Outrageous UN-Court Rape Of Croatian Historical Truth And Global Common Sense

General Slobodan Praljak

There are good reasons why death sentences have in most countries been abolished – one is that innocence of crimes can escape even those judges that enjoy the reputation of impeccable competence in judging evidence before the courts.

Do not for one moment even consider let alone believe that Croatian General Slobodan Praljak was a war criminal – his ICTY indictment did not include any crimes that he himself had committed against Muslims/Bosniaks, by his own hand. The crimes he and others in the group were indicted for basically come in the form of participating in a politically concocted concept and doctrine of joint criminal enterprise/line of command responsibility even if some actual crimes that have been said to have been committed occurred hundreds of kilometres away, hundreds of kilometres away from any knowledge or participation, any planning on their part…

The Croatian general Slobodan Praljak’s act of suicide by poison in the courtroom, Hague, on Wednesday 29 November 2017, after standing up in the dock and saying “Slobodan Praljak is not a war criminal and I reject your judgment with contempt”, is perhaps the strongest statement of disdain for unjust court verdict, injustice, the modern world has seen. Having served much of the 20 year prison sentence passed, awaiting ICTY trial and appeal, Praljak would have been out of prison within a couple of years. To his credit, that just and decent human being, Croat, was not going to serve a prison sentence as a wrongfully convicted war criminal a single day longer! That speaks volume of his courage and honour!

Rest in God’s peace and embrace, General Slobodan Praljak.

In its final judgment, before it closes operations, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague had shown its true, immersed in politics rather than facts colours. ICTY has on Wednesday demonstrated that it is a body that toys with history and evidently writes history – false history! If anything defines a joint criminal enterprise then this judgment itself would surely rate among the top culprits.

I am certain you have read numerous news articles or seen numerous videos, heard numerous audios paraphrasing and interpreting, in the simplest of forms, that which occurred in the Hague on 29 November 2017, in words to this effect: “While Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina were busy carving out the borders with ethnic cleansing and genocide of what became Serbian Republic within Bosnia and Herzegovina state borders, stamped as valid entity in the Dayton Agreement 1995, in the southwest, Herceg-Bosna region, Croat forces with significant support from Croatia turned on the Bosnian Army (Bosniaks/Muslims) and set out to establish their own ethnically homogenous space, using some of the same methods of ethnic cleansing employed by the Serbs…”. Yes, the bottom line of the ICTY Appeal Chamber finding was exactly that. The fact that the Croat-Muslim conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina broke out to a full war rests with Muslim/Bosniak (helped by Mujahedin’s from Middle East and surrounds) attacks and massacres, not the other way around. Just consider the massacres of Croats by Bosniak/Muslim forces in the villages of Luzani, Gusti Grab, Dusina in January 1993 and track the Muslim onslaught that continued with regular and vicious force against which the Croats needed to defend themselves, and your conclusion would be that Croats were not the aggressor as ICTY says.

The facts that are well known to the ICTY will lead you to Muslim-led Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ABiH) with its attachments of foreign fighters referred to as “Mujahedin” or “Holy Warriors”. The “Mujahedin”, who principally came from Islamic countries, began to arrive in Bosnia and Herzegovina sometime during the middle of 1992. The “Mujahedin” were prepared to conduct a “Jihad” or “Holy War” against those of different faith and religion in Bosnia and Herzegovina. ABiH with its Mujahedin forces attacked towns and villages mainly inhabited by Croats. Predominately Bosnian Croat civilians, including women, children, the elderly, and the infirm, were subjected to wilful killings and serious injury. In the course of, or after the attacks, many Croat civilians were killed and many more were wounded or harmed while attempting to hide or escape. In several instances, ABiH forces killed Croatian Defence Council (HVO) troops after their surrender. Mainly Bosnian Croats were unlawfully imprisoned and otherwise detained in ABiH detention facilities. The imprisoned and otherwise detained Bosnian Croats were killed and beaten, subjected to physical and / or psychological abuse, intimidation and inhuman treatment, including being confined in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, and suffered inhumane deprivations of basic necessities, such as adequate food, water and clothing. They were provided little or no medical attention. Bosnian Croats who were imprisoned and otherwise detained were forced to dig trenches, to build bunkers and to collect human bodies in hostile and otherwise hazardous conditions. Some such imprisoned and otherwise detained persons were killed in the course of being forced to engage in such activities. Imprisoned and otherwise detained Croats were used as both human shields and hostages. ABiH forces plundered and destroyed Bosnian Croat property with no military justification. Bosnian Croat dwellings and buildings, as well as civilian personal property and livestock, were destroyed or severely damaged. In addition, Bosnian Croat buildings, sites and institutions dedicated to religion were targeted for destruction or otherwise damaged or violated…

Listing the atrocities committed by Bosniaks/Muslims against which Croats needed to defend themselves in Bosnia and Herzegovina would be an almost endless exercise if one were to examine ICTY recorded facts, but on 29 November 2017 the ICTY chose to pontificate without proof of individual responsibility for crimes on a doctrine of joint criminal enterprise against Croats. Were Croats driven by any shape or form by the alleged joint criminal enterprise would they, instead of Muslims/Bosniaks not have been the attackers in the first instances that led to full out war?!

ICTY’s finding regarding Croats and joint criminal enterprise to do with Herceg-Bosna and Bosnia and Herzegovina as a whole, really, could not be further away from the truth, from the facts, and it must be reacted to with outrage.

What ensued in the Appeals Chamber of in The Hague on Wednesday 29 November 2017 regarding judgment against six Croats from Bosnia and Herzegovina (Jadranko Prlić, Bruno Stojić, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petković, Valentin Ćorić and Berislav Pušić) is nothing short of outrage. Outrage pointed at the UN Tribunal that, in majority opinion from the bench, disregarded facts and evidence, which, if given due evidentiary weight, would give them no option but to overturn the 2013 Trial Chamber verdict of joint criminal enterprise. But, its not far-fetched to conclude that the ICTY has made up its mind a long time ago to brand Croatia and Croatians including the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) defending themselves from brutal aggression by both Serbs and later from Bosniak (Muslims) onslaught in early 1990’s as aggressors rather than defenders. That political agenda had been set a long time ago, including with the cunningly executed help by the former president of communist Yugoslavia Stjepan Mesic whose corrupt and perverse fabrications of false political agendas evidently made an impact with ICTY that would see Croatia be equated to Serbia when it comes to aggression. Yugoslav communists have never forgiven Croatian people for establishing an independent and democratic state, for seceding from communist Yugoslavia and last week, at The Hague, the world saw a victory of communist lies.

The indisputable fact is that both Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina were the victims of a Serbian aggression that sought to create a Greater Serbia. “During wartime events in Bosnia and Herzegovina there was not a joint criminal enterprise on the Croatian side nor was there any idea that would include actions that are not in accordance with the international legal order. It should be emphasised that Croatia is the most responsible for the establishment and survival of Bosnia and Herzegovina as an independent country,” said a statement by Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic
Photo: Screenshot

In its first reaction to the ICTY joint criminal enterprise verdict the Croatian government said that many of the allegations in the verdict handed down by the Hague war crimes tribunal in the case of six Bosnian Croat wartime political and military leaders did not take into account the historical truth and facts, that those allegations were unfounded and politically unacceptable, and that it would consider all legal and political mechanisms available to contest them.

The government expresses deep dissatisfaction and regret over today’s verdict which confirmed the sentences for Jadranko Prlic,Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petkovic, Valentin Coric and Berislav Pusic. Many of the allegations do not take into account the historical truth and facts, they are unfounded and politically unacceptable,” the Croatian government said in a statement.

The government recalled the assistance Croatia had extended to Bosnia and Herzegovina when the Serbian military aggression threatened its territorial integrity.

The Croatian government has announced that it will proceed with plucking out parts of the ICTY Appeal Chamber judgment that are wrong and do not fit evidentiary facts and present those to the UN, Security Council with view to discrediting the judgment. This needs to be done post-haste and immediacy in order to stop the grave human suffering this judgment has caused and is causing.

