The events in Croatia during the past week should have marked the diary pages with pride, piety, dignified grieving for the lost lives, and a determined step forward in the direction of achieving final justice for the multitudes of war crimes' victims, victims of the times of Serb aggression, and which justice includes due pursuits in achieving compensation for victims as well as public property such as buildings, utilities etc.
By Brian Gallagher
With the recent death of Margaret Thatcher, a couple of biographies of her have been published. One is ‘Not for Turning’ by Robin Harris. Harris, of course, was one of her top advisers and thus uniquely placed to discuss her life. Further, he is an expert in his own right on Croatia and Bosnia, being the author of an acclaimed history of…
I had an interesting encounter with Leslie Cannold on Triple J’s ‘Hack’ current affairs programme yesterday evening. I expected it to be somewhat slanted, but what I didn’t anticipate was the rude denial with which Cannold and the presenter responded to basic facts.
After a litany of bizarre claims and factual inaccuracies, Cannold stated that abortion is not legal in Tasmania up until birth. This is a barefaced lie. When I tried to point this out, the presenter cut me off, thanked Leslie Cannold, and hung up on me. They refused to allow the listeners to know the truth. They simply denied it.
So, I thought I’d assemble some home truths about the Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill with which Triple J’s listeners, not to mention Leslie Cannold and certain members of parliament, ought to acquaint themselves if they have any interest in being ‘informed’:
- Abortion was legalised in Tasmania in 2001 with amendments to the Criminal Code Act 1924. It is legal at any state of gestation, i.e. up until birth, as long as certain conditions are met.
- It is remarkably easy to meet those conditions. I myself picked up the Yellow Pages, looked up abortion under ‘A’ in the index, and found myself directed to various advertisements for ‘Pregnancy Termination Services’. This informed me that my privacy is “assured”, that everything can be done in the “one visit – same day procedure”, and that “bulk billing” is available. With one telephone call, I also established that a referral isn’t required as there are two doctors on site.
- Michelle O’Byrne has herself stated that the changes to the law are so that women can do tests for “genetic abnormalities” that aren’t apparent prior to 20 weeks. We all know that it’s murder to tear a baby limb from limb, even if it’s premature, but according to Ms O’Byrne this should be legal as long as the dismemberment causing death occurs in the womb, and especially if it has an abnormality picked up at the 20-week scan, such as a club foot or a cleft palate (both of which can be corrected post-birth I might add).
- But this legislation goes even further than killing off disabled children. It allows abortions for social and economic reasons. It’s true that two doctors will have to sign off on this (as they already do – you may want to re-read point 2). Not very many people think that this is a good basis for having an abortion; but, even if you do, a doctor (whose expertise is a woman’s reproductive system) cannot certify social and economic circumstances. They are not social workers or financial planners. Obviously, the pregnant women themselves are the best judges of their social and economic circumstances, which means that the legislation is merely providing a loophole for abortion on demand that unscrupulously transfers responsibility to doctors.
- An unborn child at 39 weeks gestation is 16 weeks older than a premature baby born at 23 weeks. It is legal even now to abort a child up to 42 weeks – babies are considered ‘on time’ if born between 37 and 42 weeks – and it will be legal to do so for social and economic reasons if this legislation passes.
- 150 metres in Hobart goes a long way. You can walk from the abortion clinic in the heart of the CBD – which is unmarked, by the way, so I’m not sure how you’re supposed to know you’re in the access zone – around the corner into Macquarie Street (which is the main drag for those of you who don’t know Hobart), up to Harrington Street (where there’s a Catholic church on the corner), down to Collins Street (where you could – at present, but perhaps not in a few weeks – attend a pro-life book launch at Fuller’s Bookshop), and back up to the Victoria Street clinic all the while remaining in the access zone.
- Obnoxious behaviour such as intimidation, harassment, and obstruction is already an offence. Duplicating the law isn’t going to enforce it better, and it hasn’t needed to be enforced as there isn’t a history of people protesting outside abortion clinics in Tasmania, something even the Fertility Control Clinic has admitted publicly in writing.
- The legislation also gives the police special powers to detain, search, confiscate equipment, and arrest without warrant. This means a photographer doing a spot of street photography or perhaps taking photos for a news interview with a solicitor outside his premises – yes, the abortion clinic shares its address with a legal practice! – can be detained and searched, have her very expensive camera equipment confiscated, and then hauled down to the local nick. (And, no, the photographer would not know she was in an access zone. You may want to re-read point 6.)
- It requires a counsellor, whether paid or not, to refer if they have a conscientious objection even if the pregnant woman isn’t considering an abortion. So this means that an unpaid volunteer who is asked for advice about continuing a pregnancy (not ending it) can be fined $32,500 for not referring her to someone who supports abortion. In effect, it means that anyone who conscientiously objects to abortion cannot provide counselling to a pregnant woman and must make a referral that violates their conscience if a pregnant woman should seek their counsel. Furthermore, given that a counsellor can’t tell if a woman is pregnant by looking at her, the implication of this is that people who conscientiously object to abortion aren’t allowed to be counsellors. Doctors face a similar potential loss of livelihood.
