Croatia: Great Excitement For “The General” Feature Movie

Actor Goran Visnjic (L) General Ante Gotovina (R) Photo collage: croatiaweek.com

Actor Goran Visnjic (L)
General Ante Gotovina (R)
Photo collage: croatiaweek.com

 

It’s been about a week and much of Croatia is buzzing with excitement about the start of the filming of a new feature movie called “The General”. Most say: About time! And indeed it has great significance and potential in spreading and maintaining the truth about Croatia’s Homeland War and its Operation Storm of August 1995, which swiftly and decisively liberated the Croatian territory, occupied and ethnically cleansed of all non-Serbs by the Serb forces. This is a movie and a TV series’ filming of the long-awaited life story of Croatia’s much-loved war hero General – Ante Gotovina.

 

On August 4th, 1995, Operation Storm commenced. It was a large-scale military operation led by Croatian armed forces in order to gain back the control of Croatian territories which had been claimed by Serbs. The united Croatian forces led by General Ante Gotovina massed their troops around the occupied Croatian territory of Krajina. Croatian President Franjo Tudjman announced on the radio that the Croatian citizens of Serbian ethnicity in the occupied territories stay in their homes and not fear the Croatian authorities who will respect their minority rights. General Gotovina’s army shattered through the Serbian lines. The operation, which was documented as the largest European land offensive since World War II lasted 84 hours and liberated occupied Croatian territories, causing the end of the Serb onslaught on Bihac (Bosnia and Herzegovina), preventing a humanitarian catastrophe, and striking the ultimate blow to Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic’s  evil Greater Serbia scheme under the pretenses of wanting to retain Yugoslavia.

 

General Ante Gotovina (L) and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman (R) August 1995 - at the Victory of OPeration Storm

General Ante Gotovina (L)
and
Croatian President Franjo Tudjman (R)
August 1995 – at the Victory of Operation Storm

Goran Visnjic, a Croatian actor who has prominently appeared in American and British films and television productions is probably the best known around the world for his role as Dr. Luka Kovac on the American NBC television series “ER”. In the movie “The General” he plays the role of General Ante Gotovina, while his well-known father in law Anton Vrdoljak directs the movie. The filming is planned to last until late July this year and the film-sets will include places that saw some of the early 1990’s fiercest battles and defence frontlines for Croatia’s independence and freedom such as Knin, Livno, Sepurine, Zadar, Prkos, Kasic, Islam Grcki, Obrovac, Skabrnja, Sljeme, Lucko, Crna Mlaka, Imotski, Split, Pag, Pirovac, Turanj, Pakostane, Peruca, Rijeka, Erdut, Dalj and Zagreb.

 

Other Croatian actors in the movie and TV series include Tarik Filipovic, Rene Bitorajac, Goran Navojec, Borko Peric, Ivo Gregurevic, Mustafa Nadarevic, Natasa Janjic, Goran Bogdan, Boris Svrtan and Zrinka Cvitesic.

Goran Visnjic during filming of the General - February 2017 Photo: mojTV.hr

Goran Visnjic during filming
of the General – February 2017
Photo: mojTV.hr

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) indicted General Ante Gotovina in The Hague in 2001, for war crimes allegedly committed during and after the Croatian military operation ‘Storm’ in August 1995.

He was arrested on the Canary Islands in December 2005 and transferred to The Hague to stand trial and convicted and sentenced to 24 years by the Hague Trial Chamber in April 2011.

Filming of The General, Croatia - February 2017 Photo: Press

Filming of The General, Croatia – February 2017
Photo: Press

November 16, 2012 The ICTY Appeal Chamber acquitted and set free Croatian Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac. In the end, the truth prevailed and so did justice as we are reminded from the Judgment delivered on that day by Judge Theodor Meron:

 

The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, composed of Judges Theodor Meron, presiding, Carmel Agius, Patrick Robinson, Mehmet Güney, and Fausto Pocar, today reversed by majority, Judges Agius and Pocar dissenting, Ante Gotovina’s and Mladen Markac’s convictions for crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war and entered verdicts of acquittal.
On 15 April 2011, Trial Chamber found Mr. Gotovina and Mr. Markac guilty of committing crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war from July to September 1995 by participating in a joint criminal enterprise to permanently and forcibly remove the Serb civilian population from the Krajina region of Croatia. Mr. Gotovina was sentenced to 24 years of imprisonment, and Mr. Markac was sentenced to 18 years of imprisonment.