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
Croatian President
Photo: Screenshot

Croatia’s President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, who spoke Thursday 30 November 2017 said: “His (Praljak’s) act struck the heart of the Croatian nation. As the president of Republic of Croatia I want to say clearly and unambiguously that the court in The Hague yesterday did not pronounce a verdict against the Republic of Croatia or against the Croatian people in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Croatia was not the aggressor, but did most for the survival of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a whole, and the Croatian people were the first to resist the Greater Serbia aggression, defending their survival and the survival of Bosnia and Herzegovina as its own country. Croatia and Bosnia were attacked by Milošević’s Serbia and the Yugoslav National Army and those are facts. Croatia didn’t attack anyone…We Croats must have the strength to admit that some of our nationals in Bosnia and Herzegovina did commit crimes and they must be held responsible for them. It’s unjust that Bosniak and Serb crimes against Croats have not been punished in the same way…I call upon Bosniak leaders to do everything in their power to ensure this judgment is not abused, but that it be the end of one and the beginning of a new era… Regretfully, at the very end of its (ICTY’s) existence a conclusion jumps at us that the Tribunal has omitted to achieve its goal of bringing justice for victims of crimes. It placed itself as a political arbiter and not a judicial body… Croatia, along with the United States of America has done the most for the unity of Bosnia and Herzegovina …We will fight with all legal and political means for the truth and justice…

Well, no, the ICTY did not deliver a verdict against Croatia or Croatian people specifically but the effects and the meaning of the verdict are exactly that. As it stands, the verdict gives a certain licence for all manner of persecutions against Croatians in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the least of which are criminal indictments of similar nature against persons who have committed no crimes. Such an outlook would serve no other function but to aid the Bosniak plan for supremacy in the Federation of Bosniaks and Croats within Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is an outlook that is in itself criminal and utterly perverse, for it satisfies no justice for victims who perished by the hand of others, not of the accused. It’s regretful that the president did not reject the ICTY verdict outright or, at least, announced that she will do everything in her power to challenge it.

The facts to which the ICTY Appeal Tribunal in its verdict of joint criminal enterprise (that Croats formed Herceg-Bosna entity within Bosnia and Herzegovina with view to joining that part of Bosnia and Herzegovina to Croatia and in that name committed war crimes) wilfully turned a blind eye to include:

  • If it were not for the Croatian defence Council (HVO) – which ICTY has branded as the military component of what it says was a joint criminal enterprise – Bosnia and Herzegovina would not have been successful in its defence from Serb aggression nor would it have been internationally recognised as an independent state (beginning of April 1992 Croatia was the first country to recognise Bosnia and Herzegovina as an independent and sovereign state);
  • Croats and Croatia at all times maintained the resolve that the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina should remain as is, without divisions and continue as triethnic state made up of three constitutionally equal peoples: Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs. Croats gave decisive votes at referendum beginning of 1992 to keep Bosnia and Herzegovina as undivided and one state while at the same time the Serbs proclaimed part of the state as their republic, just as they did in Croatia the year before;
  • All humanitarian and military assistance to Bosniaks/Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina went via Croatia; Croatia enabled and carried out within its own territory and with own resources the training of various formations and hierarchy of Muslim/Bosniak army personnel; Croatia took over the care of over 500,000 Bosnian/Muslim refugees during the war; over 15,000 war wounded Muslims from Bosnia and Herzegovina were treated in Croatia’s hospitals and medical centres; – these certainly are no actions a country, Croatia, intent on being an aggressor against Bosnia and Herzegovina, as the ICTY says, would undertake;
  • Croatia and Herceg-Bosna were signatories together with Bosniak representatives to all international agreements during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina – neither was considered criminal then;
  • Bosniaks pursue the line that Herceg Bosna was a criminal enterprise that wanted to attach itself to Croatia – this defies all logic and common sense, let alone the facts that serve as evidence to the contrary – the fact that Bosniaks and Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina signed the Washington Agreement in March 1994, forming a Federation of Bosniaks and Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of these facts;
  • Croats and Bosniaks/Muslims fought side-by-side to defend Bosnia and Herzegovina against brutal Serb aggression; defending, for example, the city of Bihac in 1995 which, if not defended by Croats would have seen another Srebrenica/genocide of Muslims – the Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina actually called upon Croatia and Croats to intervene and help their defence against the Serb aggressor (ref. Split Agreement/ Declaration, July 1995).

Without a doubt, the ICTY Appeal Chamber had ample evidence to overturn the Trial Chamber finding of joint criminal enterprise against Croatians. No one would dare dispute that members of all three ethnic groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina committed crimes during the war but the responsibility for those crimes must be attached to individuals who committed them not to some flight of fancy of some doctrine that’s driven by a direction of a geopolitical gang and steered by opinion rather than fact.

Not a single person among the six Croats who faced ICTY Appeal judges on Wednesday 29 November 2017 had commanded, planned or committed war crimes.

General Zeljko Glasnovic
Member of Croatian Parliament for Diaspora
Photo: Screenshot

And so if one wants to tell it like it is/was one cannot ignore the words spoken by Member of Croatian Parliament for the Diaspora, General Zeljko Glasnovic, on Thursday 30 November 2017: “…what occurred yesterday (in The Hague) was rape of historical truth and common sense…

The very body that hands down justice, or is supposed to hand down justice, whose verdicts must serve civilisation’s standards, to reflect both historical and factual truths – ICTY for example – turns the victim into an aggressor! For political gain that serves someone’s agenda and it’s not that difficult to decipher whose agenda. We live and learn. We live and suffer injustice, we do not and should not engage in revenge because of injustice struck against us – we wait as the Bible says: “…vengeance is mine, said the Lord!” Truth will out! Ina Vukic

Herceg-Bosna: Non-Malignancy In Defending Croatian Life

Herceg-Bosna Six – From left: Jadranko Prlic, Milivoj Petkovic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Berislav Pusic, Valentin Coric
Photo: AFP

The former commander of the Bosnian Serb army, Ratko Mladic, dubbed the Butcher of Bosnia, has last week at the ICTY been found guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, participating in joint criminal enterprise and sentenced to life in prison.

This coming week an important verdict from the ICTY Appeal Chamber awaits six Croatian men (Jadranko Prlić, Bruno Stojić, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petković, Valentin Ćorić and Berislav Pušić) in relation to war crimes charges pertaining to the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The spin and mantra concocted by anti-Croatian political lobby that Croatians engaged in a joint criminal enterprise in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the early 1990’s, with view to creating a Greater Croatia/i.e. that Herceg-Bosna territory should become part of Croatia, made it to the ICTY war crimes charge sheet against these Croats. Should one concentrate upon facts as evidence, transcripts of tape-recorded conversations from the Security Council of the Republic of Croatia during the period 1992–95, for example, one would come across the justified and widespread fear that Croats would become dominated in an independent Bosnia and Herzegovina (by Serbs and Muslims/Bosniaks) but that Croatian leadership in early 1992 expressed strongly the idea that entertaining the idea of any part of Bosnia and Herzegovina becoming joined with Croatia was not the path Croatia would pursue with its military assistance, but defending Croats from attacks would be a matter of necessity, especially given the relatively much smaller number of Croats there as opposed to Serb and Bosniak population. Fears of political domination over Croats and Bosniaks came from Serb onslaught first, then subsequently this fear transformed into security concerns in the second half on 1992 due to the increasing tensions stemming from the escalation of Bosniak pursuits to take over control of areas where Croat majority lived. The presence of imported foreign Mujahedin forces (from Middle East and surrounds) fighting alongside Bosniaks added further weight to the Croatian fear for bare survival.

Back to Mladic case, the distressing reality is that Mladic got most of what he, the Serbs and Serbia wanted: a Bosnian Serb statelet (Republika Srpska/Serbian Republic) from which almost every Croat. Bosniak and other non-Serb was cleansed and banished or murdered. He is adored, his portrait adorns bars and office walls in Bosnia and Serbia, his name sung at football matches…the denial and lack of remorse for the criminal enterprise continues.

Mladic faced two counts of genocide: one for Srebrenica, the other for what happened in the “municipalities” elsewhere in Bosnia. He faced no charges for his heinous crimes in Croatia, which were as gruesome as the ones in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In Croatia as in Bosnia and Herzegovina serial atrocities were committed, while the international community remained indecisive, and worse – tolerating and even attempting to justify on some trumped-up historical ethnic hatreds the utter depravity of Serb aggression. In that, victims – dehumanised!

The whole idea of the Hague tribunal was as much an act of contrition for that failure as it was ambition for international justice. Mladic’s pogroms included more mass-murder, torture, mutilation and rape, in the camps at Omarska, Trnopolje and Keretem in northwest Bosnia. To the east, in Visegrad, civilians – including babies – were herded alive into houses for incineration, or down to a bridge to be shot, or chopped into pieces, and hurled into the river Drina. Then there was the wholesale demolition of countless towns and villages, and the ‘cleansing’ of all non-Serbs, by death or deportation; the razing of mosques and Catholic churches; the gathering of women and girls into camps for violation all night, every night. And the rest,” Ed Vulliamy (a prosecution witness at Mladic trial, one of the first western journalists to discover Serb concentration camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina), The Guardian.

The Hague ICTY’s (International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia), being wound down and replaced with Mechanisms for Criminal Tribunals (MICT), task was always to be judicial, but also to “promote reconciliation” in the Former Yugoslavia territories. There is no reconciliation and the Judges at ICTY have hopefully recognised that fact. There is no reconciliation!

