Death Prevents Justice Once Again For Croat Victims Of Serb War Crimes

Serb war criminal Goran Hadzic 2015/2016

Serb war criminal Goran Hadzic
2015/2016

 

Croatian Serb rebel leader Goran Hadzic, 58, former leader of the 1990’s self-proclaimed Serbian Republic of Krajina (part of Croatian territory occupied, ethnically cleansed of Croats and other non-Serbs, terrorised and devastated) who was tried by the UN war crimes court ICTY – International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia) over his role in war crimes committed by Serb aggressor in the 1991-1995 war in Croatia, has died on Tuesday 12 July 2016 in a clinical centre in Vojvodina part of Serbia.

 

Hadzic wanted to create a Serb-dominated state after the splintering of the former Yugoslavia in 1991 following the collapse of communism; after Croatia announced and proceeded with the majority (94%) of its people’s wish to create an independent state, secede from communism and develop a democracy.

 

Hadzic was charged by ICTY prosecutor with 14 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The accusations include the murder/massacres of civilians who were taken from Vukovar hospital in 1991 in one of the conflict’s darkest episodes, forced deportation (ethnic cleansing by way of murder, unlawful jailing, beatings, deportations and forcible transfers) of at least 20,000 Croats and other non-Serbs from that area. He was also charged with responsibility for the massacre of Croat civilians who were forced to walk into a minefield in the Croatian town of Lovas in October 1991, one of the first crimes of the long, bloody conflict. He spent seven years on the run in Serbia from UN prosecutors after being tipped off about arrest.

Goran Hadzic 1991 Serb rebel and war criminal

Goran Hadzic 1991
Serb rebel and war criminal

Prosecutors finished presenting their case against Hadzic in November 2013 and Hadzic had just started his defense when he was diagnosed with cancer in 2014. In April 2015 ICTY ordered an indefinite halt to the trial as he battled the advanced stages of terminal brain cancer.

Goran Hadzic was born on 7 September in Vinkovci area, Croatia. Before the 1990’s war he worked as a store man while his political involvement began in the nineties with the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), where he was president of its Municipal branch of Vukovar, a member of the Central Committee in Knin and president of the Regional Board for Slavonia, Baranja and Western Syrmia. In January 1991 Hadzic was elected president of the Serbian National Council in Croatia, in August of the same year he was elected Prime Minister of the Serb rebel self-proclaimed Serbian District of Slavonia, Baranja and Western Syrmia while his political engagement that had its sight on carving Croatian territory for Serbs rose to  President of the Republic of Serbian Krajina in February 1992 after the convicted war criminal Milan Babic lost the position. Losing at December 1993 elections Hadzic went out of politics for a while.

 

Vukovar, Croatia 1991 - brutally devastated from Serb aggression

Vukovar, Croatia 1991 – brutally devastated from Serb aggression

Hadzic was the first on the list of about 150 war crimes Serb suspects to be excluded from the 1997 Croatian law which provided for amnesty against criminal charges for quite a number of Serb nationals suspected of committing crimes in Croatia during the war. Croatian authorities were adamant Hadzic was to face trial for war crimes; sadly the said amnesty provided many Serb war criminals (murderers, rapists, concentration camp torturers…) with freedom and no requirement to carry any responsibility for their crimes. Having fled to Serbia Hadzic was nevertheless indicted on war crimes in Croatia. In fact Croatia excluded from a war crimes amnesty for Serbs in the rebel enclave of Eastern Slavonia more than 800 people, including eminent retired and current Yugoslav army officers.  At Western insistence, the Croatian parliament had pardoned Serbs who were in the eastern region during or after a 1991 revolt against Croatia’s move to independence from the Serbian-dominated federal Yugoslavia. The amnesty, intended to reassure local Serbs in advance of Eastern Slavonia’s U.N.-supervised transfer back to Croatian authority by 1997, does not cover Serbs suspected of war crimes as defined by international law.