The Appeals Chamber unanimously found that the Trial Chamber erred in concluding that all artillery impact sites located more than 200 metres from a target deemed legitimate served as evidence of unlawful attacks against towns in the Krajina region of Croatia. A majority of the Appeals Chamber further concluded that the Trial Chamber erred in finding that artillery attacks ordered by Mr. Gotovina and Mr. Markac were unlawful. The majority also held that the Trial Chamber erred in finding the existence of a joint criminal enterprise whose purpose was the permanent and forcible removal of Serb civilians from the Krajina region.

Accordingly, the majority reversed all of Mr. Gotovina’s and Mr. Markac’s convictions. The majority also declined to enter convictions against Mr. Gotovina and Mr. Markac on the basis of alternate modes of liability. The Appeals Chamber ordered the immediate release of Mr. Gotovina and Mr. Markac. 

Mr. Gotovina was a Colonel General of the Croatian Army (HV). In 1995, he served as the commander of the HV’s Split Military District and as the overall operational commander of a military offensive known as ‘Operation Storm’ in the southern portion of the Krajina region…”

Croatia - The General - feature movie

Croatia – The General – feature movie

 

Besides Croatia, where scenes from Gotovina’s childhood and from his participation in the 1990s war will be filmed, some parts of “The General” will be shot in France and Africa, in order to show his life as a member of the French Foreign Legion.

 

The movie, the General, does not have a political dimension… he is an unbelievably interesting character and a separate movie no American film company could come up with could be made of each year of his life,” said the movie director Anton Vrdoljak about General Ante Gotovina, and added that Gotovina had no comments or complaints about the movie script, which was based on the book “The Warrior – an adventurer and general” written by Nenad Ivankovic. Wishing the film crew great days and great success – eagerly waiting to see the movie in 2018. Ina Vukic

Croatia’s President: We Will Not Accept Falsification Of Causes And Of Consequences Of Homeland War

Croatia's President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic at Knin 21st Anniversary of Operation Storm 1995 Photo: Dusko Jaranaz/Pixsell

Croatia’s President
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
at Knin 21st Anniversary of
Operation Storm 1995
Photo: Dusko Jaranaz/Pixsell

Liberation from Serb cruel, ethnically cleansing of Croats, murderous, destructive occupation of a quite large part of Croatian sovereign territory turned 21 on Friday 5 August 2016. The August 1995 Operation Storm delivered victory for a free development of democracy and a sure or lasting exit from communist Yugoslavia. So, who would spoil Croatia’s freedom 21st birthday party? The aggressor of course – Serbia! Of course Serbia isn’t going to say: Happy Birthday, Croatia! Happy 21st anniversary of freedom from our murderous hordes that attacked Croatia and Croatians – of course Serbia isn’t going to say it. A decent person would, but not the one who denies his/her wrongdoing and aggression. So I really get annoyed with the media that keep giving Serbia’s leadership the space where it can continue its vile attacks, albeit verbal this time, against Croatia – still.

 

On Friday (5 August) a ceremony in Knin, proudly commemorated the 21st anniversary of Operation Storm, when in August 1995 the Croatian army took back around one third of the country’s territory, held by Serbs since the start of the war in 1991.

 

About 200,000 Serbs fled the region, which had been “ethnically cleansed” of Croats four years before via murder, destruction and forced expulsion of people from home. Although Serbs continue to tell the world these 200,000 were forcefully expelled from that region after Operation Storm the Hague international criminal tribunal had found that there were no forced deportations of Serbs from Croatia then. Understandably, if Serbs told the truth that they left Croatia in an organised manner, being asked to leave Croatia by their political leadership in Serbia and make it look like they were forced to leave, they would need to pause and examine their own deeds that preceded August 1995 – sheer war crimes for which a number of their leaders have been convicted by the Hague tribunal.

Giant Croatian flag raised at Knin 5 August 2016 Photo: Hrvoje Jelavic/Pixsell

Giant Croatian flag
raised at Knin
5 August 2016
Photo: Hrvoje Jelavic/Pixsell

A giant Croatian flag was raised on Knin fortress in the presence of the military chiefs, acting Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic and president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic. This was a symbolic gesture representing liberation and victory. Nobody in the world except Serbs (the occupier/aggressor) would deny Croatia this victory celebration.