The so-called “joint criminal enterprise” had, in political efforts demonising Croats, spilled into the courtrooms with an overriding political view of equating the victim with the aggressor and with the stark and blatant lack of attempting to fully address the Bosniak/Muslim onslaught against Croats within Bosnia and Herzegovina, the future looks most grim for all should the ICTY confirm a verdict of joint criminal enterprise against the Croatian six this coming week.

While justice is done and seen to have been done via Mladic verdict as relating to the Serb aggression, Serb joint criminal enterprise, and its consequences, a verdict of similar weight in the case of Herceg-Bosna Six would neither be justice nor would justice be seen to have been done.

The United Nations human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, called the verdict against Mladic “a momentous victory for justice” and declared that “Mladic is the epitome of evil.”

The problem here is that Mladic did not act alone – the whole of Serb-aggression was the epitome of evil that had to be stopped for humanity’s sake. So, let’s not lose that picture!

Regardless of the verdict that we all feel as part of the campaign against Serbs, Ratko Mladic remains a legend of the Serb nation,” said Milorad Dodik, the president of the Serb statelet in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was carved out and retained via ethnic cleansing of non-Serbs.

Before the start of Serb aggression in Bosnia and Herzegovina there were more than 760,000 Croats (17.4% of the country’s total population) living there and today there are barely 450,000. The loss of Croatian population in Bosnia and Herzegovina far exceeds that of the Serbs and Bosniaks (Muslims) and it unequivocally points to not only the many murdered and banished but also to a still-existing oppression of Croats with view to annihilating them as a constitutional ethnic group with equal rights as Serbs and Bosniaks in that country.

While Serbs ethnically cleansed Croats from the so-called Serb statelet “Serbian Republic” within Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croats, faced with Serb aggression and subsequent the added Muslim or Bosniak onslaught against them, managed to hold on and preserve their lives, where they made up more than half of the population, in towns that were at the time defended with the help of HVO (Croatian Defence Council) and include: Grude, Posušje, Široki Brijeg, Čitluk, Dobretići, Domaljevac, Ljubuški, Kupres, Tomislavgrad, Livno, Usora, Neum, Orašje, Kreševo, Prozor-Rama, Odžak, Žepče, Čapljina, Kiseljak i Mostar.

In an interview in the German magazine Der Spiegel in January 1995, President Franjo Tudjman of Croatia said: “The Muslims wanted to reign over the whole of Mostar then gain ground to the sea, and finally create an Islamic state. That is what our Croats are defending themselves against.”

Should injustice from the ICTY Trial Chamber be cemented when it comes to joint criminal enterprise waged against the six Croats in the Hague on 29 November 2017 then, besides injustice and conviction on false and twisted evidentiary grounds, it is as clear as day that both Serbs and Muslims (Bosniaks) will get what they wanted out of Bosnia and Herzegovina from day one: to control parts of the country’s territory and oust the Croats; to ensure Croats become marginalised and eventually disappear.

The active plan to banish Croats from any significant roll in the life of Bosnia and Heregovina did not end with brutal attacks against them during the war from both the Serb and Bosniak side, but it continued with its implementation even after the 1995 Dayton Agreement (which blessed a continued life to the Serbian Republic within the country), after the war. In 2000, for example, a good part of the International community instigated electoral reforms that would give Bosniaks within the Bosniak-Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina the power to rule and “call the shots” over Croats; similar moves were previously put in motion for Serbs within the Serbian Republic in that country. The resulting developments saw and see the increasing loss of equality of Croats within Bosnia and Herzegovina and the increasing numbers of Croats leaving the country under the pressure of oppression and inequality in that constitutionally triethnic state.

Contrary to any interpretations vying to paint Croatia and Croats as aggressors within Bosnia and Herzegovina the fact is that the Croatian leadership never took the decision to attack, but to defend. The full-scale war between the Bosniaks and Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina did not break out until the Mujahedins abducted Živko Totić and killed four soldiers in his entourage, the Croat head of the HVO Military Police in Zenica, on 15 April 1993, even if drive-by shootings and threats did occur with great intensity prior to that date.

The fact is that Croats’ war efforts in Bosnia and Herzegovina followed no joint criminal enterprise but were, indeed, efforts of non-malignant intent and defensive posture regardless of whether they fought to save themselves from Serbs or Bosniaks.

While the ICTY Prosecutor is seeking increased sentences for the Herce-Bosna Six from the Appeals Chamber, the defence seeks acquittal of all charges, or a retrial. The acquittal or retrial are sought on basis of wrong conclusions by the ICTY Trial Chamber regarding the existence of a joint criminal enterprise and the participation in the same by the Herceg-Bosna Six. Acquittal is surely the only just outcome. Ina Vukic

ICTY And Vicious Political Battles Against Survival Of Croats In Bosnia And Herzegovina

From left: Jadranko Prlic, Milivoj Petkovic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Berislav Pusic, Valentin Coric
Photo: AFP

If there was ever a more revealing moment of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s putrid Dayton Peace Accords lined political stage, it appears to be now. Whether staged, coincidental or not, the current boiling-point political crisis has intensified in the very month of ICTY Appeal Chamber hearing for six Herceg-Bosna Croats convicted for war crimes in 2013. In the whirlpool of the current political crisis in BiH that boils one day and simmers the next, the Croat leaders find themselves forced to balance between the needs of their own kin and the state they ostensibly represent (BiH). Despite their secessionist tendencies, the Serbs in BiH are riding this storm in costumes of some sort of champions of unity in times of twilight. Continuing the twilight zone-themed crisis, the Croats find themselves in an ‘unholy alliance’ with war-time enemy Serbs as they resist increasing Bosniak hegemony. A quarter of a century ago Bosniaks and Croats paraded the streets together, celebrating independence from Yugoslavia, fought against Serb aggressor together only to split into fighting against each other as the Bosniak hunger for supremacy grew vicious against Croats. Twenty-five years later, Croats are estranged in their own lands, Bosniaks are frustrated by their inability to govern despite their majority, while Serbs live on in a country they fought to divide.

 

It commenced on March 20th 2017 and it represents the last and biggest-ever case before the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Appeals Chamber. The case concerns six high-level leaders of the Bosnian Croat wartime entity Herceg-Bosna and the Croatian Defence Council (HVO). Jadranko Prlić, Bruno Stojić, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petković, Valentin Ćorić and Berislav Pušić were convicted by the Tribunal’s Trial Chamber on 29 May 2013 for crimes against humanity, violations of the laws or customs of war, and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions committed between 1992 and 1994. The Trial Judgement (appealed), issued on 29 May 2013, comprised over 2,600 pages, including separate and partially dissenting opinions by Judges Jean-Claude Antonetti and Stefan Trechsel.

With the appeal hearing now completed the Appeal Chamber judgment is expected November 2017. The judgment is particularly of interest and importance to Croatia as the 2013 Trial Chamber ruled that the “Herceg Bosna Six” (named above), together with Croatia’s leadership (including dr Franjo Tudjman) had participated in a joint criminal enterprise against Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) – all as part of some Greater Croatia expansion.

The Prlic et al. trial was one of the Tribunal’s largest and most complicated. Trial proceedings began on 26 April 2006. The Prosecution completed its case on 24 January 2008 after presenting the evidence of 249 witnesses, while the Defence cases commenced on 5 May 2008 and closed on 17 May 2010 after presentation of the evidence of 77 witnesses. The total number of trial days amounted to 465, with closing arguments heard between 7 February and 2 March 2011. The Trial Judgement, issued on 29 May 2013, comprises over 2,600 pages, including separate and partially dissenting opinions by Judges Antonetti and Stefan Trechsel.

 

Moving to present day Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), whether politically triggered by the ICTY Appeal hearing for the Herceg-Bosna Six, it is of relevance to note long-standing political crisis in BiH had almost reached a boiling point in March 2017, showing a dangerous, politically volatile reappearance of increased tensions between the three constitutional ethnic groups/people (Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs). The Bosniak representative of the tripartite presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic, submitted a request for revision of the ICJ’s (International Court of Justice) ruling on BiH’s suit against Serbia for genocide (which in essence said there was no genocide committed by Serbs in BiH even if, in the same breath, the court ruled that the mass killings in Srebrenica in 1995 constituted genocide), without approval of either the parliament or the Serbian and Croatian presidents. This created a new crisis in BiH that saw the Croat representative on BiH Presidency, Dragan Covic, caught in a crossfire between Bosniaks and Serbs, and faced with resurrected and intensified high-level threats by the Serbian Republic for indictments for war crimes of a number of Croatian generals and military operatives in the 1990’s war, spilling unrest and political fire into Croatia. This current political crisis is preceded by the volatile tensions between Sarajevo (BiH capital and capital of the Federation of BiH but also de jure capital of Serbian Republic) and Banja Luka (where the government of Serbian Republic entity sits) from last year when Serbian Republic unilaterally held a referendum on its own independence day. The BiH Constitutional Court and International High Representative Valentin Inzko declared the referendum a clear constitutional breach; nonetheless, long-standing President of Serbian Republic Milorad Dodik proceeded to celebrate a day that for many citizens of BiH marks the beginning of Serbian aggression on their country.

