True facts - Why is this verdict unfair and political?
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.
the second day of Operation Storm the UN spokesman in Zagreb said of
the hospital in Knin, Because the hospital was hit, its 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.
EVACUATION OF THE SERBS
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 ICTYs own case against
former Serbian president, Slobodan Milosevic, the ICTY introduced
witnesses to show that he let the region fall into Croatias hands so
that he could direct the evacuated Serbs to Kosovo to solidify Serb
territory there. In its rejection of an appeal by Gotovinas 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
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.
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.
WHY THE GUILTY VERDICT?
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 wars 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
UNs 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 wars aggressor.