local elections in Croatia are quite pivotal because, for example, many political parties do not possess the same amount of strength or public recognition at the national level, when compared to local politics. Such parties invest all of their efforts in building local-level networks that include not only politicians but entrepreneurs and interest groups, which subsequently helps them in pushing forward with their national-level policies. This is particularly important in the atmosphere where state-controlled mainstream media outlets is very biased and discriminates against political candidates. Local elections are also significant due to the fact that decision-makers on the local level can, at the same time, perform duties on the national level. For example, one who holds a position of city mayor or county governor, can be elected to legislative body on the national level, that is, the Croatian Parliament. Therefore, this local election race is quite significant as it will showcase the strength of two of the major political parties HDZ and SDP) as well as the strength of the emerging political forces that seem to be seen as filling the “third option” shoes in the country. At this moment the two competing for these shoes are the ultra-leftist and green We Can and the right-wing Homeland Movement led by Miroslav Skoro. Whichever wins the top position for Zagreb will signal the way that the political climate is likely to move in the immediate future. If Tomasevic wins nostalgia towards the criminal communist regime of Yugoslavia is likely to grow causing major unrests on the streets and beyond. If Skoro wins a stronger orientation towards business and new job development and a deserved strengthening of Homeland War values. The later would be what Croatia needs and must have in order to become politically and economically stable. Ina Vukic

CROATIA: Poaching In The Hague – An Interview With Nika Pinter

REDUCING FACTS TO FIT A MYTH – A HORRIBLE MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE

Book Covers “Poaching in the Hague” by Miroslav Tudjman. Portrait Photo of Nika Pinter (C) by B. Čović/ Glas Koncila

Interview by Ina Vukic

(Interview in the Croatian language can be accessed by clicking this link/ preuzmite injercju na hrvatskom jeziku)

In 2019 the late Professor Dr. Miroslav Tudjman wrote a book which should be compulsory reading, not only for those interested in the tangled story of the Croat-Muslim War of 1992-1994, but also in the work of the Hague Tribunal (ICTY), its evidently biased approach in the case of the so-called Herceg Bosna Six (Jadranko Prlic, Milivoj Petkovic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Berislav Pusic and Valentin Coric) and in the wider problems of supranational criminal justice.

Readers may remember that in May of 2013 the ICTY Trial Chamber pronounced these six defendants guilty of the so-called Joint Criminal Enterprise and its Appeal Chamber confirmed this verdict on 29 November 2017. As the Appeal Judges pronounced its guilty verdict, General Slobodan Praljak, one of the six defendants, committed suicide in front of the sitting court, the televised images of which suicide circled the world in a shock that rocked the very foundations of the ICTY’s delivery of justice. As he consumed the poison in the courtroom Slobodan Praljak faced the judges and said: “Judges, Slobodan Praljak is not a war criminal. With contempt, I reject your verdict!

The ICTY case against the Herceg Bosna Six is now remembered principally for the act of suicide of General Slobodan Praljak, televised and in open court. But Dr Miroslav Tudjman’s lucid investigation of the judicial process should leave any objective reader with another impression, namely of the systematic and cumulative unfairness of what transpired. In that light I interviewed Nika Pinter, A Croatian former court judge who also served as an attorney on the General Slobodan Praljak’s defence team in the Hague, at the ICTY.

Miroslav Tudjman’s book “Haški krivolov”, which was published in 2019, aroused great interest around the world and was recently published in English with the title “Poaching in the Hague”. How much do you think the very title of that book contributed to the public’s significant curiosity?

The title of Dr. Tudjman’s book is intriguing and certainly, under such a title, arouses curiosity about the content provided to the reader. The title suggests that actions in the criminal process were carried out in an incorrect manner and contrary to the rules of criminal procedure. The book shows how a verdict should not be written and how criminal proceedings should not be conducted. I hope that the book will be read and also read by people who are prone to their own theses and who support the myths about the “division of Bosnia”, the myth of aggression of the Republic of Croatia against Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), the myth about a plan of Croatian politicians during the war to annex part of BiH.

In your opinion, why is this book by Dr. M. Tudjman so important and to whom is it mainly directed?