 

It almost goes without saying, agreement with Izetbegovic’s move for a review of ICJ decision on genocide would tantamount to an act of betrayal in both Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Croatia, where the scars of Serb genocidal aggression have not been forgotten. Support of Izetbegovic’s move for ICJ decision, on the other hand, means that Bosnian and Croat aspirations for political parity would become even pricklier and Bosniak abuse of Croatian rights within the Federation of BiH would head in the way of deeper institutionalisation.

Nika Pinter
Croatian defence attorney
Photo: Screenshot ICTY Appeals Chamber March 2017

The ICTY Appeals Chamber judgment in the Herceg-Bosna Six case to be delivered in November 2017 will have enormous implications not only for BiH, for Croats in BiH and on stability in BiH but also for Croatia itself. Should the Appeal confirm the Trial Chamber finding that Croatian officials, including late president Franjo Tudjman, were members of a joint criminal enterprise, such a judgment would not only bring a stigma pointing to criminality of Croatia’s politics but also grave financial consequences for Croatia – said recently Nika Pinter, defence attorney for General Slobodan Praljak at ICTY Appeal Tribunal.

 

Pinter said that the past twenty years have seen the creation of a picture about Croats breaking up BiH with criminal goals implemented by aggression against BiH and committing crimes against Bosniaks in accordance with premeditated, joint criminal plan of joining part of BiH to Croatia.

 

And the evidence leads to a different conclusion – Pinter insists.

 

Those who are attacked, who defend themselves, cannot have a criminal plan.
With disappointment Pinter referred to the fact that Croatia’s political leaders have done nothing to stand up against the lies and twisted facts that have for years been spreading regarding Croatia’s role in the BiH war.

 

Outside courtrooms no one has made an effort to reply to the false claims and to insist on establishing and pointing out the truth via irrefutable evidence. There have been no arguments to refute the lies said about Croatia, its involvement in the BiH war and the alleged aggression against BiH, but instead, the space was left to the people, led by self-interests, who used half-truths in order to create a negative picture about Croatia – Pinter said, adding that all facts were available for use whether via witness testimonies, war documents, international negotiations documents, peace conferences.

 

Those in the service of lies wrote and spoke about the events and the relationship between Croatia and BiH but consciously ignored evidence of facts:
– that no government institution in BiH functioned normally and could not guarantee normal functioning because of the aggression by the Yugoslav Peoples Army;
– that BiH would not exist were it not for Croats who turned up at the March 1992 referendum and by doing so ensured international recognition of the independent BiH state;
– That upon the proposal from Croatia’s government and Croatian Parliament conclusions Franjo Tudjman made the decision to recognise the Republic of BiH in April 1992;
– that Croatia had literally made possible the survival of BiH through its unconditional and complete help to BiH in logistics, in humanitarian aid, militarily … (“were it not for Croatia, BiH would not have survived” – said Peter Galbright in his witness statement at the ICTY);
-that Croatia took in over 600,000 refugees and forcefully deported people from BiH and organised their care and shelter;
-that extraterritorial schools for Bosniaks were established in Croatia;
-that wounded members of the BiH Army as well as Bosniaks were treated in hospitals in Croatia;
-that Croatia had permitted all arms and weapons for BiH to be supplied via its own territory during the most intensive war conflict between HVO (Croatian Defence Council) and the BiH Army;
– that BiH had its military training centre for Bosniak soldiers situated in Croatia;
-that BiH Army had its military economic offices across Croatia;
– that during the whole time of the conflict the Headquarters of the supreme command of the Republic of BiH had its logistical centre in Croatia;
-that HVO and BiH Army were two armies of the same state – BiH, and that Army of BiH was not the only legal army in Bosnia and Herzegovina;
-that officers of the HV (Croatian Army) – Muslims, went across to the Army of BiH, while freezing and retaining all rights within the HV, just as the HV officers did who went across into the HVO;
-Never in the history of war conflicts have people, like Croats have, helped other people – like Bosniaks/Muslims – even when the latter turned its army – Army of BiH – against Croats – HVO – in BiH;
-The Croatian Republic of Herceg Bosna was created in September 1992 as a result of negotiations between all three sides in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the international representatives (Owen and Stotenberg);
-the official representatives of Herceg Bosna were present at all international negotiations together with the other two constitutional people – Serbs and Bosniaks;

 

The analysis of documents from the peace negotiations, said Pinter, shows the facts that Croats from BiH, along with dr Franjo Tudjman’s participation, which participation was insisted upon by the international representatives and communities, had accepted all proposals for peaceful solutions to the internal organisation of BiH, while Bosniaks, in accordance with their own plan for the creation of civil state “one man – one voice”, in which the constitutionality of the Croatian people would be lost, had rejected those proposals or refused to sign them, or had not acted in accordance with agreements.

 

Mujahedeen had brought in radical Islam and elements of religious war as well as contributing significantly to the idea of attacking existing allies – Croats. To claim that Mujahedeen were a propaganda effort raised by BiH Croats in order to force Croats from Central Bosnia to leave the areas in which they had lived for centuries, even if real danger from them was never a threat, is incomprehensible and unfounded as well as malicious, and regretfully, and the claim has today been disproved. Today, we are witnesses of not only the presence of a radical Islam current in Bosnia and Herzegovina and a judicial war against Croats through the processing of commanders and members of HVO without foundations based on facts for the indictments and without the elements necessary for criminal responsibility.

 

On the other hand, the Army of BiH attacks against HVO and Croats, as well as against the areas in which they lived, and consequences of those attacks have never been processed nor have they been talked about. Massive and horrible crimes. The war conflicts were most fatal for Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

 

Exact data from the 2013 census without a doubt shows that in the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina Croats were the biggest victims, not because of the Herceg-Bosna politics, dr Franjo Tudjman and Gojko Susak, as the “Six” in the Hague, but because of the Yugoslav Peoples Army and offensive operations by the Army of BiH. If Croats are victims, and they are, then the claim that the creation of Herceg-Bosna was directed against the Bosniak people, said Pinter.

 

While the ICTY Prosecutor is seeking increased sentences for the Herce-Bosna Six from the Appeals Chamber, the defence seeks acquittal of all charges, or a retrial. The acquittal or retrial are sought on basis of wrong conclusions by the Trial Chamber regarding the existence of a joint criminal enterprise and the participation in the same by the Herceg-Bosna Six. Ina Vukic

Nika Pinter – General Slobodan Praljak’s Angel

Nika Pinter (R) and Ina Vukic
March 2017
Photo: Ina Vukic

A few days into my visit to my Croatian homeland I could not have wished for a better meeting than being a part of celebrating the recognition of the work and dedication to justice and truth by a remarkable Croatian woman and attorney at law Nika Pinter. Nika Pinter was awarded the 2017 Croatian Women’s Network Award for  Leadership and Innovation.

 

However,  the most amazing and heart-filling professional undertaking of Pinter’s current pursuits and those of the recent past lies in her dedication to Croatian truth and the defence in the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague of  Croatian General from Bosnia and Herzegovina Slobodan Praljak, whose indictment for alleged war crimes, now on Appeal in The Hague, falls into the group of indictments  also known as “Herceg-Bosnia Six”. The Hague Appeals Chamber will commence hearing the appeal on 20th March 2017 and Nika Pinter will be there armed with the truth and arguments that hopefully will blow the Trial Chamber’s guilty vedict out of the water. The truth and justice must win in the end despite the false and vitriolic allegation of war crimes against Praljak and his five co-accused in The Hague. Truth and we must keep a positive a hopeful outlook just as it was in the cases against the Croatian Generals Ante Gotovina and Malden Markac who were acquitted in 2012 of war crimes they were indicted for by the ahague a prosecutor.

 

As many will remember the ICTY 2013 Trial Chamber sentenced the six Bosnia and Herzegovina Croats to prison sentences ranging from ten to twenty five years for crimes against Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina committed as part of a joint criminal enterprise. The six are jadranko Prljic, Bruno Stojic, Milivoj Petkovic, Slobodan Praljak, Valentin Coric. and Berislav Pusic.

 

The Trial Chamber concluded, with a dissenting opinion of Judge Jean-Claude Antonetti, that the conflict between HVO (Croatian defence council) and the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1993-1994 was an international conflict and that most crimes against the Muslim population of Herceg Bosnia which the accused are charged with were committed as part of joint criminal enterprise that also involved a part of Croatian political and military leadership including Franjo Tudjman.

