Croatia Vs Serbia ICJ Genocide Trial Begins

Genocide in Croatia Photo: Marko Mrkonjic/Pixsell

Genocide in Croatia
Photo: Marko Mrkonjic/Pixsell

Finally – it begins! One of the most important international court cases addressing the 1990’s war of aggression against Croatia will today 3rd March 2014 begin with hearing of evidence at the trial in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague. The trial is said to end on 1st April 2014 and there is a total ban on publishing any details from the hearing until the trial ends, which include specific evidence and testimonies.

Croatia had filed a suit in 1999 against the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (the remnants of former communist Yugoslavia, Serbia and Montenegro, which disintegrated into two separate independent states in 2006/ into Serbia and Montenegro ) for genocide at the highest UN court – the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague.  As Serbia and Montenegro went their separate ways in 2006, Croatia’s lawsuit at the ICJ stayed as against Serbia, and not Montenegro. In 2010 Serbia filed a counterclaim against Croatia.

Croatia aims to prove that units commanded by Serbia committed genocide in the war between 1991 and 1995.
Croatian Application to the court states, among other matters: “The Genocide Convention prohibits the destruction, in whole or in part, of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, including the elimination or displacement of members of that group from a particular territory. Between 1991 and 1995, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia ( read Serbia) repeatedly violated the Genocide Convention. By directly controlling the activity of its armed forces, intelligence agents, and various paramilitary detachments, on the territory of the Republic of Croatia, in the Knin region’, eastern and western Slavonia, and Dalmatia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (read Serbia) is liable for the “ethnic cleansing” of Croatian citizens from these areas – a form of genocide which resulted in large numbers of Croatian citizens being displaced, killed, tortured, or illegally detained, as well as extensive property destruction – and is required to provide reparation for the resulting damages. In addition, by directing, encouraging, and urging Croatian citizens of Serb ethnicity in the Knin region to evacuate the area in 1995, as the Republic of Croatia reasserted its legitimate governmental authority (and in the face of clear reassurance emanating from the highest level of the Croatian Government, including the President of the Republic of Croatia, Dr. Franjo Tudjman, that the local Serbs had nothing to fear and should stay), the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (read Serbia) engaged in conduct amounting to a second round of “ethnic cleansing”, in violation of the Genocide Convention…

In July 1991, there were already 30,000 registered displaced persons in Croatia. The long list of displaced persons started with the persecution of the Croats from Lika in the spring of 1991, and intensified in the summer with the persecution of the Croats from the territory of Banovina, Kordun, eastern Slavonia, western Slavonia, west Syrmium, Baranja, Dalmatian hinterland, Drnis, and Knin. The peak of the refugee crisis occurred in November 1991, when 600,000 displaced persons were registered in Croatia, including 15,000 survivors of a massacre in Vukovar. The atrocities inflicted by the Serbs on Vukovar’s people were brutal, and the resulting humanitarian crisis among displaced persons was unprecedented. In fact, the city of Vukovar, including countless historic buildings, and cultural and sacral artefacts, was completely destroyed
by the so-called JNA (Yugoslav People’s Army).

By 1999, in the period of time following 1995, Croatia has discovered and registered at least 120 mass graves, mostly in the eastern Slavonia, Banovina, Dalmatia, and Knin regions. To date, the exhumation process has registered 2,989 bodies in both mass and individual graves. For example, in Ovchara,
near Vukovar, a mass grave was discovered, from which some 200 bodies were exhumed. These were the bodies of wounded persons and patients who had been taken from the Vukovar hospital. At the mass grave at the New Grave yard of Vukovar, 938 bodies were found, and in Bakin, 56 bodies, mostly of elderly victims, were discovered in a mass grave. In Skabrnja, near Zadar, another mass grave was recently discovered to contain 27 bodies. Also, in Vila Gavrilovik, near Petrinja, a mass grave was found that contained 17 bodies…

As a result of the aggression waged by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (read Serbia), its agents, officials, and surrogates, Croatia and its citizens suffered the following damages :
In Croatia, there were 20,000 dead and 55,000 wounded, with over 3,000 people still unaccounted for.
Out of the total number of victims, 303 children died, 35 children were taken prisoner and disappeared, and 1,276 children were wounded.1,700 people were killed in Vukovar alone (1,100 of them were civilians), more than 4,000 people were wounded, between 3,000 and 5,000 taken prisoner, and 1,000 people are still unaccounted for.

In 1992, the humanitarian crisis in Croatia was at its peak, with approximately 800,000 displaced persons and refugees, which constituted more than 15 per cent of the total population of Croatia. Several thousand Croat civilians were taken prisoner and forcibly transferred to Serbia and other areas of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Of the 7,000 people later released, 60 per cent had spent time in prisons or detention facilities in Serbia.

According to estimates by the National Commission for the Registration and Assessment of War Damages, 590 towns and villages suffered damage, 35 were razed to the ground, with another 34 suffering significant damage. 1,821 cultural monuments were destroyed or damaged, including about 651 in the area of Dubrovnik-Neretva County and about 356 in the area of Osijek-Baranja County.