I don’t think the book is intended for any specific reader profile. It is addressed to all readers who are interested in the facts about the Hague verdict in the Prlic et al. case and how the facts on the basis of which the verdict was rendered were established in the proceedings. I want to believe that the book will be a stimulus to historians and experts in criminal law and procedure for an analytical approach to the criminal proceedings conducted before the Tribunal in The Hague.

A great deal of effort has been put into writing the book. It was necessary to read a significant number of pages of court records, closing letters of the defence, review hundreds of documents in order to make a comprehensive analysis. The work paid off, because we got facts placed in order in one place. And those facts are a response to the myths we have been hearing for years about the alleged meeting in Karadjordjevo, about the alleged division of Bosnia and Herzegovina, about the alleged existence of a joint criminal enterprise.

With its content, the book indisputably shows that the conclusion in the verdict, in relation to the joint criminal enterprise, is based on the reduction of facts. The conclusion about the existence of a fact cannot be derived from a part of a document, but the whole document must be read and then the facts from the document must be connected with the events to which they refer and put in context. Selectivity in the choice of the content within a document leads to a reduction of facts, and reduced facts are unreliable, leading to erroneous determination of decisive facts and factually unfounded conclusions and then to wrong application of law.

Drawing a conclusion at will and not from the facts presented in the criminal proceedings cannot lead to a fair and factually based verdict. The book clearly shows this only on a segment, an important segment, of the existence of Joint Criminal Enterprise (JCE).

Witnesses on whose testimonies the court based its decision in relation to the JCE are elaborated in detail in the book, their testimonies, allegations, interpretations. And then they are contradicted by evidence that refutes their allegations. Just the facts.

Dr. Miroslav Tudjman says: “The indictment and the verdict on the Joint Criminal Enterprise are not based on material facts but on interpretations of written documents (primarily presidential transcripts), on the testimonies of witnesses who were not direct participants in certain events but their interpreters, on expertise and conspiracy theories (Karadjordjevo is the crowning proof of a conspiracy, about which there are no witnesses or records)”.

Do you think that the content of this book actually justifies the widespread opinion in the world that the Hague International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was largely defined by political efforts rather than hard evidence of the crimes that many Croats were accused of?

I think so, indeed. The verdict ignored the defence evidence and the conclusions in the verdict were based on the allegations in the indictment and the actions taken by the policy of the Croat people in BiH and the Republic of Croatia were assessed outside the context of peace talks, conferences and requests of international representatives. This is my conclusion as a defence counsel in the case, and by analysing the testimony of witnesses and documents, Dr. Tudjman concluded the same in the book. In presenting the book, I referred to Resolution No. 827 adopted on 23 May 1993, by which the UN Security Council established the ICTY and adopted its Statute, and strongly emphasised that the judges, the prosecutors and the staff be significantly equipped with experience in criminal procedure (extracted from provisional verbatim record of the three thousand two hundred and seventeenth meeting Held at Headquarters, New York, on Tuesday, 25 May 1993, at 9 p.m).

Ms. Madeleine Albright, as the representative of the United States, reminded all, among other things, of the statement she made in previous sessions: “This will be no victors’ tribunal. The only victor that will prevail in this endeavour is the truth. “(S / PV.3175, p. 11)” (This will not be a victorious court. The only winner that will prevail in that endeavour will be the truth).

However, the aim of the investigation was not to establish the facts about the responsibility of the accused persons, but the Prosecutor used the reverse method of bringing about charges. He first decided who to charge, and then he went in search of evidence and only those that support his thesis. As I have also been a prosecutor for a significant part of my life, I know that the facts are first established by evidence, which then shows or points to the perpetrator. In this case it was the other way around.

The proceedings were not conducted as proceedings in a criminal case, nor were the judges professionals with experience in criminal procedure and the winner was certainly not the truth.

International criminal tribunals seek the twin goals of domestic catharsis and bringing culpable individuals to justice. Based on your extensive experience at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, how do you see this balance being struck in practice?

My position on this is visible from the answers I have already given here and that position is that there was no possibility of achieving a balance in bringing individuals before the court. Dr. Jadranko Prlic’s defence counsel, Michael G. Karnavas, on his blog ( http://michaelgkarnavas.net/blog/2017/12/05/praljaks-defiance/ )  regarding the Appeal Chamber verdict in the text entitled General Praljak’s honorable defiance, among other things, wrote:

“…when the ICTY website, outreach material, and exhibition posters depicted the narrative below (or a variation of it) before, during, and after the trial, and while the appeal was pending:

The republic’s [BiH’s] strategic position made it subject to both Serbia and Croatia attempting to assert dominance over large chunks of its territory. In fact, the leaders of Croatia and Serbia had in 1991 already met in a secret meeting where they agreed to divide up Bosnia and Herzegovina, leaving a small enclave for Muslims.

