ICTY Trial Chamber Convicts 6 Croats of Herceg-Bosna – Verdict of Joint Criminal Enterprise Farcical To The Hilt

From left: Jadranko Prlic, Milivoj Petkovic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Berislav Pusic, Valentin Coric Photo: AFP/ jutarnji.hr

From left: Jadranko Prlic, Milivoj Petkovic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Berislav Pusic, Valentin Coric
Photo: AFP/ jutarnji.hr

Putting the issue of war crimes that may have been committed by individual persons aside, it is absolutely unacceptable and unjust that the ICTY Trial Chamber has today convicted six Bosnian Croat political and military leaders of joint criminal enterprise allegedly involving persecution, expulsion and murder of Muslims during Bosnia’s war as part of a plan supported by leaders in neighboring Croatia to establish a Croat state in Bosnia.

The verdict of joint criminal enterprise does not reflect the reality that was. I.e. Croatia was an ally to Croats and Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina when the war commenced in March1992 with Serb barricades in Sarajevo, aggression, ethnically cleansing of Croats, Muslims and other non-Serb population from the territory the world knows today as the political entity of Serbian Republic within Bosnia and Herzegovina. Croatia took hundreds of thousands (at least 400,000) Bosnian refugees (Croats and Muslims) and provided shelter and care for them at the time when the war of Serb aggression raged across Croatia and forced destitution of more than 700,000 Croatian refugees of non-Serb ethnicity.

Whether the Croat-Muslim conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1992 – 1994 constitutes a joint criminal enterprise planned and executed by Croats could truly be justified in reality and justice is now a matter that will surely end up in the ICTY Appeal Chamber.

For, as things stand now this verdict is a farce, just as the one the Trial Chamber had delivered in 2011 against Croatian generals for the Operation Storm that liberated Serb occupied territory of Croatia.

This verdict does nothing but mirror the malicious concoctions and vile cocktails of hatred conjured up in order to blame something or someone for a situation that was a horrible reality that followed when Croatian and Bosnia and Herzegovina dared to seek democracy and secede from Yugoslavia.
To track back to how it was: the Vance Owen Peace Plan (VOPP), named after the international mediators Cyrus Vance and Lord Owen, first took shape in 1992 and its final version was completed in January 1993. It divided Bosnia into provinces with ethnic majorities.


The VOPP placed some Muslim majority areas under the control of the Croats; the Muslims vigorously rejected accepting this. The Muslims resisted a Bosnian Croat army (HVO) order, first made in January 1993 then repeated in April, to submit to its command in areas that were allocated to the Croats. The Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, had by that time declared their “Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna” over much the same areas that were awarded to them by the VOPP.

Croats were determined to assert their command as, indeed, given that Alija Izetbegovic represented mainly the interests of Bosnian Muslims at the time, and Radovan Karadzic the interests of Bosnian Serbs – Mate Boban was placed in charge of the plights and needs to protect the interests of Bosnian Croats.

While Serbs pursued their lines of creating the Serbian Republic within Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Bosnian Croat determination to pursue command over areas allocated to them through VOPP and the Bosnian Muslim rejection of this was destined to end up in a bitter conflict between Croats and Muslims in these areas.

I have no doubts that the ICTY prosecution (headed by Carla del Ponte) maliciously constructed the idea of a joint criminal enterprise against Bosnian Muslims so that leadership of Croatia could somehow be pinned to such a constructed war crime. Certainly, such an idea would, I believe, have been sparked and fed by lies that led the world to believe that Croatia’s president Franjo Tudjman and Serbia’s president Slobodan Milosevic had met in Karadjordjevo and decided to divide Bosnia and Hercegovina between themselves. Hence, the utter lie that Croatia wanted to expand its borders into Bosnia and Herzegovina were born and fuelled by people such as Stjepan Mesic (of Croatia) who seemed to thrive on spreading hearsay, gossip and rumours about Tudjman as the truth.

Attempts and now an ICTY judgment to blame the Croats for the situation where even the evidence before the ICTY (when it comes to the idea of joint criminal enterprise) provides a swamp where it’s not possible to bring a completely safe conviction of joint criminal enterprise. Who attacked whom first? Who provoked who first?  Whose crimes were the worst?

I guess the easiest thing for the ICTY Trial Chamber was to blame the alleged expansionist aspirations of Croatia for everything. Problem solved!? I don’t think so!

