Imminent Canonisation Of Croatia’s Aloysius Stepinac Sends Serbs Into Wanton Frenzy

 

Blessed Alojzije (Aloysius) Stepinac Oil painting Croatian Church Chicago

Blessed Alojzije (Aloysius) Stepinac
Oil painting Croatian Church Chicago

It was in February 2014 when the relatively young organisation that calls itself “Third Serbia”, in Serbia, urged Serbia’s government and the Serbian Orthodox Church and all Serbs to write to the Vatican and protest against the imminent canonisation of Croatia’s WWII Archbishop Aloysius Stepinac.

This politically charged organisation, rehashing the WWII concentration camp at Jasenovac in Croatia said at the time: “After seven decades we now have the opportunity to stop the silence, prevent a new path of oblivion for the victims, new whitewashing of crimes, and stop a new international recognition of genocide… This is an opportunity for Pope Francis to do that which Stepinac did not do – condemn the Ustashi genocide…”.

The organisation Third Serbia is not about reconciling Serbian history as it says it is. On the contrary, it keeps on doing what Serbia and most Serbs have always done when it comes to WWII and crimes of genocide/Holocaust – focus on WWII Croatia rather than WWII Serbia in order to continue concealment of Serbia’s atrocious record as Nazi-collaborators and exterminators of the Jews.

Indeed, the research and fact finding mission about the Blessed Aloysius Stepinac undertaken by US based dr Esther Gitman during the past fifteen years, which absolutely exonerated Stepinac of crimes of the Holocaust and revealed him as WWII rescuer of the Jews, the Serbs and the Roma people, as righteous, is a real threat to a continued concealment of Serbia’s part in the Holocaust. No wonder the “Third Serbia” has mobilised or has attempted to mobilise protests to the Vatican against the canonisation of Aloysius Stepinac!

At the International Symposium Southeastern Europe 1918-1995 Prof. Ljubica Stefan (A Righteous Among Nations), speaking on anti-Semitism in WWII Serbia, summarized the truth as follows: “Until today, Serbia has worn a hero’s halo in a land of martyrs as a member of the anti-Hitler coalition and an alleged contributor to the victory in the Second World War. This is completely untrue. Serbia was not an unfortunate occupied land subjected to German terror. During the entire war, Serbia was the most faithful ally to the Third Reich on European territory under its domination. As opposed to all the other countries of the former Yugoslavia, there was no organized, and an even less massive, armed anti-Hitler movement. When England finally ceased supporting and exalting Draza Mihajlovic, even Radio London, according to the Serbian press, had Mr. Harrison direct the following warning: ‘It is up to the Serbs to brighten their reputation and cleanse their blemishes. Serbs, remember! The Greater Serbian hegemony will never return. The other nations in Yugoslavia have been exploited enough by the Serbs. You are being given one more opportunity to save yourselves. There has been enough dawdling and enjoyment on the part of the Serbs while other nations have been fighting’.

Until now, the Holocaust in Serbia has been an unspoken topic, a taboo. Jewish and Serbian sources offer relatively little data, mostly fragmented. What really happened, nevertheless, may be seen…
The physical liquidation of Serbian Jews began immediately in the spring of 1941. Almost all the men were killed by the autumn and the women and children and the remaining men were liquidated at the end of April and the beginning of May, 1942…It was not only the Germans who captured and killed the Jews in Serbia, rather it was the Serbian Police, Nedic’s volunteers and Chetniks. Most were killed in the Sajmiste and Banjica concentration camps. Not a single Jew managed to escape from the camps…
The majority of Serbian Jews were killed in the Sajmiste camp… The camp was formed on the left bank of the Sava by the railway bridge at the entrance into Belgrade where the pre-war trade fair was located. This is where the name Sajmiste originated. This territory which was, at that time, deserted, uninhabited and marshy, was several kilometers from Zemun and formed a part of NDH (Independent State of Croatia) territory, so the Germans asked for it to be given to them. It is, however, completely untrue that this was an (Croatian) Ustasha camp which Serbian propaganda claims even today. Not one Ustasha ever entered the camp…
As camp inmates starved and froze to death, they were transferred over the frozen Sava to Belgrade where they were buried. Many (the number is unknown) were led away to be shot by firing squads in Belgrade. They were killed in the same manner, in the same place and by the same people as were the Banjica prisoners. Some were killed by the Germans in a special gas truck on their way to Belgrade and buried in Jajinci but their number is not known. A Serbian company ‘Obnova’ purchased the clothes of those. Some were led away to camps in other countries (numbers and destination are unknown). When the number of imprisoned Jews began to decrease, Serbian prisoners and others began to arrive. One of these prisoners recalls: ‘The criminals were the same as those in Banjica. The commanders were also the same – Germans, Nedic’s men and other Serbian fascists’. According to some data, all Jews in that camp were liquidated before May 9, 1942. Belgrade had become ‘Judenfrei’…