 

Although he fled to Serbia to evade justice, the Osijek County Court in 1999 sentenced Hadzic to eight years in prison, among other things, for incitement to crime, murder, destruction of the Catholic Church and the mining of non-Serb houses in Tenja, near Osijek. The Sibenik County Court had also sentenced him in 1995 to 20 years imprisonment for excessive shelling of town of Sibenik area. Enjoying the safety of Serbia, Hadzic, of course, served no time in Croatian prisons

ICTY in The Hague published its indictment against Hadzic in July 2004 on charges referred to above. Soon after hearing of the indictment he abandoned his house in Novi Sad, Vojvodina Serbia and hid as fugitive in Serbia for seven years. In October 2007 Serbia publicised a reward for information leading to the capturing of war criminal fugitives including Hadzic and he was finally arrested in Serbia July 2011 and transported to the Hague.

Ethnic cleansing of Croatians of Vukovar 1991 Photo: daily.tportal.hr

Ethnic cleansing of Croatians of Vukovar 1991 Photo: daily.tportal.hr

 

Some people out there might say that although Hadzic’s death has prevented justice from being done in his case, the crimes he was accused of do not and will not remain unpunished, because there are other Serb leaders and war criminals charged with and convicted of them. That is absolutely no consolation for victims of his crimes. However, the fact that  he was convicted by Croatian courts in absentia brings at least small consolations, and so his repugnant plea of innocence at the Hague and unfinished defence due to his death cannot bear the same weight as dying before criminal trial completion without any convictions from anywhere. Hadzic was guilty of war crimes, was found to be guilty and died as a major war criminal.

It is a terrible thing that hundreds of Croats who were targets of Hadzic’s and his associates’ war crimes are still to this day on the Missing Persons list – neither Serbia nor its war criminals have felt the decency to reveal the resting place of their remains.  It is a terrible thing to watch Serbia make progress with EU membership negotiations without being required to reveal facts and details of the fates of the missing persons from its 1990’s war of aggression against Croatia. It is a terrible thing watching Croatia’s authorities weaken their stand on this requirement from Serbia and so contribute to the painful possibility of the Croatian missing persons’ fate remaining a secret of Serbia. This smells of the late-1990’s deal of amnesty to Serb criminals and it the smell is distressing. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Vojislav Seselj Case: UN Criminal Tribunal Delivers Great Victory For Violent Lunatics Everywhere

ICTY Trial Chamber 31 March 2016 Delivering Judgment in Vojislav Seselj Case PHOTO: Screenhot ICTY.org

ICTY Trial Chamber
31 March 2016
Delivering Judgment in Vojislav Seselj Case
PHOTO: Screenhot ICTY.org

 

Travesty of justice and biased blindness to facts

Despite the fact that the Serbian ultra-nationalist pusher of a land-grabbing-by-any-means Greater Serbia, Vojislav Seselj, sowed and incited hatred against Croats and Muslims (Bosniaks) in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina during early 1990’s, recruited Serb Chetnik, utterly cruel and barbaric, bloodthirsty militia in Croatia, that culminated in a long, brutal war of genocide, ethnic cleansing, mass murder, rape, concentration camps, pillage… the Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague pronounced him Thursday 31 March 2016 innocent of all charges. The majority of judges, Judge Lattanzi dissenting, concluded “that the objective of the creation of Greater Serbia was more of a political venture than a criminal project… that crimes had been committed by Serbian forces in the process, but that they were not inherently linked to the fulfilment of the purpose of Greater Serbia…”

Vojislav Seselj Photo: N1

Vojislav Seselj
Photo: N1

Two out of three judges (Judge Jean-Claude Antonetti, Judge Mandiaye Niang) – Judge Flavia Lattanzi dissenting -dared to conclude the above  knowing the facts that Seselj acted in times of Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbia that called upon ethnic cleansing and creation of ethnically pure regions of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina; knowing that it was Seselj who shouted in 1991 to Serbs picking up weapons to attack Croatia that “no Ustasha can leave Vukovar alive…” (calling all Croats Ustasha – a WWII political independence movement in Croatia); knowing that only one week before the same Tribunal (ICTY) convicted Serb Radovan Karadzic, the wartime leader of the Bosnian Serbs, to 40 years imprisonment on charges of murder, extermination and genocide (based on same Greater Serbia “political venture”)!
Furthermore, the majority judgment argues that Seselj’s men might have been present in contested regions (regions of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina), not to force Bosniak Muslims and Croats out of areas claimed for a Greater Serbia, but on “humanitarian grounds”. So, his calls for murder, extermination and ethnic cleansing (acted upon by his men) were simply a means of “galvanising Serb forces”.