While President Grabar- Kitarovic full speech in Knin on 5 August 2016 can be accessed at the President’s Office Webpage, here are some excerpts which deserve particular attention and applause:

“…Right at the beginning, I want to send a clear message to those who claim that the Croatian State is accidental, and have even gone a step further by claiming that the modern Croatian State was created by criminal UDBA structures: modern Croatia was created by the will of the Croatian people and the vast majority of Croatian citizens, expressed in the referendum of 1991 and in the magnificent victory of Croatian defenders, the culmination of which was the military and police Operation Storm that we proudly celebrate here in Knin. Thank you to those who gave their lives for our freedom and a future of peace! We owe our lasting gratitude to them and to all the Homeland War veterans,” the president said, alluding to the repulsive and repeated allegations by the Social Democrats’ leader, Zoran Milanovic (who is once again going fort Prime Ministership at coming elections) that Croatia came to be accidentally and that former operatives and chiefs of the notorious/murderous Yugoslav secret service (UDBA) were at the helm for creating independent and democratic Croatia. Milanovic is a nasty piece of work and I am pleased the president found it important to shoot criticism and reprimand against him even if some have said that this turned her speech into a political speech, favouring the HDZ/conservative candidates for coming elections. I tend to differ from them because Milanovic’s comments had affected negatively every Croatian who fought for freedom and every victim who gave his/her life for the freedom fight of Homeland War.

Croatia's president Kolinda Grabar-KItarovic delivering speech at Knin for 21st anniversary of liberation from Serb occupation Photo: Screenshot

Croatia’s president
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
delivering speech at Knin
for 21st anniversary of liberation
from Serb occupation
Photo: Screenshot

“…Before all else, we celebrate this anniversary as our day of freedom and peace. We had to fight for our freedom and peace in war, by defending and liberating the country from the joint criminal enterprise of the unitarian Yugoslav and Chetnik forces, who had perpetrated horrible evils throughout Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina already in the Second World War,” president Grabar-Kitarovic continued.
I would like to take this opportunity to once again clearly say: we respect every victim, because every human life is of equal value and each family feels the same sorrow for their loved ones. At the same time, it must be clear that Operation Storm was and will historically remain a politically justified, ethically pure and a brilliantly conducted military operation that liberated the previously occupied Croatian national territory. It was an honourable victory for a just cause! Through it, we demonstrated our determination to be free and our ability to be sovereign. We did not allow – to quote our great poet Matos – for Croatia to be ‘a foreigner in her own homeland.’

 

21st anniversary of Operation Storm in Knin, Croatia 5 August 2016

21st anniversary of Operation Storm
in Knin, Croatia
5 August 2016

Even though the greater Serbian aggression caused much suffering, death and destruction, the Croatian state policy did not order, undertake or approve any retaliatory action, but expressed readiness for reconciliation and forgiveness. In his speech in Vukovar, on the 8th of June 1997, President Tudjman summed it up: ‘victors who do not know how to forgive, sow the seeds of new discords and future evils. And the Croatian people do not want this.’…

Operation Storm had also great international significance as it enabled the liberation of the Bihac enclave and prevented the repetition of the genocide committed by the forces of the Army of the Serbian Republic in Srebrenica. This accelerated the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the consolidation of the political situation in this part of Europe and opened up the perspective of Euro-Atlantic integration for all countries.

21st anniversary of Operation Storm Knin, Croatia 5 August 2016

21st anniversary of Operation Storm
Knin, Croatia
5 August 2016

Croatia and the Croatian people knew how to forgive: apart from the most ferocious war criminals, all those who had participated in the rebellion against Croatia were pardoned. General and special minority rights were fulfilled and the return of all those who wished to return was enabled. These are the ethics of victors and the ethics of peace! Even though we can humanly understand that for many Serbian refugees Operation Storm is a difficult personal and historical experience, we did not and never will accept that those outside Croatia, as well as those within Croatia evaluate Operation Storm in non-Croatian, and even anti-Croatian terms. This specifically means that we will not accept the falsification of the causes and consequences of the Homeland war. We will not accept any contempt for the generosity that we have expressed, or the neglect of judgments of international tribunals, or any denial of the legality and legitimacy of Operation Storm…

 

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic speech on this most important day for Croatia of today could not have been clearer and more sincere. This is so very much needed given that Serbia’s and Serbs’ outrageous attacks and vilification against Croatia sees no pause; it’s relentless. It’s good to know where Croatia’s president stands on these important matters because someone will need to curtail the unprovoked hatred coming out of Serbia. Certainly, Croatia cannot and will not erase the fact that Serbs and Serbia had waged a brutal war against Croatia in 1991 and in 1995 they lost it. If Serbia and Serbs see celebrations of victory at Operation Storm 1995 as provocation then nobody can do anything to stop their madness and utter meanness that emanates from this except Serbs themselves. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatia vs. Serbia ICJ Genocide Case – A Door To Future Success Or Failure Of Genocide Claims?