 

According to the Trial Chamber ‘s colourful imagination the implementation, the purpose of the said joint criminal enterprise was to establish a Croatian entity in the boundaries of the 1939 Croatian Banovina and eventually annexe that territory to Croatia in case Bosnia and Herzegovina disintegrated.

 

Mid-March 2016, Croatia submitted an application to be granted the status of an amicus curiae and join in appeals proceedings in the case at the ICTY in which the highest Croatian officials – former President Franjo Tudjman, former Defence Minister Gojko Susak, and former Croatian Army Chief-of-Staff Janko Bobetko – were declared, in a non-final verdict in the case, to have participated in a joint criminal enterprise aimed at ethnically cleaning parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

 

The trial judgement delivered in 2013 found that the three, now deceased, Croatian officials devised and implemented an alleged criminal enterprise with the aim of changing the ethnic make-up of the territories claimed to form part of the Croatian Republic of Herceg-Bosna by allegedly directing and coordinating events on the ground to commit the crimes which resulted from a a plan to remove the Muslim population from that area.

 

In its request Croatia noted that it wishes to be granted status amicus curiae for two reasons. Firstly because the trial chamber, in its judgement written on more than two thousand pages, did not cite a single piece of evidence that would corroborate the conclusion that Tudjman, Susak and Bobetko committed those crimes or intended for them to be committed and secondly, because by concluding that they were members of a criminal enterprise the trial chamber violated the European Convention on Human Rights.

 

In its request Croatia asked to be allowed to “file this amicus curiae brief and appear as amicus curiae in these proceedings” because it believes that it would be “desirable” as it would “assist [the Appeals Chamber] in the proper determination of the case.”

In its response dated March 31, ICTY prosecutors objected to Croatia’s request.

It is clear to all involved and all that follow this case that the case itself is difficult and complex particularly given the  frequently encountered conclusions by the prosecution and Trial Chamber judges that point to a utilisation of political analyses rather than hard evidence.

 

Let’s mark the coming days to 20th March and beyond to the moments of Appeal Chamber deliberations with prayers for the Croatian six from Heceg Bosna and their acquittal. Good luck Nika and all the Croatian defence team and hopefully Croatia itself will reignite its unconditional support for these brave and heroic warriors for Croatian freedom. Ina Vukic

 

Hague Appeals Chamber Reverses Trial Conclusion Against Croatia’s Leaders

From left: General Janko Bobetko, Presidentof Croatia Franjo Tudjman, Croatia's Defence Minister Gojko Susak Croatia - early 1990's Photo: Cropix/Goran Sebelic

From left: General Janko Bobetko,
President of Croatia Franjo Tudjman,
Croatia’s Defence Minister Gojko Susak
Croatia – early 1990’s
Photo: Cropix/Goran Sebelic

 

The Hague Tribunal ICTY rejected Monday 18 July 2016 the request of the Republic of Croatian to join the appeal case against the six former Bosnia and Herzegovina Croatian senior officials from the 1990’s Herceg-Bosna part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Jadranko Prlic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petkovic, Valentin Coric and Berislav Pusic. As farcical as the findings were seen by many, the ICTY Trial Chamber did find May 2013 the six men guilty for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1994 and pronounced a total of 111 years imprisonment.

 

Presiding judge last week, Judge Carmel Agius delivered the Appeal Chamber’s decision denying Croatia’s application to appear as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in the above six men’s appeal proceedings to dispute the Trial Chamber’s conclusions that the six accused participated in a Joint Criminal Enterprise (JCE) and that three Croatia’s officials – first Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, former foreign minister Gojko Susak and Croatian army general Janko Bobetko – were members of that JCE (Joint Criminal Enterprise).

 

Croatian’s application claimed that the 2013 Trial Chamber verdict violated the right of presumption of innocence under the European Convention on Human Rights of the three Croatian official’s – Tudjman, Susak and Bobetko, who were all deceased at the time ; that the three Croatian officials were innocent of allegation that they were members of JCE and that the Trial chamber’s conclusion is tantamount to “posthumous conviction”.

Six Croats from Herceg-Bosna at ICTY in The Hague, 2013 Photo: ICTY

Six Croats from
Herceg-Bosna
at ICTY in The Hague, 2013
Photo: ICTY

 

The Appeals Chamber rejected Croatia’s application saying it would not assist the Appeals Chamber in its considerations of questions in issue at the appeal.

However, an unexpected bonus arrived from this application – the Appeal judges articulated their assessment that the original Trial Chamber findings that included conclusion regarding Croatia’s Franjo Tudjman, Gojko Susak and Janko Bobetko do not and cannot amount to a guilty verdict against these three Croatian officials (Full PDF version here):

“…the Appeals Chamber emphasises that findings of criminal responsibility made in a case before the Tribunal are binding only on the accused in a specific case. In this regard, Appeals Chamber observes that the Three Croatian Officials were not indicted or charged in the present case. Furthermore, the Trial Chamber made no explicit findings concerning their participation in the JCE and did not find them guilty of any crimes. Chamber considers that the Trial Chamber’s findings regarding the mere existence and membership of the lCE do not – and cannot – constitute findings of criminal responsibility on the part of any persons who were not charged and convicted in this case. Thus, the Trial Judgment is binding only on the Six Accused, and the presumption of innocence of the Three Croatian Officials is not impacted. The Appeals Chamber further observes that the Tribunal’s jurisdiction is restricted to “natural persons” and the Tribunal does not have the competency to make findings on state responsibility. Accordingly, the Appeals Chamber emphasises that the findings in the Trial Judgment regarding the Three Croatian Officials in no way constitute findings of responsibility on the part of the state of Croatia. The Appeals Chamber therefore finds Croatia’s submissions to be without merit and dismisses them.”

Luka Misetic Photo: Darko Tomas/Cropix

Luka Misetic Photo: Darko Tomas/Cropix

The Appeals Chamber has essentially reversed the findings of the Prlic Trial Chamber about Tudjman, Susak and Bobetko’s alleged participation in a JCE. In a unique procedural maneuver, it did so in the context of a decision to reject an amicus curiae application. Scholars and practitioners of international criminal procedure should take note.

The Appeals Chamber went on to emphasize that “the presumption of innocence of the three Croatian officials is not impacted” by the Prlic Trial Chamber judgment, and furthermore “”the Appeals Chamber emphasizes that the findings in the Trial Judgment regarding the Three Croatian Officials in no way constitute findings of responsibility on the part of the state of Croatia.”

The ICTY Appeals Chamber has thus ruled that President Tudjman, Minister Susak and General Bobetko were not found to be members of a JCE in Bosnia and remain presumed innocent by the ICTY. Prosecutor Ken Scott stated publicly that the Trial Chamber in Prlic was ‘very clear and adamant about the significant role played by Tudjman and Susak’ and that these findings were ‘one of the most historical, remarkable things about the case.’ Those findings are now reversed.
Croatia could not have hoped for a better result from the Appeals Chamber even if the Appeals Chamber had granted Croatia amicus status,” says the US based, well-known attorney Luka Misetic.

This decision at the ICTY Appeals Chamber blows right out of the water the wild and evil claims that Croatia’s plan at the time was to create a Greater Croatia by joining to it the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina known as Herceg-Bosna and, hence, concluded that Croatia’s leaders were members of the JCE that was to achieve this goal. The Hague Prosecution did accuse the Six Croats of participating in a joint criminal enterprise that was intended to “permanently remove and ethnically cleanse Bosnian Muslims and other non-Croats” from the territory of the newly-established Herceg-Bosna, which they wanted to attach to a planned “Greater Croatia”. Now that the Appeal Chambers have found last week that Croatian leaders were not members of that JCE as Trial Chamber maintained it would stand to reason and truth that any Greater Croatia could not be created without Croatia. Appeal Chamber’s decision with regard to the Herceg-Bosna Six Croats is expected around November 2017. Given that many have considered the 2013 Trial Chamber verdict against them a farce and an utterly unfair and unjust, one awaits the outcome of the appeal with intense interest as it could turn the tides towards actual justice and truth and point to a different picture of the conflict between the Croats and Muslims in 1990’s in Bosnia and Herzegovina than the one painted by the ICTY Trial Chamber verdict. We can only pray for now. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Liars, Liars, Liars And Herceg-Bosna

From left: Jadranko Prlic, Milivoj Petkovic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Berislav Pusic, Valentin Coric Photo: AFP/ jutarnji.hr

From left: Jadranko Prlic, Milivoj Petkovic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Berislav Pusic, Valentin Coric
Photo: AFP/ jutarnji.hr

There come times in life when you just want to climb on the top of a mountain and shout: liar, liar liar! You want the world to hear you; the burden of desecrated truth weighs down heavily.