Three national parks, five natural parks, 19 special reservations, 10 parks, and 19 park cultural monuments were damaged. 323 historical sites and settlements were destroyed or damaged. 171,000 housing units (constituting approximately 10 per cent of the housing capacity of Croatia) were destroyed, often by arson.
Approximately 450 Croatian Catholic churches were destroyed or severely damaged, with lesser damage to over 250 others. In addition, approximately 151 rectories, 31 monasteries, and 57 cemeteries were destroyed or severely damaged. 210 libraries were destroyed or damaged (from school libraries to such famous libraries as those in Dubrovnik).

22 journalists were killed, many of whom were trying to reveal the truth about the aggression against Croatia.

Estimates indicate that upwards of 3 million various explosive devices were planted within Croatia, mostly anti-personnel and anti-tank devices. These mines are, for the most part, uncharted, and block about 300,000 hectares of arable land. About 25 per cent of Croatia’s total economic capacity, including such large facilities as the Adriatic Pipeline, was damaged or destroyed during 199 1 – 1992. Approximately 10 per cent of Croatia’s tourist facilities were damaged or destroyed by the FRY-backed forces and agents…

In this genocide ICJ case Croatia wants to be clearly identified as the victim of the war and that would surely stop the equating of the victim and aggressor that had been a prolific and evilly twisted political push, clearly originating from Serbia and its supporters.
The suit calls on Serbia to have all Serbian war criminals put on trial, all cultural assets seized during the war to be given back to Croatia, and calls for the payment of reparations to Croatia. Additionally, Croatia wants an explanation of what happened to the more than 1,400 Croatians who have been missing since the war.

The genocide counterclaim against Croatia, Serbia filed in 2010, will see claims of Serbs killed during that war in Croatia, it’s 2010 claim that 200,000 Serbs were expelled from Croatia in 1995 after the Croatian military Operation Storm, which liberated Croatian sovereign territory from Serb occupation, is surely not to hold any water at the ICJ given that the ICTY had in November 2012 in its acquittal of Croatian Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac found that there had been no forced deportations of Serbs from Croatia.

Serbia, however, seems to introduce into this case WWII killings of Serbs in Croatia!

Well, well, well! If such is permitted then I do hope that Croatia will have the opportunity to insert another claim to its Application – that of murdered Croats under the tyranny and dictatorship of the Serb-led Kingdom of Yugoslavia prior to WWII!

Lately, there has been much thrashing about in the media by legal professionals that neither Croatia nor Serbia have a chance of winning this case. Most refer to the case when in 2007 ICJ judges acquitted Serbia (in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina Vs Serbia) of direct responsibility for the 1995 Srebrenica genocide, finding it guilty only of failing to prevent and punish the perpetrators of this crime. However, in the same breath, ICJ ruled that genocide took place in mid-1995 at Srebrenica when almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered by Bosnian Serb troops after they overran a UN-protected enclave.
These legal professionals who thrash about saying that the case of genocide at the ICJ has no prospects are fools for rushing out so, to my view. From many articles I have read in the past couple of weeks none of these legal professionals have mentioned that Bosnia’s lawyers were unable to access transcripts from meetings of Serbia’s Supreme Defence Council, SDC, which they believed were crucial to proving the case.
Although minutes from these meetings are widely believed to contain vital information about Belgrade’s involvement in the wars in Bosnia and Croatia, their most relevant parts had been granted confidential status by the judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY and it would be a miserable day for justice if these documents do not appear as evidence in 2014 at ICJ!

So far there have at the ICTY been both charges and convictions of Croatian Serb Krajina individuals for crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing …, e.g. Milan Babic, Milan Martic, Mile Mrksic, Veselin Sljivancanin, Pavle Strugar and cases still on ICTY Trial: Goran Hadzic and Vojislav Seselj. Links to Serbia, Yugoslav People’s Army and Serbia’s government including president Slobodan Milosevic have been established. This, I believe is most significant for Croatia’s claim against Serbia, let alone the mountains of evidence that’s surely to land in the ICJ courtroom during the coming month – aspects of genocide are many and the totality of the various horrors that included mass killings surely equate to genocide in moral and legal sense.

Zvonimir SeparovicThe 1999 lawsuit of Croatia against Serbia for genocide was a major contribution to seeking justice for the victims of Serb aggression under the then minister of justice dr Zvonimir Separovic, a legal scholar and politician. His dedication to justice for victims of war and other mass crimes is a permanent co-traveler in his life – he is a pioneer of victimology and today, despite his advanced age, still heads with great vigour and determination the Croatian Victimology Society, whose goals include justice for victims of communist crimes.