- 10. That ‘extremely personal decision’ that some people think isn’t anyone else’s business is everyone else’s business. Apart from abortion killing a defenceless member of our society, etc., etc., it became our business when the government decided to fund abortion via Medicare.
I could go on, but everything I’ve seen in the last few weeks suggests that my words will fall on deaf ears. Anyone who saw the pro-choice rally last Sunday would have thought that abortion was still illegal and that women were being thrown in gaol by the cartload. But the supporters of this Bill won’t allow the truth to get in the way of ideology. That’s why they’ve created an exclusion zone around abortion clinics to protect the abortion industry, special police powers to intimidate ordinary citizens, and exorbitant fines and gaol terms to stifle dissent. God forbid that a woman exercising her legal choice should be presented with the truth that she’s about to make a deadly mistake, that she’s about to kill her own flesh and blood!
I was the official photographer at the talk given by Lord Monckton (Viscount Monckton of Brenchley) in Hobart on the 21st of February 2013. The Mercury ran an article by former ALP Minister Terry Aulich on Saturday the 30th. This was my response published on Wednesday the 6th of March:
It’s a pity former Labor minister Terry Aulich was so sparing with the truth in his ‘soapbox’ article on Saturday. He claimed that questioners “were cut short” when in fact Lord Monckton entertained questions for over an hour and only stopped when reminded by a security guard of the time. He also graciously answered brief questions during his talk, often saying “you’re quite right to question me about that” or words to that effect. Indeed, the emphasis of his presentation was that science is about questioning and seeking the truth. Terry Aulich, in contrast, seems utterly disdainful of the truth, repeating the anti-Monckton mantra of climate change denial when in fact Monckton began by talking about the ever-present reality of our changing climate. Aulich further claimed that “the audience started drifting away”, which left me flabbergasted as I was the photographer for the event and was astounded most people (over 90%) stayed throughout despite it being a three-hour presentation (and I have the photos to prove it). If only our university lecturers could keep their audiences’ attention the way Lord Monckton did! Aulich also suggested that Monckton wasn’t open enough about who was funding his talk, but all the advertising I saw clearly stated that it was sponsored by the DLP and Senator John Madigan. Aulich, on the other hand, should perhaps be more clear about his agenda in promoting the ALP’s carbon tax, something that did come in for considerable criticism from Lord Monckton based on the principle that if the cost of insuring against a risk is greater than the cost of the risk occurring then one shouldn’t bother with insurance. Terry Aulich talks about “screwing the facts” when he is the one guilty of doing so.
Terry Aulich replied today, suggesting I hadn’t noticed people leaving, despite the fact that I took photos of the audience both at the beginning and the end of the talk, and that a debate would have been a better format. (Of course, with more than an hour of questions, there was quite a bit of debate, and during the talk too, as seen in the photo above.) He also confirmed that he supports the carbon tax and that although he claimed to have an “open mind” he went along because he wanted to explore ways in which climate change could be ameliorated. If that’s an open mind, I’d hate to see a closed one!
In my experience, many who are prejudiced against Croatia have been brought up with assumptions about World War II that have no basis in fact. One of the most important ways to counter this is to proclaim the truth about Croatia’s experience of the war, to counter the Communist propaganda about key figures such as Blessed Cardinal Stepinac with objective scholarship using primary sources. Another no less important endeavour is to tell the truth about Serbia and demolish the myths that modern Serbians have drawn upon in an attempt to diminish their culpability in the 1990s conflict in the former Yugoslavia. This succinct 2005 essay by Marko Attila Hoare is an excellent introduction to this latter topic and deserves to be widely read (as does his blog Greater Surbiton).
bosnia, croatia, Croatian Serbs, David Harland, gotovina, icty, israel, justice, krajina, markac, marko attila hoare, Milena Sterio, mishka gora, palestinians, propaganda, scapegoats, serbia, theodor meron, Veljko Maric, victims, war crimes, yugoslavia
Less than a month has passed since the acquittal of Generals Gotovina and Markac at the ICTY, and I am forced to conclude that (despite the courageous decision of Judges Meron, Robinson, and Güney to uphold judicial integrity despite considerable political pressure), very little has changed in the general perception of Croatia and its people. Already we have been treated to dozens of news articles displaying the shoddiest of journalism and a complete disregard for research, reliability of sources, context, or balance. The analysis of the court decision has turned out to be negligibly more coherent and certainly not trustworthy (with a few exceptions). However, both have exposed the insidious propaganda that has been blindly accepted and dispersed by the majority.