Back to ICTY Trial Chamber Wednesday 29 May: Jadranko Prlic, former president of the Croatian Defence Council (HVO), and later of the government of the Croatian Republic of Herceg-Bosna, was convicted to 25 years of imprisonment; Bruno Stojić, former head of the HVO department of Defence received 20 years in prison; Milivoj Petkovic, Chief of the HVO Main Staff and later deputy commander of the HVO forces – 20 years; Valentin Coric, Chief of the Military Police Administration and later on Minister of the Interior – 16 years. Slobodan Praljak, former Assistant Minister of Defence of Croatia and later Commander of the Main Staff of the HVO, received a sentence of 20 years of imprisonment. Berislav Pusic, former President of the HVO commission in charge of the exchange of prisoners and other persons and Head of the HVO Commission in charge of detention facilities, was unanimously acquitted of four counts. Convicted of 18 counts, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

A majority of the three-judge panel expressed the opinion that late- President Franjo Tudjman of Croatia was a key member of a plan to carve out a Croat mini-state in Bosnia with the aim of later uniting it with his country to create a greater Croatia, or leaving it as a separate independent state.
Presiding Judge Jean-Claude Antonetti said a majority of the three-judge panel ruled that Croatia had overall control over the Bosnian Croat entity and its armed forces and that Croat troops fought alongside Bosnian Croat forces.
The Chamber concluded by majority, Judge Antonetti dissenting, that the ultimate purpose of the joint criminal enterprise was to create a Croat entity, mostly within the borders of the Croatian Banovina in 1939, to unify the Croatian people in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Later these areas were to be either joined with the Republic of Croatia, or remain in close association with it.
The JCE as such existed approximately from January 1993 to April 1994.
Apart from the six accused, a number of persons joined, participated in and contributed to the JCE, including among others: Franjo Tudjman, the President of the Republic of Croatia; Gojko Susak, the Minister of Defence of the Republic of Croatia; Janko Bobetko, general in the Army of the Republic of Croatia; and Mate Boban, President of the Croatian Community (later Republic) of Herceg-Bosna. All of these men are dead and have passed away years before ICTY trial commenced – they were not there to give evidence or to defend themselves.

Given that the judgment does not seem to mention Cyrus Vance, Lord Owen, Lord Carrington and Jorge Cutileiro, who had all presented their version, on behalf of the international powers of the day – began to set some serious fuel into the already volatile situation – as to how Bosnia and Herzegovina was best divided by command among the three ethnic groups, one cannot but conclude that this judgment of joint criminal enterprise (relying on false conclusions regarding Croatian expansionist plans) is farcical to the hilt.  Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Wikileaks show-and-tell: Croatia’s former President Stjepan Mesic’s horror show

The latest revelation about Stjepan Mesic’s hateful ranting against Croatian dignity and truth takes the cake of evil. I say that believing that Wikileaks are in fact leaks of the truth behind political wheeling and dealing among those that could and, sadly, still can.

The distressing fact that Stjepan Mesic still enjoys the frills and benefits of an ex-President in Croatia at the expense of the taxpayers who shed blood and fought for independent and democratic Croatia during 1990’s is utterly humanly indecent and profoundly politically corrupt.

If you still have any doubts about the former USA Ambassador Peter Galbraith’s vicious opinion (recorded also in the ICTY transcripts where Galbraith served as witness for the Prosecution/ joint criminal enterprise theory at play) about the late dr. Franjo Tudjman (First President of Croatia) then you needn’t linger in stressful doubts – any more. Thanks to Wikileaks, you can now safely conclude that Croatia’s former President Stjepan Mesic “helped” Galbraith chisel out from lies his opinion of Tudjman (and, hence, the Croatian Army 1991 – 1995).

If you wondered why after Stjepan Mesic’s secret testimony for the Prosecution in the ICTY from 1996 – 1998 wickedly coincided with worldwide blackening of dr. Franjo Tudjman’s name, with the “joint criminal enterprise” being spearheaded towards Croatia in the Hague, with increasing attempts to equalise the victim with the aggressor in Croatia’s Homeland War, with increased blurbs how Tudjman and Milosevic were in cahoots to divide Bosnia and Herzegovina among them, or why so few of international “government dignitaries” attended Tudjman’s funeral in December 1999,  you can fairly safely bet your life on the likelihood that Mesic’s secret testimony in the Hague contained elements of shocking ranting and unfounded attacks against Tudjman and his War-Government he splattered to Galbraith in 1995.  No wonder Mesic insisted his testimony be secret, if it weren’t then surely Tudjman would have demanded to be heard in the Hague for the truth’s sake if for nothing else (regretfully he died before details of Mesic’s testimony trickled out; he died before ICTY indictments against Croatian Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac were laid).