So, as I shout liars, liars, liars, this time, it’s in the direction of ICTY Trial Chamber’s recent judgment against the Six Croats of Herceg-Bosna in which the Trial Chamber ruled that they, together with Croatia’s leadership (including dr Franjo Tudjman) had participated in a joint criminal enterprise against Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) – all as part of some Greater Croatia expansion!

A great deal has been written in response to this shocking and politically carved judgment, that seems to have been cemented through efforts of channeling much hearsay and half-truths into the pen where ICTY’s “joint criminal enterprise” creation awaited fodder to give it life. It’s a part of human nature to become restless and distressed, to vent frustration and disappointment – pending an appeal to the Trial Chamber’s decision. So I’m shouting again – it takes a great deal of effort these days for truth to surface and stay there.

Ante Nazor of dnevno.hr portal has recently written a great article on the matter, which, I’m pleased to say, justifies and feeds my “liar, liar, liar” shout against the judgment and prosecution’s witnesses.

Ante Nazor writes (translation in italics):

This judgment, condemning the political and military leadership of Herceg-Bosna, and Croatia for “joint criminal enterprise” against Bosnia, shows how unconvincing ICTY’s “slogans” that guilt is individualised in its verdicts are. With this judgment it’s suggested that Croatia is responsible for aggression against Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), which is contrary to the historical facts.

Contrary to the claims made in the Trial Chamber judgment against 6 Croats of Herceg-Bosna the facts clearly show that Croatia had not committed aggression against Bosnia, nor had it conducted a “joint criminal enterprise”, but only reacted to the events that occurred in BiH, events the Croatian leadership could not ignore: firstly the Serbian aggression in April in 1992., and then the Bosniak (Muslim) – Croatian conflict in BiH, for which Croatia is not responsible, nor had it been caused by president Franjo Tudjman and defense minister Gojko Susak, but real threat of extinction of the Croats as one of the three constituent peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina appeared in the area where they had lived for centuries.

The ICTY prosecution did not hide its triumphalism after the verdict as it enthusiastically commented for television that the “Serbian Republic and Herceg-Bosna are the same”. (Reminder: Serbian Republic within Bosnia and Herzegovina was founded on genocide including Srebrenica massacre). Then there were some non-government organisation and individuals who, after the above said ICTY judgment,  said through media that the public has argued for years that president Tudjman, defence minister Susak and almost the whole of the then Croatian authorities were joint criminals “and that Croatia is founded on crimes”.  (Perhaps it’s good to remind ouselves here that those organisations and individuals were and are those die-hard communists at heart who never wanted a free Croatia anyway). But none of these “righteous” ones answered the question of what would happen to the Croats in BiH had they not organised themselves and had they not received help from Croatia? Who would defend them? Bosnia and Herzegovina? Europe? USA? NATO? Yugoslav People’s Army? Given the events in Croatia in 1991 (brutal Serb aggression) and given the experience with the area Croatian villages Ravno in BiH in October 1991 (of which the Hague prosecutor had to know) the only thing that remained for Croats in BiH was to organise their defence.  The ICTY prosecutor also had to know the fact that even before the burning of village Ravno in BiH, Croatian Serb forces (aka Martic’s rebel forces) with their incursion into the territory of BiH Bosnian Grahovo in June 1991 extrtacted a sincere reaction from Alija Izetbegovic in the media: “at this moment we are not able to cope with the increasingly violent internal and external aggression” and that the country cannot resist external aggression (by Serb forces).

Therefore, it is an utter nonsense from ICTY prosecution to claim that Croats in BiH did not have a reason for self-organisation, when it is known that the institutions of BiH at the time, neither Croats nor other citizens, were not able to protect themselves against Serbian armed formations. Is it not cynical that the prosecutor in any court in Europe accuses Croats in BiH for the political and territorial organisation to defend themselves against the Serbian aggression, which, at the beginning, was the main reason for the establishment of the Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna on 18th November 1991,  in the circumstances when Europe’s arms embargo against the former Yugoslavia significantly impeded defence efforts of Croats and Bosniaks (Muslims) at the beginning of Serbian aggression?

All this and many more facts, as well as a chronology of events, were disregarded by the Hague prosecution in its effort to accuse Croatian leadership and Croatia of “joint criminal enterprise” in BiH.
Quoting excerpts from transcripts as evidence for its claim (which are generally presented in the media in Croatia), ignored the transcripts whose content is contrary to the allegations of the prosecution.

Contrary to Greater Serbia, the construction of theories about the creation of Greater Croatian is based on lies.  Certainly, unlike Serbs, Croats did not attack other countries of former Yugoslavia so the ICTY prosecutor evidently went about concocting one through this court case.

For example, it was President Tudjman, whom the prosecution accuses of creating a “Greater Croatia” at the expense of BiH, who on 56th  (Closed) session of the Government of Croatia on 25th November 199 (I.e. 7 days after the proclamation of the “Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna”) concluded that “in accordance with the Croatian policy and politics it builds itself upon, there cannot be any changes in the borders,” and so “Croats in BiH must ensure their interests within the state, as long as ii exists.”

He also noted that “we must be aware of the fact that the Serbian part of Bosnia and Herzegovina is fully in the hands of the Serbian government, that it is armed and in service of the Greater Serbia policy” and that “Muslims run their own politics which in fact, as far as the leadership is concerned, is on the line of maintaining Yugoslavia “.

Accordingly, looking at the politics led by President Tudjman BiH and his statesmanlike moves (no change to borders by force, the recognition of sovereignty and independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a union of the three constituent peoples, participation of Croats in BiH defence and liberation, and other facts) show that the role of Croatian President Tudjman and Serbian President Milosevic and Croatian and Serbian war in BiH, as well as the role of the Croatian Community Herceg-Bosna and the Serbian Republic, cannot be considered equal, despite the Hague prosecution’s and the domestic “lovers of justice” persistence in trying to make it so.

This is corroborated by the fact that most informed and most respected judge in the Trial Chamber which rendered the judgment previously cited Six Croats of Herceg-Bosna, Jean-Claude Antonetti, in his dissenting opinion states that President Tudjman at a meeting of the Supreme State Council 18th November 1991, when Herceg-Bosna was established, said he is not about creating a community of Herceg-Bosna, but a declaration that proves that the Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina are working to establish a community with no separation of BiH, and that “this document does not support the theory of a Greater Croatia.

So I reiterate: with the exception of Judge Antonetti of ICTY Trial Chamber, the prosecution and its witnesses: liars, liars, liars. The saddest thing of all, pending a court appeal in this matter, the conflict and intolerance between Croats and Bosniaks in BiH deepens by the day – all because of this abominable politically wrapped judgment. I am certain that such a scenario was planned and fueled by those who want to legitimise the entity of Serbian Republic within BiH that was created on genocide, ethnic cleansing, rape and utter horror. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Zgb)

Related posts: http://inavukic.com/2013/05/29/icty-trial-chamber-convicts-6-croats-of-herceg-bosna-verdict-of-joint-criminal-enterprise-farcical-to-the-hilt/

http://inavukic.com/2013/05/30/the-latest-icty-verdict-and-why-you-should-care/

http://inavukic.com/2013/06/03/the-ghost-of-goebbels-at-the-hague/

http://inavukic.com/2013/06/07/is-this-a-joint-criminal-enterprise-and-muslim-aggression-against-bosnia-and-herzegovina/

The Ghost of Goebbels at The Hague

Truth-and-lies

Joseph Goebbels, the Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany (1933 – 1945) fierily worked under the motto:  “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it”.

Goebbels wasn’t the first politician in history to rely on the power of spoken words repetition in shaping attitudes and beliefs. Vladimir Lenin (communist revolutionary and Soviet Union Premier from 1922 till he died in 1924) used the technique of achieving belief in lies or half-truths as absolute truths also. His motto was: “A lie told often enough becomes truth“.

The first written trace of this abominable but powerful trend can perhaps be pinned down to the American philosopher and a father of modern Psychology William James who wrote in his work “The Will to Believe”, published by New World in 1896 these words: “There’s nothing so absurd that if you repeat it often enough, people will believe it.”

Having in mind the ICTY (Hague) judgment on 29 May 2013 against the 6 Croats from Herceg-Bosna,
which also names the late Croatian president Franjo Tudjman and his close officials (all of whom had passed away before the ICTY indictments in the case) it is absolutely essential to consider the evolution of the now seemingly accepted version (however untrue) of the story (initially spun by Stjepan Mesic, the former president of Croatia) that Croatia was an aggressor against Bosnia and Herzegovina because it’s leaders planned and executed a joint criminal enterprise in Herceg-Bosna to get rid of the Muslims there and secure the territory for Croats.

