Croatia’s D-Day: Operation Storm 1995

Croatian Operation Storm 5 August 1995 Photo: MORH Ministry of defence Repubplic of Croatia (centre left: General Ante Gotovina, centre right: President Franjo Tudjman – standing above liberated town of Knin)

The profound respect, delight and the sense of ultimate justice for freedom WWII D-Day generates in the lands of WWII Allies is nothing less, nothing more than what “Operation Storm 1995” generates for Croatia and Croatians – except for the misguided few.

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower issued his historic message to the troops prior to their landing in Normandy on June 6 1944: “You are about to embark upon the great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you”. It was the beginning of the end of WWII – the Allied forces stormed the beaches of northern France in a surprise attack on Nazi-occupied Europe. D-Day brought the beginning of the ending of the horrors of the Holocaust with steel resolve.

Words to the same effect were, I remember, delivered by President Franjo Tudjman to Croatian troops in the lead-up to Operation Storm 1995 against the Serb occupying forces.

I have not yet seen any D-Day commemorations, anywhere, where the enemy (members of the Nazi) are invited to participate. Just imagine if such an invitation went out in Britain, France, USA, Australia …! All rage would be unleashed across those the lands! D-Day is, after all, a day to honour those who fought; who lost their lives in order to liberate Europe from the brutal Nazi occupation.

Indeed, the place and times of any reconciliation between people are such that they must not, under any circumstance, contaminate the honour and remembrance of the moments in history that held the key to freedom, independence and the beginning of the ending of horrors endured by a nation.

Vecernji List reports that Croatia’s president Ivo Josipovic has invited to the 17th anniversary commemoration of Operation Storm (5 August) the president of Serbian Democratic Forum, Veljko Dzakula! This man Dzakula was the political leader of rebel Serbs in Slavonia (Croatia) and although in February of 1993 he took part in the unsuccessful attempts by the Croatian government for peaceful transfer to Croatian authority, towards normalizing life for the locals on the battlefield, he was, nevertheless, prior to that – a rebel Serb leader. In the mind of Croatian people, he would have taken a strong political role behind what was to become a horrendous nightmare for Croatia – Serb aggression, occupation, ethnic cleansing, genocide, rape …

While Croatia’s president Josipovic might think (wrongly!) that Dzakula’s presence at the 17th Anniversary commemoration of Operation Storm could bring a certain confirmation of legitimacy for the Operation Storm the fact is that Operation Storm is legitimate without any testimonies from former Serb rebel leader.

The legitimacy is written in all the horror that occurred on Croatian territory at the hands of Serbs from 1991 to 4th August 1995. The legitimacy of Operation Storm is the fact that Operation Storm was waged for the ultimate need of self-preservation of Croatia within its historical and sovereign borders.

It is indeed painful, to the core, that Croatia’s leftist president and current leftist government are seemingly tolerated, albeit only coyly criticised in some media, for this utterly unfair move to bring among the revelers for Operation Storm elements that have the capacity of playing down the deserved honour to be bestowed upon Croatian war veterans on this day. Such contamination of this proud moment in Croatian history is unforgivable!

While I do not need to repeat what has been written many times about the corrupt political moves to equate the victim with the aggressor it is in that light that I see this shameful invitation by Josipovic to Dzakula.

Josipovic has perhaps read (and given utterly misguided credence to) Boris Divjak’s (one of the founders of Transparency International Bosnia and Herzegovina) 2006 depraved sentence: “The conflict continued throughout much of 1995 but, after Croatia invaded the Serb region of Krajina in early August …” (Page 237, paragraph 3)

Croatia did not invade a Serb region with Operation Storm. Croatia liberated its own region with Operation Storm. Operation Storm is D-Day for Croatia – the day we remember the victory over the suffering and horrors imposed upon Croatians and non-Serbs of Croatia by the Serb aggression and invasion between 1991 and 1995.

Furthermore, Josipovic and Croatia’s leftist government are perhaps still contemplating on withdrawing the Croatia’s lawsuit at International Court of Justice (ICJ) (filed in 1999) against Serbia for genocide. Serbia in its counterclaim at ICJ (2010) claims, besides dredging out WWII Ustashi crimes against Serbs that 1990’s war in Croatia has absolutely nothing to do with, demand that Croatia “amends its Law on Public Holidays, Remembrance Days and Non-Working Days, by way of removing the ‘Day of Victory and Homeland Gratitude’ and the ‘Day of Croatian Defenders’, celebrated on the 5th of August…

The time in Croatia, and internationally, has indeed come when political manipulation must stop and truth – prevail.

May Croatia’s war veterans of Operation Storm be praised and reveled for eternity for, not only did they liberate Croatia from the brutal Serb aggression but many also, led by Croatian General Ante Gotovina, went on to stop further genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina via operation that lifted the Serb siege of Bihac. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)  

Remembering “Bloody Easter” of 1991, Croatia

"Blood on Easter" newspaper photo report by Mario Profaca, 31 March 1991

An incident at the Plitvice Lakes, Croatia, at Easter time in 1991, marked the beginning of the Croatian Homeland War. This incident took the life of the Croatian Police Officer, Josip Jovic, the first Croatian casualty in what was to become a terrible war, a bloody war. Croatian people decided to secede from communist Yugoslavia and Serbians decided to stop the secession by any means.

On 29 March 1991, the Plitvice Lakes management was expelled by rebel Krajina Serb police under the control of Milan Martic (sentenced by ICTY to 35 years prison for war crimes in Croatia) supported by paramilitary volunteers from Serbia proper under the command of Vojislav Seselj (Serb, currently in ICTY on strings of war crimes in Croatia charges).