I have been fascinated to read the constant refrain that the verdict will further harm relations between Croatia and Serbia and the process of reconciliation. As true as this may be, should two innocent men have been condemned simply to appease the Serbs? Is this what international justice is really about – further appeasement of the aggressor, almost two decades after the end of the war when the Serbs were rewarded for their murderous rampage across the region with half of Bosnia? Does international justice mean sacrificing the truth about the guilt or innocence of individuals in order to placate those who would rather wreak revenge on a scapegoat than discover the real perpetrators?
In all this, there has been a dangerous underlying assumption, a wholly incorrect supposition that predisposes us to presume guilt instead of innocence. That assumption is that Croatia’s sovereignty is in some way lacking in legitimacy, that the war of 1991-1995 was a civil war in which the rebels were the Croats, Bosnians and Slovenes. This has been reflected in the persistent claims that the Serbs were the predominant victims in the conflict (which is about as rational as suggesting the Germans were victims of World War II) and totally ignores the political reality of what was Yugoslavia.
The first thing I want to clarify is that the borders the Republic of Croatia claimed when it seceded from the federation of Yugoslavia in 1991 were no different to the borders it had under the 1946 constitution of Yugoslavia. (The same can be said of Slovenia and Bosnia-Hercegovina.) Furthermore, the Krajina region which was occupied by rebel Serbs with the support of Serbian troops during 1991-1995 has always been part of Croatia. From the sixteenth century to 1882 it formed the Habsburg-ruled Croatian Military Frontier, and from 1882 it was part of the Kingdom of Croatia. The Krajina has never been part of Serbia, and the fact that there is an entire country (Bosnia) between the Krajina region of Croatia and Serbia should help anyone ignorant of this history to understand how very unambiguous this is (or at least should be).
The second point to be made is that when the Socialist Republic of Croatia (which was one of the six constituent republics of Yugoslavia) democratically and legally seceded from federal Yugoslavia, it was attacked from outside of its borders by Serbia (a.k.a. rump Yugoslavia). Likewise, the multi-ethnic Bosnians were attacked by Serbs and Serbians when they attempted the same legitimate political action. I can personally testify that when I worked in the so-called Serb Republic of the Krajina in 1993 that Serbian troops were actively engaged in missions in Bosnia and Croatia. Both Croatia and Bosnia were invaded by an aggressive enemy bent on expanding the historical borders of Serbia across two additional countries. While locals inevitably were involved when fighting came to their area, neither Croatia nor Bosnia were involved in a civil war; they were fighting to defend their national sovereignty.
Nevertheless, two decades later, there is still widespread ignorance on this matter. And the mainstream media contributes to this blurring of right and wrong by encouraging constant and blatant errors of logic. People leaving a region does not equal ethnic cleansing, and yet those who should know better, such as David Harland of the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, take it for granted that ethnic cleansing took place. (It should probably be noted that this is the same David Harland who has admitted responsibility under cross examination for the myth that UNPROFOR was unable to establish that the Serbs were responsible for the Markale 2 Marketplace massacre in Sarajevo.) He recently wrote in the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune: “If the acquitted generals were not responsible for this ethnic cleansing, then somebody was, somebody who will presumably go free.” As I have pointed out in greater detail in a previous article, the subjective experience of fear does not prove the intent of an objective action by another party. Furthermore, when people choose and are not forced to leave a region, that is not ethnic cleansing. The Serbs who left the Krajina in 1995 were directed to do so by their own leaders prior to the arrival of Croatian troops, and what crimes did take place were (going by the testimony of Serb witnesses at the Gotovina et al. trial) in the chaos following Operation Storm when the Croatian Army was in Bosnia.
Even the dissenting judges of the Appeals Chamber have fallen into the trap of equating outcome with intent, bemoaning that the acquittal of Generals Gotovina and Markac “contradicts any sense of justice”. But, as Marko Attila Hoare has perceptively pointed out, the lack of justice for the victims is not the fault of the Appeals Chamber. While “the ICTY has failed them”, the “failure should be attributed… to the prosecution’s flawed indictment”. When the innocent are indicted, then justice demands an acquittal, however inadequate that may be for the victims. Condemning the innocent does not deliver justice for victims, even if it does satiate the demands of their kith and kin for blood, and if anything it makes a mockery of the victims, suggesting that the wrong done to them can be dismissed by more wrongdoing, making them pawns in a game of tit for tat instead of human beings with legitimate grievances needing rectification.
Of course, there are many who assume Operation Storm was by definition a case of ethnic cleansing, and it is no wonder when all manner of misinformation predominates about the Gotovina et al. case. After all, the average person is more likely to have access to David Harland in the New York Times or a basic news service that claims “Operation Storm represents one of the most severe cases of ethnic cleansing that was conducted in the wars in the territories of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY)” than the more accurate analysis of the Royal United Services Institute which notes that the “original judgement conceded” that “Operation Storm as a whole was not an illegitimate campaign”.
