Serge Brammertz’s Belgium commemorates genocidal maniac King Leopold II but Brammertz thinks Croatia’s wrong to commemorate Operation Storm!

Croatian Defence Minister Ante Kotromanovic - Photo: Slobodna Dalmacija

It’s taken me a couple of days to calm down. Had I written this post a couple of days ago it would have been done with unrestrained outrage pouring out of my keyboard.

Some persons in powerful positions are driven by hypocrisy and ulterior or bigoted political agendas that evoke suspicion, disappointment, bitterness and outrage. That is an unfair fact of life and societies have learned to deal with it in one way or another, often taking individual victims along the way. At other times, revolts and revolutions follow.

In the case of Croatia the fact that 94% of its citizens voted for democracy and secession from Communist Yugoslavia (May 1991) must never be forgotten nor belittled, and especially not when considering the War of Independence (1991 – 1995) in which Croatia had to defend itself from Serbian and Serb-led Yugoslav Army murderous aggression.

On Friday, March 9, I read an interview with Serge Brammertz in which he said: “After International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) delivers the final verdict in the case of Croatian generals, it will be up to authorities in Croatia to decide whether to continue with celebrating military operation ‘Storm’. I believe that a number of crimes undoubtedly took place during the action, and I hope that people in Croatia will bear that in mind”.

Of course, this statement shocked Croatian war veterans who condemned Brammertz’s statement. Not only is Brammertz a party (as Prosecutor) in the current Appeal by the Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac in the Hague, and should not be making such statements, but he attacks the integrity and independence of a whole State because its two generals are in court as individuals.

One would think that by Saturday March 10th someone in the UN would have been alerted to his alarming breaches of expected code of conduct as criminal prosecutor and political neutrality and handed him a pair of walking shoes. Or simply, suspended him from the position of Chief Prosecutor of a Tribunal that’s supposed to serve as a role model of international criminal (not political) justice.

I was encouraged, though, by Croatia’s Defence Minister Ante Kotromanovic’s statement, as reaction to Brammertz’s: “We will celebrate Operation Storm. Why? Because it is beyond doubt the most important military operation in Croatia’s history and we will always celebrate it honourably and proudly, and we will always say that the Croatian army was a victorious army“.

This is not the first time Brammertz took it upon himself to criticize Operation Storm commemorations in Croatia. To make matters worse he persists on painting the whole of Croatia and its people with colours of alleged war crimes committed by individuals and appearing before “his” court.

This whole deplorable situation with Brammertz’s outrageous statement regarding the commemoration of Operation Storm, the battle that liberated Croatia from Serb occupation, took me into the history and some current, to my mind politically corrupt, practices of the State from which Brammertz stems – Belgium.

Belgian King Leopold II Commemorative Gold Coin 2007

In 2007 Belgium minted a 12,50 Euro Commemorative gold coin with King Leopold II head featured on it. Despite the fact that Belgian King Leopold II was a genocidal maniac (across Congo etc in Africa) the Belgian state considered him a “King builder”, worthy of commemoration because he commissioned lots of buildings in Brussels etc during his reign! One wonders how many of those beautiful buildings were built with the blood and possessions of the native people in Belgian colonies in Africa. But then, Belgium shrewdly pursued a path of “Great Forgetting” (aptly phrased by Adam Hochschild in his book “King Leopold’s Ghost”) when it comes to the most horrid treatment of people in their colonies.

Genocide scholar Adam Jones comments: The result was one of the most brutal and all-encompassing corvée institutions the world has known . . . Male rubber tappers and porters were mercilessly exploited and driven to death. Leopold’s agents held the wives and children of these men hostage until they returned with their rubber quota. Those who refused or failed to supply enough rubber often had their villages burned down, children murdered, and their hands cut off.

Yielding to international pressure, in 1908 the Belgian parliament annexed the CFS (Congo Free State) as the Belgian Congo, effectively removing Leopold from power. Just prior to releasing sovereignty over the CFS, Leopold destroyed all evidence of his activities in the CFS, including the archives of its Departments of Finance and the Interior. The Belgian parliament refused to hold any formal commission of inquiry into the human rights abuses that had occurred in the CFS. Over the next few decades, inhumane practices in the Belgian Congo continued and a huge number of Congolese remained enslaved. By 1959, Belgium power began to erode due to a series of riots in Leopoldville (today Kinshasa). The Congo was emancipated from Belgium on June 30, 1960, and the modern Democratic Republic of the Congo was established.”

In an attempt to calm my outrage at Brammertz’s statement about commemorating Operation Storm in Croatia I’ve spent hours researching the possibility that Brammertz might have criticised his own Belgium for issuing a Commemorative coin to King Leopold II. I’ve found no trace of anything resembling his criticism or condemnation. If anyone has knowledge of any such criticisms, condemnations or comments Brammertz might have made I, and perhaps millions of others, would truly appreciate knowing about it.

Back to Brammertz’s insinuations that Operation Storm was a criminal operation because individuals are before criminal court charged with war crimes I am still outraged. Operation Storm was not an adventure undertaken by several individuals (who may have or may not have committed crimes) independently. And if the Appeal of Croatian generals in the Hague is overturned and the generals stand convicted of war crimes, Operation Storm still remains the symbol of courage, great sacrifice and independence from oppression. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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