Fortunate are the countries spared from communism after WWII

Serb rebel leader Jovan Raskovic at Srb, Croatia, 25 July 1990

Had Milorad Pupovac, president of the Independent Democratic Serb Party in Croatia, demonstrated better care and respect for the multitudes of innocent Croatian and non-Serb victims from early 1990’s in his speech at the 71st anniversary of anti-fascist (communist) WWII uprising against fascism in Srb last Friday, then this celebration of antifascist uprising would represent a heartfelt tribute to victims of fascism. But no, Pupovac went on to say that 27th July was the day when some people should hang their heads in shame, but that does not include those at the ceremony.


Vecernji List portal further reports that Pupovac said: “with sadness we must talk about the victims of Croatian villages in this area who fell as a result of beastly Chetnik occupation that acted in Srb. Those that had no ideas for togetherness, idea of common freedom like antifascists and partisans had”.

The reality is that there were present at Srb (last Friday) descendants, or relatives, or neighbours of the 1990’s Serbs who imposed horror in Croatia.

Pupovac could benefit from lessons in historical facts as well as in human compassion if he truly wants effective reconciliation between Croatia’s Serbs and Croatia’s non-Serbs.

The historical fact associated with Srb is that both sides murdered and slaughtered. While fascists slaughtered 300 Serbs around the place of Srb, the Serbs (Chetniks) – close to those celebrated on 27th July went on to slaughter and destroy the whole Croatian village in the nearby Boricevac in the night between the 1st and 2nd of August 1941 (those Croatians from that village not murdered were banished from the village).

The so-called uprising in Srb on 27 July 19941 is considered by many to have been a criminal Chetnik action. Documents confirm that mainly Serb Chetniks took part in this uprising and that, beforehand, they made an agreement with Italian fascists, hence, this celebrated Srb uprising should be called a fascist-chetnik operation rather than antifascist.

The salt rubbed so brutally at last Friday’s Srb celebration into the Croatian victims’ wounds has little to do with the fact that the celebrated so-called antifascist uprising against the fascist or Nazi WWII occupation of Croatia  in Srb on 27th July 1941 or that the Serb-led antifascist conglomerate slaughtered many Croatians in the same week of 1941 in Boricevac, but has a great deal to do with the fact that it was the place of Srb that marked the beginnings of the planning of the horrible Serb aggression in Croatia in early 1990’s.

That is, some 100,000 Serbs assembled in Srb on 25 July 1990 and made a declaration establishing the Serbian Assembly in Croatia, with the seat in Srb, as political representation of Serbian nation in Croatia. This went on to embrace extreme Serbian nationalism in Croatia, barricading roads in Croatia from 17 August 1990, leading to the proclamation of the Republic of Serbian Krajina within Croatia’s territory, instigating the abhorrent and brutal war of Serb aggression in Croatia.

The fact that Croatia’s former president Stjepan Mesic took part in these celebrations in Srb on Friday 27th July 2012 only evidences how cruel towards the plight of victims of Croatian Homeland War (early 1990’s) he is. Were he as antifascist as he claims, were he for freedom as he claims, he would, as honorary president of Croatian antifascist association, make an effort in contributing to the healing of the still fresh Croatian Homeland War victims’ wounds so that ethnic reconciliation in Croatia can make more positive headway.

But no, Mesic, I believe, has rarely – if at all – protected the legitimate interests of Croatian people as a nation. He often finds himself in such controversial situations that might throw a negative light upon Croatians where there is no negative light.  And that cannot be by accident.

Several dozens of protesters against the antifascist celebrations at Srb, last Friday, sent a clear message of pain that still exists, unhealed in Croatia. But, Mesic twisted and poisoned that fact by accusing the protesters of trying to equate the WWII fascists with WWII antifascists.

What can one say at the claims that the territory of Yugoslavia is strewn with mass graves of victims of communism while bypassing the graves of victims of fascism … we need to fight against that,” Mesic said.