Vukovar cemetery - Photo politikaplus.com

Vukovar cemetery – Photo politikaplus.com

By Vesna Skare-Ozbolt

First published in Politikaplus.com
Translated into English by Ina Vukic

When a respectable British Weekly such as The Economist in its article from 11 March regarding the ICJ genocide trial between Croatia and Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) pronounces (promotes)  that case as “utterly idiotic” in advance, that, in the least, must cause a decent reader to raise his or her eyebrows.

That is, this trial opens up several controversial questions upon which the international and the domestic professional circles are bound to debate; from the standards of proof of genocide, questions associated with the continuity and succession in the dissolution of a state, questions of state responsibility as well as the retroactive application of the Convention on Genocide. Court practice – even the one associate with genocide – has developed significantly during the past several years and this court could perhaps offer new interpretations, at least for some of these questions.

The Croatian legal team submitted its presentation properly and it’s worth emphasising the submissions made by James Crawford, Professor of International Law at Cambridge University, Philippe Sands, Professor of Law at London University and Davorin Lapas, Professor of International Law at the Law Faculty of University of Zagreb.

It’s difficult to give a serious assessment of Serbia’s legal team’s strategy because the extraction of evidence contained in the ICTY Trial Chamber judgments when it’s favourable for Serbia, bargaining with ICTY Appeal Chamber judgments when they are in favour of Croatia, appealing to the judges to study the ICTY Trial and Appeal judgments in an individual case and then to decide which one of these they like best, etc., does not constitute a serious strategy.

The biggest surprise from the trial is the British professional and professor of International Law, William Schabas. Although it was known in advance that Serbia had weak arguments one expected that he would, nevertheless, pluck something strong out of that material. The fact that even he was not successful at that speaks volumes of the quality of Serbia’s counter-claim in the proceedings. Regardless, Professor Schabas has appeared as a master in evading matters that did not benefit Serbia and, hence, when he rejects the key point Serbia relies on – that FRY did not exist as a state before 27 April 1992 and that in accordance with the Convention on Prevention of Genocide it is not responsible for events that occurred before that date – he omits to mention the fact that the very wording of the Convention does not seek nor exclude retroactive application or UN Convention regarding the application of statute of limitations for war crimes and crimes against humanity from 1968, where, it says in Article 1 that “statute of limitations will not be applied for crimes … regardless of the date of their perpetration … and for the crime of genocide under the definition in the 1948 Convention”. Also, even though this is a matter of a trial against a state it is worth reminding ourselves of the judgment in the Eichmann case where it says: “… that the crime with which he is charged has always carried the stamp of an international crime” and this adds to the weight favouring the retrospective application of the Convention. Or, as the renowned Serbian lawyer, the late Srdja Popovic, said in relation to the genocide lawsuit Bosnia and Herzegovina Vs. Serbia: “ … no one can call upon the dissolution and anarchy, because it is exactly in such situations when genocides occur …” (interview in BH Dani, 2006)

The charming Professor Schabas suggests to the court “not to enter into some new areas” but to keep firmly to the restrictive standard for proof of genocide contained in article 373 in the Bosnia and Herzegovina vs. Serbia 2007 judgment and not the lower one from the Karadzic case. While on the one hand he is right, because the Kardazic judgment has not passed the Appeal stage, I think that this trial is the moment when the court must and should “enter into some new areas”, that is, open the debate around the question as to whether the standard from article 373 is the best standard for the finding of responsibility of some state for genocide? If it is, that would mean that future proof of genocide will become an impossible mission.