I join the multitudes of Croats and victims of war crimes in wishing the Croatian legal team in the ICJ the victory Croatia truly deserves. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Who Is Afraid Of The Truth – Croatia Vs Serbia Genocide ICJ Case

Sonja Biserko Photo: Milovan Milenkovic

Sonja Biserko
Photo: Milovan Milenkovic

Ever since the publication of an interview of Sonja Biserko, chairwoman of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, regarding her impending appearance as witness for Croatia in its lawsuit against Serbia for genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), there has been a distressing harangue against the woman in Serbia.
“The right-wing’s vulgar and dangerous assaults at Chairwoman of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia Sonja Biserko on the one hand, and governmental institutions and political structures’ failure to adequately react against them on the other testify of the Serbian society’s deep moral crisis,” states a petition to Serbian authorities.

The petition further claims: “These, patriots’ fear the truth about the developments in 1990s and try to hide it by assaulting Sonja Biserko. They, as well as those who silently support them, ignore that Sonja Biserko is someone who has been promoting human rights and democracy in Serbia with dedication for over twenty years, a person rewarded and renown internationally for her work. And instead of her work being appreciated in Serbia as well, she is subject to a harangue typical of Europe’s evil days”.
A reaction by Serbian Zarko Korac (retired university professor of psychology in Belgrade, politician, an opponent of 1990’s Slobodan Milosevic’s regime)   in to the harangue in Serbia against Sonia Biserko includes the following:

“…We live in a country where a large number of people still consider that Slobodan Milosevic, Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic are patriots who ‘only defended their country’, regardless of the fact that the UN Security Council formed a special court (without a single opposing vote) for crimes committed on the territory of former Yugoslavia, which has indicted these three ‘patriots’ with the most serious of possible crimes. Such a country must be massively out of step with the greater part of the world and with the customary moral norms. The man who had during the war written in Politika about the ‘human transfer of population’, which stands as euphemism for ethnic cleansing, is now the most respectable writer in Serbia. Furthermore, the attempts to rehabilitate convicted war criminals from World War II have become quite common here.

During World War II, there were a larger number of collaborative governments in occupied Europe, France and Norway are the best known ones. Pierre Laval, the pre-war Prime Minister of France, agreed to lead a Vichy government under the German occupation. After liberation, De Gaulle’s France had, after a court trial, convicted him to death and executed him in February of 1945.  Similar thing happened to Vidkun Quisling, who was the Prime Minister of Norway under German occupation and who was also executed in October 1945 after a court trial.  His name had become a symbol of collaboration with the enemy even during the war.  There’s no doubt that most French and Norwegian people see these persons as traitors.

Individuals in Serbia are constantly attempting to rehabilitate our quisling, General Milan Nedic. This would not be unusual for a complex society such as the Serbian one were people in high government and social positions not participating in it.  And so, Dejan Medakovic, the president of the Serbian academy and arts, had in 1993 included Nedic among the Hundred most eminent Serbs in his monograph.  And Vojislav Kostunica, as president of Serbia’s government, had sought that portraits of all government presidents of Serbia in history be mounted on the walls of government’s premises. On that occasion the portrait of Milan Nedic was also mounted on the wall. This ‘legalist’ had made conscious efforts that Milan Nedic was not elected at any elections and that he existed without any legality.  He was a quisling president of the government, placed there by Serbia’s occupiers. He was a man whose government, beside other matters had as early as Summer of 1941 brought in the Nazi racist laws on the basis of which citizens’ rights were taken away from the Jews to only be murdered – by Germans but with the full-hearty help from Nedic’s knaves.

This picture of the transformation of collaborationists into ‘patriots’ is sickening. Of course, the justice-loving daily newspaper editors who condemn the ‘betrayal’ of Sonja Biserko, have never mentioned that.  Neither have their supporters, distinguished lawyers. They were not touched by the transformation of Milan Nedic into a ‘most eminent Serb’.”

The interview of Sonja Biserko, chairwoman of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia

How and why have I been invited to testify?
Interview by: Tamara Nikcevic

These days Belgrade tabloids have once again issued warrants for Chairman of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia Sonja Biserko. This time, claim reliable sources from “official circles,” because she could bear witness for Croatia before the International Court of Justice following Croatia’s charges against Serbia for genocide. How come the media got information as such? Who gave it to them? After all, will Sonja Biserko really take the stand in The Hague?
“True, Croatia has invited me to take the stand in a possible genocide trial of Serbia. I don’t see why this should be problematic,” says Sonja Biserko. “What is really problematic in my view is the state’s attitude towards citizens who have been invited over past years to testify in the trials to Serb officials before an international court. Just remember what witnesses against Slobodan Milosevic or Vojislav Seselj had gone through; or Milan Babic’s family that has been under constant pressure. Unfortunately, we all know how this ended.”

VREME: The same as we know how witnesses against some other persons such as, say, Ramush Haradinaj, ended up.
SONJA BISERKO: Yes, that’s true… Such treatment of witnesses is not characteristic just of the Balkans or ex-Yugoslavia; there are similar cases all over the world, especially in the trials of the Mafia or war criminals. This is why – as a measure of precaution – identities of witnesses are kept secret until a trial opens.