Finally, how did the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) act during World War II? Not one word of condemnation of the genocide, the yellow bands, the concentration camps or the racism was ever heard from them. Immediately upon the arrival of the Germans, representatives of the Holy Synod paid homage to the German military commander and stated, first in print and then in person: ‘The Holy Orthodox Synod will loyally carry out the laws and commands of the occupying and territorial authorities and will, through its organs, endeavour to effect the complete abidance of order, peace and obedience.’ The synod remained loyal to their promise until the end and it never violated its promise given to the ‘father of Serbia’ General Milan Nedic that ‘the Serbian Orthodox Church will, in the spirit of St. Sava’s Orthodox tradition, continue to fight on his side’. There are no known cases of any Serbian Orthodox priest saving the life or attempting to save the life of one Jew, although some of them often openly expressed anti-Semitic attitudes in their sermons, instigating their congregation against Jews. Metropolitan Josif, as the head of the Serbian church during wartime, signed orders that Jews be forbidden to transfer to the Orthodox faith, even though this would have saved them. Three episcopates were the first to sign the ‘Appeal to the Serbian people’ of August 1941, in which over 500 of the intellectual elite of Serbia publicly expressed their support of the occupiers and quislings, which was a unique case in war-affected Europe…”

While the Serbian Orthodox Church signed orders that Jews be forbidden to transfer to the Orthodox faith, even though this would have saved them, Archbishop Aloysius Stepinac, as evidenced from Dr Esther Gitman’s factual research, sent memos to the parish priests in Croatia:
When you are visited by people of the Jewish or Eastern Orthodox faith, whose lives are in danger and who express the wish to convert to Catholicism, accept them in order to save human lives. Do not require any special religious knowledge from them, because the Eastern Orthodox are Christians like ourselves, and the Jewish faith is the faith from which Christianity draws its roots. The role and duty of Christians is, in the first place to save people. When this time of madness and of savagery passes, those who would convert out of conviction will remain in our church, while the others, after the danger passes, will return to their church.”

Indeed, the canonisation of Croatia’s Aloysius Stepinac will serve justice to humanity for, among celebrating the good in people that existed despite the horrible adversities of WWII, it will also undoubtedly open up a new window into the WWII truth of Serbia – something that is desperately needed if reconciliation of history is to be fully achieved. The organisation Third Serbia has a great deal to fear, indeed. No wonder they protest Stepinac’s canonisation!

On 22 November 1941 a major anti-Masonic exhibition was opened in Belgrade, Serbia. It was widely promoted by the media. Exhibition was funded by city authorities, at proposal of Djordje Peric, Head of Serbian state propaganda. The Serbian press hyped up the message of the exhibit: “Jews deserved their fate, for interests of the Jewish internationalists never coincided with those of Serbs.”

Anti-Semitic Poster Serbia 1941 "Come and see  the anti-masonic exhibition.   The Jewish dream of being  the power of the world  is now disappearing  under the attack from  finally awakened nationalism."

Anti-Semitic Poster Serbia 1941
“Come and see
the anti-masonic exhibition.
The Jewish dream of being
the power of the world
is now disappearing
under the attack from
finally awakened nationalism.”

