Croatia: Stop Violating History Of Homeland War

Ivo Josipovic (L) and Timislav Nikolic (R)

Ivo Josipovic (L) and Timislav Nikolic (R)

Last week Croatia’s president Ivo Josipovic visited Serbia and held official talks for the first time with Serbian counterpart Tomislav Nikolic after controversial statements by the extreme Serb nationalist Nikolic on the wars and massacres in the 1990s in ex Yugoslavia since he became Serbia’s president in May 2012. Nikolic, that is, stated that Vukovar in eastern Croatia was a “Serbian city” and questioned the genocide of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica by Serbian-Bosnians led by Ratko Mladic and RadovanKaradzic.

Vukovar was at the centre of the Croatian independence war in 1991-1995; it was ethnically cleansed of non-Serbs, it’s multitudes of Croatian women were raped and men and women tortured – kept in concentration camps; it was occupied by Serb forces from November 1991. Much the same horrid reality awaited 1/3 of Croatian territory; the 1995 Operation storm liberated Serb-occupied Krajina. Those are the facts of history that Croatia found itself in when 94% of its voters voted to secede from communist Yugoslavia and build democracy in 1991 and Serbia and much of the Croatian Serb minority did not want that.

Well Josipovic’s visit to Serbia last week appeared a mirror image of cold relations and the unpleasantness of it cut chills into the bones of Croatian people, especially war veterans and truth respecting people when Serbia’s Nikolic voiced that it bothers him that “Croatian school textbooks qualify Serbs as occupiers and Chetniks…”.

It would seem that Nikolic continues with his politically foul tricks in denying the truth of Serb brutality in the aggression against Croatia (and Bosnia and Herzegovina for that matter). It proves that Nikolic is on a mission to eradicate the history as it happened, to wipe out from history the fact that Belgrade based Yugoslav Peoples’ Army did in fact mobilise itself for aggression and occupation to strengthen the fighting power of Croatian-Serb rebel forces.

And Croatia’s Josipovic stood by while Nikolic said this instead of replying something like: well, it is the truth – Serbs did occupy Croatian territory and Serb forces did revive the WWII Chetnik movement and its units did call themselves Chetniks. Vojislav Seselj, current at the ICTY on war crimes charges, named Tomislav Nikolic a Chetnik Duke – and I haven’t seen or read anywhere that Nikolic rejected the title.

While Croatia’s president Josipovic declined to confirm or deny that the ICJ lawsuit for genocide against Serbia will be withdrawn, he did comment that matters of such nature couldn’t be discussed while there are still hundreds of Croatian civilians and soldiers missing from the Homeland War.

Nikolic said that it is not good that Croatia will not withdraw its lawsuit because “in Serbia, and probably in Croatia too, when two neighbours get into fight over the border, then they stop talking to each other.”
“You can never say that good friends are those who go to court. In these three weeks of the trial we will spit dirt at each other and show the worst possible things about each other,” said Nikolic.

Well, I find it impossible for the two neighbours to be friends by burying the horrible truth and by denying the victims the right to justice and compensation.  Croatia must not withdraw its lawsuit against Serbia and I do hold that Croatian government does not have a full mandate to play with victims’ rights to justice and make decisions on whether to withdraw the lawsuit or not – such decisions must be made with the benefit of e.g. victim impact statements and victims’ rights representation.

And now, Croatia’s education minister Zeljko Jovanovic says that he has written a letter to Nikolic and enclosed copies of Croatia’s school textbooks so that Nikolic could see for himself, “read them and convince himself that it is not true what he is saying”.

First of all I would say: why bother!? Nothing will turn Nikolic away from justifying the unjustifiable; nothing will convince Nikolic that history must be truthfully recorded.

And the more frightening issue for Croatia is: if the textbooks don’t say that Serbs were the aggressors in the war, what are they saying?  Or, is it that Jovanovic is clearing a path to organising new textbook editions, which would erase the truth about Croatia’s Homeland War and why and how it started and continued?

