Nobel Prizegiving Decisions: Gone To The Dogs

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

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

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

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

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with Milosevic has been so controversial that in 2006, his nomination for the Heinrich Heine Prize was ultimately withdrawn and yet, here we are in 2019, the Nobel Committee.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

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

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

Pater Handke Photo: Getty images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Croatian Court Sentences Serb Paramilitary Commander For War Crimes

Dragan Vasiljkovic (R)
Photo: AP

Croatian court in the city of Split has sentenced Tuesday 26 September the former Serb paramilitary commander and Australian citizen, Dragan Vasiljkovic, a.k.a. Captain Dragan, a.k.a. Daniel Snedded, to 15 years in prison for war crimes committed in Croatia during Serb aggression against Croatia in the 1990s.

The sentence is pathetic. If true justice were handed out then the man would spend the rest of his life in prison.

The municipal court in the coastal town of Split said Tuesday found that the rebel Serb paramilitary commander Dragan Vasiljkovic had during the 1991-95 Croatian Homeland war, when Serbs took up arms against Croatia’s secession from communist Yugoslavia, killed, tortured and beaten civilians and Croatian police prisoners in a fortress in Knin prison in 1991 and that his attack that same year on a series of villages near Glina had resulted in the deaths of civilians.

The 63-year-old Vasiljkovic, who was born in Serbia, went to Australia at the age of 15 but returned to the former Yugoslavia to train Serb rebels in 1991, when Serbs took up arms against Croatia’s secession from Yugoslavia.

He spent nine years in detention in Sydney fighting extradition, claiming he would not receive a fair trial after The Australian had exposed his war crimes in a 2005 article. Vasiljkovic was discovered by Australian Federal Police while working on a yacht at the Harwood Slipway in the Clarence Valley (state of New South Wales, Australia) after 43 days on the run. He was then extradited from Australia in July 2015, after fighting a 10-year legal battle against being handed over to Croatia’s judiciary.

He became Australia’s first extradited war crimes suspect.

While praised in Serbia and among Serbs worldwide as disciplined soldier with no mercy, in Croatia he was known as a smug self-promoting commander of a special forces unit, the feared Kninjas, that sought to drive out ethnic Croats from the border area known as Krajina (territory covering about 1/3 of Croatia and occupied by Serbs during the war via ethnic cleansing of Croats and other non-Serbs, murder, rape, plunder and destruction).

The three-judge Croatian court panel found Vasiljkovic guilty of two of the three charges, which included torturing and beating imprisoned Croatian police and army troops and commanding a special forces unit involved in the destruction of Croatian villages. He was found responsible for the death of at least two civilians.
About 60 prosecution witnesses were questioned during the trial, including those who said they were tortured by Vasiljkovic.

The court found that Vasiljkovic, as commander of special Serb purposes unit of the paramilitary forces, for the training of special units known as Alpha, acted against and in breach of Geneva Convention.

When Vasiljkovic strode in the historic old fortress town of Knin in the Dalmatian hinterland near the Bosnian border in early 1991 tensions against secessions from former Yugoslavia reached boiling point from Serbia direction, his connections with Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic’s secret police who sat at the apex of the power structure were already well-established.

The deadly assault at Glina in July 1991 was an early bloody chapter in the genocides committed by Serbs in Croatia. The Glina assault is among the war crimes tribunal’s three allegations against Vasiljkovic, who is accused by Croatian prosecutors of commanding troops who tortured and killed prisoners of war; commanding a deadly assault at Glina in 1991; and training paramilitary units that committed war crimes at Bruska near Benkovac in Croatia’s central Dalmatian hinterland in 1993.

When Croatia declared it wanted independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, Vasiljkovic adopted the moniker Captain Dragan and was encouraged by Serbian intelligence chiefs Milan Martic (sentenced to 35 years prison in The Hague) and Franko Simatovic (currently on retrial for war crimes in The Hague) to train special forces units in an old scout hall in the village of Golubic from where he often led his own unit on military operations.