 

Anti-Semitic poster from WWII Serbia: "The Jew is holding the strings."   The anti-masonic exhibit - Belgrade 1941

Anti-Semitic poster from WWII Serbia:
“The Jew is holding the strings.”
The anti-masonic exhibit – Belgrade 1941

The WWII anti-Semitic exhibition in the Museum of Yugoslav History in Belgrade had breathed a new life in 2012, albeit under the banner of “The Holocaust in Serbia” for the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The eerie atmosphere emanating from Serbs attending the exhibition cut a loathsome, painful repulsion in an observer: a sense of hovering derangement in which the Serbs looked upon these exhibits as if they were someone else’s work, not theirs! And still, the loudest of Serbian  population continues to blame Germany for the horrors of the Holocaust in WWII Serbia. Just like with today’s organisation “Third Serbia” that selective memory, which attempts to erase the responsibility of Serbs loyal to Nazism, is palpable almost everywhere one looks or happens to stumble upon. Instead of truly reconciling history “Third Serbia” has, like all other like-organisations of Serbs, taken the well-worn route of anti-Croatian propaganda by rehashing WWII events in Croatia without any regard to the truth as far as Aloysius Stepinac is concerned, in this case!  I hope that if letters of protest against Stepinac’s canonisation do arrive in Vatican from Serb sources they will bounce back to where they originated from with “Return To Sender” written in bold black ink on the envelope. Truth wins hands down every time, even if that does take a long time in many instances. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

About Celebrating Croatia’s Independence

 

"We have asked Ina Vukic, our worldwide reputable analyst of the Croatian reality and the work of the young Croatian state to provide an answer to the few questions we had on the matter of celebrations of 10 April 1941 anniversary," Boka Cropress, 16 April 2014, Page 12. Title article under photo - Ina Vukic:  I do not celebrate 10 April, I celebrate 25 June  as symbol of Croatian independence

“We have asked Ina Vukic,
our worldwide reputable analyst of the
Croatian reality and the work of the
young Croatian state to provide an
answer to the few questions we had
on the matter of celebrations of 10 April 1941
anniversary,” Boka Cropress, 16 April 2014, Page 12.
Title of article under photo – Ina Vukic:
I do not celebrate 10 April, I celebrate 25 June
as symbol of Croatian independence

The Independent State of Croatia, often referred to simply by the abbreviation NDH, under Ante Pavelic, was a World War II puppet state of Nazi Germany and Italy established in part of Axis-occupied Yugoslavia. So too was Serbia under Milan Nedic.  However it needs to be pointed out that the NDH Pavelic’s regime was not a product of democratic election or referendum but rather an installation of government, which was not supported by all of the Croatian people and, hence there existed three opposing sides: pro Ustashe, pro-communists and those who wanted neither one or the other, were politically neutral, but did want independence. Since WWII there have been and there are Croats who celebrate 10 April (1941) as a celebration of Croatian independence, but there are and have been many more who do not and did not celebrate this date. I belong to the latter. The regretful fact is that the anti-Croatian propaganda throughout the world chooses to promote more the former than the latter! I feel privileged to have been asked about my thoughts on 10 April and its meaning for Croatian independence. I have translated the short interview with me published in the Australian “Boka Cropress” newspaper.

Boka Cropress: What does celebrating 10th April mean to you?

Ina Vukic:  Personally I do not nor have I ever celebrated the 10th of April but I do regard it as a historical symbol from 1941 which has a large meaning in a victory, however minor by some comparisons. of the Croatian people over the Greater Serbian-hegemonic Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the oppression of the Croatian people inside its legitimate and historical territory. Sadly, that meaning of the 10th of April has been lost and it has, I would say, sold itself to an eternal “conviction or biased judgment” with the mere moment of decision as to the date of the declaration of NDH (Independent State of Croatia); for choosing to use the power of Nazi Germany as the vessel that would enable an “easy” proclamation of the Independent State of Croatia (as there were many against it at the time).

While the NDH was not founded on the wish to “kill”, the decision to declare or establish the NDH under the protection or alliance with Nazi powers that had at that time entered Croatian territory, in my eyes, represents a very bad moral and political decision made by the NDH leaders. The truth is that during NDH there were a large number of crimes committed and they were committed within the context of historical facts – from Pavelic’s alliance with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy to the Yugoslav communist-antifascist movement, Serb Chetnik intrusions and the support of the Allied forces including communist Russia. It is clear that these crimes were not committed by one side only – NDH, and it is clear why NDH is falsely accused of them all.