I would not put such manipulation of history past the former communists.

Minister Jovanovic said yesterday: “Besides, a completely new generation of textbooks is in front of us, in which everything will be in accordance with historical facts and without any politicisation.  Equally, we expect that from Serbian history textbooks”.  So, why tell Nikolic he was not saying the truth when he said Croatian textbooks charactersis Serbs as occupiers and Chetniks, if that is a historical fact? Serbs who organised and implemented the aggression and occupation of Croatia characterised themselves as such, proclaimed themselves as such – Croatians didn’t do it! And that is a fact.

I just wish the Croatian government would fight harder for the truth rather than try and placate Serbia’s ranting president who could obviously not give a hoot as to justice for victims.

Why desecrate and violate the history of the Homeland War by giving weight to the pathetic and abominable words that come out of the mouth of the one who represents the aggressor, the torturer, the rapist …?

It would be more conducive to eventual friendship and reconciliation for Croatian government representatives to firmly represent Croatia’s people/victims and truth rather than treating Serbia’s president with proverbial kid gloves, which approach, by the way, only breeds more intolerance, creates more confusion, and prolongs agony in the path to justice for victims. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps.(ZGB)

Nope! Croatia cannot be a friend of the ICTY court!

Croatia is liberated from Serb occupation August 1995, dr Franjo Tudjman congratulates the forces

ICTY Appeal Chamber has February 8 rejected the application by the government of Republic of Croatia for Friend of the court (amicus curiae) status in the Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac appeal.

Knowing the attitude that the ICTY seemed to have saddled itself with from its beginnings – don’t trust people because all are guilty – such a rejection, albeit saddening and troublesome, comes with no real surprise. Given that the ICTY Prosecution went on a rampage against the whole of the Croatian leadership with its theory of joint criminal enterprise (i.e. that Croats drove the Serbs out of Croatia in August 1995 at the end of the liberating Operation Storm) the chance of Croatian State being approved as a Friend of the court was slim.

Brief timetable of submissions:

  •   18 October 2006, ICTY Trial Chamber refused Croatia’s application for amicus curiae status/ to intervene in the case, assist the court;
  •   This application – refused;
  • 16 December 2011 Croatia files another submission for amicus curiae status – marked confidential;
  • 30 December 2011 the Prosecution files a response to Croatia’s submission – marked confidential;
  • 3 January 2012 Croatia files a reply to the Prosecution’s response – marked confidential.

Croatia’s claim, among others, was that since the Trial Chamber had named in its April 2011 judgment against Gotovina and Markac several members of the government at the time, then the government has a right to intervene and explain its position.

Nothing wrong with that logic, as far as I can see. Indeed, if a third party is named in a court’s guilty judgment, without being heard, one would assume that third party has a right of reply – at least. But, the logic of natural justice seems to elude many sectors of the ICTY.

Of course, the Prosecution claimed that States do not have the right to intervene or file statements of interest!

The mind boggles! Why does the ICTY have a right to point the finger at States (or its top government officials as a group) then, if its case is against individuals!?

Tthe Appeals Chamber has found that allowing Croatia’s national interests to enter into the case (Croatia’s application as amicus curiae) is beyond the scope of issues on Appeal.

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

The issues on Appeal are centred around joint criminal enterprise concocted by the Trial Chamber not only against Gotovina or Markac, but against government leaders of Croatian state, who represent national interests in anyone’s books, except the ICTY’s.

The contradictions in all of this are staggering. The court and the Prosecution judge Gotovina and Markac individually for a joint enterprise, which according to the court was planned and executed by a group of people it names, and yet that group has no right to defend or explain itself in the same court. No doubt in my mind: the Prosecution at the ICTY has strapped blinkers on and refuses to even acknowledge fairness, or look sideways where the full truth lies or may lie. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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