In Memory Of Croatian General Slobodan Praljak

10 December 2017
Commemoration held in Zagreb, Croatia
for General Slobodan Praljak
Photo: Stipe Renic

 

General Slobodan Praljak’s honorable defiance

By Michael G Karnavas

(Michael G. Karnavas is an American trained lawyer. He is licensed in Alaska and Massachusetts and is qualified to appear before the various International tribunals, including the International Criminal Court (ICC). Residing and practicing primarily in The Hague, he is recognized as an expert in international criminal defence, including, pre-trial, trial, and appellate advocacy.)

Having listened to the summary of the Appeal Judgment and having stood up to hear the litany of crimes affirmed by the Appeals Chamber before his sentence of 20 years was upheld, General Slobodan Praljak took his own life by drinking poison – but not before expressing his utter contempt for the Judgment, and by extension, his contempt for the Judges and the ICTY as a judicial institution.

Questions abound. How did General Praljak smuggle the vial of poison into the courtroom? How could he have gotten it through the numerous check-points where he would have been searched? Did he have it on him when he arrived at the ICTY? Did someone smuggle it to him there? Or, was it waiting for him at the ICTY, secretly planted in his cell or in the toilet?

Relevant as these questions are, few are asking what I think is perhaps the more important question: why did General Praljak take his life?
General Praljak had spent about a dozen years in the United Nations Detention Unit (UNDU). With credit for the time served, he would have been eligible for early release within two to three years, and would very likely have been released before serving his full sentence.

But detention never troubled General Praljak. Unlike the other accused in his case, he refused to be provisionally released under house arrest. It was a matter of principle. And when it came to his principles, he was stubbornly uncompromising. His argument would be: if I am presumed innocent, if I voluntarily came to the ICTY upon hearing of my indictment, if the Croatian government was offering a guarantee for my return to the ICTY, if my every movement while on provisional release in Zagreb will be shadowed by the police, and if I have complied with the conditions of my provisional release in the past, then why should I now be under house arrest as a condition of my provisional release? Of course, he wanted to be in his home with his wife, children, and grandchildren who he adored, and who adored him. But it was the principle of it – a principle he was willing to adhere to, come hell or high water. And for that I admired General Praljak. He unsentimentally walked his talk.

Reflecting on General Praljak’s final moments, I believe it was his principles that drove him to take his own life – not fear, not anger, not depression, not desperation, and certainly not any of the other reasons that cause a person to seek peace through suicide.

General Praljak was no romantic fool; he did not harbor illusions that his conviction would be overturned. Any objective observer would have come to the same conclusion. I certainly did. At best, the Appeals Chamber might have reduced the sentences, but the convictions, for the most part, would stand, even though, in my opinion, the evidence does not support the factual findings and legal conclusions made by the Trial Chamber. This is particularly so with the claim in the indictment of an overarching joint criminal enterprise (JCE) to reconstitute the Croatian Banovina within its 1939 borders, so it could either join Croatia or be an independent state within Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) with close ties to Croatia – and that this JCE involved permanently removing and ethnically cleansing Bosnian Muslims and other non-Croats who lived in these areas.

Convicted persons on appeal, generally, are susceptible to irrational hope, unsubstantiated rumors of behind-the-scenes machinations of friendliness and supposed efforts to steer the judges in a favorable direction, or false claims of exoneration (usually couched in language that is sufficiently vague to allow plausible deniability) – claims that are sometimes peddled by charlatans posing as high-powered lawyers seeking to make a quick (and exorbitant) fee.

General Praljak had no patience for any such nonsense. General Praljak was rational, intelligent, and pragmatic. His thinking was shaped by the hard sciences, even though he was equally versed in the soft sciences or liberal arts of philosophy, sociology, history, literature, theater, and cinema. Though I am assuming that General Praljak hoped and perhaps expected (as my client, Dr. Jadranko Prlić, did) that he would get a fair trial at the ICTY, it should have been obvious to him either before arriving at the UNDU, or sometime shortly thereafter, that convictions on most of the alleged crimes were predestined.

