Croatia: Ante Gotovina – A Bright Star In Fighting For Justice

Ante Gotovina

Ante Gotovina

On 16 November 2012 the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) acquitted Ante Gotovina (and Mladen Markac) of war crimes.

Several years of the path to that justice were filled with injustice, lies, false allegations, suspected perjury, gossip, and hearsay… against Ante Gotovina. “Innocent till proven guilty” was not the order of the day when it came to Gotovina from countless sources, many of which were a political play to equate the victim (Croatia) with its aggressor (Serbia and its rebel offshoots in Croatia). It was more like “guilty till proven innocent”.

I’m sure you’ve heard the adage, “Throw enough mud at the wall, some of it will stick.” The origin of this proverb is “possibly based on a technique of building wattle and daub walls by throwing daub (mud mixed with straw) at the wattle throwing hard enough that some obtained a good key and remained in place, (compare slapdash, a pebbledash effect produced by throwing pebbles at a rendered wall). Sense 2 is probably influenced by throw dirt enough, and some will stick”.

Applied today this proverb translates into:
1.    Try the same thing (or similar things) often enough, and, even if the general standard is poor, sometimes one will be successful.
2.    If enough (perhaps false or reckless) accusations are made against a person (or organisation), his reputation will suffer, whether or not this is deserved.

There is no need to state the obvious here: once a person has been accused of a crime mud flies from many directions. Of course, every action attracts a reaction and in Gotovina’s case the throwing of mud against him (blacklisting him) even reached the U.S. Treasury Department in 2003 – more than two years before his ICTY trial even commenced. On 29 May 2003 Ante Gotovina’s name was added to the US Treasury Department list as a Specially Designated National, subjecting him to economic sanctions. His name still remains on this list even though the reasons due to which he was included on it no longer exist!

Mud sticks!

The US President Executive Order (Number 13304) under which Gotovina’s name was added to the list includes the following “criteria”:

“Persons designated by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, because they are determined:
(A) to be under open indictment by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, unless circumstances warrant otherwise, or
(B) to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of threatening the peace in or diminishing the stability or security of any area or state in the Western Balkans region, undermining the authority, efforts, or objectives of international organizations or entities present in the region, or endangering the safety of persons participating in or providing support to the activities of those international organizations or entities, …”

It is a matter of self-respect to insist on removing mud from one’s reputation when the mud keeps on sticking.

Last Monday, 6 January 2014, Ante Gotovina filed a lawsuit in the US federal court in the District of Columbia seeking his removal from that list. He filed that civil complaint against the US Department of Treasury (Office of Foreign Assets Control/OFAC) and two of its officials.

This lawsuit comes after Gotovina had reportedly sought, to no avail and no reply, the removal of his name from that blacklist since April 2013.

“…While it’s unclear what could have led to this alleged lack of response from OFAC, the office faces an increasing workload amid tight
budgets as sanctions continue to dominate U.S. foreign policy”, says ‘The Wall Street Journal’ (WSJ).

“The sanctions that accompany being on the list have caused Mr. Gotovina ‘severe harm,’ the complaint says. For one, the designation
has hampered his business endeavors, a person close to Mr. Gotovina said,” The WSJ article also says.

One would expect that the removal of Gotovina’s name from that blacklist will be and should have been straightforward. After all, it’s evident that the criteria in the said US Presidential Executive Order for having ones name on the list in the first place no longer fit any part of Gotovina’s being.

But mud is a devil of a thing to get rid of; sadly, if not rage provoking, there will always be those who will try and make mud stick. And so my attention has been turned to an article awkwardly and inappropriately entitled “The Never-Ending Balkan Wars Continue In Court”, posted on an internet portal, which purports to be maintained and contributed to by legal or law professionals.

The distressing thing about this article posted (?written) by a lawyer is that it clearly attempts to haunt Gotovina for the ICTY Prosecutor’s formulation of charges against him (illegal or indiscriminate shelling of Croatian territory occupied by Serbs) and blames, begrudges, Gotovina for defending himself. Furthermore, the article suggests that OFAC is not bound by the ICTY Appeal Tribunal decision, exonerating Gotovina of the crimes he was charged with and that it could “have evidence that Gotovina has committed war crimes … and that these threaten the stability or security in any area of Western Balkans …” – and therefore, keep Gotovina’s name on the blacklist!

What drives a person or persons to suggest that even if OFAC has placed Gotovina’s name on the blacklist because of ICTY indictment it is not bound to remove him from the list once that ICTY indictment has failed in court?  Nothing pleasant, I think.

It would further seem that the article’s author accepts rather easily that evidence allegedly pointing to perpetration of crimes does not necessarily need to be tested in court for the perpetrator to be labeled as a criminal!  Furthermore, the author of this article would like, it seems, for OFAC to disregard the judgment of ICTY Appeal Tribunal and continue considering Gotovina guilty because, in their minority, some judges differed in their opinion to the majority judges one!

Mud sticks! And with people like the author of this article around no wonder Gotovina found it necessary to file a complaint in the court, seeking for his name to be taken off the blacklist and, I dare say, to get as far away as possible from people who think like the article author seems to think. The best lesson the world is learning from Gotovina is that justice is slow and often the path to it – cruel – and only the very best and the very strong endure all the way to its glorious dawn. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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