… Bosnian Croats soon followed, rejecting the authority of the Bosnian Government and declaring their own republic with the backing of Croatia. The conflict turned into a bloody three-sided fight for territories, with civilians of all ethnicities becoming victims of horrendous crimes.

In light of these claimed facts on the ICTY website, can it be said that the accused in Prlić et al. truly enjoyed the presumption of innocence? For years this text has been part of the ICTY narrative for public consumption. It was not drafted by accident. Nor is it likely that it was posted and paraded about without the express approval of the presidents of the ICTY. Incidentally, sitting on the Appeals Chamber in Prlić et al. were two former presidents (Judge Theodor Meron and Judge Fausto Pocar) and the current president, Judge Carmel Agius…”

I believe that with this quote from the lawyer Karnavas, whose position I fully share, I explained why there was no balance and why its achievement was not even wanted when bringing individuals to court.

In relation to guilt by chain of command, the former Chief Prosecutor at the Hague, Louise Arbour, said in an interview published by PBS during her tenure that “What this statute actually provides is the fact that these acts– genocides, crimes against humanity, violations of the laws in customs of war–thought they were committed by a subordinate does not relieve his superior of criminal responsibility, if the superior knew or had reason to know that the subordinate was about to commit such acts, or had done so and the superior failed to take the necessary and reasonable measures to prevent such acts, or to punish the perpetrators, thereafter. So that, in a nutshell, is the doctrine of command responsibility. It’s the responsibility of superiors, it’s a concept that originates in army settings, in military settings. But in a civil administration setting it would apply to any person who has control over a subordinate (who committed crimes). He can be personally criminally liable if he knew or should have known that the subordinate was committing crimes and failed in his duty of supervision to stop him.”

You are a lawyer by profession, and you have dealt specifically with criminal law, how do you see the fact that the indictments of the Hague Tribunal were often based not on the commission of a war crime but on the so-called command responsibility and were you satisfied with the manner and evidence with which the Hague Tribunal tried to prove command responsibility? Namely, as a lawyer, are you satisfied with the thoroughness of the evidence that the court requested from the prosecution, and if you were not professionally satisfied, why?

My many years of experience in criminal law cannot reconcile with the way in which criminal responsibility of a superior (command responsibility) is established in proceedings before the ICTY. The basic criterion in determining guilt in criminal proceedings is the objective effect of the criminal offense (actus reus) and the subjective component on the part of the accused (mens rea).

To claim that a commander is responsible for issuing combat orders is beyond the process and life logic.

We are talking about war. In war, the commander issues orders in order for them to be carried out. It can by no means be an element of a crime. But an order does not in itself prove an order for a crime. In order to be responsible, the commander must be informed of the crime, so he must know about it. I agree with Louise Arbour on the definition of command responsibility “if the superior knew or had reason to know that the subordinate committed such acts or did so and the superior did not take the necessary and reasonable measures to prevent such acts or to punish the perpetrators thereafter”. The verdict does not indicate any evidence linking the accused directly to the crime, or that he may be charged with failure to go unpunished within his authority. The evidence provided by the prosecutor in the proceedings does not allow such a conclusion even by applying the method utilising indications. The links to close the chain of indications are missing, which, after making a closed circle, do not allow any other conclusion except that the commander knew about the actions of the subordinate and did nothing to prevent crimes or punish the perpetrator.

In the criminal proceedings against the senior military commanders, I am of the opinion that the decision on the responsibility of the superior should have been made by the military court, and as General Praljak insisted. The basis for the criminal responsibility of the commander is marked with three Cs – Command, Communication, Control. If one of the elements is missing, it cannot be claimed that the commander is responsible. The prosecutor did not provide evidence of the existence of all three elements of C.

The criminal proceedings, in the way they were conducted and approached primarily by the prosecutor, resembled the proceedings before the International Commission for the establishment of crimes, where descriptions, feelings, assessments, and political condemnations are sufficient.