The reality, which Mesic conveniently misrepresents, is that the graves of victims of fascism are not bypassed, indeed they’ve been well marked and many monuments raised to the victims. The reality is, also, that perpetrators of WWII fascist crimes have been brought to courts over the past decades. The reality is, also, that no monuments have been raised to the victims of WWII communist crimes in Croatia and the perpetrators of those crimes have not been brought to courts.

So, Mesic has certainly shown no compassion for any victims and used the Srb opportunity to throw a yet another spanner in the work of those who pursue justice for victims of all crimes – particularly victims of communist crimes. It’s heartwarming, though, to know that there are many in Croatia who see this and don’t shy away from making their points and claims known through the media.

Croatia’s antifascists attempt to use Srb of 1941 to demonstrate that there were some Serbs in history who fought for Croatian freedom (against fascism) could be construed as a measure of a reconciliation process between Croats and Serbs, but such an interpretation fails miserably in the knowledge that it was the very place of Srb where the roots of Serb carnage in Croatia of early 1990’s were planted.

The antifascists could be no crueler nor crasser than this. Absolutely abominable. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatian Generals at ICTY Appeal: we fought honourably, facts have been twisted

Croatian Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac

Like many throughout the world I sat for hours watching the live streaming of the Croatian generals’ Appeal hearing in the ICTY, Monday 14 May. Had I not heard the Appellants’ defence arguments first, had I tuned in at the point of prosecution’s arguments I could have easily concluded that the reason Operation Storm occurred in August 1995 was to expel Serbs from Croatia.

The prosecution’s view is that Operation Storm was not a military offensive (to liberate Serb occupied territory) that brought about undesired consequences, but an attack aimed at deporting the Serb civilian population out of Croatia. They said some 20,000 Serbs left Krajina due to fear from shelling by the Croatian Army. They argued that the transcripts from Croatian leadership meeting at Brijuni (July 31, 1995) and the events when Croatian army targeted whole towns for shelling where there were both civilian and military targets supported the prosecutions claim of joint criminal enterprise to drive Serbs out.

When asked by Presiding Judge Theodor Meron about the defence claim that there had been no civilian casualties during the shelling, the prosecution said that there was no need to prove that there had been civilian casualties because several witnesses said during the trial that they had seen dead bodies and wounded people in the streets of Knin.

The problem with these cited witness statements is that they had not been tested in court, nor had the credibility of the witnesses been tested; the Trial Chamber simply accepted as fact statements of witnesses who merely said that they saw some bodies lying on the streets of Knin, without proving that those bodies were in fact dead people and that, if they were dead, they were killed by the shelling… Gotovina’s defence attorney Luka Misetic brought the court’s attention to the fact that at no time, not even till today – 18 years after Operation Storm – had anybody come forth saying that a person they knew or was a family member had been killed in the shelling of Knin. Simply there were no civilian casualties from that shelling.

The prosecution pressed on with its case, saying that even if the Appeals Chamber should decide that Croatian artillery attacks during Operation Storm in the summer of 1995 were not illegal, it should rule that Croatian army did set out to expel Serbs from Krajina under joint criminal enterprise that had that goal.

Gotovina’s defence attorney Greg Kehoe challenged the use of t so-called “200-metre rule” by the Trial Chamber (2011) to determine whether artillery shells were aimed at military or civilian targets. The Trial Chamber had ruled that any shells falling more that 200 metres from a military target were aimed at civilians and Kehoe said that the Trial Chamber had introduced this rule after the prosecution failed to prove civilians were targeted.

Gotovina’s defence team sought the quashing of his convictions.

There’s no dispute that shelling was legal, it was a military operation to liberate occupied territory – legal operation whichever way one looks at it.

General Mladen Markac defence attorney John Jones said that a conclusion on the existence of a joint criminal enterprise aimed at the persecution of the Serb population could not be drawn from the transcripts of the Brijuni meeting. He said that all conclusions from the trial chamber’s verdict about the persecution of civilians were based on the conclusion on the illegal shelling, stressing that if there had been no illegal shelling, there had not been a joint criminal enterprise either.