 

Can you believe this travesty of justice and blindness to facts!?

 

His men followed his calls – murdered, raped, forcefully deported, imprisoned, humiliated, plundered…and that was “OK” according to the two judges because it was a political venture! It was “galvanizing” the political venture!

 

The “political venture” ICTY Trial Chamber shamefully endorses

As a reminder, the indictment against Seselj included “the participation in a joint criminal enterprise (JCE). The aim of the JCE was for the permanent forcible removal of a majority of the Croat, Muslim and other non-Serb civilian populations from parts of Croatia, BiH and from the province of Vojvodina in the Republic of Serbia. Acting alone and in concert with other members of the JCE, Šešelj is alleged to have participated in the recruitment, formation, financing, supply, support and direction of Serbian volunteers connected to the SRS and/or Serbian Chetnik Movement. He is also accused of having participated in the planning and preparation of the take-over of towns and villages in Croatia and in a number of municipalities in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), and the subsequent forcible removal of the majority of the non-Serb population from those areas. In addition, he stands accused of having recruited Serbian volunteers connected to the SRS and indoctrinated them with his extreme ethnic rhetoric so that they engaged in the forcible removal of the non-Serb population in the targeted territories through the commission of crimes as specified in the indictment, with particular violence and brutality.

Finally, the indictment states that, in his inflammatory speeches, he instigated Serb forces to commit crimes, encouraged the creation of a homogeneous “Greater Serbia” by violence, and thereby participated in war propaganda and incitement of hatred towards non-Serb people…”

Vojislav Seselj early 1990's inciting to murder and ethnic cleansing in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina

Vojislav Seselj
early 1990’s inciting to
murder and ethnic cleansing
in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina

The crimes he was indicted for, he incited and called for, did actually occur and include:
• the deportation or forcible transfer of tens of thousands of Croat, Muslim and other non-Serb civilians from large areas in BiH, Croatia and Serbia (Croats living in Serbia/Vojvodina region in particular and Muslims in Kosovo region;
• the murder of many Croat, Muslim and other non-Serb civilians, including women and elderly persons, as well as the deliberate destruction of homes, other public and private property, cultural institutions, historic monuments and sacred sites of the Croat, Muslim and other non-Serb civilian populations in the municipality of Vukovar in Croatia, and in the municipalities of Zvornik, “Greater Sarajevo”, Mostar and Nevesinje in BiH;
• the torture, beating, robbery, sexual assaults, and perpetuation of inhumane living conditions against Croat, Muslim and other non-Serb civilians by Serb soldiers during capture and in the detention facilities;
• the direct and public denigration through “hate speech” of the Croat, Muslim aand other non-Serb populations in Vukovar Zvornik and Hrtkovci on the basis of their ethnicities

 

Would Adolf Hitler be acquitted?

This acquittal of Seselj of all charges, not even mentioning complicity and accessory to crimes, does cause one to conclude (as a colleague blogger Vladimir Lusic did) that (using this ICTY judgment as a precedent) Adolf Hitler would be found innocent of all charges also. Hitler also delivered loud and strong political speeches, talked about the greatness of the Third Reich, decided which ethnic group should live and which should die in the name of the Third Reich, held a gun at his waist from time to time…just like Seselj! Only Seselj didn’t have the Third Reich – for him it was Greater Serbia.
Evidence has it that Seselj did much more than engage in politics. His militia was widely feared as murderers, rapists and looters. In the Croatian war in 1991, Seselj said his men had used a rusty spoon to scoop out the eyes of their enemies, though he later claimed this was black humour.
When they marched into Vukovar in 1991, intent on murdering as many Croats as they could Seselj’s militia sang: “Slobo, Slobo, send us some salad, there will be meat we will slaughter the Croats” (Slobo meaning Slobodan Milosevic). And sure enough by 18 November 1991 Vukovar was ethnically cleansed of Croats and other non-Serbs and hundreds perished in genocidal mass murders – other places in Croatia and BiH soon suffered the same destinies.