It’s necessary to understand that despite all the Serb-communist or antifascist thrust filled with lies that equates NDH with WWII Nazism (and not with the pure and just plights for freedom) 10th of April has an important meaning to many of those wanting a Croatian statehood independence, especially many living in the free “West” before the establishment of today’s free Croatia. That was the day of Croatian gatherings and thanksgiving to those who had throughout the history (not only since 1941 but also before) advocated and sacrificed for the Croatian freedom and state independence, a day of remembrance of the 1941 proclamation of Independent State of Croatia, remembrance of the heroic battles fought by its defenders and a day of prayer for all the Croats who were murdered by the Serb Chetniks and Yugoslav communists during and after WWII just because they wanted a Croatian state.

The Serbs and the Yugoslavs and the communists did not rise in 1941 against NDH because of “Ante Pavelic’s regime” but because they did not accept any form, not even the most democratic form of a Croatian state. Although these same opponents of NDH to this very day hide and try to circumvent the fact of the political WWII state regimes the truth is that by May 1942 Serbia had been one of the first European countries to declare itself officially and with sinister pride as “Judenfrei” (Jew free) and had by then under Milan Nedic’s regime exterminated some 94% of its Jewish population!

I hold that with the establishment in 1991 of today’s independent Croatia the Day of Croatian Statehood that is celebrated on 25 June is the symbol of absolute victory of the Croatian people for a lasting and democratic freedom than what 10 April symbolizes because in 1990’s Croatian people had without anybody’s help and in unity defended their right to self-determination and freedom.

And hence, celebrating 10 April (1941) represents a marking of a historical fact that is placed only as one of many attempts in history to achieve freedom for Croatian people and not as important as 25 June (1991) is. At the end of the day, why should Croatian people be different in this to any other people of the democratic and free world? Why should the Croatian people as a whole permit that their honourable intents for freedom via NDH remain muddied by the events in WWII that have more to do with individual criminal pursuits during WWII and with certain policies and laws brought about during those rapturous and politically explosive times for political power in Europe rather than uplifting the history with the real idea for freedom for Croatian people if we do not expect that from other nations who have, for example, branded their history of colonization and imperialism with equal if not greater criminal undertakings via their state establishments?

I do not celebrate 10 April; I celebrate 25 June as the symbol of free and independent Croatia.

There have been and there always will be those in the “West” and in Croatia who will criticize those who celebrate 10 April; regardless of that, whoever wishes or whoever wants to celebrate 10 April as a symbol of independence as far as I am concerned – let them be – just as I hold no judgments against, for instance, a British person when he/she remembers with fondness the history of British nation despite its devastating murderous sprees across colonised foreign lands in history for power and harnessing of riches from the colonies, from indigenous lands, resources and people, or against a Belgian when he/she celebrates his/her national day, which is soaked in dark colours of genocide in its African colonies, or some Russian his/her Victory Day – soaked in blood of some 30 million innocent victims of Stalinism … At the end, among those nations that were similar to NDH in WWII, NDH was not a greater murderer than what they were, and Croatians have never, like Americans, celebrated the dropping of any atomic bombs nor can they be compared to Israelis, who after the Holocaust tragedy to today are seen by many as hangmen of the Palestinians – and so, who has the right to judge those who celebrate 10 April in the name of independence and self-determination?

Boka CroPress: When we talk about or mention the WWII Independent State of Croatia, how do we place ourselves in relation to the crimes that were perpetrated then?

Ina Vukic: Personally I hate and condemn all crimes in the world, which have always and which are occurring to this day. In accordance with the measures of humanity there is no justification for crime; not in today’s world even though, to regret, we still find attempts to justify crimes from history – even genocide. Evidently, numerous crimes of extermination of various peoples in history (except the Holocaust) have become a political tool to which punishment does not belong! And hence, the world has been brought into a contemptible reality in which differing standards of tolerance for enormous historical crimes exist. The Communists will say, for example, that the crimes against innocent people were necessary for “freedom”! Members of nations who had in centuries past engaged in brutal extermination of indigenous people in the countries they colonised, might shrug and say something like: “yes, it was horrible but necessary in those times of promoting and creating prosperity for the people of our country and for the enlightenment of the indigenous people in those wild lands!”