To clarify, at no point were the crimes denied, they were undisputed. It was disputable whether the accused knew about these crimes, whether they were responsible for them and whether they ordered them.

This book by Miroslav Tudjman deals in particular with the analysis of the Hague Tribunal’s proceedings in the case of Jadranko Prlic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petkovic, Valentin Coric and Berislav Pusic, the so-called case of the Herceg Bosna Six. Can it be concluded from that book that the Hague Tribunal rendered a wrong verdict of guilty for these six and for Joint Criminal Enterprise and if your answer is affirmative why do you think or assess it that way?

The content of the book gives an affirmative answer to this question. Yes, in relation to the Joint Criminal Enterprise, the verdict was not rendered on the basis of the facts available.

The book systematically and analytically deals with why there was no basis for a JCE conviction. I have nothing to add to the analysis given in the book. It should certainly be emphasised that the Trial Chamber Presiding Judge in relation to JCE gave his extensive opinion in which he explained why in this particular case there is no basis for claiming the existence of JCE. The judgment in the first-instance proceedings, in the Trial Chamber, was not rendered unanimously.

The verdict was handed down on a significant reduction of documents, contents of which went in favour of the defence and refutation of the claim about the existence of JCE. This was especially true of the evidence related to the attacks and offensives of the BIH Army and the participation of the Mujahideen in its ranks.

As a lawyer, you were personally on General Slobodan Praljak’s defence team. During the trial and appeal, did you experience protests that justice and the truth about Croatia’s efforts in the war on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina would be denied or incomplete?

Yes. Decisions on the admission of defence evidence, the admission of segments of individual documents, the selective approach to the admission of defence evidence and the non-selective approach to the admission of prosecution evidence often frustrated me.  All the effort put in with the best intention of presenting all the facts, so that the Chamber would have a chance to reach a proper verdict, seemed futile, but we did not give up. In the end, yes, it was in vain. 

The proceedings before the Tribunal are a compilation of two legal systems, Common law and Civil law. However, the basic principles of criminal procedure remain the same, the prosecutor must base his accusation on the evidence and its content. The manner in which the indictment was filed, just contrary to the principles of criminal procedure, shifted the burden of proof to the defence.

The prosecutor came from the Anglo-Saxon legal field with the aim of winning, regardless of the facts. The defence had matured in a legal order in which the goal is to establish the facts, and the prosecutor and the court and the defence have that obligation. And it is not a question of winning the process at any cost, but of establishing the facts with evidence. In the legal order I come from in criminal proceedings there is no maxim rule that the goal justifies the means. The goal is not to indict at all costs or to obtain a conviction at all costs. We have not advocated a thesis, if the facts do not support the allegations of the prosecution, then that’s worse for the facts.

In one of her presentations, I can now not determine exactly whether written or oral, journalist and author Visnja Staresina referred to the professor of international law at Paris Oest, Alain Pallet, and his position published in Vecernji list on September 27, 1997:

In our continental legal system, the investigation is conducted by the prosecutor and the investigating judge, the prosecutor is not autonomous, but is under the control of the judge and when the investigating judge assesses reasonable suspicion, he submits the file to the prosecutor to decide whether to indict. It is the task of the investigating judge to establish the truth. In the American system, with an adversarial procedure, in which the investigation is entrusted to the prosecutor, he tries to find all the evidence that is against the accused, and not to establish the truth.”

Can you explain the concept of Joint Criminal Enterprise and whether this concept is accepted in other countries, e.g. Australia, USA, UK?

Yes, but only in brief, because countless papers have dealt with the concept of JCE. I refer to Prof. Mirjan Damasca (Yale School of Law) who wrote that the JCE doctrine was built by the ICTY. The Hague tribunal, first the prosecutor and then the court, resorted to the construction of the JCE institute because the institute of indirect command responsibility (Article 7, paragraph 3 of the Statute) proved flawed and insufficient to prosecute all those it sought to prosecute. crimes committed. Therefore, he derived the doctrine of JCE from Article 7, paragraph 1 of the Statute 27. (Dr. Mirjan Damasca. On the criminal law analysis of the charges before the Hague Tribunal against high officials and military commanders of the Republic of Croatia for a “joint criminal enterprise” in Operation Storm. // Round table. Zagreb: Croatian Academy of Legal Sciences/ University of Zagreb, Faculty of Law, 2005., pp- 1.-39.)

