Friday, 29 April 2011

Croatian generals are not guilty - Introduction

Croatian generals are not guilty - Introduction

In August, 1995, the Croatian Army liberated large sections of its territory, which had been occupied by the Serbs for many years. This operation is known as Operation Storm (Oluja). In Dalmatia, the most critical part of the operation was headed by Croatian general Ante Gotovina.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia accused general Gotovina of crimes against humanity and violations of laws and customs of war. Also accused are Croatian generals Mladen Markac and Ivan Cermak. They are suspected, together with the late Croatian President, Franjo Tudjman, of participating in a joint criminal enterprise, whose goal was to remove the Serbian population from that part of Croatia.

The trial was completed in 2010. The prosecution of the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague had not succeeded in proving a single count of the indictment. The verdict is awaited.

In the meantime many world-renown experts on international law wrote critically about the work and character of the tribunal in The Hague, deeming that it had distanced itself from the values on which international law is founded, and that it acted under the influence of politics.

They asked themselves and are still asking how is it possible to put on trial the commanders of an army that liberated its own territory in a brilliant military operation with a minimum number of killed and wounded. How was it possible to put Croatia and Croatians on trial, the victims, in 1991, of internal (terrorist uprising by a part of the Serbs) and outside aggression (Serbian and Montenegro) with thousands and thousands of dead and wounded, as well as devastated villages and cities (Vukovar). The objective of this genocide, including culturocide (devastation of Dubrovnik and Zadar), was the creation of a »Greater Serbia«, with many Croatian areas in its composition. Krajina, the Serbian terrorist para-state with Knin as its center, was formed on a part of the territory of the internationally recognized Republic of Croatia, from where the attacks on the Croatian cities on the Adriatic Sea were initiated. Aggression on the entire area of Croatia was planned in Belgrade under the leadership of Slobodan Milosevic.

The International Tribunal in The Hague neglects this entire context and highlights only the Croatian military operation in 1995, accusing Croatian generals of »persecuting Serbs from Croatia«. The facts indicate otherwise: the supreme defense council of the »Republic of Serbian Krajina« made a decision on the planned evacuation of civilians; it was to take place in front of representatives of the international community; and Serbs from this part of Croatia did not wish to remain despite the proclamation by the President of the Republic of Croatia, which called on them to stay.

The Tribunal in The Hague also neglects the fact that the army of the Republic of Croatia, after the fall of Knin (which was practically undamaged) continued with its operation on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in accordance with the agreement signed by Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic and Croatian President Dr. Franjo Tudjman. This operation too was led by general Ante Gotovina. Civilians in the city of Bihac, Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was surrounded by the Serbian army, were saved. Bihac was a safe haven, as was Srebrenica, the site of a terrible genocide of Muslims not long before. Thanks to the Croatian Army and general Gotovina, a massacre in Bihac was averted. What is more, the Serbs were retreating in panic towards northern Bosnia, and from that point on no longer represented a real military threat. They accepted the Dayton Agreement, which, actually, ended the war in Southeast Europe.

It was this kind of general Gotovina and others in the indictment who were put on trial in The Hague for a non-existent »joint criminal enterprise«, which is absurd, even more so because the prosecution raised indictments on the basis of information provided by the enemy in the conflict.

The lawyers of the Croatian generals were not the only ones participating in their defense. Given that the tribunal in The Hague did not allow the Republic of Croatia to appear as »amicus curiae«, legal experts gathered in an attempt to replace this role, as has the non-governmental organization of intellectuals under the name »Hrvatsko kulturno vijece – Croatian Cultural Council«. The book that you have in your hands is a summary of the eight collections of symposium papers (a total of 1200 pages) that originated on the basis of presentations by Croatian intellectuals at eight symposiums of the Croatian Cultural Council held from the middle of 2006 to 2010.

Hrvoje Hitrec President of the Croatian Cultural Council

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