On Easter Sunday, 31 March 1991, Croatian police entered the national park to expel the rebel Serb forces. Serb paramilitaries ambushed a bus carrying Croatian police into the national park on the road, sparking a day-long gun battle between the two sides. During the fighting, two policemen, one Croat, Josip Jovic and one Rebel Krajina Serb, Rajko Vukadinovic, were killed.

Croatian freelance Jounalist Mario Profaca sent me yesterday a photo (above) of the front page of Slobodna Dalamacija newspaper 1 April 1991 with headline that reads “Blood on Easter”, with the photos he took at Plitvice at the time.

Profaca wrote yesterday: “… At that time, together with Croatian policemen, on 31st March 1991, I went to Plitvice in the early hours of the morning and there we found a large number of barricades from which the Serbian terrorists were shooting at all vehicles that were there. Josip Jovic was hit near the post office building, bullets shot through his bullet-proof vest and soon he was taken to the Ambulance van but died on the way to the helicopter. The same evening, 31 March 1991, in Split, the next day’s edition of the daily newspaper was out with the headline and my photo-report from the location and from that time in Croatian history this day is called the Bloody Easter.”

Saturday 31 March 2012 marked 21 years from that incident and a commemorative service held at Plitvice Lakes.

Croatian President Ivo Josipovic at Plitvice Lakes 31 March 2012 Photo Robert Fajt/cropix

Croatia’s president Ivo Josipovic attended the ceremony, which commemorated the death of Josip Jovic, and said: “Today we celebrate freedom, peace, courage, heroism, patriotism and justice. It was courageous and just to stand here in Plitvice and defend the Croatian homeland, win in Homeland War, protect the values that are part of our constitutional system”.

 We have challenges in our efforts and needs to ensure our citizens a better living standard, prosperity and to stop all those who would want to turn back the wheel of history. As it was courageous and just in the 1990’s to fight against Chetnik ideas just as it was in the 1940’s, so too today, when some want to turn back the wheel of history, we need to say no,” Josipovic said to those Serbs who are attempting to rehabilitate the WWII war criminal Draza Mihailovic.

Today we have to tell them no. Croatia will remain a diligent, just country focused on reconciliation and coexistence, democracy and human rights. We want to clearly say that those values do not go hand in hand with the ideas that fed aggression, death and undermined human rights.”

Your son is our hero,” Josipovic said to the late Josip Jovic’s mother, “your son is our son, your son is all these values we cherish and which we will leave for our children to inherit. Thank you for giving birth and for bringing up your son, thank you, thank you to all war veterans and to all who had taken part in the Homeland War, because you have all contributed immeasurably to our future.”

The 21st anniversary of the first casualty of the Homeland War and the operation known as Bloody Easter was also attended by War Veterans Minister Predrag Matic, many of those who fought in the war, and representatives of the Interior Ministry and the Armed Forces as well as two candidates for the May elections for leadership of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Darko Milinovic and Tomsilav Karamarko.

Lest we forget!

Ina Vukic, Prof.(Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

General Mladen Markac ICTY defence suggests: “dump” the Prosecution’s Motion

Croatian Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac

The Croatian General Mladen Markac defence team in the ICTY Appeal has February 2 filed its Response to the January 23 Prosecution Motion with regards to the Application and Brief by 12 British, Canadian and American legal and military experts as Friends of the court.

In its submission Markac defence team requests that the Prosecution Motion be rejected. It claims that:

  • While the Prosecution has called its application a “response” it was clearly a “Motion” for the rejection of the 12 experts’ Friends of the court application and brief and that the Prosecutor had failed to cite any Procedure and Evidence rule entitling it to file such a response;
  • The Prosecution did not wait, as it should have, to be given the opportunity by the Appeals Chamber to file a submission – Prosecution, it seems simply gave itself the right to file a Motion disguised as Response (?);
  • The Prosecutions “overly restrictive approach to the admission of amicus briefs is not supported by the ICTY’s case-law or practice”;
  • There’s “no requirement that amicus submissions not address matters of mixed law and fact”. The Prosecution had in its Motion argued that because the brief by 12 experts relied on found facts of the case it should be rejected as Friends of the court submissions must address matters of law only;
  • There’s “no requirement that amicus submissions confine themselves to evidence on the record;
  • The proposed brief by the 12 experts would assist the Appeals Chamber in its consideration of questions at issue on appeal – submitting that:

a)      The Prosecution’s assertion that “the 200 metre rule has no precedential value and is limited to Operation Storm is simply untenable”;

b)      Markac notes that “it has become readily apparent that the Chamber’s 200 metre margin of error rule has provoked widespread concern, and indeed criticism”, supporting this claim by attaching the Report of Operational Law Experts Roundtable produced by Emory University School of Law.

So, it would appear that the ICTY Prosecution might have made a “boo-boo” – i.e. it may have blundered – when it filed its “Response” to the Application and Brief by the 12 British, Canadian and American experts prematurely and without an invitation by the Appeals Chamber. Of course, this situation has given the Appellants an opportunity to comment or respond to the Prosecution’s submission.

It would seem that the Prosecution has become somewhat jittery about the possibility that new evidence and high-ranking world expert opinion and assessments could exonerate Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac of charges focusing on ethnic cleansing/ joint criminal enterprise, i.e. forceful expulsion of Serbs from Krajina by means of excessive shelling.

On the basis of its own claim that the “200 metre margin of error” in shelling of Krajina during the Operation Storm in 1995, is ONLY applicable to this case and NOT the world – not the international laws – the Prosecution would be very happy to have the world excluded from the case.

The ICTY Prosecution would, it seems, prefer to wrap the Gotovina and Markac case up into a cocoon of selective justice, serving only Prosecution’s own narrow, biased purposes. It is clear to everyone except the ICTY Prosecution, it seems, that the court cannot process justice using international laws and acceptable practices without that same justice being applicable internationally. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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