I found it difficult to accept this form of criminal responsibility.

The “basic” type, or first category of JCE, encompasses all defendants who act with a common purpose and have the same criminal intent within a common plan in committing the crimes provided for in the ICTY Statute. The mildest form of JCE concerns cases in which crimes do not arise from common goal of the JCE but are nevertheless a natural and foreseeable consequence of its realisation.

The accused must voluntarily participate in one aspect of the joint plan which does not necessarily imply that the accused personally committed any acts of the criminal offenses from the Statute but can also be in the form of helping or contributing to the realisation of a common goal.

As far as I am aware, and I think I am informed enough, JCE is a creation of the Tribunal and this concept is not accepted in other criminal justice systems.

JCE, – would not be accepted in the court proceedings of the said States. Judicial systems based on the presumption of innocence and the provisions on the properties that evidence must have, equality of all sides in the proceedings and the requirement of a fair trial would not allow the application of this concept as accepted by the ICTY.

I believe that the reason is in the fact that the criminal responsibility of a criminal association must include evidence of a criminal agreement, the individual responsibility of each member of the criminal association with specific limits of responsibility of all members of the association and their intentions and degree of guilt. All these elements do not matter in JCE.

If the JCE doctrine as accepted by the Hague Tribunal were accepted as the ruling doctrine, the circle of military and political persons, which can be covered by criminal proceedings under international law, would be wide with criminalisation of political decisions or decisions of high military commanders.

Since this is a criminal procedure, the JCE doctrine is not in line with the basic requirement of criminal responsibility, the existence of actus reus and mens rea. Individual criminal responsibility cannot be inferred from generalised allegations. A common criminal purpose, a significant contribution to a common plan or purpose must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The accusation must be based on facts and not on a political decision.

Dr. Miroslav Tudjman writes about the extensive evidence favourable to Croatian defendants that the court rejected in that process. Can you give some examples?

It is true that Dr. Tudjman in his book wrote exhaustively about the rejected documents, that is, only about those documents about the existence or rather the non-existence of JCE, in relation to the documents presented to witnesses, and whose statements he analysed.

The defence pointed to double standards in the admission of evidence throughout the proceedings. The prosecutor introduced the documents obtained from the Croatian State Archives without hindrance and they were accepted by the decision of the panel, while the documents from the same source, when submitted by the defence, were rejected. The majority of the panel adhered to the position of the prosecutor.

Perhaps best of all about General Praljak’s approach to the introduction of defence evidence is the separate opinion of the Trial Chamber President on the decision to accept or not to accept documentary defence evidence.

The President of the Trial Chamber, in his separate opinion, points out that the defence followed the instructions for the introduction of documents, so it is unclear why the prosecutor opposes the introduction of 65% of the proposed documents, especially since the vast majority of documents were obtained from the prosecutor. According to the presiding judge, it is unreasonable for the prosecutor to claim that the documents are inauthentic and unreliable, especially when the prosecutor submitted them to the defence.

With regard to documents relating to the treatment of Muslims, the arming of Muslims and the training of BIH Army members, the President of the Trial Chamber disagrees with the majority’s decision that they are irrelevant. The arguments of the defence that these documents refute the JCE, because the Republic of Croatia assisted BiH in the fight against the common enemy, are acceptable.

General Praljak’s defence proposed 73 documents relating to the fact that the BIH Army had initiated conflicts against the Croatian Defence Council (HVO). Most chambers have decided not to introduce certain documents as evidence because they are geographically outside the scope of the indictment. When all the documents between the prosecutor’s arguments that the HVO attacked the BIH Army and the defence’s arguments that the BIH Army attacked the HVO are added up, these documents are essentially JCE.

The President of the Trial Chamber, when asked how the Chamber will decide on the probative value of the theory of defence if it does not accept defence’s documents, points out in his separate opinion that the rejection of defence’s evidence can be interpreted as one side’s theory already having been accepted.   

Photos of Mostar showing the locations of the sniper’s victims were proposed by the defence to be considered together with the findings of the prosecution expert and related to General Praljak’s questions to the expert witness and witnesses who were hit by the sniper. All in order to determine the position of the sniper and whether it is possible that a shot was fired from the area under the control of the HVO. The photos were rejected by a majority decision.