General Praljak (and the other accused) should have been disabused of any thoughts of justice and a fair trial. Maybe because hope springs eternal we all, including General Praljak, clung to some vestige of expectation that the accused would have an opportunity to set the record straight. General Praljak certainly wanted to. He spared no time or expense to bring to light evidence that he believed was contextually relevant for the trial Judges to understand and appreciate, among other things:
• what it was like to be in his shoes;
• what he did and why;
• what he did not do or could not have done;
• what the Croatian Community (and later Republic) of Herceg Bosna was all about;
• the dire predicament the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) found themselves in and the imperative to react with all deliberate speed and purpose; and
• Croatia’s generosity in helping the Muslims of BiH at a time when Croatia was one-third occupied and fending for its very survival against the rump Yugoslavia and its highly trained and armed Yugoslav People’s Army.

General Praljak’s expectations – as legitimate as they were – were not met to any degree of satisfaction. I know, because since early 2005 I represented Dr. Prlić in this case. He too harbored expectations of a fair trial – as all accused appearing before any judicial institution should, especially when being tried at a tribunal founded by the United Nations.

Granted, I may not be the most objective observer, and it can be claimed that I have a considerable interest in this case, which consumed over 12 years of my career. Be that as it may, I can say with full responsibility that what I witnessed during the trial was a parody, a charade, theater of the absurd disguised as a trial. Everyone who was at the ICTY saw it. As I repeatedly complained to the Judges during the trial, none of them, nor any of the Judges at the ICTY, would want to be tried in the way my client was being tried.

If there is one case, one trial, and now, one appeal that stands out as part of the dark legacy of the ICTY, it is Prlić et al. It is a textbook example of how not to try a case, how not to select the panel of trial judges, how not to conduct the trial proceedings, how not to analyze the evidence, and how not to draft a judgment. It is also a textbook example of why convicted persons cannot and should not expect that the errors and sins of the Trial Chamber will be exposed with unrelenting precision, brutal honesty, and unvarnished integrity, especially when to do so would require the Appeals Chamber to reexamine virtually the entire record (in this case, 52,967 pages of trial transcripts, 818 written decisions, and 5,926 exhibits admitted over five years of trial proceedings). But that is exactly what the Appeals Chamber should have done in Prlić et al. – especially when the Defense handed them the needles of errors hidden in the massive haystack of a record.

How naïve it was to think that the result of this case would have been any different! The ICTY – as a judicial institution – had already adjudicated many of the alleged major issues confronting the accused in Prlić et al., such as whether the Muslim-Croat conflict in BiH was an international armed conflict, whether Croatian President Tuđman and his government were attempting to carve up BiH, whether the Croats in BiH set up a statelet that would either be autonomous or part of Croatia, and whether there was ethnic cleansing of the Muslims in BiH – all of which was claimed to have been part of some grand scheme, a master criminal plan, a JCE.

Though I may not be the most objective observer (as I have already noted), I am convinced beyond doubt based on the evidence submitted during the trial that there was no JCE, no statelet, no efforts to carve up BiH, and no ethnic cleansing, etc. I fully recognize that errors were made, that serious crimes were committed against soldiers and citizens, and that there must be accountability. But as far as the prosecution’s overarching theory that there was a JCE to reconstitute the Croatian Banovina within its 1939 borders, and that ethnic cleansing occurred to achieve this goal, I simply do not see anything more than, at best, circumstantial evidence that points to this as just one of many inferences that can be drawn.

Others, no doubt, see it differently. Fair enough. But can it honestly be said that the Judges of the Trial Chamber or the Appeals Chamber were not, at least to some degree, predisposed to find the existence of the overarching JCE as claimed by the prosecution, and resultantly, that this would not spill over into a determination of guilt, when the ICTY website, outreach material, and exhibition posters depicted the narrative (at ICTY website) 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.

This narrative invariably served as the subtext during the trial. How could it not? When reflecting on how the trial was conducted and how some of the accused were treated (especially General Praljak, who was not shy in expressing his opinion), it is clear as crystal from day one that none of the accused in Prlić et al. stood much chance of a fair trial and a just outcome. Questions or comments that came from some of the Judges displayed a pro-prosecution bias, such as calling the Croatian Defence Council the “Catholic army.” Occasionally, the Judges commented on the evidence, prejudging it based on their supposed personal knowledge.1 The list goes on.

