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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)

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