How would you say the information about you leaked?
Given that both parties to the dispute – Serbia and Croatia – submitted lists of their witnesses to the court, I would say the highest officials were those who leaked the information. Namely, having seen my name on the witness list someone from Serbia’s team of lawyers passed the information to the top leadership and they revealed it to the media. Well, since one cannot tell for sure who actually rules this country considering the chaotic situation of the society and the hookup between the police, secret services and extreme radical groups, it’s obvious that the plan behind revealing my name as a witness for Croatia in a genocide trial to Serbia was to keep me under pressure, and expose to maltreatment and intimidation…

Are you afraid?
Although this is not the first time I’ve been subject to campaigns of intimidation meant to force me out of the country or the like, I must admit I do not feel exactly at ease; the more so since my consent to take the stand in the trial is treated as an act of treason. People seem to forget what kind of war it was; they forget the tanks heading for Vukovar, the flowers Belgraders were showering them with; they forget that Vukovar was razed to the ground later on. All this is being neglected, actually swept under the carpet just to prove that Serbia had not been in war. Regretfully, some developments have been playing into the hands of this thesis.

You mean some verdicts ruled in ICTY?
Sure. The sad fact is that no one from Serbia has been accused of the war in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. As you know, Slobodan Milosevic died before the end of his trial. Hence anyone trying in any way to remind citizens of the developments in ex-Yugoslavia in 1990s is proclaimed “the enemy of the people,” “the hater” or “the traitor.” And all this notwithstanding 400,000 veterans that are treated as an almost missing group in order to deny Serbia’s responsibility for the wars in 1990s. Where have all those people taken the field? On whose territory?
Finally, I must say there is a difference between campaigns against me staged at the time of Slobodan Milosevic, Vojislav Kostunica and today.

What difference?
Well, people who waged the war, people responsible for it are in power today. Head of state Tomislav Nikolic himself was on the battlefield, Aleksandar Vucic fought as a volunteer in the siege of Sarajevo; the leader of his former party, Vojislav Seselj, is standing trial in The Hague…In my view, the protagonists of historic developments, the protagonists of Serbia’s dire straits of today, should explain how come they changed their beliefs and policy. Should they do that people would support them more and understand them better. But as things stand now, they have reason enough to obstruct public argumentation and testimony by anyone reminding citizens of their past doings. This is why this regime is by far more oppressive in its pressure on people. And the Serbian society in ruins, Serbia’s non-existent institutions, all this makes it easier for the regime…

Have the institutions ever been in a better state over here?
You are right: they have never been in a much better state than they are now. And yet, it seems to me that the international community, once it placed Kosovo on its priority agenda, is less focused on the situation in Serbia. And this regime, naturally, makes good use of it.

What do you mean?
I am saying that the West has obviously reached some kind of agreement with the structure in power: the later shall give up the partition scenario for Kosovo and, in return, the West shall be turning a blind eye to Serbia’s domestic policies for a while, development of institutions included. Luckily, the agreement is provisional.

How provisional?
The political context will change once Serbia obtains the date for the beginning of accession negotiations with EU: Europe will be finally controlling the functioning of Serbia’s institutions.
By the way, the Democratic Party is most responsible for this crying paradox of today’s Serbia: people with such track records are taking the country towards EU! Everything would have been different had the Democratic Party had more mature leaders and taken stock of the wars of 1990s, the stock Serbia will have to take sooner or later. As it is, Serbia continued the war by other means after October 5, 2000. Serbia has been obstructing consolidation of the states emerging from ex-Yugoslavia – primarily of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo. All these countries have to cope with this problem or that with Serbia.

They still do?
Of course they do. True, there is a truce of a kind now, with Montenegro for instance. But this means not that /Serbia/ no longer tries to undermine these countries’ movement towards EU or NATO. In this context, it is after compromising leaders of these countries and destabilizing their domestic situations, it attempts to exert all sorts of pressure on them and the like. This is a comprehensive strategy on which – I regret to say – Serbia still wastes most of its energy.
The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia has published numbers of books on this /strategy/ and the developments in the territory of ex-Yugoslavia in the past two decades; it has collected large documentation and produced documentaries on the issue. The Helsinki Committee has been widely circulating its findings – domestically, in the region and internationally. And this is yet another reason why this regime picks on me: as it seems, it takes we are the organization with considerable international influence.

Are you? How much in demand are your reports?
People do read them since they provide precise and accurate analyses based on factual information. And it goes without saying that the influence – this regime refers to and is evidently afraid of – is by far smaller than the Helsinki Committee’s and mine actual influence. But this influence is deliberately mystified and interpreted as such.
I would, if you don’t mind, revert to the international community’s role in and its influence on the developments in the Western Balkans. I think the problem is in the West’s frequent “sweet-talk” policy for Serbia. And there are two reasons for it: first, Serbia is the biggest country in the Balkans and, second, as such Serbia has to be calmed down this way or another and pushed into a dialogue with EU. And Serbia has made the best of it considering its decades-old and well functioning diplomatic and intelligence mechanisms. I regret to say that the international community’s attitude as such is detrimental to Serbia in the long run.

