Serb War Criminal Ratko Mladic Must Still Answer For Crimes Against Croats

Serb aggression – Skabrnja massacre victims in Croatia

After a very long legal battle in the Hague, Ratko Mladic, the Serb dubbed “butcher of Bosnia”, was finally and firmly pronounced guilty of genocide and imposed a life sentence by the UN Appeals judges during last week. It is a pity and a crying injustice for the international criminal justice that Ratko Mladic was neither charged nor tried in the Hague for the heinous crimes he committed in Croatia prior to moving to the Bosnian territory, which were just a brutal as those he committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

One wonders, therefore, in whose political or otherwise interest it is to deliver such piecemeal justice for victims of crimes committed by one and the same person!? Some might say, and many have said, that this case of Ratko Mladic and its verdict, despite the long time it took, remains an important warning to criminals, especially dictators, that, slowly but surely, they will be brought to answer for their crimes. Well, Mladic was not brought to answer for all the known crimes he committed, and the justice delivered in the Hague in his case is a selective justice – the one afforded to some and not to all victims.

On Tuesday 8 June 2021, the United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in The Hague Appeals Chamber, with the exception of Judge Prisca Nyambe, confirmed the 2017 Trial Chamber’s ruling, finding Mladic guilty of commanding violent ethnic cleansing campaigns across the country and sniping and shelling attacks against the civilian population of Sarajevo between May 1992 and November 1995, committing genocide against an estimated 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica between July and at least October 1995 using the forces under his command, and using UN peacekeepers as human shields after taking them hostage from May to June 1995.

But the Appeals Chamber also dismissed the parallel appeal against Mladic brought by the prosecution, which had sought a second conviction against Mladic for genocide committed against Muslims and Croats in other areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina (five municipalities) during the early phase of the war from 1992. Certainly, this ruling that excluded convictions for genocidal crimes in these other areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina will certainly weaken and undermine international community’s convictions that more robust and decisive actions by the international community at the time to curb, to stop, what has become known as “a slow-motion genocide” perpetrated by Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina should and could have been pursued. Foca, Kotor-Varos, Prijedor, Sanski Most and Vlasenica, the campaign of persecution escalated to such a degree that it demonstrated precisely the intent to destroy Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats as a group. The prosecution was not successful in achieving a conviction for these crimes of genocide that were a part of the Serb joint criminal enterprise in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It is alarmingly unjust and cruel towards victims and justice that similar crimes committed by Ratko Mladic in Croatia, prior to his criminal spree in Bosnia and Herzegovina were not included in his Hague international tribunal for war crimes indictment. While Mladic acted in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a commander of the so-called self-proclaimed Serbian Republic Army when he was stationed in Croatia he was a commander in the Yugoslav People’s Army that set out to quash the Croatian people who wanted secession from communist Yugoslavia and independence and, as such, rebel Serb agenda in Croatia suited him and his campaign of persecution and murder of Croatians in the own homes, on their own land escalated to such a degree that it demonstrated precisely the intent to destroy Croats as a group in all areas of Croatia where Serbs lived in larger numbers.

In July 1992, the County Court in the coastal town of Sibenik in Croatia sentenced Ratko Mladic to twenty years imprisonment for the attack on the village of Kijevo, which totally destroyed the village in the Dalmatian hinterland, on August 26, 1991.

Mladic was also sentenced for ordering attacks on the villages around the towns of Sinj and Vrlika in the Croatian Dalmatian hinterland in the period between September 16 until 23, 1991. In those attacks many civilians were killed.

In December 1995, Croatian prosecutors filed an indictment against Mladic for an attempt to destroy a hydro plant in the village of Peruca near Sinj.

By the time Mladic was appointed as the commander of the 9th JNA Corps in the Croatian town of Knin on June 3, 1991, the territory was already cut off from the rest of Croatia, because Croatian Serbs, who proclaimed the Serb Autonomous Territory of Krajina in 1990, barricaded the roads around Knin on August 17, 1990. Mladic aligned himself with rebel Serb forces and ethnic cleansing of Croats and other non-Serbs, persecution, killing, rape, plunder… commenced. Many civilians were killed and wounded during the shelling of Croatian villages and towns, and water and electricity supplies were blocked for months.

It is held that Ratko Mladic, as a Yugoslav Army commander that sided with Serb aggression against Croatians and Croatia, is responsible for the brutal massacres and slaughter of 88 Croatian people in the village of Skabrnja, near Zadar, on November 18, 1991 and the death of 30 Croatian people in the village of Saborsko in central Croatia, also in November 1991. 

