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/

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