Vasiljovic’s lawyer Tomislav Filakovic said in Split: “Captain Dragan didn’t expect such a harsh sentence, this has come as a big surprise.
We don’t believe the prosecution presented substantial evidence to arrive at such a verdict and we will appeal.’’

His lawyers will lodge a request for Vasiljkovic to released immediately because he has served nine years in detention in Australia and a further two years in a jail in Split. Under Croatian law prisoners can be released after serving two-thirds of their original sentence.

Vasiljkovic, who was widely believed during the war to be working for Serbia’s secret service, has claimed innocence throughout the one-year trial, saying the whole process was rigged. The judges ruled that they will take into account the time Vasiljkovic served in detention in Australia and in a Croatian prison, meaning he has three and a half years of his sentence remaining.

As much as Serbia may pursue its denial of direct involvement in the violence and genocide in Croatia (and Bosnia and Herzegovina), which led to the rising of Croatian defence forces against the backdrop of UN arms embargo, strong Yugoslav Peoples’ Army acting for Serbia’s interests, and an impoverished material defence resources Vasiljkovic’s case serves also as a reminder of the horrors Croats went through during the Homeland War. Any lasting reconciliation can only be achieved via truth and justice such as the one seen surfacing in the Split court on Tuesday, even if the sentence is pathetic when compared to the brutality of the crimes. One must not forget that many Serbs known or suspected of war crimes in Croatia had, as part of the deal for peaceful reintegration in Croatia of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium, in 1998, been given amnesty from prosecution for war crimes.  This is something that is most painful for Croats. However, as there is no statute of limitation for war crimes and a revisit to the matter with view to rescinding the amnesty would no doubt serve the needed justice for victims of war crimes. Ina Vukic

 

ICTY Stanisic and Simatovic Retrial – Serbia’s Involvement On Agenda For War Crimes Against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina

Serb war crimes suspects:
Jovica Stanisic (L)
Franko Simatovic (R)

 

Two former secret police chiefs – Jovica Stanisic, the former head of Serbia’s state security, and Franko Simatovic, his deputy, once held to be among the most powerful men in Serbia, went on trial Tuesday 13 June 2017 at The Hague ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia) for the second time, accused of running a lethal network of covert operations during the 1992-95 conflict in which Serbia wanted to prevent the break-up of Yugoslavia despite the fact that majority of people in states that made up Yugoslavia, except Serbia, voted to secede from communist Yugoslavia.

The ICTY prosecutors hold that the operations were intended to impose as well as conceal the wartime policies of Slobodan Milosevic, the then Serbian president. The policies that with their intent could perhaps be captured in a sentence uttered by Milosevic in 1989: “Either Serbia will be united or there will be no Serbia!” With this non-Serbs across former Yugoslavia began to tremble.

Stanisic and Simatovic were acquitted of similar charges to those in paragraph above in 2013 after a three-year trial at the ICTY in The Hague. The acquittals shocked legal experts, victims’ families and survivors of the wars of Serb aggression in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The wars of Serb aggression in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina during early 1990’s meant that special combat units of the Serbian secret police directed Serb paramilitary forces who burned churches and mosques and killed masses and raped civilians in village after village to drive out non-Serbs (Croats and Bosniaks and other non-Serbs). These special combat units often went into action ahead of or alongside Serb military units.

With regards to the 2013 acquittal the ICTY chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz said in an interview: “Take for example, the most recent decisions on Stanisic and Simatovic. That victims cannot be satisfied with this decision is obvious. The judges on one hand have confirmed that Stanisic and Simatovic, as responsible for the Serbian intelligence service in Belgrade during the wartime, were the ones creating those special units (Serb paramilitary groups responsible for atrocities in Bosnia and Croatia), that they were the ones supporting financially those units, and that they de facto also were the ones who had a certain control of those units. To have as a conclusion that they were acquitted because they have not specifically directed their support to a commission of crimes is, of course, a notion very difficult for victims to understand. And even at my office, we considered it as a break from the previous jurisprudence where it was sufficient to prove that somebody who was providing substantial support to a party in the conflict had actual knowledge about the commission of crimes by those groups.”