 

And remember: all Croatia wanted to do was to secede from communist Yugoslavia!

1991 - Vojislav Seselj and Dragan Vasiljkovic lead the way to mass murder and ethnic cleansing in Croatia

1991 – Vojislav Seselj and
Dragan Vasiljkovic
lead the way to mass murder and ethnic cleansing in Croatia

Wide and serious worldwide ramifications for international justice

It’s not far fetched to say that the ICTY judges’ (who delivered such a judgment) reasoning will have wide and serious ramifications for the international justice. Such a judgment endorses all political “ventures” even those that incite hatred and mass murder and genocide… Will the coalition of allies dare to fight against IS in the Middle East from now on, for example?
The verdict already encourages nationalist Serbs to argue that their side did nothing wrong in the war. Jubilation in the streets of Belgrade and elsewhere has been ecstatic – the Serbs sentenced at The Hague so far for crimes against humanity, war crimes … do not seem to matter now! Serbian Republic political entity within Bosnia and Herzegovina, created on genocide for which Karadzic received 40 years imprisonment last week is now just about pronounced acceptable part of Greater Serbia! The arguments brought down by the majority judges at the ICTY in Seselj’s case will, without doubt, be matched by all political ventures throughout the world, no matter what gruesome destinies and sufferings they bring to innocent people.

 

The arguments have dumped the right to self-determination of every nation into the garbage bin.

Even if the ICTY Prosecutor, under Serge Brammertz, may have done a very sloppy job in Seselj’s case during and before the trial, as the judges might suggest, and this sloppiness may have been purposeful, the judgment is still outrageous and shocking. Let’s hope Brammertz’s team do some serious work on identifying grounds for an appeal against this judgment and if it doesn’t then Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina governments need to find those grounds, quick smart.

 

As Luka Misetic, US based attorney who represented Croatian General Ante Gotovina at the ICTY, reminds us: “There is little doubt about Seselj’s role in Joint Criminal Enterprise to create Greater Serbia by means of displacement of the non-Serb civilian population. This was already confirmed by the Trial Chamber in the Martic Judgment (Milan Maric, 2007, PDF), which at paragraph 446 found: ‘The Trial Chamber therefore finds that at least Blagoje Adzic, Milan Babic, Radmilo Bogdanovic,Veljko Kadijevic, Radovan Karadzic, Slobodan Milosevic, Ratko Mladic, Vojislav Seselj, Franko ‘Frenki’ Simatovic, Jovica Stanisic, and Captain Dragan Vasiljkovic participated in the furtherance of the above-mentioned common criminal purpose.’”
One finds it difficult to accept that the two out of three judges who delivered an exonerating verdict for Seselj seemingly decided to ignore the previous findings of its own Tribunal on the matter and is getting away with it.

In the Twitter words of Eric Gordy, a London based sociologist and reportedly very knowledgeable about war crimes in the Balkans, the Seselj verdict is “a great victory for bloated, violent lunatics everywhere.” Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A. Ps. (Syd)

Croatia: Luka Misetic Responds As Serb Denials Of Crimes Take New Form

Luka Misetic Photo: Davor Puklavec/PIXSELL

Luka Misetic
Photo: Davor Puklavec/PIXSELL

Well, July was a disquieting month for justice at the UN Security Council. Serbia’s lobby with Russia had resulted in Russia’s veto on the British instigated motion to call the 1995 Srebrenica massacres genocide! And so, the verdicts delivered by the UN Security Council appointed International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) officially became as valuable and as respected as a veto of one member state of the Security Council is worth! Denials can take one far these days, it seems!