In what sense?
With all this wheeling and dealing and under-the-counter bargains and trades Serbia has actually neglected itself, its real-life problems.
If we take a look at, say, the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia – the institution I truly do appreciate – we shall realize that neither this court has developed mechanisms that would make Serbia, as well as other ex-Yugoslav republics, take into consideration its verdicts and evidence – these have been usually ignored instead; at the same time the Tribunal was anathemised and named “anti-Serb”…And that was the case in any country emerging from ex-Yugoslavia.
I think the failure to develop a serious strategy for the region was also a big mistake the West made; and then, following this “example,” all ex-Yugoslav republics gave no thought to a strategy for the region. EU has been focused on human rights, institutions and corruption instead: the corruption that cannot be eradicated without solid economic foundation.

The Ivica Dačić cabinet has placed the struggle against corruption at its priority agenda. What came out of it?
I would say it was more of a media campaign canvassing for Aleksandar Vucic as the only one who against all odds – risking even his own life – seriously copes with pressing problems of this society. But a year and a half later everything boiled down to a farce, a non-stop election campaign meant to raise Vucic and his party to the only position the First Vice-Premier earns for: of a new, unquestionable leader of the Serb nation. This is why the whole story sounds so phony, tragicomic…I would say citizens are becoming aware that Vucic’s anti-corruption campaign is a dead loss: nothing but a personality cult campaign.

Why a dead loss? Some people were arrested, they stand trial…
So what? What’s the outcome? Have we had an epilogue to any of these cases? We have not. Corruption still thrives instead, which testifies that this government is up to its ears in it like all the previous ones. And so instead of promised epilogues we have new promises, pledges and arrests in tabloids – on Fridays usually. In a word, what we have is populism that channels people’s justified dissatisfaction towards targeted individuals or groups; in this specific case, towards the Democratic Party that, unfortunately, itself opened to question some moves by its presumptuous officials. And yet it would be tragic should the Democratic Party – even such as it is now – disappear since you cannot have a normal political life with a single party dominating the scene.

There is something I have to ask you: what do you, being in the membership of the Political Council of the Liberal Democratic Party, think of the party’s initial decision to accept the invitation to the Provisional Council of the City of Belgrade?
I am glad that things have changed in the meantime…

Things have changed because, as Cedomir Jovanovic put it, it was the Democratic Party that “poisoned the atmosphere and behaved irresponsibly.” Otherwise one thousand flowers would have bloomed I guess…Everything considered, does this hint at a closer cooperation between the Liberal Democratic Party and the Serb Progressive Party?
I do not know the answer to this question. You can see for yourself how fluid our political scene is. Alliances are made overnight, literally. Boris Tadic, say, tells one story and Dragan Djilas quite a different one; Even the Democrats could end up in an alliance with the Progressists, who knows…Anyway, this not the way I scrutinize our political scene.

In what way do you scrutinize it?
I am trying to get to the bottom of it. And I regret to say that the situation if extremely bad: freedom of expression of under the reign of terror; not only the recent history but also the history of the entire 20th century is being revised and historical facts distorted, while hardly anyone raises a voice against it. And for all this we have to thank our immature, selfish and rather incapable political elites.
Speaking of the Liberal Democratic Party I have supported and still stand for its policy although I am not in its membership. I believe it managed against all odds to put across some messages to this society. After all, the stands Cedomir Jovanovic and the Liberal Democratic Party have advocated for years today make Serbia’s policy, formally at least. Of course, there is still no telling what will come out of it.

And when Croatia invited you to witness for it in the charge for genocide it pressed against Serbia…
First of all, this is about charges everyone expected the two countries would withdraw in the end…

Is there still a chance for something like this?
I would say there is always a chance. Withdrawal of charges would indicate that our politicians and societies have matured, that would be a step toward serious regional cooperation. Because, as things stand now, we are still glaring at one another.
By the way, Croatia had three preconditions for withdrawal of its charge against Serbia: solution to the problem of missing persons, non-impunity for war crimes and defining the border line at the Danube. Serbia’s leadership turned this down. What I am saying is that Serbia constantly obstructs the negotiations on these issues

But hasn’t Premier Ivica Dačič himself recently appealed to Croatia for the settlement of genocide charges?
Yes, he did. But Croatia still waits for the answer to its demands. Once they are answered positively the charges will certainly be withdrawn. It would be nice, therefore, should President Nikolic, Premier Dacic and his deputy, Aleksandar Vucic, finally tell the public what Croatia’s preconditions are about. This is the more so important since both Serbia and Croatia are aware how costly the trial would be. On the one hand it could easily turn into yet another prolonged agony; on the other, it could be useful as it would lift the veil from the developments in 1990s.