In late 2015, ICTY appeals judges ruled that they had found legal and factual errors in the first trial.

While the judges in the Trial chamber ruled that the defendants had issued no “specific direction” to commit crimes, the appeals judges said no such proof was required to prove a criminal conspiracy or the aiding and abetting of crimes. Given that two of the three original judges had left the chamber, the case could not be sent back the appeals judges issued a decision that not only overturned what had been established by the Trial Chamber back in 2013, but also ordered that Stanisic and Simatovic be retried.

This was/is particularly good news as there has been a consistent, propaganda calibre of an alarming rise of zeal among Serbian nationalist groups, politicians and other public-figure individuals who are rewriting the history of the conflicts in Croatia and Bosia and Herzegovina, denying that Serbs committed any war crimes, pushing the agenda of Serb victimhood including falsely branding the voluntary withdrawal from Croatia of some 200,000 Serbs after Croatia’s liberating military operation Storm in August 1995 as forced deportations and ethnic cleansing, banning references to the conflict from schoolbooks and glorifying convicted war criminals.

ICTY chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz, the tribunal’s chief prosecutor, told the Security Council on June 7, 2017,  that despite the large body of evidence proven in “case after case,” the denials and the refusal to accept facts, even by government officials, were “loud and clear.” (For Full address click here

Genocide is denied. Ethnic cleansing is denied,” he said.

When irresponsible officials use division, discrimination and hate to secure power, conflict and atrocities can gain a logic of their own,” Brammertz said. “That was true two decades ago when genocide and ethnic cleansing began, and it remains true today.”

On the first day of the new trial on Tuesday 13 June 2017, Douglas Stringer, a prosecutor, portrayed the two former Serbia secret police chiefs, Stanisic and Simatovic, as close to Slbodan Milosevic, who had himself gained control of the institutions and agencies of the federal government of what was then Yugoslavia.

Milosevic entrusted the two men with all the critical aspects of secret police activities leading up to and during the wars, Stringer said

The men set up clandestine training camps for paramilitary fighters and acted as chief organizers, paymasters and suppliers for those units, he said. The paramilitaries, some of whom were convicts, became notorious for their brutality and, according to ICTY prosecutor Stringer, “looted on an industrial scale.”

Far from spontaneous, the prosecutor said, the Serbian state security at first placed their operatives in positions in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia that were scheduled for “ethnic cleansing.” He said these operatives were known as “doublehatters,” at once linked to the Belgrade government and also key players locally who relayed orders to the paramilitaries. All the activities “were covert to conceal the hand of Milosevic,” Stringer said.

The fate of Stanisic and Simatovic will be crucial in legally determining the role of the Serbian state in the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina that killed more than 130,000 people. After two decades of trials at the tribunal in The Hague, no officials of the Belgrade wartime government are serving sentences, only Bosnians and Croats. Should Stanisic and Simatović be found guilty in the retrial, a connection between the Serbian political cadres and the crimes committed in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina would be established, legally sanctioning the direct involvement of the Serbian state in the 1990’s wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Slobodan Milosevic, considered the war’s main architect, was facing a list of charges, including genocide, when he died in a tribunal cell in 2006 shortly before the end of his trial. His chief of staff, Gen. Momcilo Perisic, was convicted and sentenced to 27 years for aiding and abetting war crimes in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, but the verdict was overturned on appeal in 2013 because no “specific direction” to commit crimes had been proved. That ruling also led to disagreements among legal scholars and judges. ICTY is expected to deliver a verdict for Gen. Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military chief, in November 2017. Ina Vukic

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