Notably, Serbian First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic recently tried to convince the UN Security Council that Operation Storm was “an indiscriminate attack”. He concluded that because the ICTY had failed to punish anyone for crimes against Serbs that “the acquittal of Gotovina and Markac [was] shameful”. Once again, we see the mentality that demands punishment (of a scapegoat if necessary) rather than (our often flawed attempts at) justice. Vucic’s attempt to characterise Operation Storm as a crime in utter defiance of the ICTY’s verdict to the contrary (in both the original trial judgement and the final appeal) is a ploy often seen at the UN, a ploy to turn the tables and portray the aggressor as victim. Just as Palestinian terrorists fire rockets at Israel day after day then complain vociferously to the UN when Israel responds in its defence, so too Vucic has neglected to mention that Operation Storm was a defensive response to four years of indiscriminate shelling of urban areas of the Dalmatian coast, that it was conducted in a highly professional manner over the course of three days (unlike the Serb attacks on Croatia and Bosnia starting in 1991), and that at the time Serb forces (in conjunction with Serbian forces) occupied one-third of Croatia and had done so for four years.
Law professors, it seems, aren’t immune either. Milena Sterio from Cleveland State University has made fundamental errors in her scrutiny of the case. (I am, of course, assuming that these are unwitting mistakes and that Prof. Sterio, as a Serb lawyer-academic, would never deliberately misrepresent the facts.) Notably, in her article at the IntLawGrrls blog, she states “Gotovina and Markač had been accused of participating in a joint criminal enterprise, alongside the Croatian political leadership, to ethnically cleanse Croatia, and in particular, the Krajina region, of the Serbian [sic] population that had lived there for centuries.” This is a favourite mantra of the Serbs – that they’ve lived there for centuries - and it’s not something I dispute, but I will point out that having lived in Croatia for centuries makes them Croatian Serbs, not Serbian. And this is the crux of the issue. There are more Greeks in Melbourne than Athens but that does not mean that Greece has claim to a quarter of Melbourne or that Melbourne should be incorporated into a ‘Greater Greece’. The Serbs of the Krajina claim they haven’t lived in Serbia for centuries, which makes them Croatian. They cannot have it two ways – either they are Croatian Serbs, with allegiance to Croatia and a right to live in the Croatian region of the Krajina, or they are Serbian Serbs, in which case they were part of an occupying force that Croatia had every right to expel. Professor Sterio’s comments betray an inability to accept Croatian sovereignty over the Krajina and a confusion of Serb (ethnicity) and Serbian (citizenship). The Krajina Serbs are not Serbian, but Croatian, and (as I’ve pointed out above) there is nothing discriminatory about Croatian sovereignty over the Krajina which is historically and geographically very distinct from Serbia.
Interestingly, General Gotovina has himself publicly supported the return of Croatian Serbs to the Krajina. He, like most Croatians, knows his history, that the Krajina Serbs have indeed lived there for centuries and are therefore Croatian, and also that there were approximately ten thousand Croatian Serbs who fought in the Croatian Army in defence of Croatian sovereignty. It is seldom mentioned that the ethnic Serb population at the time was represented not only by a minimum of eleven Serb representatives in the Croatian parliament but also by the Serb People’s Party which opposed the Serbian attempt to create a Greater Serbia by annexing swathes of Bosnia and Croatia. So, in reality, if anyone in Croatia should be accused of ethnic cleansing it is those Serbs who decided they could not live under Croatian sovereignty, who by their actions declared that (unlike tens of thousands of loyal Croatian Serbs) they could not live side by side with non-Serb Croatians and would rather retreat to a country they hadn’t lived in for centuries. Croatia, despite being at war, had guaranteed the legal and political rights of its ethnic minorities, but a vast number of Serbs supported the ethnic cleansing entailed in Serbia’s war for a Greater Serbia, and when Croatia announced its plan to defend itself from this abominable policy of ethnic purity via Operation Storm they chose to leave.
Professor Sterio also states that the “Appeals Chamber concluded that the Serbian [sic] population left willingly, not because of any forceful military action exercised by the Croatian army.” She then goes on to say that the “Appeals Chamber disregarded evidence, set forth by the Trial Chamber, that Croatian leadership resettled the Serb-deserted Krajina region by ethnic Croats, and that after the Serbs fled, Croatia adopted discriminatory property laws which made it increasingly difficult for Serbs to own property in Croatia.” Assuming for the sake of argument that this is true, it nevertheless has absolutely no bearing on Operation Storm or the guilt or innocence of its military leaders. The Appeals Chamber quite rightly made a distinction between the actions of Generals Gotovina and Markac and the political events that took place afterwards. It is absurd for Sterio to suggest that events that took place after the willing departure of the population can render their choice invalid. The willingness of a person at a certain time cannot be changed in hindsight. To do so, to say that one was forced when one wasn’t, is lying. It is furthermore wholly irrational of Sterio to suggest that two military leaders were in any way responsible for subsequent property legislation or the resettlement of internally displaced persons.
