Brian Gallagher, croatia, Goran Visnjic, gotovina, icty icc, Ina Vukic, jadranka juresko-kero, jce, joint criminal enterprise, krajina, markac, Mirjan Damaska, mishka gora, Neven Sesardic, oluja, operation storm, Robin Harris, Udruzena Nepravda, war
On the 4th of August 1995, Croatia launched Operation Storm under the leadership of General Ante Gotovina. It was a professional, textbook military offensive hailed by General Wesley Clark (of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and later NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe) as a “turning point” in the Croatian and Bosnian struggle to defend their countries against Serb aggression. Peter Galbraith, US Ambassador to Croatia at the time, testified to the ICTY that the war in Bosnia would not have ended without this Croatian military offensive. In the short space of three and a half days, Operation Storm liberated most of the Croatian territory that had been under Serb occupation for four years and broke the siege of Bihac, thus preventing General Ratko Mladic from making good his promise to treat the 150,000+ inhabitants of Bihac in the same way he had those in the so-called UN safe haven of Srebrenica. As I have said before, General Gotovina did more to secure peace and justice in the former Yugoslavia in two days than the ICTY has in the course of two decades.
Seventeen years later, General Gotovina and his counterpart General Markac have both been incarcerated for crimes against humanity, having been convicted and sentenced to twenty-four and eighteen years’ gaol respectively on the basis of liability in the form of a ‘joint criminal enterprise’, a notion first touted by the Appeals Chamber of the ICTY in 1999. This concept, which transforms conspiracy from being an act or deed into a form a liability by which someone can be guilty for someone else’s actions, is to be found in neither the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court nor the ICTY Statute upon which ICTY indictments should be based. Currently in the process of being appealed, the convictions of Generals Gotovina and Markac have always been specious, at least to anyone with an ounce of common sense, and it is therefore timely that the Croatian daily newspaper Vecernji List is today releasing a documentary film by Jadranka Juresko-Kero about the international criticism of this verdict which has largely been ignored by the media.
Udruzena Nepravda, which translates as ‘joint injustice’, a play of words on the fallacious concept of ‘joint criminal enterprise’, brings together a number of international observers to comment upon the case of Gotovina et al.. The participants range from the famous and notable to more humble analysts like myself. It is a truly international film, with participants all over the world. Goran Visnjic, the Croatian actor known best for his moving nine-year portrayal of the character Dr Luka Kovac in the television series ER, was interviewed in his Hollywood home. Dr Robin Harris, advisor to Margaret Thatcher both past and present, and London-based correspondent Brian Gallagher, provide a British perspective, while Neven Sesardic, philosopher and Professor at Hong Kong’s Lingnan University, and Mirjan Damaska, Sterling Professor Emeritus of Law at Yale Law School and an expert in international criminal law, contribute an academic viewpoint. I join Ina Vukic, a tireless lobbyist and blogger, as the Australian representatives.
I have written extensively about this case, how it is so very contemptuous of justice, so today I will refrain from further comment. On this anniversary of Operation Storm, I will instead be giving thanks that Croatia is no longer occupied and that war does not still rage in Bosnia. Today, the fourth of August, is a day for thanksgiving, because without Operation Storm Croatia’s Adriatic coast would not be a tourists’ paradise and Bosnia-Hercegovina might have continued to be a slaughterhouse for a long time after 1995. I do not have to be Croatian or Bosnian to be thankful for this. Every human being on this planet should be grateful that Croatia, under the military leadership of General Gotovina, had the courage to do what was right. We should all be grateful that Croatia rejected four years of UN appeasement and decided to fight the good fight.