This is what Croatia’s President Ivo Josipovic also said during his recent visit to Belgrade.
Many things have already been disclosed in ICTY trials. Let me remind you that, say, Milan Babic, in his capacity as the witness for the prosecution, revealed key facts that speak about the character of the war /in Croatia/, the manner in which it had been prepared, financed, and how one-third of Croatia’s territory had been occupied…Besides, when taken into custody for fraud in 2002 Slobodan Milosevic said that all money flows could not have been made public because with these funds Serbia had financed the wars in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

In what sense could this trial harm Croatia?
Probably by opening the question of Croatia’s war crimes against Serbs committed in the course of the Homeland War.

You mean in August 1995?
Yes, I am referring to this as well. But that was not about ethnic cleansing…

Was not?
No, it was not. And that’s the most problematic part…The Serbian side takes that what happened in the aftermath of the Storm operation – those six hundred old people – could be qualified as ethnic cleansing. But that was an organized exodus with Belgrade in a leading role.
On the other hand, should the trial take place at all, that would be an opportunity for citizens of this country to learn that in 1990s Serbia started aggressive wars in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina; that would once for all define the character of the wars waged in the ex-Yugoslav territory. And this is the crucial fact that is being ignored over here.

When you know how the ICJ ruled in the case Bosnia-Herzegovina vs. Serbia, what’s the purpose of these charges after all? Would you say that the developments in the territory of Croatia could be labelled genocide on any ground?
I would refrain from saying my opinion about this – this is something I wish not to comment on. But speaking of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s charge one must not forget that the court decided that – as Žarko Puhovski ironically put it – a “municipal genocide” had been committed in Bosnia, in Srebrenica. On the other hand, Radovan Karadzic is standing trial not only for Srebrenica but also other places in Bosnia-Herzegovina where Serb forces have committed genocide.
The ICJ decided that there was not evidence enough to support genocide. And the evidence was insufficient because Serbia had blotted out some documents that could have been used as evidence on the one hand, and because of certain EU member-states attitude towards genocide. Nevertheless the ruling was that Serbia did nothing to prevent the Srebrenica genocide; and that’s a terrible accusation. Besides, ICTY verdicts to some high officials of Republika Srpska testify of the way in which Serbia supported the Bosnian war: how it provided trucks, arms, moneys, logistics… Anyway genocide cannot be committed without the support from a state and its apparatus.

But how come that Croatia invited you to testify in this process?
I’ve not asked for it, that’s for sure…You know, each of the parties in legal proceedings tries to secure witnesses for it; and so they found me. They probably know that the Helsinki Committee has concerned itself with Croatia; numbers of Serb refugees from Croatia were turning to us at the time and we were trying to help them; the Helsinki Committee’s reports were based on their testimonies, the available documentation, study and, most importantly, on its understanding of Yugoslavia.

What do you mean by understanding of Yugoslavia?
The Helsinki Committee and I have been concerning ourselves with ex-Yugoslavia’s disintegration for long; deeply involved in the issue, we’ve been analysing it carefully. Before the war broke up I was working for the Yugoslav Secretariat of Foreign Affairs and, by the very nature of my job, I was informed about the developments in Yugoslavia. In this context, let me remind you that The Hague Conference in 1991 was Yugoslavia’s last chance to safeguard its integrity. Having already won over the YPA and defined its goals, Serbia refused to take this chance. It justified this by claiming, “Serbs are not a minority community,” although all minorities, Albanian included, have already obtained “special statuses.” Serbia’s leadership of the time obviously thought it could get all it planned to. But their assessment was wrong – to this very day we witness how much it cost Serbia; especially Serbs in Croatia who had been hostages to Belgrade’s policy.
And speaking of SFRY’s problem as an complex community, the war and the crimes committed, I must say that what is crucial in my view is a person’s attitude towards the processes that person was a contemporary of.

What attitude have you taken?
I am trying to find the truth, no matter what it costs…Contrary to all those interpretations and manipulations, I’ve never took sides /in my search/, sided with one side and against the other; that’s never been the case.

What was then?
I’ve concerned myself with human rights as someone to whom a person’s belonging to any single ethnic group – Serb, Croat or Bosniak – means little. Simply, this is not the way I am, feel or think. And I live and work accordingly. This is why I carefully observe processes, take notes, analyse…At present I am in the membership of the international mission that monitors human rights violations in North Korea. Can you tell the side I’ve sided with here? What side do I favour? What side do I frown on?
You can see for yourself how senseless all these allegations are.


Post compiled and translations into English of Zarko Korac text by Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Today’s Croatian Responsibilities – No Cyrillic in Vukovar

Remember Vukovar - No Cyrillic in Vukovar  Photo:

Remember Vukovar – No Cyrillic in Vukovar Photo:

By Dr. Slobodan Lang (10 February 2013)
Translated into English by Ina Vukic

The most important question for today’s Croatia is, by far, that of its demographic health. A wrong diagnosis is a criminal act in medicine and a right diagnosis without therapy, is immoral. The whole truth must be determined and, on basis of that, the moset effective help needs to be set. Demographic health of today’s Croatia comprises of: maintenance and spacing of population, employment, ageing and ecology.