However, the stance Professor Sterio is perhaps best illustrated by her conclusion: “Finally, this appellate decision will further reinforce the Serbian belief that international justice is not blind and apolitical, and may dissuade Serbian political leaders from cooperating with authorities at The Hague. While most Serbs did not care about the individual pronouncement of culpability against Gotovina and Markač, they did and do care about the global pronouncement of responsibility against the Croatian leadership for crimes committed against ethnic Serbs in Krajina.” And there you have it! The verdict in a trial that has the primary aim of establishing the guilt or innocence of two individuals has an effect on a “Serbian belief” and “may dissuade” Serbian political leaders from doing the right thing. Apparently, we are to decry the operation of justice and abandon truth and the process of law in order to pander to Serbian propaganda. Furthermore, according to Prof. Sterio, most Serbs don’t care about whether the generals are culpable or not, but they do expect them to be found guilty regardless. So much for justice!
This cult of Serb victimhood has created problems additional to Operation Storm and the Gotovina et al. case. Last year, Croatian citizen Veljko Maric was sentenced to twelve years’ imprisonment by a Serbian court in a case riddled with impropriety. (Even the Serbian Humanitarian Law Center has stated that Maric should not have been tried in Serbia.) Maric’s innocence or guilt aside – and I for one am inclined to presume innocence until he is given a fair trial – Serbia does not have jurisdiction over an alleged crime that took place on Croatian soil. Maric should have been extradited to Croatia, as requested by the Croatian government. The fact that there has not been international outrage over this, and that this has not been cited as an impediment to Serbia’s EU membership, is another glaring instance of the international community pandering to the aggressor. The only justification for Maric to be tried in Serbia would be if the alleged crime took place on Serbian soil, and anyone who upholds the jurisdiction of the Serbian court in this case gives tacit approval to the notion of Greater Serbia.
Indeed, the only way that any of these arguments in favour of Serb victimhood work is if one subscribes (consciously or subconsciously) to a Greater Serbia and the ethnic cleansing and genocide that was used in furtherance of this abhorrent doctrine. And the irony of this, an irony that should not give anyone who cares for justice any pleasure, is that murderers of Croatian Serbs now walk free. Of course there were crimes committed in Croatia in the wake of Operation Storm – every country has its fair share of criminals and I imagine that the chaos of war encourages rather than discourages crime – but the Serb obsession with blaming the Croatian leadership and the Croatian people as a whole has served to obscure these crimes instead of assisting the authorities to track down the perpetrators. This is a travesty, all the more because those with the most interest in discovering the real perpetrators are the ones standing in the way of truth and justice. While Croatia and its generals are hounded for crimes they did not commit, the real perpetrators cannot be identified.
The choice for those of us who discuss these matters is clear: we can either commit ourselves to the truth and seek justice or we can let the propaganda go unchallenged and allow innocent people to be punished as scapegoats. It is up to us to speak up and set the record straight. Silence means consent.
abortion, bosnia, carla del ponte, conscience, croatia, fragments of war, gotovina, icty, Ina Vukic, israel, krajina, mishka gora, operation storm, palestinians, serbia, stepinac, theodor meron, united nations
On Friday, I was interviewed by Zoran Stupar of Dnevno. This is the English transcript of that interview:
Mrs Gora, thank you once again for talking to us. You have supported the Croatian generals all these years. You pointed to incompetent judges after the initial sentence. Did you expect the generals would be freed on all charges?
No. While I was hopeful of a just outcome, I did not expect the generals to be fully acquitted, and I think the dissenting opinions of two of the judges demonstrate that the verdict should not be taken for granted. Many people continue to be duped by the erroneous notion that for justice to be done the accused must be found guilty. Sometimes the accused is innocent, and the overwhelming emphasis on victims can obscure this. Trials are, after all, supposed to be about finding out whether the accused (who is presumed to be innocent) was the perpetrator of the alleged crime. They should not be about serving up a scapegoat to assuage the victims’ thirst for vengeance. Thankfully, three of the judges chose judicial integrity over political considerations and both generals have had their names cleared.
Did you have the chance to watch the reception of the generals when they came to Zagreb?
I couldn’t view very much of the generals’ joyous arrival in Zagreb as I have a poor internet connection. I was, however, very impressed that they made a point of attending Mass and praying at the tomb of Blessed Cardinal Stepinac. It would be very easy to allow the adulation of the Croatian people to go to their heads, and I think this demonstration of thanksgiving and humility, of putting God before men, is a fine example of the character of true heroes.
Even though it seems that justice has prevailed, some think that the verdict was political. If the concept of ‘joint criminal enterprise’ passed, the EU would be getting a new member state which was based on and created in crime. What do you think, was the verdict honest or political?