At the time of his command in Croatia in 1991, Mladic can certainly be linked to the crimes in Knin and its surroundings, in the hinterland of Zadar and Šibenik, and especially to the crime in Skabrnja, which in its blatant ethnic cleansing had the character of genocidal intent.

The Croatian prosecutor’s office had reportedly informed the ICTY about the verdicts in Croatia against Ratko Mladic and the investigations against Mladic in 2003. After Mladic was arrested in July 2011 (having hidden in Serbia and Serbian Republic for some 16 years under an assumed name and identity to avoid prosecution in the Hague for war crimes), then Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor announced Croatia would “insist” that the ICTY includes crimes in Croatia into Mladic’s indictment. But the ICTY did not include Croatia’s findings in its indictment causing public outcry in the country. The reported reason for that decision was that the Hague needed to economise its proceedings, so it pursued only the crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina.The Croatian authorities at the time, which included the former communist Yugoslavia operative Stjepan Mesic, was not about to represent on the international levels the truth about the Serb aggression against Croatia. If anything, they played it down and attempted to criminalised Croatia’s defence efforts of the Homeland War. All for the glory of the failed communist totalitarian and criminal regime of Yugoslavia.

Last week in a Press Release responding to the verdict against Ratko Mladic in the Hague the government of Croatia expressed regret and dissatisfaction that “Ratko Mladic was not indicted and convicted for numerous crimes committed during the aggression on the Republic of Croatia, where he started his bloody campaign, continuing it in Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Well now, the Croatian government achieves nothing but bitterness from the public by pretending it is sorry that the Hague tribunal did not consider Mladic’s crimes in Croatia. After all, the Croatian governments and its Presidents since the year 2000 did nothing much, nothing decisive, to truly ensure Mladic’s crimes are included in the Hague indictment. These were the years when the former Yugoslav communists took increasing hold of power in Croatia, these were the years that saw Croatian Government and Presidents enter into extraordinary measures, including fabrications and lies against Croats, in attempts to equate the Serb aggressor with the Croatian victim during that 1990’s war of Serb aggression. Nothing short of treason in my books. The Croatian Government should have made big noises throughout the world, within the UN itself, insisting that crimes perpetrated by Ratko Mladic be included in the indictments against him. They did no such thing, and one must ask why, or rather, one must conclude that the very top echelons of Croatian power at the time did not want the world to see how truly brutal and depraved Serb aggression against Croatia was. I just hope that new indictments will, at Croatia’s instigation, be raised against Ratko Mladic in the near future for the crimes committed in Croatia. It is very important for the victims of these crimes, their families and for justice that those responsible are held to account.

It is likely that the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals – the institution that succeeded the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague – will hand down a first-instance verdict by the end of this month to Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic, wartime heads of Serbia’s State Security Department and Slobodan Milosevic’s closest informants. They are accused of participating in a joint criminal enterprise aimed at “forcibly and permanently removing most non-Serbs, primarily Croats, Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats, from large parts of Croatia and BiH, by committing the crimes of persecution, murder, deportation and forcible transfer.”  The eventual conviction of Stanisic and Simatovic could be the first, and the last, in which the heart of the Milosevic regime, which was the Department of State Security, is singled out and declared a key link in the chain of Serb criminal enterprise in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Viewed from the perspective of the current Serbian state policy that denies genocide and aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, finding Stanisic and Simatovic guilty would be a heavier blow to them than the vast majority of previous Hague verdicts, including Mladic’s. Serbs may at last start looking truth in the eye and see themselves for what they were and are in their depraved imperialistic appetites for Greater Serbia. Ina Vukic

Independent Croatia: To Expose Yugoslav Communist Enemy Within

Zoran Milanovic (L) Zeljko Glasnovic (R)

Croatia survived 45 years of communist rule under the lie of “brotherhood and unity” in Yugoslavia, emerged victorious in the 1990’s in fighting off the bestial enemies of its independence and democracy, only to keep having salt poured over the wounds it sustained in achieving independence and its continued struggle for a full democracy. In Croatia, former communist domination has been increasing since year 2000, alienating and degrading those who fought against the communist aggressor in early 1990’s. Make no mistake: Croatia’s very future is still at stake, despite the glorious victories of its defence forces. The best example of such alienation and degradation, which to my view verge on treason or bombarding of foundations of a state can be found in the acts of Croatia’s President Zoran Milanovic only a couple of days ago, on Friday 22 January 2021.