The approach of the majority in the chambers in the decision to accept the written statements of General Praljak’s defence witnesses is almost identical.

In a separate opinion of the Trial Chamber President on the decision to accept written witness statements under Rule 92, it was noted that the Chamber received the defence’s request on 14 September 2009 and had more than a year to accept the summaries or statements of 155 witnesses.

It took the Trial Chamber more than a year to eventually accept only 4% of the statements, all after General Praljak’s defence had completed its case.

It has been said on many occasions that there were problems with court translators and interpreters in the Hague Tribunal. Some of their mistakes seem astounding. Can you also give a few examples of these errors?

From the very beginning of the process, we pointed out the problem of translations. The official languages ​​of the court were English and French. Ninety percent of the documents referring to the time and events in the indictment were written in Croatian or Serbian. The accused spoke Croatian, the witnesses mostly spoke Croatian. Translation was therefore a key factor in the proceedings.

When it comes to translation, interventions in translation were necessary in the hearing itself at the time of simultaneous translation, in the minutes of the hearing and in the translation of documents into the official language of the court. Court interpreters have shown remarkable effort to translate the spoken words accurately.

In criminal proceedings, it is also important to understand a small nuance of language or slight variations in terminology in order to get a fair and accurate impression of the witness statement. In ICTY trials, where testimonies are translated simultaneously, the panel is often deprived of this important opportunity. During the trial, there were many cases where translations and / or language problems were quite obvious. Despite the best efforts of the translator and the reactions of the defence in the event of some noticeable errors in the translation, minor errors went unnoticed, not to mention some linguistic nuances that could not be properly understood (Example is in this extract from ICTY Transcropts: T. 23108:7 – 23108:17, 3 October 2007, Witness DW:

MR. KOVACIC:  I’m sorry, I apologise but now I recognise the problem.  Judge Trechsel asked me why do I think that the question was capricious?  Because this is the terms as my Croatian was translated.  It was wrongly translated.  I used a term in Croatian “kapciozno” which in our theory includes — which in our theory — which in our theory means leading, because there is a response included in the question.  So this word which is here in translation, capricious, is absolutely wrong. Sorry, Judge.  It’s a misunderstanding on this part.

JUDGE TRECHSEL:  Yes, and I’m very happy.

MR. KOVACIC:  I do think your question was leading.

JUDGE TRECHSEL:  I accept that and I apologise.-

T. 44256:25 – 44257:6, 2 September 2009:

JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Mr. Praljak, let me add something so you can know what my position is.  The difficulty we all have here is that we’re working in several languages, and each language has its own nuances, and sometimes there’s storms in the teacup just because of translation problems.  The words expressed by one person are not necessarily completely translated into another language with all its nuances, and sometimes there could be misinterpretation.)

Written translations required corrections. Because of such problems, the Trial Chamber is sometimes simply unable to fully comprehend some details of testimony or citations that could be critical to a proper assessment of the evidence.

Example: The prosecutor offered General Praljak’s post-war interview as evidence, according to which, according to the prosecutor, the general said that the policy of the Serbs in BiH was closer to the Croats than the Muslim one. Simply, unity is out of the question. He also played a video of the interview at the hearing.

The allegation “Unity is out of the question” does not exist in the original text, nor is it recorded in the minutes of the hearing, but it is stated in the transcript of the video translated into English and submitted as evidence by the prosecutor.

In fact, in the Tribunal, where many lawyers and participants in the proceedings were unable to read or understand the original evidence, the meaning of “reasonable doubt” was not appreciated given the distance from the original evidence.

Another example: The Prosecutor introduced a document on the return of a unit from the H.V. Hrvatinic Brigade as evidence of the involvement of the Republic of Croatia in the armed conflict in BiH and the presence of the Croatian Army (abbreviated as H.V) in BiH. Time was spent proving that H.V. abbreviation in this case was not an abbreviation for the Croatian Army, but the initials of the person after whom the unit was named (Hrvoje Vukcic Hrvatinic).

In relation to translations Dr. Tudjman concludes in his book:

It is time for the methods of forensic linguistics to address the Hague processes. It is to be assumed that the results of these analyses will rather confirm the views of the defence that demanded them, than the beliefs of the Prosecution and the judgments of the judges who considered linguistic and semantic problems to be just a “storm in a glass of water”.