One can never rule out the influence of politics, but given the dissenting opinions and the fuss being made by the ICTY’s own prosecutors I believe the final verdict was genuinely founded in jurisprudence. I know very little about the presiding judge, Theodor Meron, but my gut instinct is that his experience as a Polish Jew who survived the Holocaust has probably given him a courage and integrity that can withstand the corruption of political institutions. His separate opinion emphasises the rights of the appellants (the generals) and gives a very strong impression of a man who believes in the concept of a fair trial. I imagine that he would be dissatisfied that some war criminals remain unknown and at large – as I am, for the obsession with Operation Storm as a supposed joint criminal enterprise has allowed individual perpetrators of murder to go unpunished – but also that he recognised that to convict the wrong person(s) would only add to this injustice.
Furthermore, there is little evidence that the EU has any qualms about admitting member states that have perpetrated war crimes. The crimes of Serbia against Croatia and Bosnia have not created an impediment to its candidacy – indeed, Vukovar never rates a mention and the Bosnian Serbs have been rewarded for their crimes with half the country. So, given the deliberate impotence of the UN during the war and its favouring of the aggressor, I would say that this verdict is rather surprising.
Presidents of Kosovo and Albania and Mr Gotovina’s lawyers have called on international authorities to launch investigations against Carla del Ponte for abusing her position while she was a war crimes prosecutor and for her recent statements after Gotovina and Markač were released. Do you think the investigation will happen?
Being somewhat realistic (or even cynical) in nature, I am not overly optimistic, but every effort should nevertheless be made to uncover the truth.
How do you see del Ponte’s role while being ICTY prosecutor? What will she be remembered for?
I doubt Carla del Ponte will be widely remembered. My perception of her from news reports and so forth is of an irrational woman who has the maturity of a teenager. Her recent outburst on Blic shows that she has either failed to comprehend some of the most basic concepts of law, such as presumed innocence and burden of proof, or is so arrogant and prejudiced that she cannot conceive of the possibility that she was and is wrong. She has displayed a zeal for convictions so excessive that one is forced to ask whether she has compromised her integrity as the former Chief Prosecutor. Prosecution is only one half of the equation when it comes to balancing the scales of justice, and her refusal to accept this and other acquittals suggests a profound disrespect for the process of law.
Her continued representation of Operation Storm as a joint criminal enterprise calls into question her credibility as a legal professional and appears to be the result of a delusion that Serbia and Serbians were victims in the 1990s conflict… which is akin to believing that Germany and the Nazis were victims in WWII. It entirely ignores Croatian sovereignty over the Krajina region (as it has never been part of and doesn’t even adjoin Serbia), Croatia’s right to self-defence, and the notably professional manner in which Operation Storm was conducted. Her persistent assertion that the exodus of Serbs from the Krajina was a ‘war crime’ perpetrated by Croatia’s political and military leadership not only flies in the face of the evidence, the interim judgement, and the final verdict, but also bears an uncanny resemblance to Serb propaganda.
You have compared today’s situation in Israel with Croatia in the 1990′s. Can you tell me more about your views of Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Many see Israelis as the oppressors and Palestinians as the oppressed.
I compared the situation in Croatia during the war, when the Serbs occupying the Krajina shelled civilian areas such as Zadar and Sibenik, with the ongoing situation in Israel where Palestinian terrorists fire hundreds of rockets at Israel each year. In both cases, the UN not only has stood by and done nothing but also condemned the defending parties, Croatia and Israel. The Serbs in the Krajina were firing from a UN Protected Area, but the UN never intervened to protect Croatian civilians. It did, however, intervene to protect Serb forces when Croatian troops tried to regain some of their territory so as to protect these urban areas that were being shelled on a daily basis. Similarly, the UN generally remains silent about the incessant terrorist attacks on Israel but sides with the Palestinians when Israel acts to defend itself.
There is a quote about the Middle East conflict that illustrates the roles of the conflicting parties and which could equally be applied to the war in Croatia: “If the Palestinians were to lay down their weapons tomorrow, there would be no war. If Israelis were to lay down theirs, there would be no Israel.” So too if the Serbs had laid down their weapons during the war, the war would simply have been over and Croatia could have peacefully restored its borders. But if Croatia had laid down its weapons, it would have been overrun. And I would add that so too Bosnia would have disappeared into a Greater Serbia. Military aggression cannot be ignored and every state has a duty to protect its civilians. This is all that Croatia and Israel have done.
So, just as the UN disregarded Croatia and Bosnia’s right of self-defence, so too the UN disregards Israel’s right to self-defence. The latest UN resolution regarding Palestinian statehood didn’t even require the Palestinians to recognise Israel as a state or call on the Palestinians to end the conflict. Israel has made countless concessions for the sake of peace, but the Palestinians are never satisfied and probably never will be while Israel exists. I don’t see how there can ever be lasting peace in the Middle East if the basic security needs of the State of Israel are ignored in favour of terrorists who have vowed the destruction of Israel.
You’re engaged in the anti-abortion campaign in Australia?