In our Appeal Brief filed on behalf of Dr. Prlić, Ms. Suzana Tomanović and I argued that Dr. Prlić was denied a fair trial and that the Trial Judgment was profoundly flawed with legal and factual errors, because the Trial Chamber facilitated a confirmation bias by:
• failing to consider and assess all relevant evidence admitted into the record, instead opting to systematically rely on selective evidence that distorted the truth and led to false conclusions (Ground 1);
• disregarding the testimony of virtually all of Dr. Prlić’s witnesses, sprinkling the names of his witnesses throughout the Trial Judgment and citing them on inconsequential matters to create an appearance of having considered them (Ground 2);
• failing to make specific findings on documentary evidence it purported to assess, for example, claiming to have considered all documentary evidence admitted by written motion in the context of the evidence submitted, without specifying which documents it gave little or no weight and the reasons as to why it did so (Ground 3);
• relying on uncorroborated hearsay from the Mladić Diaries, while denying Dr. Prlić the opportunity to tender excerpts from the Mladić Diaries and/or present viva voce testimony in response to the hearsay admitted (Ground 5);
• failing to properly assess prosecution lay and expert witnesses and failing to provide a reasoned opinion as to their credibility; (Grounds 4 and 6); and
• systematically denying Dr. Prlić adequate time and facilities to question critical witnesses and present essential evidence by applying a one-sixth-solution: all six defense teams would collectively have the same time for cross-examination as the prosecution would have for direct examination for each witness (Ground 7).

And so, it was deeply disappointing, indeed shocking, to hear Judge Agius read the summary that was carefully crafted for public consumption (since few, if any, will read the 1400-page Appeal Judgment) stating that Dr. Prlić’s sole fair trial right claim was that he was “systematically denied adequate time and facilities to question witnesses.” Whoever wrote that summary for his Honor was clearly ignorant of the details of the appeal.

These mischaracterizations of the fair trial errors raised by Dr. Prlić in his brief are simply propaganda. They lead to the intended consequence of facilitating a fictitious perception in the public’s mind that, save for this belly-aching claim of not having enough time to present his case – something that is too amorphous and imperceptible for the public to fully appreciate – Dr. Prlić was content with how the evidence he presented was assessed.

The Appeals Chamber’s summary remarks concerning the Mladić Diaries are equally as hollow, reflecting an economical use of the facts. The Appeals Chamber claims that:
Prlić never unconditionally requested that his case be reopened and, in any event, the Trial Chamber expressly permitted him to admit evidence to rebut these diary extracts, which he did. General Praljak was likewise offered an opportunity to challenge these extracts.

This mischaracterizes the record. After the close of evidence, the prosecution sought to reopen its case to tender into evidence excerpts from the Mladić Diaries, which were found in Mladić’s residence in Belgrade by the Serbian authorities. In response, Ms. Suzana Tomanović and I argued that the prosecution’s case should not be reopened, but if reopened, Dr. Prlić should be afforded an equal right to reopen his case and have admitted excerpts of the Mladić Diaries relevant to his defense. It would have been contrary to logic and common sense for us to open the door and move for the Mladić Diaries to be admitted without the prosecution’s motion being granted. But, seeing as how the prosecution’s excerpts were coming in (the Mladić Diaries were newly discovered evidence), we requested the Trial Chamber on several occasions to admit excerpts relevant to Dr. Prlić’s defense. How many times should the same request be made before it can be considered “unconditional”?

This was only one of the issues raised by Dr. Prlić. Not that I wish to relitigate the point, but some sunshine on one particular entry in the Mladić Diaries is worth examining. You be the judge as to whether this is how a reasonable trier of fact should admit, assess, and rely on uncorroborated hearsay evidence.

The Majority admitted and relied on excerpts from the Mladić Diaries, which contained quoted remarks purportedly attributed to General Praljak, in making JCE findings – excerpts that directly implicated Dr. Prlić. General Praljak’s statements are uncorroborated hearsay. Mladić did not testify. No prior testimony had been elicited concerning these meetings, and no witnesses testified to the meetings. General Praljak’s request to reopen his case and testify concerning the meetings with Mladić and the statements attributed to him in these extracts was denied. In denying his request, the Majority’s suggestion that General Praljak’s counsel vouch for General Praljak in the closing brief and testify during closing arguments in lieu of viva voce testimony from General Praljak was absurd. Even law students know that counsel cannot testify and representations by counsel in closing briefs and closing arguments are not evidence. And what of Dr. Prlić’s right of confrontation, his right to question General Praljak on what he purportedly said or meant?