The regretful reality is that the ICTY Trial Chamber has accepted as truth the contents of the testimony that the former president of Croatia Stjepan Mesic first gave as witness for the prosecution in ICTY (in Closed/confidential session at Mesic’s/ prosecutor’s insistence!), in the case against Tihomir Blaskic from Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is of note that Mesic’s testimony was that of personal opinion, views and hearsay, which pointed the finger at Franjo Tudjman as having planned and executed a joint criminal enterprise in Herceg-Bosna with the aim to cleanse that area of Bosnian Muslims and have it all Croatian.
Stjepan Mesic spoke in his testimony of March 1991 meetings in Karadjordjevo between Franjo Tudjman and Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic and although he, himself, was not present at these meetings (which, by the way, would be nothing unusual for any country in the world when one [Croatia] was seceding from the other [communist Yugoslavia], and Serbia was fiercely against this), he insisted that Tudjman and Milosevic had at these meetings agreed to divide Bosnia and Herzegovina between Croatia and Serbia and agreed to start the war!

Of course, since Mesic’s testimony was secret/closed/confidential it was impossible to react to it or refute it publicly at the time or any time before Tudjman’s death in 1999.  Mesic used to voice the same allegations about Tudjman-Milosevic meetings publicly before and after his appearance in the Hague – all from the time when he set his eyes on Tudjman’s job, around 1992/93, and commenced a horrid campaign of vilification against Tudjman, conducting it ever since ever since. While Tudjman’s public reaction to Mesic’s ICTY testimony would have been called for, reacting to Mesic’s verbal vomit in the media prior to that time would have meant dignifying it with a reply. Gradually, though, the world media happily picked up on Mesic’s scandalous stories and opinions – it never stopped to ask the question: where is the proof other than that he said/she said, where are the minutes or notes from 1991 meetings between Tudjman and Milosevic? Certainly, there were ample statements and opinions by numerous Croatian identities refuting what Mesic and his followers were saying, but much of the world’s media decided it would run with the Mesic version – his was more scandalous and attention grabbing in the scheme of things that swelled the tides against Tudjman whom they considered a nationalist and an autocrat(!).

Needless to say the ICTY prosecution must have loved Mesic; he seemingly provided it with a “believable” framework around which it could build the theory of joint criminal enterprise and after all, Mesic was the second person in Croatia at the relevant times – so he must be credible!? (Mesic served as Prime Minister, as president of the Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ Executive Council, then Speaker of Croatian Parliament until booted out in 1994, when reportedly caught/proven a liar by many but also Tudjman.)

There is no doubt that horrible crimes were committed against Muslims (and Croats, and Serbs, I might add) during the time and across the territory of Herceg-Bosna covered by this ICTY indictment and eventual conviction on 29 May 2013. However, to reduce the perpetration of these horrid crimes to a joint criminal enterprise, to some collective guilt based on political motives as fed to the court through wild verbal testimony, and with not a shred of evidence that these 6 Croats from Herceg Bosna had committed a single one of these horrible crimes contained in the indictment, is absolutely distressing.

Setting aside the presiding Judge Antonetti’s dissenting opinion, which clearly says that joint criminal enterprise by Croatia against Muslims of Herceg-Bosna did not exist, one needs to wonder what powers are afoot in the ICTY to stamp a lie – or at least a most unsafe verbal testimony – into a truth? A striking resemblance to how Goebbels would have gone about getting lies to be adopted as truths. I shudder to think that just because Stjepan Mesic had high positions in Croatia, including being the President after Tudjman’s death, the ICTY Trial Chamber took his veracity and honesty of his words as unquestionable!  It certainly appears to have done that.

So the accused and all of the convicted did not actually commit war crimes – murder, rape, wanton destruction … – but as members of the so-called joint criminal enterprise (constituted of these war crimes), according to the ICTY Trial Chamber’s judgment “ … secured personnel and coordinated the operations on the ground to carry out the crimes,” judges concluded!

Furthermore, it is absolutely scandalous that the ICTY Trial Chamber concluded that since the accused did not commit the crimes that were otherwise proven to have been committed (by someone!) it’s logical to pin these crimes against the accused and the Croatian leaders by way of participating in the joint criminal enterprise. From the Summary of Judgment: “The Accused are charged under all the forms of liability set out in Article 7 (1) of the Statute (including commission through participation in a joint criminal enterprise) and command responsibility under Article 7 (3) of the Statute. Considering the extent of the crimes charged against the six Accused and found proven by the Chamber, the Chamber finds, by a majority with the Presiding Judge dissenting, that analysing their responsibility by virtue of their participation in a joint criminal enterprise is the obvious legal approach. Consequently, the other modes of participation alleged in the Indictment have only been considered for those crimes that do not come under the joint criminal enterprise”.

Obvious legal approach”! Can you believe this political prop and an attempt to justify the apparent painfully pathetic and unjust ways the ICTY prosecution and Trial Chamber have conducted this case!?

Obvious for whom!? It certainly isn’t obvious to me – and I bet it isn’t obvious to everyone who pursues safe verdicts in criminal justice.

Whichever way one tosses and turns the evidence from the fighting in Bosnia and Herzegovina one WILL NOT find any significant cooperation between Serb and Croatian forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina that would even provide an inkling of support for Mesic’s claims that there was the intention/agreement to divide Bosnia and Herzegovina between them! Muslims, though, seemed to have perceived themselves as being trapped between the two and their resistance was fierce. 1993 Vance Owen Peace Plan giving Croats command over areas where Muslims lived as ethnic majority would have fueled such perceptions decisively – but ICTY Trial Chamber gave no consideration to this fact! In fact, the fiction work by Mesic seems to have been more important to ICTY Trial Chamber than the sorry truth of calamitous and anger  provoking interference by the international community in addressing the complex ethnic issues of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

A full ICTY Trial Chamber judgment from 29 May 2013 reportedly contains over 2,600 pages and it’s being prepared still; it was not published at the same time as its summary – extraordinary! Intending no disrespect towards the victims, I can’t wait to read the gruesome details of crimes proven to have been committed by unnamed and unknown individuals and not by those who have copped the guilty by association or motive verdict!

The verdict of joint criminal enterprise perpetrated in order to create an independent Croatian Republic of Herceg-Bosna, and eventually join it to the Republic of Croatia suggests that the very idea of secession is, in itself, now considered a criminal act! Why has the international community tolerated and accepted the created Serbian Republic within Bosnia and Herzegovina (which records all manner of war crimes, including Srebrenica genocide) since Dayton agreement of 1995!? Croatia’s, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s, Slovenia’s and Macedonian secession from former Yugoslavia during those years was not and is not considered a criminal act, so a certain domino effect of secession attempts at that time must have been  expected to spill within the seceded states of former Yugoslavia and facts show that there were in fact several: Croatian Serbs with the aid of Belgrade led Yugoslav Peoples Army attempted to secede their self-proclaimed and brutalised Serb Republic of Krajina from Republic of Croatia, Serbian Republic in Bosnia and Herzegovina did the same, only with better success; Kosovo has been attempting the same – to secede or gain independence from Serbia. No one though has yet been prosecuted for the act of secession! The means to achieve secession seems to be the focal point of the ICTY prosecution, i.e. war crimes. If that is the case, and it certainly seems to be, why has the ICTY not gone after the actual individual perpetrators of those crimes? The answer could very well lie in political plots, which seem to favour one nation of people or one leader more than others – in attempts to judge history and not real criminals.

And since I’m writing about Stjepan Mesic and his public statements he has always said that individuals and not politics are responsible for war crimes and must be prosecuted – he had evidently held a different candle when he told his story to the ICTY Trial Chamber hearings.

Visiting Switzerland, Buchs, in March 1992, Stjepan Mesic was asked: Are the claims about an agreement between Tudjman and Milosevic regarding the territorial division of Bosnia and Herzegovina at all true? Mesic replied: “They are not. There are no agreements between Tudjman and Milosevic. We have talked with Milosevic because we had to find out what the thief wants.” This is the translation into English from the March 1992 Buchs video that follows here below:

When seen through the politically strategic and copious instances of Mesic’s media statements with the same or similar content (that Tudjman and Milosevic agreed to start the war in 1991 and to divide Bosnia and Herzegovina between Croatia and Serbia), before and after his testimony at the ICTY, one must, absolutely must, question the truth in what he says and said on the matter.