In line with the appalling Serb denials of genocide and the horrendous crimes they committed in the aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina during 1990’s it was to be expected that Croatian Serbs and their wicked supporters were going to stage some outrageous display of denials ahead of the 20th Anniversary of Operation Storm that liberated Croatia from Serb occupation and aggression in August of 1995; just as they did with the 20th commemoration of Srebrenica genocide in July.

And so, it came – the ugly beast of denials, political corruption, lies and attempts to pervert the truth in the form of launching an interactive narrative named “Storm in the Hague” (webpage)! Those responsible for this launch on Friday 31 July 2015 in Zagreb, Croatia, are the Documenta association in Croatia (an organisation supposedly dealing with confronting the truth of history but in reality twists that history to promote bias and lies against Croatia), the Serbian National Council (led by Milorad Pupovac) and, as I and multitudes see it, the ultimately biased and politically corrupt SENSE Agency – Centre for transitional justice.

The ICTY concluded the following: 1.     There was no Joint Criminal Enterprise from the Croatian side.  2.     Krajina Serbs were not deported from Croatia by the Croatian  authorities but left Croatia out of other reasons  not associated with any Croatian officials'  illegal behaviour;  3.     Not only that the Croatian authorities did not permit crimes  against  Serbs and Serbs' property,  but they were actively  against those crimes;    4.   It's confirmed that 20,000 houses were not burned  after Operation Storm. The number is probably closer to 5,000,  and that, in both Sectors, North and South.      5.     The judgment has found that a total of 44 civilians  were killed by the Croatian forces, not 320 as the Prosecution claimed,  not 600 as HHO claimed and  especially not 2,000 as claimed by „Veritas“ i Savo Strbac. 6.     There were no politics of non-investigation of crimes by the Croatian  authorities.  7.     The housing laws after Operation Storm were not  in a collision with the international humanitarian law.

The ICTY concluded the following:
1. There was no Joint Criminal Enterprise from the Croatian side.
2. Krajina Serbs were not deported from Croatia by the Croatian
authorities but left Croatia out of other reasons
not associated with any Croatian officials’
illegal behaviour;
3. Not only that the Croatian authorities did not permit crimes
against
Serbs and Serbs’ property,
but they were actively
against those crimes;
4. It’s confirmed that 20,000 houses were not burned
after Operation Storm. The number is probably closer to 5,000,
and that, in both Sectors, North and South.
5. The judgment has found that a total of 44 civilians
were killed by the Croatian forces, not 320 as the Prosecution claimed,
not 600 as HHO claimed and
especially not 2,000 as claimed by „Veritas“ i Savo Strbac.
6. There were no politics of non-investigation of crimes by the Croatian
authorities.
7. The housing laws after Operation Storm were not
in a collision with the international humanitarian law.

Many in Croatia and abroad consider (rightfully) that the interactive narrative “Storm in the Hague” is an attempt to belittle and nullify the ICTY Appeal Chamber verdict of 16 November 2012 in the case of Croatian Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, which had found that as far as the Croatian war efforts were concerned there was no Joint Criminal Enterprise, no excessive artillery shelling and no ethnic cleansing of Serbs.

I would think that the saddest thing about this twisting of the final verdict in the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to suit the Serb denials of crimes and their aggression is that the Croatian taxpayers fund to a large extent the work of these organisations that twist the truth

Mr Luka Misetic, Ante Gotovina’s US based defense lawyer at the ICTY trial promptly addressed on his blog and in the Croatian media concerning and disquieting aspects of this launch of the interactive narrative “Storm in the Hague”. I have translated into the English language Mr Misetic’s address and here it is:

 

Today (31st July), in Croatia, there was a SENSE Agency and Serbian National Council launch of the presentation “Storm in the Hague”. As it was to be expected the presentation purposefully covers up that which the Hague Tribunal found in its judgments in the case of Gotovina (Ante Gotovina, Croatian General).