Would you like to add something else about Dr. Miroslav Tudjman’s book or about your conclusions regarding the Hague Tribunal verdict in the case of the “The Herceg Bosna Six”?

I would like to point out, not as crucial but significant indicators, about the understanding of the Trial Chamber or those who wrote the verdict about the area they were making decisions about.

Volume 2 of the judgment, paragraph 5, footnote 7 states “Prozor, which means ‘window’ and is also called Rama, 7 is the entry point from Herzegovina into Central Bosnia.”

In the same Volume 2 of the judgment in paragraph 670. It is stated “The river Neretva flows through Mostar in a north-east direction.”

There is no place for desires and goals in criminal proceedings. Criminal proceedings have the task of establishing the facts and should remain uninfected by political, social or any other influences or motives.

The conclusion regarding the verdict as a whole my words would be the final words of General Praljak on November 29, 2017 at 11:35 AM: Judges, Slobodan Praljak is not a war criminal. I reject your verdict with contempt.

————

„Poaching in the Hague“ is available through AMAZON in both print and Kindle versions.

St. George Society, Dobriše Cesarića 9, 10000 Zagreb, Hrvatska, https://nsf-journal.hr/

PRESS RELEASE AVAILABLE HERE (PDF)

Remembering the Bleiburg Massacres and Communist Yugoslavia Crimes Against Croatian Patriots

Map of Mass Graves of victims of communist Yugoslavia crimes in Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina compiled in 2017 by Croatian association of historians “Dr Rudolf Horvat”, PHOTO: Screenshot 15 May 2021 https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1acZrR00vSr3kkgGXBZUsSL0Dbk&ll=43.93469114726703%2C18.12258350000001&z=7

Today, in Croatia, the communist Yugoslavia legacy of lies, deception, silence, denial of communist crimes and secrecy conspire against Croatia’s well-being and against the future for which rivers of Croatian patriotic blood was spilled during the 1990’s Homeland War. Without full disclosure of the crimes and criminals, without lustration and/or disabling former communists and their followers from power in Croatia, the political future of the country as a functional democracy remains uncertain and unlikely. Indeed, without a lustration the region within which Croatia sits remains politically unstable and widespread corruption is set to continue undermining livelihoods of the people and peace.

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This year, this month of May, marked the 76th Anniversary of the end of World War Two. At the end of World War II, despite the victory of the Allies in Europe and the official defeat of fascism, the secret genocidal killing continued as organised groups of Yugoslav communist Partisans, starting on 15th May 1945 at Bleiburg Field in Austria under the very noses of the British forces administering that part of Europe after the War, sought and pursued revenge against those who fought for and wanted an Independent Croatia. Most of the refugees reaching Bleiburg left the Croatian capital of Zagreb on 7 May 1945. A column of people approximately 70 kilometres long was reported by Radio London to be moving north to Austria from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, people scrambling to leave Yugoslavia, “overtaken by a fear of the Partisan units” (Portmann, M. [2004], Communist Retaliation and Persecution on Yugoslav Territory During and After World War II [1943-1950], pp 130-134).

Josip Broz Tito’s communist Yugoslavia killing machine started the brutal genocide there at Bleiburg and continued under the pretence of repatriation, forced repatriation to communist Yugoslavia of those who were fleeing it. This genocidal mass murder of Croatian patriots continued as the so-called death marches, the Way of the Cross, in that forced repatriation process as well as communist purges continued for several years to come. The British records indicate that up to 700,000 unarmed men, women and children were massacred by the Yugoslav Partisans, forcibly repatriated and their bodies dumped, as we now know, in over 1700 mass graves.

Croatian children were among those who fled communist Yugoslavia in May 1945 and were brutally massacred

On Bleiburg Field in southern Austria, the great deception began on 15 May 1945. According to records of the British Foreign Office Headquarters 5th Corps, 200,000 Croatian and Slovenian soldiers and military personnel, as well as 500,000 civilians headed to Bleiburg at the end of World War II seeking asylum, expecting that the British would abide by the principles of the Geneva Conventions and provide them sanctuary to protect them from Partisan reprisals. They expected deadly reprisals from the communist Yugoslavia regime because, refusing to endure the oppression and brutalities against Croatians within any Yugoslavia, they fought for an independent Croatia during WWII.  