These points may seem inconsequential, but I think not. Here is why. Even if the Appeal Judgment addresses all the fair trial right challenges raised by Dr. Prlić, that is beside the point. What is relevant is the false perception these segments of the summary read to the public created – intentions aside.

And speaking of perceptions, anyone who witnessed the trial would attest to just how dysfunctional the Trial Chamber was, with two of the Judges often publicly quarrelling with the Presiding Judge, who seemed incapable of managing the trial proceedings. None of the Judges were up to the task, and it was obvious. Their rampant intervention while the parties were conducting their examinations led me to invite the Judges to either conduct the proceedings properly and in accordance with the letter and spirit of the ICTY Statute and the Rules of Procedure and Evidence (and refrain from inappropriately interfering as they had been doing), or to pack their bags and go home. And since they seemed clueless on how the proceedings should be conducted, I further requested that the Judges allow the prosecution and the defense one hour each to lecture them – since both the prosecution and defense had considerable experience in trying cases at the ICTY.2 Cheeky as this may seem, my request was granted, and submissions were made.3 The proceedings improved somewhat after this intervention and training session, but overall, I can safely say that in my 35 years as a lawyer, the Prlić et al. trial was the absolute worst experience I’ve ever had as a lawyer.

But why should this matter and how does it account for General Praljak taking his own life?
It matters because, had the Trial Chamber been balanced and measured in their treatment of the defense, had they not adopted the unreasonable approach of allowing the six accused to have only a combined amount of time equal to the time allotted to the prosecution for every witness, had the Judges been more patient with General Praljak and allowed him greater latitude in questioning witnesses (after all he was in situ on the matters on which he wanted to confront the witnesses), had they not virtually wholesale ignored the defense evidence, and had they drafted a judgment that represented the evidence submitted during the five-year trial, then, perhaps he may have accepted the findings and conclusions. Perhaps, General Praljak might have accepted that he may have erred during the fog of war as he tried his best to command and control a citizen-soldier army led by a few professional officers of ranks that exceeded their experience and competence.

I say this because of the time I spent getting to know General Praljak before the trial and observing him for over a decade as the case progressed through the trial, all the way up to his last day. General Praljak was fearless. He was not afraid to be held accountable for any acts of commission or omission – so long as the evidence bore out his responsibility. He took the stand and testified for over three months. He did not equivocate, did not feign an absence of memory, and he certainly did not try to shift the blame.

General Praljak did not suffer fools, perhaps because his intellect was off the charts, not because of a superiority complex or arrogance. At times, however, he could be contentious, vociferous, and cantankerous. He had an overwhelming presence bursting with energy and determination to expose what he knew, what he saw, and what he felt about the events he had experienced. Sometimes his exuberance to get to the truth or to set the record straight got the best of him as he would stray or get carried away, depending on the topic being discussed. Occasionally, he had difficulty seeing the trees for the forest. And yes, occasionally, he could be exasperatingly difficult to contain, just as he exasperatingly had difficulty containing himself when hearing nonsense masquerading as facts.

If I have learned anything in representing accused in highly contentious and stressful trials, unless the judges are courteous, considerate, patient, and solicitous, an accused will be hard pressed to accept a ruling or final judgment, irrespective of the quality or sufficiency of the evidence. But when also factoring in how the case was tried, the way two of the Judges interacted with General Praljak, the way they often condescended to him, and of course, their ultimate findings and conclusions in the judgment and how these were reached, is it any wonder that General Praljak would challenge the even-handedness of the proceedings, or that he would reject the Trial and Appeal Judgments with contempt?

General Praljak’s final act casts a long shadow over the factual findings and legal conclusions made by the Trial Chamber and upheld by the Appeals Chamber. The evidence, for the most part, is available for scrutiny for anyone interested in judging the Judgments. Of course, few, if any, will take the time to go over this material to see what is proved, what is speculative, what is true, and what is false. But no one should be gulled into imagining that General Praljak exited the field as a concession to and acceptance of the findings of his guilt, or because he feared continued incarceration. Rather, his sacrifice was the ultimate repudiation of the injustice with which he was tried and judged.

