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USA Washington True facts - Why is this verdict unfair and political? _CMN_PRINT
Tuesday, June 07 2011, 8:00am - 5:00pm by  _CLOAKING Hits : 2304
True facts - Why is this verdict unfair and political?

The fundamental proof cited by the ICTY in finding Croatian general Ante Gotovina guilty was that he had ordered the excessive shelling of non-military targets, which constituted indiscriminate attacks on civilians. The judges found that the shelling of non-military targets was part of a conspiracy to cause Serbs to flee the region and they sentenced Gotovina to 24 years in prison.

However, a careful review of the ICTY judgment papers reveals that of the 1,205 shells aimed at Knin (the capital town of the region in question) only 65 landed on non-military targets, 43 of which landed in an empty grass field, and no one was hurt or killed by the other 22.

The prosecution brought three Serb witnesses that testified the shelling caused them to flee the region in terror.

However, it was later revealed the three lived across the road from a military installation.

This was not the first attempt by the UN to grossly exaggerate the issue of excessive shelling.

On the second day of Operation Storm the UN spokesman in Zagreb said of the hospital in Knin, “Because the hospital was hit, it’s unclear how many of the wounded will survive.” During Operation Storm, UN officer Andrew Leslie told the BBC that, “essentially every large urban center in Knin had been hit by shell fire.”

However, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Roy Gutman filed this report in New York Newsday in the days just after Operation Storm. “UN officers acknowledged that that the UN had overstated the damage to Knin during the height of the fighting. The UN commander, Brig. Gen. Alain Fourand of Canada, said there had been no direct hits on Knin's hospital. Reporters saw some large craters from shells that shattered most of the windows in a nearby apartment house, but there was no evidence of indiscriminate shelling.”

A major point of contention in the case against the generals is the argument of whether the Serbs that left the region had been expelled by Croatian forces or ordered to evacuate by their own leadership. Even though there was a clear order to evacuate by Serb leaders, the judges concluded that, “the evacuation plans had little or no influence on the departure of the Serbs.”

However, in the ICTY’s own case against former Serbian president, Slobodan Milosevic, the ICTY introduced witnesses to show that he let the region fall into Croatia’s hands so that he could direct the evacuated Serbs to Kosovo to solidify Serb territory there. In its rejection of an appeal by Gotovina’s defense that a court cannot convict two defendants for the same crime, the ICTY judges carefully split words to suit their findings. They ruled that Milosevic had not ordered the Serb evacuation -- he only redirected them to Kosovo after they had already left. This ruling goes against the common knowledge that all wartime Serb command structure ran directly to Milosevic.

In the very first hours of Operation Storm, Carl Bildt, the UN Special Envoy to the Former Yugoslavia, called a press conference to say that the offensive was a war crime. He made this statement even though no major military action had yet been taken. In defense of Bildt, Anton Nikiforov, a spokesperson for the ICTY, said in an interview that Bildt might have been sensitive to the fact that only three weeks prior to his statement a major attack had taken place against Bosnians by Serb forces in Srebrenica.

The world was shocked by the July, 1995 massacre in Srebrenica, Bosnia where 8000 Bosnians were murdered by Serb forces while the UN stood by and did nothing. In the immediate aftermath, several other Bosnian cities were under the same threat and the UN continued to do nothing. This threat was confirmed by Serb general Ratko Mladic when he told a Serb journalist during a press conference that the Bosnians in Bihac would suffer the same fate as those in Srebrenica. Three weeks later the Croatian decision to launch Operation Storm did what the UN could not, it saved the Bosnians in Bihac from the same massacre suffered by their countrymen in Srebrenica.

The UN has long been accused of manipulating its court to suit its political goals and it is very likely not a coincidence that indicted Serbian general, Ratko Mladic, the architect of the Srebrenica massacre, a fugitive from justice for 15 years, was captured a mere two months after Gotovina and Markac were found guilty.

However, even the UN must admit to the irony of such a trade-off -- a guilty verdict against the Croatian generals exchanged by the UN to capture a war criminal whose genocidal attacks were stopped during the war by those very same Croatian generals when the UN could not.

During the war, the UN pursued a policy of treating the war as a civil war and not a war of aggression where Milosevic and his Serb forces conspired to capture and occupy the sovereign territories of Croatia and Bosnia. This policy included an arms embargo against all sides in the war, even though the Serbs had all of the weapons of the former Yugoslav military, including fighter jets, tanks, and major artillery. In addition, this policy called for UN officials to punish Bosnian and Croatian forces when they undertook any defensive action to recapture territories that gave their citizens a respite from Serb terror. The loud protest by the UN during the start of Operation Storm was just part of their campaign to prevent any military actions to be launched, even those where sovereign territories were being recovered.

At the war’s end the UN was roundly criticized for these policies. However, the UN has stubbornly held to their conviction that it was a civil war where all sides were guilty and not a war of aggression by Milosevic. If history writes that the UN was wrong, then they and their sponsors can be judged as complicit for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, and the displacement of millions more. The case of the Croatian generals is the UN’s attempt to not only prosecute war crimes, but to illustrate that all sides have guilt for the war itself. A guilty verdict against the generals is the only chance for the UN to be absolved of its guilt for not stopping Milosevic as the war’s aggressor.


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