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)

Nigel Farage barrage

At the moment Croatia is a star in the European Union circles – praise for Croatia’s achievements in its unreasonably hard route to reach the stage of signing the EU Treaty & become a member of EU echoes almost everywhere one looks.

The Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) government won praise from the EU for pursuing an anti-corruption, anti-mismanagement, campaign over the past two years that saw former party leader and prime minister Ivo Sanader and former vice-prime minister Damir Polancec (among other high ranking officials) in court.

The general elections to be held in Croatia on 4th December 2011 will tell us how much damage HDZ has suffered in the eyes of the people because of this. Whatever the electoral outcome let’s hope the pursuit against corruption and communist crimes won’t suffer.

Let’s not forget – one of the Visions of itself independent Croatia has had from it’s very start (1991) and under the leadership of the late dr Franjo Tudjman was to become a part of the European Union.

British politicians and government officials have been a major force on the trail of anti-Croatian campaigns since 1990. At one time it seemed that anything and everything was a go-zone to prevent or stifle Croatia’s progress in EU accession talks and negotiations.


Much of the British bashings revolved around accusations against Croatian government as being nationalist, stuck-in-the-past … when in fact amidst such turbulent adversity and finger-pointing Croatia stuck to her guns and proved differently.

One cannot but recount, with bitterness, some of the British input in 1991 that, in my opinion encouraged and fuelled a terrible war in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina where Serbian minorities took it upon themselves to cleanse territories of Croatian and other Non-Serb population, declaring self-proclaimed Serbian republics within the borders of those countries.

In 1991 Lord Peter Carrington had a very influential role within the Arbitration Commission of the Conference on Yugoslavia/aka Badinter Arbitration Committee (European Economic Community) (Croatia had by that time proclaimed its independence via referendum).

On 20 November 1991 (the days of Vukovar massacres) he asked, among other things: “Does the Serbian population in Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina, as one of the consituent peoples of Yugoslavia, have the right to self-determination?”

The commission concluded on 11 January 1992 that “the Serbian population in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia is entitled to all the rights concerned to minorities and ethnic[…]” and “that the Republics must afford the members of those minorities and ethnic groups all the human rights and fundamental freedoms recognised in international law, including, where appropriate, the right to choose their nationality”.

Badinter Arbitration Committee 1991

Certainly, everyone has the right to choose their nationality but that does not mean the right to create a separate state within an existing larger one. I guess Lord Carrington did well for a while in confusing the world into thinking that Yugoslavia was not really composed of six different states, but rather different nationalities, ethnic groupings scattered equally throughout (without nationality majorities anywhere).

No wonder the world called the Balkan crisis as civil war in the beginning.

So even when 94% of Croatian citizens voted to secede from communist Yugoslavia and pursue independence and self-determination, Lord Carrington fuelled the Serbian push to create a Serbian state within Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. One wonders what he would have done were certain minorities in United Kingdom pushing to create their own state within UK borders?

Of course, we mustn’t forget Lord David Owen. In August 1992, Owen succeeded Lord Carrington as the EU co-chairman of the Conference for the Former Yugoslavia, along with Cyrus Vance, the former U.S. Secretary of State as the UN co-chairman.

Owen like Carrington relentlessly pursued the notion that, regardless of the will of the majority of people to secede from Yugoslavia, ethnic minorities (i.e. Serbs) should have a piece of Croatian & Bosnia-Herzegovina lands.

After Vance-Owen plan (which by the way rewarded Serbian ethnic cleansing) , was effectively dead by May 1993 because the Clinton administration thought that it gave too much to the Serbs and the Serbs that it gave too little. Owen worked for many months on a plan for a Muslim mini-state on about a third of the territory of Bosnia.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace_plans_offered_before_and_during_the_Bosnian_War#Vance-Owen

He tried hard to secure an accord on self-government for the Krajina Serbs in Croatia.

It’s interesting to note that all this time The Serbian Royal Family Karadjordjevic (distant but still blood relations to the British Royal family) lived in London, in exile since days of WWII when Kingdom of Yugoslavia fell apart, more likely than not still keeping a sight on restoring the rule of the Serbian crown in Yugoslavia. Prince Alexander II Karadjordjevic moved back to live in Serbia in 2000’s http://www.royalfamily.org/family/hrhcpa_bio_eng.htm

And now, about a week before Croatia is to sign the EU Treaty another British politician has come out, in EU parliament, with sweeping statements why Croatia should not join the EU.

This time it’s Nigel Farage, a British nationalist, eurosceptic, leader of the UK Independence party (Libertarian, non-racist party seeking Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union).

When the turn came to Farage on 30 November 2011 in the European Parliament to deliver a report on Croatia at this final stage when EU members were to vote Yes/No for Croatia to sign the EU Treaty this is what he said:

Last September I went to Croatia. I wanted to find out whether a proper national debate is going on; whether there was a fair campaign.

What did I find? I found that the EU is doing everything it can to bribe the political class in Croatia — doing it quite well, really, too. Already the EU has given 320 million euros to Croatia in what is called pre-accession aid. The EU has just spent a million euros on a blatant propaganda advertising campaign, telling Croatia that the EU is their only hope.

Cleverly, you’ve even given jobs to Croatians — highly paid jobs to Croatians in the European Parliament and in the European Commission just to show them how well off they’ll be — the ruling class will be — if they join, and you’ve got EU flags flying on official buildings all over the country to give the impression that it’s a done deal.

You’ve got some willing helpers, because the old Communists are still there in Croatia, they still hold all the positions of power and they will all become personally enormously wealthy if Croatia joins the European Union.

And there is an even more sinister side to this, because there is not a free press in Croatia. There is no national debate going on at all. Indeed a prize has been offered — 10,000 kunas have been offered if anybody can find an article in any Croatian newspaper suggesting that joining isn’t the right thing to do.

The whole campaign is bent, corrupt and distorted. We’ve seen this before from the European Union, but I think it’s happening on a scale in Croatia that is worse than I’ve seen before.

This country has for nearly a thousand years sought independence. And for 20 years they’ve had independence – they got out of the failed political experiment that was Yugoslavia – and if they vote to join the European Union, they’re voting to rejoin a new Yugoslavia — a failing political experiment that will implode.

I hope there is, in the last month or two a debate in Croatia. Sadly, I doubt it.


Had Croatia listened to what British politicians have to say, it would most likely still be stuck in communist (or Serbian royalist?) Yugoslavia, with Serbia running the show.

Does Farage truly care about Croatia’s independence, about Croatia or is his barrage against the EU yet another British politicians’ tantrum in a bid to try and exclude Croatia from the European Union? Or is he just plain sore because Britain doesn’t rule the show in EU parliament?

As to Farage’s assertion that there has been no public, media debate in Croatia that joining the EU isn’t the right thing I beg to differ. There are countless newspaper articles and internet sites from Croatia addressing the “pros & cons” of joining the EU.

Even if the media may be biased, the Croatian people are no fools and they will decide for themselves at the imminent Referendum about joining the EU or not. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb), B.A.,M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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