Historical writings after WWII show that the great majority of the people the British forced back from Austria, Bleiburg, were simple peasants. They had no murders on their hands. They had not been Croatian Ustashas or Slovenian ‘Home Guards’. Their only fear was of communism and the reputation of the communists. The British forces pursued an unforgivable act by sending these refugees back to communist Yugoslavia knowing they were sending them to certain and brutal death.

Croatian civilians, children, women, unarmed soldiers fleeing communist Yugoslavia in May 1945

According to the testimony of a Partisan soldiers: the orders came from the staff of the 11th Dalmatian Brigade that the most reliable communists, both officers and soldiers were to be chosen for a confidential task… They (communists) created a special unit of them, which amounted to seventy people. Every day between 10 to 20 trains arrived at the station full of people. They didn’t receive any food or water. The overwhelming majority of them were collapsing. Most were men. A smaller proportion were women who were raped in the pit before they were shot… Two hundred boys from 14 to 16 years of age. Everyone was killed. All killed. In two pits. There were 30,000 to 40,000 killed in 8 days… The Partisans went to Lake Bled on vacation on Sundays after eight days of killing, then came back for another round. From Kočevja alone we sent over twenty freight cars of clothes. Daily we sent two to three freight cars of personal effects of the dead (Tolstoy, N. [1986], The minister and the massacres, London: Century Hutchinson Ltd., pp. 198-200). Yugoslav communists created many extermination squads that operated at local levels across Yugoslavia but the relatively greatest number of them operated within Croatia for a number of years, even within the WWII Jasenovac camp which Tito’s communists kept open until 1952 where, according to new and emerging research of historical archives and facts, extermination of anti-communist Croats occurred constantly.   

Croatian refugees fleeing communist Yugoslavia in May 1945

Killing civilians and prisoners of war after the Second World War is the greatest massacre of unarmed people of all times in that territory. Compared to Europe, the Yugoslav communist massacres after the Second World War are probably in size and ferocity second only to the Stalinist purges and the Great Famine in the Ukraine. Because of its relatively short time, the number of murdered innocent people, the way of execution and massiveness, the so-called Bleiburg Massacres (that encompass murders at Bleiburg and the years that followed) is an event that can be compared to the greatest crimes of communism and National Socialism. Communist Yugoslavia’s leader Josip Broz Tito, under whose command the State-ordered purges and massacres of Croats occurred, stands listed among the World’s top 10 mass murderers of the Twentieth century.

And yet today’s powers that be in Croatia fail to legislate a ban on communist Yugoslavia symbols, insignia and celebrations! They barely pay a lip service to the commemoration of Bleiburg massacres and the State-owned or controlled mainstream media barely give it a mention. It would be a reflection of absolute truth that this appalling situation in remembering the victims of the communist Yugoslavia totalitarian regime exists because those who committed these crimes are and were among families of many today’s persons who hold positions of power or some form of control.   

All of the crimes committed in Tito’s name from 1940 to 1980 were repeated again during the 1990’s war when Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina sought to secede from communist Yugoslavia. The message of the Serb-led Ovčara massacre at the outskirts of Vukovar, the message of ethnic cleansing of Croats from two thirds of Croatian sovereign territory, the message of thousands of rapes, tortures and murders committed by Serbs and Yugoslav forces, is identical to the message of the horrible massacres of more than 1700 mass graves and pits filled with the remains of brutally massacred Croats and Slovenes.  Communist Yugoslavia hid these crimes, and it was only in early 1990’s when Croatia became an independent state, even if it was still in the midst of brutal Serb aggression and war of defence, that historical archives opened up and research into truth began without fear of communist reprisals.

Today, in Croatia, the communist legacy of lies, deception, silence, denial of communist crimes and secrecy conspire against Croatia’s well-being and against the future for which rivers of Croatian patriotic blood was spilled during the 1990’s Homeland War. Without full disclosure of the crimes and criminals, without lustration and/or disabling former communists and their followers from power in Croatia, the political future of the country as a functional democracy remains uncertain and unlikely. Indeed, without a lustration the region within which Croatia sits remains politically unstable and widespread corruption is set to continue undermining livelihoods of the people and peace. Ina Vukic

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