HOW DID THE HAGUE TRIBUNAL ANSWER TO ALL THESE QUESTIONS?
1. Were Serbs deported from Croatia?
2. Did the Croatian authorities purposefully permit crimes such as murders, plunder and arson in order to deny the Serbs the possibility of returning to Croatia?
3. Were there more than 20,000 homes burned after Storm in the Southern part of the liberated territory?
4. Did the Croatian forces kill more than 600 Serbs during and after Operation Storm?
5. Did the Croatian judicial authorities and the police practice the politics of non-investigation of crimes?
6. Have illegally discriminatory housing laws been introduced?
7. Finally, did the Joint Criminal Enterprise exist in Croatia?

1. WERE SERBS DEPORTED FROM CROATIA?

Firstly, we need to correct some misunderstandings regarding the Trial Chamber judgment in which General Gotovina received a 24 year prison sentence. The Tribunal had concluded that Krajina Serbs were deported ONLY from 4 towns: Knin, Benkovac, Obrovac and Gracac. So, only from those four places.

The Tribunal had concluded that Serb civilians from all other places in the so-called Krajina had left Croatia out of other reasons not associated with any illegal treatmen by the Croatian authorities. Those legal reasons for leaving were:
• “Serbian Republic of Krajina” officials had called upon the population to leave the areas (Trial Chamber judgment paragraph 1762);
• The fear of aggression usually associated with armed conflict (Trial Chamber judgment paragraph 1762);
• Generalised fear from the Croatian forces and disstrust in Croatian authorities (Trial Chamber judgment paragraph 1762); and
• The fact that other Serbs were leaving had caused the effect of some civilians deciding to leave with them (Trial Chamber judgment paragraph 1754, 1762).

Hence, the Hague Tribunal had even in its Trial Chamber judgment found that a huge majority of Serb population from the so-called Krajina had left Croatia out of its own reasons, and that the Croatian authorities were not responsible for that. Only the four said towns were questionable for the Trial Chamber.
2. DID THE CROATIAN AUTHORITIES PERMIT CRIMES:

The Trial Chamber had explicitly rejected the claims that the Croatian authorities had purposefully permitted crimes such as arson, plunder and killings in order to deny the Serbs the possibility of return:

2321. The Trial Chamber found that the common objective of the so-called Criminal enterprise did not amount to, or involve the commission of the crimes of persecution (disappearances of people, wanton destruction, plunder, murder, inhumane acts, cruel treatment, and unlawful detentions), destruction of property, plunder, murder, inhumane acts, and cruel treatment.

Moreover, the Court tribunal did not only find that Croatia did not permit such crimes, but it also found that the Croatian leadership had actively opposed the perpetration of such criminal acts:

2313. However, the evidence, in particular the statements made at meetings and in public reviewed in chapters 6.2.2-6.2.5, does not
indicate that members of the Croatian political and military leadership intended that property inhabited or owned by Krajina Serbs should be destroyed or plundered. Further, it does not indicate that these acts were initiated or supported by members of the leadership. Rather, the evidence includes several examples of meetings and statements (see for example D409, P470, and D1451), indicating that the leadership, including Tudjman, disapproved of the destruction of property. Based on the foregoing, the Trial Chamber does not find that destruction and plunder were within the purpose of the joint criminal enterprise.

3. Were 20,000 homes burned in the South Sector?

This claim was thoroughly discredited at the hearing. This hypothesis, which has constantly been repeated in the past 15 years, is based upon wrong claims made in the 1999 report by the HHO (Croatian Helsinki Committee) on Operation Storm in which HHO claimed that the Canadian General Alain Forand, UN forces chief commander based in Knin, stated that 22,000 houses were burned in the South Sector. The reality is that Forand stated that a total of 22,000 houses in South Sector were inspected, and not that they were burned. The truth regarding the number of burned houses in the liberated area is most likely closer to the report by the UN General Secretary in December 1995: about 5,000 of houses and stables in Sectors North and South were burned after Operation Storm.
4. Did the Croatian forces kill 600 civilians during and after Operation Storm?

This also is a usual claim perpetuated all the time in the media. However, the Prosecution had claimed that about 320 civilians were killed in Sector South, and not 600. The Trial Chamber had found that out of these 320, 44 were killed by members of the Croatian armed forces. The number of Serb civilians killed by Croatian forces is closer to 44 than 600.