On Friday, the President of the Republic Zoran Milanovic, from the city of Zadar, cancelled his participation in the commemoratory program marking the 28th anniversary of the Croatian Military and Police undertaking called “Maslenica ’93”, which retook territory in northern Dalmatia and Lika from rebel Krajina Serb forces, with the military objective of pushing the Serb aggressor back from approaches to city of Zadar, Maslenica and Karlobag, allowing a secure land route between Dalmatia and northern Croatia to be opened. Milanovic abruptly cancelled his presence at Maslenica commemoration after he learned that some participants there, invited as part of official participants, were wearing clothes with the “HOS – For Homeland Read” (HOS – Za dom spremni) symbols, the same clothes worn by the paramilitary Croatian Defence Forces (HOS) who took a great part in defending Croatia from Yugoslav/Serb aggressor and, therefore, are unequivocally included among the pivotal creators of today’s democratic and independent state of Croatia. Of course, as their leader Milanovic, the Chief of the General Staff of the current Croatian Armed Forces, Admiral Robert Hranj, and all military commanders withdrew from the commemoration program after Milanovic announced his withdrawal.

“Since afterwards it was established that people wearing Ustasha insignia and inscriptions were also participating in the official commemoration protocol, the president cancelled his participation in the programme,” the statement from Milanovic’s office said.

This is not the first time that Zoran Milanovic insists on blatant lies about HOS and “For Home Ready” greeting! In fact, he has been consistent and uglily pushy on this! The fact that HOS that participated in defending Croatia from Yugoslav/Serb aggression was not an offshoot or continuance of WWII political environment but rather an arm of the 1990’s Croatian people’s decision to secede from communist Yugoslavia is a fact that Milanovic insists on burying and lying about.

To me, and I gather to many, this can only mean one thing and that is that Croatia’s President despises those who freed Croatia from communist Yugoslavia and fought and contributed to creating the free and independent Croatia.

That is among the reasons why Croatian government and Presidents since 2000 have persistently downplayed the role of Croatian defence forces in Croatia’s secession from communist Yugoslavia; and persistently keep on a course of degrading the value for the country of its liberating forces that fought off its brutal, bloody aggressor. Just imagine if political leaders in Britain or United States of America pursued a path of hunting down and belittling all those who during World War Two, or any war for that matter, guided their resolve to participate in freedom-creation with the motto “For God and Country!” or “For Home and Country!” Would they be impeached or banished from public positions? I think so!

And so, are Croatians supposed to accept as the country’s leader a man (Milanovic) who did not want an independent Croatia, who hid away from war battle zones when Croatian territory and people were being defended from Yugoslav/Serb aggression? I say not!

Retired General of the Croatian Army (HV) and the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) Zeljko Glasnovic has yesterday in relation to the above actions and promotion of lies about HOS forces by President Milanovic published the content below, which I have translated into the English language from Croatian:

Zeljko Glasnovic Facebook page screenshot. Embedded image portrays human (and HOS uniform) remains of Zarko Manjkasa Crvenkapa in a mass grave of Serb aggression victims near Vukovar

 “You run from this?

If you run away from this, you are also running away from the man on whose bones the state of Croatia arose.

And not just on his bones but on thousands of bones.

You are distancing yourself from this?

If you distance yourself from this, then you also distance yourself from the function you perform.

Being President is like being an officer – service, not honour. No one ‘rewarded’ you by electing you President but indebted you. Remember.

You cannot be the President of a state whose foundations you despise.

You cannot be the President of a state despising the people who created that same state.

Despising emblems.

Despising flags.

Despising symbols.

As you bow at the grave to a man who is buried with this symbol on his uniform, at the same time you drive his comrades from the grave for that same symbol.

You can’t have double standards.

If you despise the world in which you live, you also despise its Creator. It is inseparable.

You cannot praise the act of creating a state and despise its founders.

Call them provocateurs, and until yesterday saviours and liberators.

You cannot say that you respect the sacrifice of the defenders, and at the same time spit on the symbols they proudly wore while bleeding for that same homeland.

You can’t be miles away from the battlefield, waiting for an outcome in the safety of your home and 30 years later condemning the flag under which others gave their lives to so that you could live.

You should be grateful.

With your head down.

Your hands clasped.

If not in prayer, then in silence.

In pride.

On your knees, because they deserve that.

It is easy to be a Supreme Commander in peace.

Where were you when the bloody battle was being fought?