This is the fundamental responsibility of all citizens, of the academic community, of the economy, of religion and especially of politics. Only those political parties and politicians who offer solutions to these questions are to be supported.

Alongside of this, of course, we also need to attend to safety, to our reputation in the world and to our own dignity.

Emphasising other questions is merely diverting people’s attention, provoking conflicts and avoiding political and professional responsibility.

Satan attempted to provoke Jesus so that he materially overestimates the power and insubstantial politics. Jesus emphasised the importance of the spiritual, God’s power and personal responsibility. However, he did not persecute Satan because he knew that the only way is to find the truth and realisation of the good, and not in battles against lies and evil.

The demand for Cyrillic script in Vukovar is yet another attempt to vilify Croatia throughout the world and to divert the attention to secondary questions.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) judgements on joint criminal enterprise are, today, the most important factors for relations world’s towards Croatia and for the relations between Croats and Serbs in Croatia.

Joint criminal enterprise (JCE) is a legal doctrine introduced by the ICTY in the trials against political and military leaders of former Yugoslavia, for mass war crimes, including genocide, during the wars of 1991 – 1999.

The court had assessed that without certain actions of cooperation and coordination it is practically impossible to carry out the crimes such as genocide or crimes against humanity.

In trials after World War II we find the first indication of JCE under the name of  “joint goal”.

JCE was used by ICTY for the first time at the Dusko Tadic’s judgment, 1999.

During Slobodan Milosevic’s trial the joint criminal enterprise was defined as forceful deportation of non-Serb population from the territories where Serb authorities wanted to establish or maintain Serb control.

With regards to wars in Croatia 1991 – 1995, the Tribunal considered two joint criminal enterprises, that of “Serbian forces” against Croats and that of “Croatian forces” against Serbs.

According to ICTY, “Serbian forces” had, through 1736 days (from 1st April 1991, at the latest, to 31st December 1995, at least), engaged in joint criminal enterprise with the goal that most Croats and other non-Serb population, through criminal acts be removed permanently from a large part of Croatian territory in order to create a Serb ethnic territory, which the Serb leaders called Serbian Republic of Krajina (SRK).

Participants in this joint criminal enterprise personally included: Slobodan Milosevic, Milan Martic, Milan Babic, Goran Hadzic, Jovica Stanisic, Franko Simatovic (Frenki), Vojislav Seselj, Radovan Stojcic (Badza), Veljko Kadijevic, Blagoje Adzic, Radmilo Bogdanovic, Mihalj Kertes and Zeljko Raznjatovic (Arkan).

The participants were also political leaders in the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia, Republic of Serbia, leaders of Croatian and Bosnian Serbs, as well as leaders of “Serbian forces”. “Serbian forces” are: Yugoslav People’s Army, Serbian Army of Krajina, Territorial Organisation of Republic of Serbia and special units of ministry of internal affairs/ state security of Republic of Serbia for anti-terrorist activities and special operations, “Red berets”  and/or “Frenkovians”; “Scorpions”, “Arkanovians”, “Martic’s police”, members of Serb para-military groups from Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia (including volunteers from the Serbian Chetnik movement and/or Serb Radical Party – “Chetniks” or “Seseljovians”).

Those convicted for joint criminal enterprise so far are: Milan Babic (12th July 2005), and Milan Martic (8th October 2008), and Goran Hadzic trial is still in process.

With the acquittal of Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, 16th November 2012, the ICTY has forever rejected that joint criminal enterprise with the goal of permanently removing Serb civilian population from “Krajina” was carried out, through the 90 days (from July to 30th September 1995).

After this judgment, it was the duty of the President of Republic of Croatia, of Croatian Government, of Croatian Parliament, of Croatian Academy of Sciences and the Arts, of the universities and of the media to consider in its entirety the joint criminal enterprise in creating Croatia. This is particularly important because Croatian defence, the Generals and President Tudjman had prevented a much greater suffering – which is constantly denied through lies and vilification.

There are only three lines about JCE in the Croatian Wikipedia, and in the English version the indicted Croats are listed, even after they have been acquitted. How is it shown in our history textbooks? Today’s authorities have rewarded the author with the position of Croatian Ambassador in Paris for his shameful and untruthful portrait of Croatian history.

The work of the ICTY is nearing to an end. Only Goran Hadzic and Vojislav Seselj are still on trial for the war in Croatia. Six Croats and Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic, Vojislac Seselj (Serbs) are still on trial for the war in Bosnia.

To date, 18 Serbs and 2 Croats have expressed their remorse for the acts they had perpetrated. Those from Croatia are Milan Babic – president of the 1991/92 self-proclaimed government of Serbian Republic of Krajina (SRK), and Miodrag Jokic – commander in the Yugoslav War Navy, which was responsible for the attack on Dubrovnik.

Milan Babic has, in stronger terms than anyone else, appraised, described and expressed remorse for JCE perpetrated by the “Serbian forces”.  Given that, as far as I know, the Croatian public is not practically aware of this, I’m giving here the most important (according to me) parts of what Babic said:

Innocent people were persecuted, innocent people were forcefully ejected from their homes and innocent people were killed.