It is utterly regretful that, after confidentiality was lifted from his ICTY testimony, there have been no attempts by the Croatian government to bring the matter to some court proceedings in order to pin down the truths and the lies of Mesic’s claims. After all each of these has affected and will affect Croatia and its people gravely in the future. Perhaps the reason for this lies in the ugly truth where die-hard communists are and were (after Tudjman’s death) occupying the most important positions of government bodies. It is in no way beneficial to wait for years on end in the trust that an Appeal will overturn the verdict of joint criminal enterprise (as it had done in the Croatian Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac case). Mesic’s words are an immediate and urgent problem Croatia needs to solve for the benefit of its people, not for some argy-bargy historical entry into the journal of the breakup of former Yugoslasvia. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

ICTY Trial Chamber Convicts 6 Croats of Herceg-Bosna – Verdict of Joint Criminal Enterprise Farcical To The Hilt

From left: Jadranko Prlic, Milivoj Petkovic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Berislav Pusic, Valentin Coric Photo: AFP/ jutarnji.hr

From left: Jadranko Prlic, Milivoj Petkovic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Berislav Pusic, Valentin Coric
Photo: AFP/ jutarnji.hr

Putting the issue of war crimes that may have been committed by individual persons aside, it is absolutely unacceptable and unjust that the ICTY Trial Chamber has today convicted six Bosnian Croat political and military leaders of joint criminal enterprise allegedly involving persecution, expulsion and murder of Muslims during Bosnia’s war as part of a plan supported by leaders in neighboring Croatia to establish a Croat state in Bosnia.

The verdict of joint criminal enterprise does not reflect the reality that was. I.e. Croatia was an ally to Croats and Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina when the war commenced in March1992 with Serb barricades in Sarajevo, aggression, ethnically cleansing of Croats, Muslims and other non-Serb population from the territory the world knows today as the political entity of Serbian Republic within Bosnia and Herzegovina. Croatia took hundreds of thousands (at least 400,000) Bosnian refugees (Croats and Muslims) and provided shelter and care for them at the time when the war of Serb aggression raged across Croatia and forced destitution of more than 700,000 Croatian refugees of non-Serb ethnicity.

Whether the Croat-Muslim conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1992 – 1994 constitutes a joint criminal enterprise planned and executed by Croats could truly be justified in reality and justice is now a matter that will surely end up in the ICTY Appeal Chamber.

For, as things stand now this verdict is a farce, just as the one the Trial Chamber had delivered in 2011 against Croatian generals for the Operation Storm that liberated Serb occupied territory of Croatia.

This verdict does nothing but mirror the malicious concoctions and vile cocktails of hatred conjured up in order to blame something or someone for a situation that was a horrible reality that followed when Croatian and Bosnia and Herzegovina dared to seek democracy and secede from Yugoslavia.
To track back to how it was: the Vance Owen Peace Plan (VOPP), named after the international mediators Cyrus Vance and Lord Owen, first took shape in 1992 and its final version was completed in January 1993. It divided Bosnia into provinces with ethnic majorities.

Map_of_Vance-Owen_peace_plan

The VOPP placed some Muslim majority areas under the control of the Croats; the Muslims vigorously rejected accepting this. The Muslims resisted a Bosnian Croat army (HVO) order, first made in January 1993 then repeated in April, to submit to its command in areas that were allocated to the Croats. The Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, had by that time declared their “Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna” over much the same areas that were awarded to them by the VOPP.

Croats were determined to assert their command as, indeed, given that Alija Izetbegovic represented mainly the interests of Bosnian Muslims at the time, and Radovan Karadzic the interests of Bosnian Serbs – Mate Boban was placed in charge of the plights and needs to protect the interests of Bosnian Croats.

While Serbs pursued their lines of creating the Serbian Republic within Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Bosnian Croat determination to pursue command over areas allocated to them through VOPP and the Bosnian Muslim rejection of this was destined to end up in a bitter conflict between Croats and Muslims in these areas.

I have no doubts that the ICTY prosecution (headed by Carla del Ponte) maliciously constructed the idea of a joint criminal enterprise against Bosnian Muslims so that leadership of Croatia could somehow be pinned to such a constructed war crime. Certainly, such an idea would, I believe, have been sparked and fed by lies that led the world to believe that Croatia’s president Franjo Tudjman and Serbia’s president Slobodan Milosevic had met in Karadjordjevo and decided to divide Bosnia and Hercegovina between themselves. Hence, the utter lie that Croatia wanted to expand its borders into Bosnia and Herzegovina were born and fuelled by people such as Stjepan Mesic (of Croatia) who seemed to thrive on spreading hearsay, gossip and rumours about Tudjman as the truth.

Attempts and now an ICTY judgment to blame the Croats for the situation where even the evidence before the ICTY (when it comes to the idea of joint criminal enterprise) provides a swamp where it’s not possible to bring a completely safe conviction of joint criminal enterprise. Who attacked whom first? Who provoked who first?  Whose crimes were the worst?

I guess the easiest thing for the ICTY Trial Chamber was to blame the alleged expansionist aspirations of Croatia for everything. Problem solved!? I don’t think so!

Back to ICTY Trial Chamber Wednesday 29 May: Jadranko Prlic, former president of the Croatian Defence Council (HVO), and later of the government of the Croatian Republic of Herceg-Bosna, was convicted to 25 years of imprisonment; Bruno Stojić, former head of the HVO department of Defence received 20 years in prison; Milivoj Petkovic, Chief of the HVO Main Staff and later deputy commander of the HVO forces – 20 years; Valentin Coric, Chief of the Military Police Administration and later on Minister of the Interior – 16 years. Slobodan Praljak, former Assistant Minister of Defence of Croatia and later Commander of the Main Staff of the HVO, received a sentence of 20 years of imprisonment. Berislav Pusic, former President of the HVO commission in charge of the exchange of prisoners and other persons and Head of the HVO Commission in charge of detention facilities, was unanimously acquitted of four counts. Convicted of 18 counts, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

A majority of the three-judge panel expressed the opinion that late- President Franjo Tudjman of Croatia was a key member of a plan to carve out a Croat mini-state in Bosnia with the aim of later uniting it with his country to create a greater Croatia, or leaving it as a separate independent state.
Presiding Judge Jean-Claude Antonetti said a majority of the three-judge panel ruled that Croatia had overall control over the Bosnian Croat entity and its armed forces and that Croat troops fought alongside Bosnian Croat forces.
The Chamber concluded by majority, Judge Antonetti dissenting, that the ultimate purpose of the joint criminal enterprise was to create a Croat entity, mostly within the borders of the Croatian Banovina in 1939, to unify the Croatian people in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Later these areas were to be either joined with the Republic of Croatia, or remain in close association with it.
The JCE as such existed approximately from January 1993 to April 1994.
Apart from the six accused, a number of persons joined, participated in and contributed to the JCE, including among others: Franjo Tudjman, the President of the Republic of Croatia; Gojko Susak, the Minister of Defence of the Republic of Croatia; Janko Bobetko, general in the Army of the Republic of Croatia; and Mate Boban, President of the Croatian Community (later Republic) of Herceg-Bosna. All of these men are dead and have passed away years before ICTY trial commenced – they were not there to give evidence or to defend themselves.

Given that the judgment does not seem to mention Cyrus Vance, Lord Owen, Lord Carrington and Jorge Cutileiro, who had all presented their version, on behalf of the international powers of the day – began to set some serious fuel into the already volatile situation – as to how Bosnia and Herzegovina was best divided by command among the three ethnic groups, one cannot but conclude that this judgment of joint criminal enterprise (relying on false conclusions regarding Croatian expansionist plans) is farcical to the hilt.  Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Praying for Croats of Herceg-Bosna Awaiting ICTY Judgment

Portal dalje.com has passed on Croatian news agency HINA reporting: “The Croatian World Congress (HSK) has called on Croats worldwide to unite in a prayer “for justice” for six former heads of the Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna for whom the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) will hand down its ruling on May 29, the media in Bosnia reported on Saturday.
‘We are confident that the thesis about a joint criminal enterprise is entirely unfounded, as it was unfounded in the case against Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac. Every crime needs to be condemned, but calling defence a joint criminal enterprise and convicting Croats on this basis portrays all other Croatian soldiers and Croatia … in a negative light. We strongly oppose that,’ the HSK said.
The ICTY is scheduled to hand down its ruling in the case Prlic & others on May 29.
The ICTY prosecution accused the former heads of the Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna – PM Jadranko Prlic, Defence Minister Bruno Stojic and the Commanders of the Croatian National Council (HVO), generals Milivoj Petkovic and Slobodan Praljak, HVO Police Commander Valentin Coric and the head of the Office for Exchange of War Prisoners, Berislav Pusic – of crimes committed in a joint criminal enterprise headed by former Croatian president Franjo Tudjman with the aim of ethnically cleansing the Herceg-Bosna region and annexing it to Croatia in an attempt to create a Greater Croatia.
The prosecution asked for 40-year sentences for Prlic, Stojic, Praljak and Petkovic, 35 for Coric and 25 for Pusic. The defence argued that they be acquitted.
The six gave themselves up on 5 April 2004. The trial began in April 2006 and is one of the longest running trials at the tribunal”.
I join in prayers for a not guilty verdict. There was no joint criminal enterprise perpetrated by Croats in Herceg-Bosna in defending their homes and lives. Had it not been for the establishment of Herceg-Bosna during the war of early 1990’s, the Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Muslims would have made sure that the Croat voice from Bosnia and Herzegovina was never heard in the international circles that ruled the days. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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