If you wondered why Mesic still enjoys some popularity in Croatia and abroad and why nobody in authority in Croatia has done anything about extracting the full truth of what Mesic had said about Croatian people (excluding himself, of course) in ICTY, then you and I are in the same quandary: how to get to this truth and have it dealt with.

Well, don’t count on the leftist, antifascist/communist coloured current government or the President – unless you participate in some mass-revolt and demand organised by citizens who love their Croatia.

Now we know why the ICTY Prosecutor had for years tried to dig out or make up “evidence” to fit the crime of joint criminal enterprise they concocted. Well, Wikileaks tells us that it was Mesic who started the idea of “joint criminal enterprise” almost 3 months before Operation Storm occurred!

By May 1995, when he met with Galbraith and others, to voice his “concerns and thoughts” Mesic was like a raging wounded bull. A year before he had been ousted (justly, I add without any prejudice) from Croatian Democratic Union, ousted as Speaker of Croatian Parliament and went on to form his own political party (now known as HNS/to which current foreign minister Vesna Pusic and First Deputy Prime Minister Radimir Cacic belong) and considered himself in Opposition, although he did not represent the Opposition in the true sense of the word. But then, it would seem, Galbraith didn’t care about that, he listened, most likely lapped-up the lies with glee, noted and passed on the dangerous garbage that came out of Mesic’s politically vindictive mouth.

It is clear that Wikileaks document shows that in 1995, prior to Operation Storm, Mesic approached Galbraith with concocted, convoluted and wrong theories that would in years to come form a basis for ICTY’s criminal charges of “joint criminal enterprise” against Croatian Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, says Croatian Cultural Committee portal hkv.hr.

The absurdity of a judgment for joint criminal enterprise (deportation of Serbs by the aid of alleged excessive artillery shelling) is even more pronounced today with Wikileaks revelations and with the recently published transcripts by Sense agency of the August 1995 Supreme Yugoslav defense advisory meeting in Belgrade, Serbia, where it’s clear that Serbs ordered their people to evacuate/leave Croatia.

In the Wikileaks document one sees that Mesic’s opinion about the multitudes of Serbs leaving Croatian Western Slavonia region (months before Operation Storm, for which the Croatian Generals are currently standing on Appeal in the ICTY) was that such migration of Serbs from Croatia “is equivalent to ethnic cleansing”! It was this wrong and vindictive construct Mesic came up with that served well, it seems, the ICTY Prosecution who used it in subsequent criminal charges for Operation Storm. I wouldn’t put it past Mesic that he repeated the same vindictive allegations as secret witness at the Hague during 1996 – 1998, at least three years before initial ICTY indictment against Gotovina and Markac.

But, CRY MY BELOVED CROATIA, this is not the only lie Mesic told Galbraith – according to Wikileaks – and probably told to the ICTY – behind closed doors – he also said that Tudjman’s Defense minister Gojko Susak  “was implicated in the destruction of 32 Serb villages after military action ended in 1991”.

Galbraith, of course, didn’t bother to check that there were no 32 Serb villages destroyed by Croatians (or anyone) in Bosnia and Herzegovina as Mesic ranted – had Galbraith checked surely, as a professional Ambassador, it would have been his duty to insert a comment about his opinion as to the veracity of Mesic’s ranting. Looks like, ICTY didn’t check either, but its Trial Chamber was very quick to pass judgment against dead Tudjman and dead Susak in April 2011 as part of judgment text in Gotovina and Markac cases.

Seventeen years later,” says hkv.hr in regards to Mesic’s May 1995 ranting to Galbraith, “all the malice and political weight of these false accusations against Croatia is now best seen in the Hague”.

If Wikileaks was the only way we could find out more of the lies told by Stjepan Mesic or anyone whose opinions turn into actions that adversely affect human lives, then I’m all for Wikileaks, all for whistleblowers, all for historical revisionists who set the truth right. And as far as Mesic goes, the matter of the damage he caused with profound untruths to the reputation of Croatian people surely must surface as a priority action in Croatia, if not by authorities then by organised and effective citizens’ organisations/taxpayers.  Enough is enough! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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