It is easy to command the army to retreat as birds sing around you.

Do you know what it’s like to give an order while the air around you smells of death?

Do you know what it’s like when you’re surrounded, when you have no air, when you’re lying wounded?

Do you know what it’s like to be a commander when you lose 20 men in one day?

And you must move on.

Do you know what it’s like when you have to come to the door of the mother of a killed soldier and tell her that her only son is gone?

And you were his superior.

Do you know what it’s like when they mutilate your brother, rape your mother, imprison your grandparents and take everything away from you?

Do you know what it’s like to look into the eyes of a raging horde of animal instincts as they torture and kill your army?

Do you know what it’s like when your wounded tortured soldier dies in your arms?

Do you know how it is when your soldier with triple bullet wounds still stands at frontlines, refusing to leave his post.

Till death.

What to say to a mother whose son has been killed, who calls you and asks you to come sleep in his bed?

What to say to a soldier who asks you for 2 days off after 4 months on the field, and you can’t give them to him because there are no people, there are no shifts, but maybe there would have been shifts had the offices of the golden youth not been full.

Do you know what it’s like when there’s no time to grieve after your comrades are killed, when you have to move on like nothing happened.

And the heart bleeds.

Do you know what it’s like to remember all your life the last words of a murdered medical corps heroine: ‘If I had 10 lives, I would give them all for Croatia.’

Do you know what it’s like when a commander is wounded and his soldiers take turns carrying him, wounded, in a tent flysheet for 2 days, not wanting to leave him?

That’s an honour.

That’s pride.

They are brothers.

That’s loyalty.

That’s fidelity.

These are concepts that you will find difficult to understand.

A commander on paper – in peace – is not the same as a commander on the ground in war.

Some are not worthy of war,

and some are not even worthy of peace.

Have we given so many lives so that you could mock?

Did we shed so much blood so that you could jubilate?

Did we fight so that you could be ashamed of us on anniversaries?

Did we create this country so that the Commander-in-Chief could suppress us?

You are not worthy of our sacrifice.

You are not worthy of being called the President.

You are not worthy of the authority of the Commander-in-Chief.

In other countries, people bow in respect to war veterans, grateful for their life made possible through their sacrifice.

In Croatia, war veterans are being killed due to injustice, disrespect, belittling and mocking the shedding of their blood.

Thanks be to God, we even fought for people like you. The ungrateful, narcissistic and arrogant, who today spit on the foundations of their homeland, trample on the sacrifice of its defenders, mock those who made life possible for them and they call themselves presidents. Until when?”

Ina Vukic

Nobel Prizegiving Decisions: Gone To The Dogs

War Crimes Apologist Peter Handke To The Critics Of Genocide Perpetrated By Serbs: “You can stick your corpses up your arse!”

No declarative words can describe the emotions and content triggered by this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature better than the idiom “gone to the dogs”. Nobel Prize has all gone badly wrong and lost all the good things it had. Austrian author and playwright Peter Handke has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2019, with 2018’s postponed award going to Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk.

“You know it was we who protected you from the Asian hordes for centuries. And without us you would still be eating with your fingers.” So declares a character defending the Serbs (and their attendant massacres in the 1990’s war in Bosnia and Herzegovina/ no need to mention the Serb attendant massacres in Croatia during the same time – they are known also) in author Peter Handke’s war play “Die Fahrt im Einbaum oder Das Stueck zum Film vom Krieg” (The Journey into the Dug-out, or the Play of the Film of the War).

“Does the jury sincerely contend that Peter Handke’s appearance at the grave of mass murderer Slobodan Milosovic will advance understanding between nations? Does the brazenness with which Handke glosses over Serbian crimes and denies ethnic cleansing foster solidarity between peoples?” Hubert Spiegel, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 27 May 2006.

Milosevic died in 2006 while on trial at The Hague for war crimes pertaining to the Bosnian genocide, including his role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys. Handke, however, eulogised Milosevic after the dictator’s death, and before an overflow crowd of some 20,000 radical Serb nationalists. Fourteen Serb war criminals, Milosevic’s men, have been convicted of genocide and other crimes against humanity by the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at the Hague including former Military Commander Radislav Krstic, former President of Republika Srpska (Serbian Republic) Radovan Kadadzic and Bosnian Serb Military Leader Ratko Mladic, also known as the “Butcher of Bosnia”. Handke’s alignment with Milosevic has been so controversial that in 2006, his nomination for the Heinrich Heine Prize was ultimately withdrawn and yet, here we are in 2019, the Nobel Committee. While acknowledging the controversy regarding his apologetic stand on war crimes committed by Serbs the Nobel Committee still awards Handke the Prize!