The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) said on Monday, after a day-long appeal hearing, that a verdict would be handed down soon, adding the the key point would be the reasons for the departure of the Serb population from the territory which was under their control until the 1995 Operation Storm.

General Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac were given the opportunity to address the court themselves and this is what they said:

Gotovina spoke in the French language:  “During my entire military career, I endeavoured to perform my duties dignifiedly and honourably, and have always given my all as a commander and soldier in order to protect civilians. As a commander I am proud of the results of the Operation Storm. I’m proud not only because we won but because the damage to the civilians and their homes was minimal. As a man I very much regret every lost life and damaged property. I cannot, however, be responsible for that which others have done or omitted to do while I was away in Bosnia.

Even to this day I am convinced that I have fulfilled my duties in the best possible way. We were in a battle for life and death with the enemy, fought so we could liberate our country. We tried hard to maximally protect the lives of soldiers and civilians. If I made mistakes, such as refusing to give myself up to the court, I am the first to regret that. I am not saying that I am without sin, but I hope I will not be judged for not being perfect. But, even if you conclude that I had made wrong decisions you will not establish that I had ever wanted or agreed to that any soldier or civilian should be killed because he/she was a Serb or belonged to some other national group. 

I am conscious of and content that my actions during Operation Storm were correct and my commands are witness to that fact. Therefore, I do not seek any favours from you, nor do I ask you to do anything other than what my defence has asked of you in my name. I live with the feeling of satisfaction that my actions were in harmony with the actions of an honest and diligent military officer who had given his all in hard circumstances.

If this Chamber could simply examine my actions in that context, I will be content and would not ask anything else”.

Markac spoke in the Croatian language: “I am surprised at the statements made about Storm that were not based on facts. Moved by the attempts to reshape the facts from the Homeland war I want to say that I am not a member of a joint criminal enterprise nor am I a war criminal. I have heard about existence of a joint criminal enterprise for the first time during these proceedings. Neither the representatives of the European Union or anyone from Croatia had shown me that joint criminal enterprise exists. Never had anybody shown me illegal actions by members of the special police MUP, whose professionalism makes me especially proud. I have not committed nor hidden any crime because that is not my way of viewing life. I am a police-military officer who has performed the tasks given to him by the Minister of internal affairs of Croatia responsibly. My job was to defend and liberate illegitimately occupied Croatia.”

Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatian Operation Storm: “Serbs forced Serbs to flee”

Dr. Adalbert Rebic (centre) at the launch of his book "All My Refugees" Photo:Marko Lukunic/PIXSELL

On Wednesday 4 April the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has scheduled an appeal hearing in the case of Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac for May 14.

Gotovina’s and Markac’s defence teams will each have 90 minutes to present their submissions and the prosecutors will have as much time to respond. After the prosecution’s response, the two defence teams will each have 30 minutes to reply, and the two generals have been given ten minutes each to address the judges at the end of the hearing if they so wish.

Now, less than a week ago (on Sunday 1 April) ICTY prosecutor Serge Brammertz stated in an interview that ICTY is no longer insisting on the delivery of documents pertaining to the 1995 Operation Storm, when Croatia liberated a large part of its area previously held by Serb rebels.

Brammetrtz said that the Trial chamber has already made a ruling on the case and documents are no longer required, adding that “Croatian officials have pledged to continue an investigation about where those documents are regardless of our position, so that they can solve the problems for their own purposes”.

It’s a known fact that Brammertz, and Carla del Ponte before him, were on a vicious hunt for the so-called Croatian artillery diaries which according to their florid and twisted imagination would prove that there was excessive shelling during Operation Storm and that such excessive, nonselective shelling served as a strategy to expel Serbs from Krajina.

The alleged Artillery diaries could not be found anywhere, ICTY prosecutors accused Croatia of lying etc and Croatia’s EU accession negotiations suffered severely.