Schabas claims that there was no genocide anywhere in the former Yugoslavia (except in Srebrenica which he characterised as a mini-genocide) because “ … there was no uniform pattern nor plan nor defined state politics on implementing genocide …” and, as an example of the existence of such a plan he gave Adolf Hitler’s stay at the Landsberg prison in 1924 where he began writing Mein Kampf. On the other hand, he does not mention the existence of the mid-19th century onwards plans for the formation of Greater Serbia to Croatia’s detriment (Nacertanije by Ilija Garasanin, as the first Greater Serbia political Memorandum SANU, etc.). (SANU – Serbian Academy of Science and Arts)

The fact that the Serbian academics Dobrica Cosic and Antonije Isakovic had as early as 1989 offered Istria and Dalmatia to the Italian neo-fascists (Alleanza nazionale Gianfranca Finija) serves as one more example of the Serbia’s leadership’s plans directed at the “annulment” of the Croatian state, not as a whole but within the frame of the rattling Virovitica-Karlovac-Ogulin border against which the HDZ of the day had protested publicly on 29 September 1989, labeling the “academic matters” of these two Serbian academics as “Greater Serbian customisation of Croatia”.

Also, the data from dr Andrija Hebrang’s book “Crimes in the Serb-Montenegrin aggression against the Republic of Croatia” which shows that more civilians than solders were killed on battlefields on the Croatian side contributes to genocidal intentions. The killing of 400 children, all of whom were not “collateral victims” of say bombing but were intentionally murdered, often in the most cruel of manners in front of or together with the whole of their families, needs to be emphasised.

Serbia’s legal team, in fact, did not attempt to deny the crimes perpetrated on Croatia’s territory in the 1991-1995 period, but it kept exhausting itself in the attempts to accomplish a win-win situation, according to which Milosevic was guilty for 1991 and Tudjman for 1995, that is, maintaining an eternal balance of responsibility for the war. The introduction of events from NDH (WWII Independent State of Croatia) into the whole story, as supposedly the exclusive reason for the rebellion of the Krajina Serbs in 1991 against the independent Croatia and the attempts to prove the so-called genocidal character of the Operation Storm had the placing of a connection Jasenovac 1941 – Storm 1995 as their aim in order to continue ad nauseam perpetuation of the concocted genocidal stigma of Croatia.

This court will mainly rely on ICTY judgments – confirmation of this can be found in the separate deliberation by the presiding judge Peter Tomka from 2008 when decisions were being made regarding the court’s jurisdiction in the case of Croatia’s genocide lawsuit against Serbia: “…it remains to be seen how Croatia will succeed in proving that the crime of genocide has been committed and that FRY is responsible for it …” although ICTY “…has not passed its judgment against the persons who carry the greatest responsibility for genocide in Croatia” – and one could conclude that a judgment of genocide has no chance.

Regretfully the court does not have a fact-finding mission capacity and it’s difficult to expect that the judges will “comb” through all the documents (from the Croatian as well as from the Serbian sources), which are archived in the Croatian Homeland War Memorial-Documentary Centre and which were collected by dr. Ante Nazor and his team through to this year, or that they will read every book written by Serbian academics or war leaders of the day that could significantly contribute to a judgment about the intent to commit genocide within a limited time span and within specific areas, especially in Eastern Slavonia.

One also should not exclude the option to dismiss both claims. If it comes to that, this court case will nevertheless represent a victory for Croatia – or, a useful defeat – as the renowned professor Mirijan Damaska said (interview, Nacional, 2007) because it will, once again, remind the international public that the ICTY has not convicted a single Croat, that Croatia is not responsible for the War and that its defence was legitimate. On the other hand, Serbia has come out from the ICTY with 13 final convictions so far, and with a conviction from this court for failing to prevent genocide in Srebrenica.

One thing is for certain: this court has a very difficult task before it and it’s distasteful to enter into prognoses because, as Luka Misetic, a member of Croatia’s legal team said: “all options are on the table”.

Vesna Skare-Ozbolt Photo: Politikaplus.com

Vesna Skare-Ozbolt
Photo: Politikaplus.com

 

 

 

About the author: Vesna Skare-Ozbolt is a Lawyer with post-graduate studies in Criminal law. She served as legal advisor to the late President Franjo Tudjman for ten years. She led the process of Peaceful reintegration of Eastern Slavonia in the late 1990’s. She was Minister of Justice of the Republic of Croatia (2003-2006) and author and initiator of many legislative proposals in Croatia. She served as elected member of Croatian Parliament over three mandates from year 2000. She is also President of Democratic Centre party. Honorary citizen of Vukovar, Ilok and Brela. 1998 Woman of the Year. Decorated with the Order of Croatian Interlace, Order of Croatian Trefoil and Order of Katarina Zrinski and Vukovar Medal. Source: http://www.vesna.com.hr

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