According to an article published in The Irish Times in April 1999, when critics pointed out that the victims’ corpses of Serb genocide provide evidence of Serb war crimes, Handke replied: “You can stick your corpses up your arse.”

It would seem, sadly, that the Nobel Committee ignored the fact that a controversy does not stand for its own sake but for the sake of upholding to the decent level the world’s moral compass. What a shame! How scandalous indeed!

Pater Handke Photo: Getty images

On Thursday 10 October 2019  Peter Handke, 76, won the 2019 Nobel for Literature “for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience,” according to the Swedish Academy, the cultural institution responsible for awarding it. If writing about massacre and genocide in order to support the perpetrator then we can all do without this “periphery and specificity of human experience” being elevated to the Nobel! Kosovo’s ambassador to the United States, Vlora Çitaku, tweeted that the award was a “scandalous decision,” adding that “genocide deniers and Milosevic apologists should not be celebrated.” “Have we become so numb to racism, so emotionally desensitized to violence, so comfortable with appeasement that we can overlook one’s subscription and service to the twisted agenda of a genocidal maniac? We must not support or normalize those who spew hatred. You can do better! Nobel,” Vlora Çitaku tweeted further.

In a statement published by PEN America, the organisation that promotes literary freedom of expression said it was “dumbfounded” by the decision to honour a writer “who has used his public voice to undercut historical truth and offer public succour to perpetrators of genocide.”

“We are dumbfounded by the selection of a writer who has used his public voice to undercut historical truth and offer public succor to perpetrators of genocide, like former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic,” they wrote.

“At a moment of rising nationalism, autocratic leadership, and widespread disinformation around the world, the literary community deserves better than this. We deeply regret the Nobel Committee on Literature’s choice.”

Within just over a day from the announcement of the Nobel Prize award to Peter Handke 25,000 have signed an online Petition to the Nobel Committee seeking to revocation his Nobel! The Petition says: ”Peter Handke is an apologist for the “butcher of Balkans” Slobodan Milosevic. Person who was responsible for wrongful death of hundreds of thousands of innocent people and tens of thousands of raped women and men. A person who defends such a monster does not deserve a simplest literary recognition let alone a Nobel Prize. Let us send a loud and clear message to the Nobel Prize Committee, that we do not condone rewarding apologists of mass murderers.”

Winning a Nobel Prize is usually a cause for celebration in the Nobel laureate’s home country as well as worldwide. It is a point of pride in glorious achievements individuals can reach. This pride runs very thin when a laureate’s personal stand outside the works that deserved the Nobel becomes bitter and anger-provoking.

According to AlJazeera, Handke told Serbia’s state TV on Thursday, the night before the Nobel Prize award, that he felt Serbians’ “happiness because of the big award that I have received”, adding that they will celebrate with “a rakija [brandy] and a glass of white wine”.

The Nobel has gone to the dogs! No doubt about that, just a loud shriek of despair! If the world erected a pillar of shame, then this episode with Peter Handke at the Nobel would surely be etched at the top of the list.

Ravaged by infighting, accusations of corruption, and connections with serious sexual assault allegations, the Swedish Academy said in May 2018 that the Nobel Prize for Literature, traditionally announced every autumn, was cancelled for that year.  Prior to Thursday 10 October 2019 observers said this year’s prize has the potential to mark a comeback from the events of last year. Having recognised how low trust was in the Academy. The Nobel Prize is considered by many as the leader in efforts to push things in the other direction, and to open the windows. The only window that has been opened this time around seems to be the one that tells people to forget genocide, even the Holocaust, to forget the atrocities perpetrated by Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina because they weren’t so bad! Ask the victims of Serb genocidal aggression about that! Ask anyone!

The Swedish Academy for the Nobel Prize lost a lot with not only the accusations of sexual harassment and sexism, and the man who ended up in jail for rape, but also in how they handled the situation with their own members. It will take time to regain trust and respectability. The catharsis has not occurred yet. The untouchable patriarchs are still ruling, and this is demonstrated by the scandalous decision to award the 2019 Nobel for Literature to Peter Handke for whom the horror of war crimes depends on who perpetrates the war crimes! The catastrophe for human decency of this year’s Nobel for Literature can only be crushed by cancelling the one awarded to Peter Handke. Ina Vukic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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