Some will look at the Judgments in Prlić et al. and find vindication and perhaps even solace. Others no doubt will reject them as General Praljak did, perhaps with an equal amount of contempt. But what is for sure is that these Judgments will not foster reconciliation any more than it can be claimed that they represent the historical truths of what happened in BiH during the Muslim-Croat conflict.

I have profound respect for the Judges of the Appeals Chamber who rendered the Judgment. I also accept, as all must, that their Judgment is final. However, in good conscience, I cannot respect most of the findings and conclusions in the Appeal Judgment made by these esteemed Judges. My critique is not an attack on the ICTY as an institution; it is an indictment on the way the Trial Chamber conducted the proceedings in Prlić et al., resulting in a miscarriage of justice, which, regrettably, the Appeals Chamber failed to cure. And while it is claimed that counsel at the ICTY have “a positive obligation to protect the reputation of the Tribunal,”4 it would be cowardly of me and an affront to General Praljak’s memory to pretend the proceedings were fair, that there was no predisposition shown by the Judges during the trial or that the Trial and Appeal Judgments are not flawed. Some may try to twist these words as an assault on the ICTY’s reputation and legacy, but in the words of Voltaire, “To the living we owe respect, but to the dead we owe only the truth.”

General Praljak’s suicide was an act of defiance that has shed light on the ICTY’s legacy. No amount of spin will erase the tragic event that occurred in Courtroom 1 on 29 November 2017. What was expected to be the ICTY’s swan song – ending by reaffirming the convictions in Prlić et al. just days after the Mladić trial verdict – turned into a sad and confusing sight. General Praljak preferred to take his life, rather than validate the result of the trial and appeal proceedings – proceedings that in his view produced a false narrative based, in part, on the Judges’ unwillingness or inability to look beyond the settled orthodoxies that were touted on the ICTY website and peddled by its Outreach Program, even as the proceedings were ongoing.

Slobodan Milosevic Not Innocent – Still, Serbia’s War Crimes Deniers Get Field Day

Former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic is led into the courtroom of the UN War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague 2002 PHOTO : JERRY LAMPEN/AFP/Getty Images

Former Serbian president
Slobodan Milosevic
is led into the courtroom
of the UN War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague 2002
PHOTO : JERRY LAMPEN/AFP/Getty Images

 

Dubbed “the butcher of the Balkans”, Serbia’s late Slobodan Milosevic almost rose from the grave with a bright halo glowing above his head last month when a handful of apparent Serb war crimes and Slobodan Milosevic apologists briefly succeeded in convincing much of the unsuspecting world that The UN crimes tribunal in the Hague had acquitted/exonerated him of war crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina during 1990’s as part of joint criminal enterprise. Andy Wilcoxson and Neil Clark dropped into the world’s public arena a hotter than burning claim that sent members of Serbia’s leadership dancing in deliriums of denial and pathetic disregard for victims of horrible crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina during 1990’s and false interpretation of justice – oblivious to truth and reality.

 

Neil Clark served  the world (via RT) the evidently calculating sensational claim that the late Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, who died 2006 in The Hague cells, was “exonerated… for war crimes committed in the Bosnia war …”. Clark appears to have let himself loose and reckless, saying: “The ICTY’s conclusion, that one of the most demonized figures of the modern era was innocent of the most heinous crimes he was accused of, really should have made headlines across the world. But it hasn‘t. Even the ICTY buried it, deep in its 2,590 page verdict in the trial of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic who was convicted in March of genocide (at Srebrenica), war crimes and crimes against humanity…There was no official announcement or press conference regarding Milosevic‘s exoneration. We’ve got journalist and researcher Andy Wilcoxson to thank for flagging it up for us…”

Well, hello Mr Clark – Karadzic’s trial was not Milosevic’s trial and Milosevic was not tried – he went on and died in prison before the evidence against him could actually be tested in the court of law.

Ah, Andy Wilcoxon. Well, he wrote on a pro Slobodan Milosevic website in July 2016 analysing snippets of the ICTY judgment against Radovan Karadzic as if they were snippets from a trial against Milosevic where adequate or applicable evidence against Milosevic was tested! Wilcoxon in essence pronounced Milosevic innocent of war crimes by addressing a handful of paragraphs in the 2,615-page ICTY judgment against Karadzic. How calculating and cruel can some articles appear!