Gotovina and Markac defence motions to ICTY to subpoena documents from Serbia that would prove that shelling was not excessive were twice denied during the last half of 2011.

Perhaps Brammertz thinks it’s funny that Croatia will continue to look for those documents for “their own purposes”, or feels resentful about the possibility that Croatia may confirm such documents never existed when the ICTY failed to pursue the matter. In any case his comment is in bad taste.

Regardless of what the outcome of the Appeal may be the people will want the truth as the issue of whether the Croatians expelled Serbs from Krajina using excessive shelling or whether in fact the Serbs organised and orchestrated the exodus themselves needs to be resolved. Otherwise, one is looking down a very long dark road of recriminations and bitterness between Serbia and Croatia. That cannot be good for anyone. Truth must be known no matter what but it seems the ICTY isn’t going to be the one to confirm the truth.

Given that ICTY denied the motions to subpoena Serbia for documents perhaps there are other ones already there that would show, after all, that Croatians did not expel the Serbs from Croatia as a matter of joint criminal enterprise and as the ICTY prosecutor claimed.

If such documents are not already there, and given that Serbia has not been required to produce documents, let’s hope that the book “All My Refugees” by dr Adalbert Rebic in Croatia, released last week 29 March might make its way to the ICTY Appeals Chamber, in good time – as food for serious  thought, at least.

During the time of the Croatian Homeland War dr. Adalbert Rebic, a Theologist, was Head of Croatian Government Office for Refugees and Displaced persons. His responsibilities were not only Croatian refugees and displaced persons but also the Serb refugees at the time.

At the launch of his new book “All My Refugees” he said:

The international tribunal in the Hague has convicted our Generals Gotovina and Markac, for, among other things, forced expulsion of Serbs from Croatian regions using nonselective shelling. As a man who has worked for more than for years for refugees and displaced persons, who had contact with the Serbs and who had pleaded with them not to leave Croatia, that conviction not only saddened me but irritated me to extremes, because that theory keeps repeating. Hence, I decided to look into and publish the documents that the Serbs themselves had published; such as documents of civilian protection, directive for relocation, etc.”

The Serbs who ruled over the so-called self proclaimed Serbian Republic of Krajina (within Croatian borders) organised their departure by themselves. And this was done systematically, before the start of Operation Storm, they even held evacuation drills,” said Rebic remembering how on the day of the capitulation of Serbian Republic of Krajina he found himself in Topusko with two haul-trucks of humanitarian aid for the Serbs who were leaving Croatia.

There were drinks, milk, bread, cigarettes … I asked the International representatives what to do, how to stop them (Serbs) and have them return, and they said that we must let them go wherever they want. I spoke to one of their ministers, who was seated in a car, and told him not to go to Serbia, for how and where are they going to live, that Serbia is not their homeland, to stop the files of people and turn them back, as president Tudjman guarantees their safety. No, we are going to Serbia, he told me.

When on 9th of August (1995) we arrived in Obrovac, we met a group of women who had after five days come out of a cellar, in which they hid so they wouldn’t be taken to Serbia. They told us that Serbian soldiers beat people with battons and chased them to flee, and that they even killed some”, said dr. Rebic adding that the long lasting propaganda which portrayed Croatians as Ustashe and killers is to blame for everything, and this caused a panic and speeded up the exodus.

In his aforementioned interview last Sunday Serge Brammertz said: “We are aware that coming to terms with the past is a complex process. Many find it difficult to accept that their war heroes actually abused their position and committed serious crimes against civilians. Therefore it is important for the Hague tribunal to support by documents the irrefutable truth.”

It’s not clear what documents he is referring to here; it’s clear he has given up on searching for documents that he himself used to say are vital. Brammetrz should stop patronizing and offending the Croatian nation – if a hero has committed a crime, then that is accepted, but what’s not accepted is if a crime not committed by a hero is pinned to that hero by a malicious theory developed for political purposes of equating the victim with the aggressor. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps.(Syd)

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