I allowed myself to participate in the program of the worst kind against people only because they were Croats, and not Serbs.

Only the truth can give a chance to Serbian people to unload themselves from the collective shame.

These crimes and my participation in them can never be justified.

Even after I had discovered what had happened, I remained silent about it.

I come before this Tribunal with deep feelings of shame and repentance.

The regret that I feel because of that is the pain with which I must live for the rest of my life.

I can only hope that by bringing out the truth, by admitting to guilt and by expressing my remorse I can serve as an example to those who still wrongfully believe that such inhuman actions could ever be justified”.

Until Serbia condemns Memorandum of neo-Nazism, Croatia will remain endangered. At the very beginning of President Josipovic’s mandate, young Jastreb (Hawk) and I warned him not to enter into any arbitrary or superficial reconciliation. We have never been in conflict with Serbs or with Germans, but we are not prepared to come to terms with Nazism. Josipovic did not invite us for talks, but he has evidently burned himself and is now more careful. Perhaps he also doesn’t like it too much when Pupovac (Milorad) lectures him from time to time, but he doesn’t have the courage to react.

Completely unacceptable statements are coming from Serbia, from politics, from academic community and the church. Serbia, in its Constitution, needs to recognise the European borders set after Allied victory, nonaggressive solution to disputes with neighbours, reject the use of its army for aggression and persecution of other nations and express universal rights of all people. Until that happens, we can talk about relations with the neighbours, but not about friendship. Only this way Croatia respects the right of greater majority of good people in Serbia and long-term interests of all.

About 250 million people in Europe use Cyrillic; half of them are Russian. With Bulgaria’s entry into the European Union, 1997, Cyrillic (along with Latin and Greek script) had become an official script in EU.

84 languages, in the world, use Cyrillic, 37 Turkish, 23 Indo-European and the rest all the way to Eskimos. Among them is Juhuri, the language of the Jews from the hills of Caucasus.

Vuk Karadzic developed Serb Cyrillic at the beginning of the 19th century, and from 2006 it is constitutionally proclaimed as the official script of Serbia.

The attempt to introduce Cyrillic in Vukovar is an attempt to impose much lesser importance to much greater human rights (demographic health, justice and the truth about the creation of the state, security), and exclude legitimacy in the name of legality. I am not a lawyer, but I know that Huckleberry Finn was right when he helped his black friend escape from slavery, even though it was against the law of that time. To maliciously and unprofessionally call for the use of Cyrillic in Vukovar is completely unacceptable and impermissible.

Croatia should introduce Cyrillic when Serbia is accepted into the EU, the same way as … Ireland or Portugal.

Our citizens are not equal in Vukovar. For peace’s sake we gave special rights to certain people of Serb nationality. Today’s Croats are dissatisfied; they feel injustice and endangerment.

The Croatian anthem alerts us with the words: “ … Danube, do not lose your might, Deep blue sea go tell the whole world, That a Croat loves his homeland…” But Croatia has already lost a lot of Danube’s might, in Zemun and in Syrmia, and the message we send to the world is too weak.

The whole city of Vukovar is a living symbol of Croatian suffering, and the whole of Dubrovnik of Croatian culture. During the creation and defence of Croatia both have suffered particularly and we defended both, particularly. They are still not secure or equal nor connected to Croatia. At the instigation of the distinguished lawyer, politician and friend, Bosiljko Misetic, I propose that there be an immediate appointment of a non-political group of distinguished and professional people to draft special laws on Croatian Dubrovnik and Vukovar.  I propose to the president of the Republic and the Parliament to immediately call the leaders of the Peaceful Reintegration (Skare, Vrkic and Klein), the war veterans, Mr Misetic and myself regarding talks on realisation of this proposal – of course, that’s if they care about Croatian Dubrovnik and Vukovar.

Dr Slobodan Lang   Photo: Pixsell

Dr Slobodan Lang Photo: Pixsell

About dr. Slobodan Lang. Born to Jewish family 8 October 1945 in Zagreb, Croatia. Physician, author, writer, politician and former personal adviser to the first Croatian President dr. Franjo Tudjman. His paternal grandfather Ignjat was the president of the Jewish community in Vinkovci (Croatia) and his grandmother Terezija was a housewife. In 1941 Catholic priest Hijacint Bošković, distinguished Dubrovnik and Croatian Dominican, was engaged in an extraordinary attempt to rescue the Langs from Nazi persecution. Bošković traveled from Dubrovnik to Vinkovci with a special permit that allowed him to relocate the Langs to Dubrovnik. Langs grandfather refused to leave, saying that he “was the president of Jews in peace and he will stay one in the war”. Both of his grandparents were killed in the concentration camp during the Holocaust. He graduated at the University of Zagreb School of Medicine and is a specialist in social medicine. (
Related post: No Cyrillic in Vukovar – Thank you!

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