Radovan Karadzic 40 year prison sentence for war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina against Croats and Bosniaks Photo: AP

Radovan Karadzic
40 year prison sentence
for war crimes in
Bosnia and Herzegovina against
Croats and Bosniaks
Photo: AP

So, it was more than four months from the time the ICTY in the Hague delivered 24 March its judgment against Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and sentenced him to 40 years imprisonment for war crimes committed against Bosnian Muslims and Croats during 1990’s war, which saw ethnic cleansing and genocide create the so-called ethnically clean Serb Republic within Bosnia and Herzegovina, that journalists Neil Clark and Andy Wilcoxson decide to interpret the ICTY Judgment against Karadzic as a finding of Slobodan Milosevic’s innocence and got the world thinking that Milosevic has in The Hague trial been found innocent of war crimes in Bosnia & Herzegovina. The full judgment does have 2, 615 pages (or 2,590 – depending on format at hand) and it takes time to digest that but one cannot but suspect that such articles purporting to confirm Milosevic’s innocence in Bosnia and Herzegovina were what “the doctor ordered” and to be used to feed Serbia’s deluded genocide denial, denial of any guilt in the war they started and played a critical role of aggression in it, regardless of whether that aggression was physical or verbal or political.

Truly disturbing stuff!

Wilcoxon in his article enumerates a selection of paragraphs from the Karadzic judgment that he says evidences Milosevic’s innocence but apparently fails to actually quote those paragraphs in full or link them to the actual ICTY Judgment (for the reader to access easily)! One of these paragraphs Wilcoxson heavily relies for his preposterous claim is paragraph 3460 and that one says:

 

With regard to the evidence presented in this case (Karadzic case) in relation to Slobodan Milosevic and his membership in the JCE (Joint Criminal Enterprise), the Chamber recalls that he shared and endorsed the political objective of the Accused and the Bosnian Serb leadership to preserve Yugoslavia and to prevent the separation or independence of BiH and co-operated closely with the Accused during this time. The Chamber also recalls that Milosevic provided assistance in the form of personnel, provisions, and arms to the Bosnian Serbs during the conflict. However, based on the evidence before the Chamber regarding the diverging interests that emerged between the Bosnian Serb and Serbian leaderships during the conflict and in particular, Milosevic’s repeated criticism and disapproval of the policies and decisions made by the Accused and the Bosnian Serb leadership, the Chamber is not satisfied that there was sufficient evidence presented in this case to find that Slobodan Milosevic agreed with the common plan.” (Full Radovan Karadzic Judgment ICTY pdf here)

So, no sufficient evidence against Milosevic in Karadzic’s trial equals Milosevic’s innocence of the crimes as far as one can deduce from Neill and Wilcoxson’s incredulous claims. Wilcoxson enumerates several other paragraphs from the Karadzic judgment that mainly address meetings in Belgrade or in Pale (administrative centre of Serbian Republic then created by Serb’s as ethnically pure entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina) and tend to suggest Milosevic’s certain disagreement with the politics of Bosnian Serb leaders, but to me this is not evidence of Milosevic’s innocence. Indeed, Milosevic’s attitudes reportedly expressed at meetings do not necessarily automatically follow that he is innocent of the war crimes covered in Karadzic’s trial.

(L) Ivica Dacic, Serbian foreign minister (R) Aleksandar Vulin, Serbian labour, employment minister Photo: Tanjug/Nenad Milosevic

(L) Ivica Dacic, Serbian foreign minister
(R) Aleksandar Vulin, Serbian labour, employment minister
Photo: Tanjug/Nenad Milosevic

 

What’s even more disturbing is that most of Serbia’s media and some outside it promoted this deception for days, leaving that lie permanently available in the public domain. What’s further distressing and obscene is the fact that Serbia’s leadership via foreign minister Ivica Dacic (former member of Milosevic’s ultra-nationalist party) and labour and employment  minister Aleksandar Vulin “have been expressing triumphant satisfaction for days about claims (Clark and Wilcoxson) that the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia’s verdict convicting former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic also said that former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic wasn’t guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Dacic has said that the Karadzic verdict also shows that Serbia itself was innocent of wartime crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina. But some Serbian analysts suggest that they are simply using these claims of Milosevic’s innocence in an attempt to rehabilitate the former leader’s policies and their own role in the wars of the 1990s, with which the country has never truly come to terms…”

Poor, wretched soul, Dacic, who accused the West of keeping quiet about Milosevic’s innocence because, if it spoke about the findings in ICTY Karadzic case about Milosevic’s innocence, then the West would tear down the justification for its politics towards Serbia! This man is truly mad! It doesn’t seem to cross his mind that Karadzic’s case was not Milosevic’s case and that the case did not pronounce Milosevic innocent nor would it have been just to do so (as all evidence tested was that to serve indictment against Karadzic).