5. Did the Croatian judicial authorities and police practice the politics of non-investigation of crimes?

The Court Tribunal had rejected this allegation, which is being repeated in the media all the time, even today, and, after the Appeal decision. In paragraph 2203 of its judgment the Trial Chamber found the following:

The evidence reviewed indicates that some investigatory efforts were made, but with relatively few results. Moreover, there are
indications in the evidence that at the political level, these efforts were motivated at least in part by a concern for Croatia’s international standing rather than by genuine concern for victims. In light of the testimony of expert Albiston, the Trial Chamber considers that the insufficient response by the Croatian law enforcement authorities and judiciary can to some extent be explained by the abovementioned obstacles they faced and their need to perform other duties in August and September 1995. In conclusion, while the evidence indicates incidents of purposeful hindrance of certain investigations, the Trial Chamber cannot positively establish that the Croatian authorities had a policy of non-investigation of crimes committed against Krajina Serbs during and following Operation Storm in the Indictment area.
These are the main findings of the Trial Chamber. As we all know, some parts of this judgment have remained disputable given that General Gotovina was sentenced to 24 years (and General Markac to 18) due to Trial Chamber’s conclusion that General Gotovina had executed illegal artillery attacks against the towns of Knin, Benkovac, Obrovac and Gracac.

That’s why we needed to wait for the final verdict by the Appeals Chamber regarding the disputed matters left from the Trial Chamber judgment, and that final judgment arrived on 16 November 2012. (Acquitting the Croatian generals of all charges).

Appeals Chamber verdict

6 and 7. Joint Criminal Enterprise and housing laws

There was no Joint Criminal Enterprise on the Croatian side. The Appeal Chamber had quashed Trial Chamber judgment on that count, concluding that the Krajina Serbs were not deported from Knin, Benkovac, Obrovac and Gracac, and with that, the Croatian authorities did not deport the Krajina Serbs nor did the Joint Criminal Enterprise involving the Croatian leadership, especially Franjo Tudjman, Gojko Susak, Zvonimir Cervenko, Ante Gotovina, Jure Radic and Mladen Markac – exist.

Furthermore, after the Appeal Chamber verdict, it can be concluded that the Croatian leadership did not pass discriminatory housing laws after Operation Storm (see firstly the Government regulation and then the Temporary assumption and administration of certain property Act/Government Gazette NN 073/1995). That is, the Trial Chamber had found that those housing laws were in breach of the international law as they were introduced after the Serbs from Knin, Benkovac, Obrovac and Gracac were deported from Croatia. However, given that the Appeals Chamber had quashed the finding that the Serbs were displaced, that is deported, the conclusion that housing laws passed after Operation Storm were in contravention of the international humanitarian law must also be quashed.

 

Croatia's Capital Zagreb  Prepares For The 20 Anniversary Of Operation Storm and Liberation From Serb Occupation Military Parade and Celebrations of Independence to be held 4th August 2015 Photo: FAH

Croatia’s Capital Zagreb
Prepares For The 20 Anniversary
Of Operation Storm and
Liberation From Serb Occupation
Military Parade and Celebrations of Independence
to be held 4th August 2015
Photo: FAH

 

TO SUMMARISE

The ICTY concluded the following:

1. There was no Joint Criminal Enterprise from the Croatian side.

2. Krajina Serbs were not deported from Croatia by the Croatian authorities but left Croatia out of other reasons not associated with any Croatian officials’ illegal behaviour;

3. Not only that the Croatian authorities did not permit crimes against Serbs and Serbs’ property, but they were actively against those crimes;

4. It’s confirmed that 20,000 houses were not burned after Operation Storm. The number is probably closer to 5,000, and that, in both Sectors, North and South.

5. The judgment has found that a total of 44 civilians were killed by the Croatian forces, not 320 as the Prosecution claimed, not 600 as HHO claimed and especially not 2,000 as claimed by „Veritas“ i Savo Strbac.

6. There were no politics of non-investigation of crimes by the Croatian authorities.

7. The housing laws after Operation Storm were not in a collision with the international humanitarian law.”

Written and Translated from the Croatian language by Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb), B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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