In such political wilderness of the world, where the innocent victim of crime often represents a negligible value, it is important to fight for justice for victims. Because, there is nor has there ever been a lasting or real reconciliation without the real, the true justice in the eyes of humanity, regardless of how much politicians try to convince us that it’s not like that, that the horrors of certain crimes can be overcome without condemnation, without justice. That kind of reconciliation without justice for the victim is very dangerous because it implies forgiveness and/or forgetfulness, which in reality feed the possibility of the same crimes being perpetrated in the future.

In relation to the crimes perpetrated in NDH (and soon after WWII) Croatia has always been and remained a victim of discrimination against innocent victims. That is, the crimes of the Holocaust have been processed and perpetrators pursued but those – the communists or antifascists as they like to be called now – who perpetrated equally horrid crimes against innocent people and their crimes have persistently been swept under the carpet, hidden, or their crimes, if recognized, even justified as ‘necessary’! I believe that this is where the roots lie of the widespread plight for justice among Croats after WWII to this day and in this plight we can often see emotions of guilt, anger and pain.

The crimes that were perpetrated within NDH during WWII are an undeniable fact and this fact must be acknowledged with regret even though the Croats of today are not responsible for those crimes. However, it is essential to include in those crimes the crimes committed by the communists and the Partisans, who more and more like to refer to themselves as antifascists even though they fought for Yugoslavia and not the freedom of Croatian people. Therefore, it is essential to recognise and accept as fact all crimes – including those perpetrated in the NDH – as something that is repugnant and unnatural to humanity.

It is morally wrong to judge the crimes committed in the name of NDH without, in the same breath, judging the crimes committed by the communists of those times.

In the matter of crimes of WWII many automatically think only of the crime of the Holocaust, which is unacceptable in today’s world – absolutely unacceptable. If we are people that seek and pursue justice then we must confront, or place in the same basket of historical horror all of the crimes perpetrated against innocent people regardless of who the perpetrator was. It’s not without a reason that those who had in Croatia justified and defended communist crimes, or those who still do, had not welcomed with open arms the relatively recent unshakable research findings by dr Esther Gitman of the rescue and survival of Jews in NDH, including the enormous role Blessed Aloysius Stepinac played in the rescue of the Jews. The communists had hidden the truth about Stepinac’s goodness after WWII and falsely convicted him, as they did other Croatian rescuers of the Jews, as Nazi collaborator – and even today, despite these and other similar findings – they keep to their false convictions like cowards that deserve the harshest of punishment and ostracizing through processes such as Lustration would be!

How to place ourselves vis-à-vis the crimes committed during NDH? The only answer is – with the harshest of judgments! All crimes are a profound anomaly of humanity and only through judgment can we place them where they belong: into a sad history that still needs clearing and that still needs to be woven with the full truth! If I had governing power in Croatia of today I would demolish to the ground all the monuments raised to mark the so-called communist-antifascist battles during former Yugoslavia, I would leave Jasenovac and other monuments to the victims of the Holocaust and I would build equally large monuments to the victims of communist crimes.

Boka Cropress: What is the main message for the young generation in relation to the celebration of the historic 10 April?

Ina Vukic: I believe that I have laid out the main messages for the young in my answers to the above questions. Nevertheless, I think that the most important thing for the young is to separate that date from 1941 of NDH declaration from the intent to achieve an independent Croatia. If they manage to achieve this then 10 April will become less important because it is a strong reminder that NDH was a failed attempt at creating an independent state of Croatia.

The liberation process and the defensive (Homeland) war of the1990’s were successful because the majority of people believed in freedom and wanted freedom for centuries before 1941, just as they did after NDH, as best demonstrated by the 1970’s Croatian Spring uprisings, and also because of the efforts invested for freedom from the diaspora where there were more of those that did not than those that did celebrate 10 April – but none wanted to live as Yugoslavs.

And so, today’s Croatia’s independence is the act and achievement of a far greater section of the Croatian national body of people than what is represented by the followers of “Ante Pavelic’s” NDH and, since we are talking about celebrating Croatia’s independence, I think it fairer and more proud to accept that fact and celebrate 25 June because that date truly includes all who had in any way fought for Croatian independence without the defining and morally unacceptable reliance upon any foreign power and might – this independence and democracy of Croatia created in 1990’s is the product of the work of the Croats!

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 Pescanik.net 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)

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