An army of world’s top psychiatrists couldn’t heal this lot in Serbia from the devastating, dangerous delusions that include persistent and false sense of victimhood and denials of Serbia’s role in war crimes during 1990’s in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

 

But, wouldn’t you know it – Russian Pravda swiftly published a piece after Clark’s article saying that “International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague quietly acknowledged the innocence of former president of Serbia and Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic and went on with an interview with the French/ Russian journalist Dimitri de Koshko, another Milosevic apologist it seems, who went on to say: “Today, we are talking about the trial in The Hague that has seen its legal ending only now. Milosevic was posthumously and very quietly acquitted by the Tribunal.”

Unbelievable garbage! Nobody can be acquitted or found not guilty via a trial held against someone else!

The Tribunal did not acquit Milosevic. Trial against Milosevic stopped when he died. Did not continue! Did not finish. Perhaps Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina should join forces and seek to have it finished posthumously.

 

The indisputable facts are that Slobodan Milosevic presided over and oversaw the worst atrocities committed against humanity since WWII on European soil. Serbia’s soldiers as they entered Croatia’s Vukovar in 1991 with guns, knives, bombs, tanks sang: “Slobo, Slobo (meaning Slobodan Milosevic) bring us some salad, there’ll be meat – we’ll slaughter the Croats”; thousands of Bosniak men and boys slaughtered in Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina under the banner of Serb superiority and land theft – to just mention the very tip of the horrendous iceberg of war crimes committed.

Has Milosevic been exonerated of war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina? Has he been found or declared innocent? Heck no – not by a court of law; just by handful of journalists twisting and bending facts about the most serious matter of human existence – crime – to suit a political agenda that has nothing to do with justice. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

 

US based attorney Luka Misetic, who has significant experience in ICTY trials and appeals for war crimes recently tweeted the following on the matter (click on image to enlarge):

luka-misetic-tweet

Hague Appeals Chamber Reverses Trial Conclusion Against Croatia’s Leaders

From left: General Janko Bobetko, Presidentof Croatia Franjo Tudjman, Croatia's Defence Minister Gojko Susak Croatia - early 1990's Photo: Cropix/Goran Sebelic

From left: General Janko Bobetko,
President of Croatia Franjo Tudjman,
Croatia’s Defence Minister Gojko Susak
Croatia – early 1990’s
Photo: Cropix/Goran Sebelic

 

The Hague Tribunal ICTY rejected Monday 18 July 2016 the request of the Republic of Croatian to join the appeal case against the six former Bosnia and Herzegovina Croatian senior officials from the 1990’s Herceg-Bosna part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Jadranko Prlic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petkovic, Valentin Coric and Berislav Pusic. As farcical as the findings were seen by many, the ICTY Trial Chamber did find May 2013 the six men guilty for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1994 and pronounced a total of 111 years imprisonment.

 

Presiding judge last week, Judge Carmel Agius delivered the Appeal Chamber’s decision denying Croatia’s application to appear as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in the above six men’s appeal proceedings to dispute the Trial Chamber’s conclusions that the six accused participated in a Joint Criminal Enterprise (JCE) and that three Croatia’s officials – first Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, former foreign minister Gojko Susak and Croatian army general Janko Bobetko – were members of that JCE (Joint Criminal Enterprise).

 

Croatian’s application claimed that the 2013 Trial Chamber verdict violated the right of presumption of innocence under the European Convention on Human Rights of the three Croatian official’s – Tudjman, Susak and Bobetko, who were all deceased at the time ; that the three Croatian officials were innocent of allegation that they were members of JCE and that the Trial chamber’s conclusion is tantamount to “posthumous conviction”.