Yes, Australia has some of the most permissive abortion laws in the world. In Victoria, for example, it is legal for a woman to commission a doctor to kill her child in the womb right up until birth. I cannot, in good conscience, ignore this slaughter of the defenceless.
I also find it deeply disturbing that feminism justifies this form of murder and has created an inconsistency in law and society that declares a 21-week-old foetus is a person and valuable human life (requiring a death certificate by law) but perversely considers the termination of such a life right up until birth legal and socially acceptable as long as the killer is its mother via an abortion. If men went around killing their premature babies citing the same reasons that women do for having abortions they would be condemned as heartless murderers of the most heinous kind and thrown in gaol, and yet we not only allow women to kill babies of the same age or even older but also pay for it with our taxes. Women are capable moral agents just like men – we’re not children or mentally-handicapped – and have a duty to protect their children. By sanctioning murder as a ‘choice’, women in this country have been granted an abominable power of life and death over their offspring in the name of women’s rights, but no one should have the right to kill their child. Abortion terminates individual human life and should not be legal.
How is life in Australia these days? Do ordinary people feel the economic crisis?
Australians are fortunate that we have not felt the economic crisis to the same extent as some other countries, but we are not unaffected. Many people are struggling financially and there is very little economic optimism. Everyone I know is cutting their spending to some degree, and most are finding it more and more difficult to pay the monthly mortgage or electricity bills.
There’s a large Croatian community in Australia. Young Croats are more and more abandoning Croatia in order to look for jobs and a better life. Would they find it in Australia?
Whether anyone finds a job in Australia is largely dependent on demand. It doesn’t matter how qualified someone is if there is no demand for their skills. This is something we all face, regardless of whether we were born here or not. And whether it is a better life here is a matter of perspective. I have known migrants to thrive here while others became homesick and miserable, but on the whole Croatians seem to adapt very well to Australian culture.
How’s ‘Fragments of War’ going? How is it selling, what are the comments and critiques?
Fragments of War has had a very positive reception – at one stage, it was even ranked at #1 in its category on Amazon.com – but I must admit that sales are somewhat disappointing. This is to be expected, as it’s difficult nowadays to get the average person to read a news article to the very end let alone a whole book of a serious nature, but it bothers me that so few people want to know what happened during the 1990s conflict.
I have tried to make this account of my experiences as a humanitarian aid worker as accessible as possible to English-speakers with no ties to the former Yugoslavia – I have even fictionalised it so that the storyline flows better – but without the right publicity (which is sadly more important than quality when it comes to sales and exposure) I think it will remain a fairly obscure book. In fact, I would be rather concerned if it became a bestseller!
Overall, I have received some very pleasing comments from readers, not to mention a fabulous review by Ina Vukic in which she said “Mishka Gora’s abundant use of dialogue achieves verisimilitude… she possesses the essential professional storytelling skill which arouses the senses to feel and see the reality that once was… an amazingly rich, emotionally detailed portrait of human nature.”
Do you write and photograph these days? Last time you told me you’re expecting a child around Christmas, so I guess you’re all into that.
I’m expecting my fourth child before Christmas, so my photography is on hold for a couple of months but I still manage to write a little amongst the chaos – I would go crazy if I stopped writing altogether! I’m currently working on an article about prevalent misconceptions regarding Croatia and I plan to start writing my second book in earnest sometime in the new year.
Who are your favourite photographer and writer? Are you reading anything at the moment?
I don’t really have a favourite photographer or writer as it depends on my mood. I do, however, admire the portraits of Cecil Beaton and when it comes to landscapes it’s not often anyone surpasses the talent of Ansel Adams. As for writers, I thoroughly enjoy the work of Anthony Trollope and also have a soft spot for George Eliot and Jane Austen. Currently, I’m reading about World War II as background for my next book, and am finding Sir Martin Gilbert’s The Righteous particularly gripping. It’s about ordinary people who took extraordinary risks to save Jews from the Holocaust, sometimes at the expense of their own lives.
Do you have a final message for Dnevno’s readers?
Merry Christmas! I hope 2013 is a year of peace and prosperity for Croatia and its people.
An intimate confession by General Ante Gotovina given in his family home in Pakostane after his acquittal in The Hague
Authors: Jadranka Juresko-Kero, Davor Ivankovic, Goran Ogurlic
Published in Croatia’s Vecernji List 26th and 27th November 2012. (http://www.vecernji.hr)
(Translated into English by Ina Vukic)
“I believe that our destinies are written in God’s book, and so too the fact that as a young man I went into the world and became a soldier.
bosnia, carla del ponte, croatia, former yugoslavia, gotovina, icty, joint criminal enterprise, justice, krajina, markac, marko attila hoare, mishka gora, operation storm, ovcara, serbia, serge brammertz, sovereignty, srebrenica, theodor meron, war crimes, yugoslavia
The ICTY Prosecution should perhaps be renamed the ICTY Persecution following ICTY Prosecutor Serge Brammertz’s announcement that they may seek a judicial review of the Gotovina et al. case. Likewise, former prosecutor Carla del Ponte continues to maintain that General Gotovina should be held responsible for war crimes in spite of the authority of the Appeals Chamber.
Apparently, this is based on the fact that many Serbs “are not satisfied by the outcome and feel their suffering has not been acknowledged”.
This points to a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of justice. Justice isn’t about irrational acts of revenge. It is not about finding a convenient scapegoat to assuage the emotional wounds of victims. It’s not about feelings.
The ICTY prosecutors, it seems, need to be reminded that justice is not served by just any guilty verdict. Justice is served when the perpetrator is found guilty. When the accused is not the perpetrator, as is patently clear in the Gotovina et al. case and has now been proven in a court of law, then justice can only be served by an acquittal. Justice must prevail for all, accusers and accused, otherwise it is not justice.
So, there are two thoughts I will leave you with on this Thursday morning, less than a week after the long-awaited acquittal of Generals Gotovina and Markac:
1. Justice for Serb victims will never be achieved as long as the persecution of Generals Gotovina and Markac – and by extension the entire Croatian nation – continues. While anyone seeks to pursue collective responsibility for individual crimes, the real perpetrators will remain hidden. Once again, I will quote Hannah Arendt: “Where all are guilty, no one is; confessions of collective guilt are the best possible safeguard against the discovery of culprits, and the very magnitude of the crime the best excuse for doing nothing.”
Blaming a legitimate military operation to recover occupied territory for a) an exodus of Serb civilians ordered by their own Serb leadership, and b) individual crimes that took place after the Croatian Army had left the area is persecution of the Croatian nation and bears no resemblance to justice. Real justice demands the identification of the perpetrators, not a blanket denunciation of an entire people. The ICTY should not be contributing to ethnic discrimination.
2. Justice for Croat (and Bosniak) victims continues to be noticeably absent at the ICTY. As Marko Attilo Hoare has rightly pointed out in his analysis, “long before this verdict, the ICTY had already failed the victims of Serbia’s aggression and ethnic cleansing against Croatia. Almost no official from Serbia, Montenegro or the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) has been prosecuted and seriously punished for crimes against Croatian citizens in 1991-1992”.
While justice isn’t about tit for tat, it must be recognised that the scales of justice at the ICTY are seriously out of balance.
The Croatian people, who have seen their military and political leaders vilified for acts that brought peace to the region in a remarkably professional and comparatively bloodless manner, have not received justice for the terrible suffering inflicted on them in the course of four years of a war of aggression perpetrated by Serbia/Yugoslavia. But, for all that, they have moved on and sacrificed their thirst for recompense, replacing it with their own hard work to rebuild their country, and any visitor to Croatia’s magnificent and thriving tourist spots can testify to how successful they have been.
The Serbs, on the other hand, bleat incessantly about their victim status (even though they were the aggressors throughout the 1991-5 conflict and the Croatians and Bosniaks, often civilians, were the victims). I hate to be the one to point it out, but the Serbs have been doing this since 1389. If they have anyone to blame for their exodus from the Krajina in 1995, it is their own leaders who ordered it. If there is anyone to blame for their reluctance to return there as Serbs of Croatian citizenship (as they have been invited to do by the Croatian government), it is themselves for their refusal to cast aside centuries-old ethnic hatred. Perhaps they should follow the example of tens of thousands of ethnic Serbs who supported Croatian independence from the very outset and live to this day in harmony with their Croat compatriots… or the many Serbs in exile who hang their heads in shame at the failure of their family and friends to speak out against such abominations as the massacres at Srebrenica and Ovcara.
Instead of listening to the griping of Serbs who continue to deny that atrocities like Srebrenica took place, even though the victims have been positively identified using DNA, ICTY prosecutors should strive to represent the silent victims, the ones who have no voice, the nameless ones whose stories remain untold by the media and the law courts.
Instead of persecuting Croatia in order to placate the loudest voice, the ICTY prosecutors would do well to remember that the blindness of justice should be so that it can listen well and discern the quiet truth from amongst the hysterical shrieks of the mob. And they might show a little more respect for the three judges of the Appeals Chamber who decided to put justice before political appeasement, who rejected the precedent of Pontius Pilate, and who sought justice for the accused as well as the victims, for “he that condemneth the just [is] abominable before God. (Proverbs 17:15)
When Carla Del Ponte, as ICTY prosecutor, with fervent support from the powers that be in Serbia set out to “lighten” the terrible Serbian guilt for mass murders and ethnic cleansing in Croatia particularly between 1991 and 1993, by pinning a wildly dreadful theory of joint criminal enterprise against Croatian 1995 Operation Storm (which liberated Croatian territory from terror and occupation) they weren’t just whistling Dixie – they were very serious about it!