Six Croats from Herceg-Bosna at ICTY in The Hague, 2013 Photo: ICTY

Six Croats from
Herceg-Bosna
at ICTY in The Hague, 2013
Photo: ICTY

 

The Appeals Chamber rejected Croatia’s application saying it would not assist the Appeals Chamber in its considerations of questions in issue at the appeal.

However, an unexpected bonus arrived from this application – the Appeal judges articulated their assessment that the original Trial Chamber findings that included conclusion regarding Croatia’s Franjo Tudjman, Gojko Susak and Janko Bobetko do not and cannot amount to a guilty verdict against these three Croatian officials (Full PDF version here):

“…the Appeals Chamber emphasises that findings of criminal responsibility made in a case before the Tribunal are binding only on the accused in a specific case. In this regard, Appeals Chamber observes that the Three Croatian Officials were not indicted or charged in the present case. Furthermore, the Trial Chamber made no explicit findings concerning their participation in the JCE and did not find them guilty of any crimes. Chamber considers that the Trial Chamber’s findings regarding the mere existence and membership of the lCE do not – and cannot – constitute findings of criminal responsibility on the part of any persons who were not charged and convicted in this case. Thus, the Trial Judgment is binding only on the Six Accused, and the presumption of innocence of the Three Croatian Officials is not impacted. The Appeals Chamber further observes that the Tribunal’s jurisdiction is restricted to “natural persons” and the Tribunal does not have the competency to make findings on state responsibility. Accordingly, the Appeals Chamber emphasises that the findings in the Trial Judgment regarding the Three Croatian Officials in no way constitute findings of responsibility on the part of the state of Croatia. The Appeals Chamber therefore finds Croatia’s submissions to be without merit and dismisses them.”

Luka Misetic Photo: Darko Tomas/Cropix

Luka Misetic Photo: Darko Tomas/Cropix

The Appeals Chamber has essentially reversed the findings of the Prlic Trial Chamber about Tudjman, Susak and Bobetko’s alleged participation in a JCE. In a unique procedural maneuver, it did so in the context of a decision to reject an amicus curiae application. Scholars and practitioners of international criminal procedure should take note.

The Appeals Chamber went on to emphasize that “the presumption of innocence of the three Croatian officials is not impacted” by the Prlic Trial Chamber judgment, and furthermore “”the Appeals Chamber emphasizes that the findings in the Trial Judgment regarding the Three Croatian Officials in no way constitute findings of responsibility on the part of the state of Croatia.”

The ICTY Appeals Chamber has thus ruled that President Tudjman, Minister Susak and General Bobetko were not found to be members of a JCE in Bosnia and remain presumed innocent by the ICTY. Prosecutor Ken Scott stated publicly that the Trial Chamber in Prlic was ‘very clear and adamant about the significant role played by Tudjman and Susak’ and that these findings were ‘one of the most historical, remarkable things about the case.’ Those findings are now reversed.
Croatia could not have hoped for a better result from the Appeals Chamber even if the Appeals Chamber had granted Croatia amicus status,” says the US based, well-known attorney Luka Misetic.

This decision at the ICTY Appeals Chamber blows right out of the water the wild and evil claims that Croatia’s plan at the time was to create a Greater Croatia by joining to it the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina known as Herceg-Bosna and, hence, concluded that Croatia’s leaders were members of the JCE that was to achieve this goal. The Hague Prosecution did accuse the Six Croats of participating in a joint criminal enterprise that was intended to “permanently remove and ethnically cleanse Bosnian Muslims and other non-Croats” from the territory of the newly-established Herceg-Bosna, which they wanted to attach to a planned “Greater Croatia”. Now that the Appeal Chambers have found last week that Croatian leaders were not members of that JCE as Trial Chamber maintained it would stand to reason and truth that any Greater Croatia could not be created without Croatia. Appeal Chamber’s decision with regard to the Herceg-Bosna Six Croats is expected around November 2017. Given that many have considered the 2013 Trial Chamber verdict against them a farce and an utterly unfair and unjust, one awaits the outcome of the appeal with intense interest as it could turn the tides towards actual justice and truth and point to a different picture of the conflict between the Croats and Muslims in 1990’s in Bosnia and Herzegovina than the one painted by the ICTY Trial Chamber verdict. We can only pray for now. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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