by Boris PAVELIC and Josip REGOVIC
It started with a few lonely boos, continued with a "crescendo" of whistles and culminated with loud chanting of "Ante, Ante" [Pavelic, leader of Ustashe in WWII] by some of gathered 10,000 persons. The spark that set off the reaction was when Seks in his speech, describing the crime in Bleiburg tried to say that the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) in WWII supported Nazis, the Third Reich and fascists. At that moment the dissatisfaction erupted, and several hundreds of persons wearing Ustashe uniforms - led by the association "Croatian Homeguards [Domobrani]", organizers of the recent Ustashe parade in Zadar - raised black flags, and photos of Ante Gotovina and Ante Pavelic. Plenty of Ustashe insignia, worn by both young and old, testified yesterday that visitors to the Bleiburg commemoration are incapable of making a distinction between showing respect for the victims and condemning the ideology that ruled Croatia between 1941 and 1945.
However, Seks did not stop his speech. He continued speaking, from time to time making breaks and raising his voice in accordance with the strength of the booing from the audience. After opening his speech asserting that events in Bleiburg were "an organized and premeditated execution by the Communist party of tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians with the goal of decimating Croatian patriots and nationalists," the president of the parliament added that full truth was needed, "but not for the sake of rewriting history and provoking hatred and divisions". "No, we need the full truth in order to make sure crimes like in Bleiburg do not happen again," Seks concluded.
The mass for the victims killed in Bleiburg, on the 60th anniversary of the executions, was served by Vrhbosna cardinal Vinko Puljic. This was the first time in history that a cardinal served a mass in Bleiburg. Puljic also blessed the reconstructed monument commemorating victims killed in Bleiburg, mostly financed by Ivica Recan's administration.
Talking about the need for stronger links between Croats in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina, the Cardinal advocated the establishment of "not a state institute, but a national institute for collection of data about the victims," as well as that the truth about victims from other ethnic groups also be found. Before the mass, a Muslim prayer was also held.
by Drazen CIGLENICKI, Zlatko CRNCEC and Irena FRLAN
The then health minister, member of the state defense council and high Croat Democratic Union (HDZ) official Andrija Hebrang, who based on the logic of the amended indictment could definitely be seen as one of the co-conspirators in the "joint criminal enterprise", warns that the prosecution assertions are "ridiculous and absurd".
"Such an indictment would charge not only the whole state leadership, but the formulation ‘and other persons, identified and unidentified' can accuse the Croat nation of being genocidal. That is horrendous! That is an indictment of the whole country and a nation!," Hebrang says. Hebrang believes that the amended indictment will only further bring down the standing of the Hague Tribunal among Croats. However, he stressed that the indictment cannot be an excuse for stopping cooperation with the Tribunal. On the contrary, Croatia must be even more motivated to prove the truth about the Homeland War. "If today we stopped cooperating with the Hague Tribunal, this absurd indictment would be in force. Therefore, we must do everything in our power to prove it wrong in front of the Hague Tribunal and the whole international community. We have no other choice," Hebrang emphasized.
"Personally, I am proud of the operation ‘Storm'. I firmly supported it and even now stand behind my actions, while I did speak out in connection with some events that took place after the operation when it was appropriate. If these formulations were accepted, that would imply that the ‘Storm' was a criminal endeavor and that all those who participated in it were criminals," Granic said. He is convinced that the Tribunal will reject the proposed amended indictment. However, as far as he is concerned, it is extremely important that the Croatian authorities "forcefully resist such accusations that are not based on the truth, that change history, and unfortunately, exceed the boundaries of law". Granic emphasizes that the Croatian authorities will be judged by the Croat public as well as history based on their stand in this case. However, Granic also warns that Croatia must continue cooperating with the Hague Tribunal.
However, some of leading Croat politicians believe that not only politicians, but also NGOs and the civil society must take a stand regarding the proposed amended indictment. Thus, president of the Croat Peasant Party (HSS) Zlatko Tomcic stated that the [Catholic] Church [in Croatia] and the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Letters should also take a stand regarding the amended indictment.
Cermak's lawyer Cedo Prodanovic believes that the proposed amended indictment did not fulfill court's instructions and that consequently defense will lodge a complaint. Although details of the complaint are not known at this time, Prodanovic stated that he would focus on "imprecise character of the indictment and failure to list specific charges".
"They did not explain what our clients did, how they correlate with others, what were the goals of the endeavor; they did not explain individual roles in the endeavor," Prodanovic explains, adding that the complaint will be lodged within 15 days. However, the court has no deadline when responding to defense complaints.
"We deal with legal details, not with political interpretations. A crime is a crime and someone must be held responsible," the spokesperson stressed. To the question why other alleged co-conspirators in the "criminal endeavor" were not indicted, she responded that "local courts must continue with investigations and trials" because the Hague Tribunal will only try the top leadership. However, she added that the Tribunal never said that the "Storm" is a criminal endeavor and that nothing has changed in that respect. She repeated that legitimacy of a certain military operation does not imply that crimes committed during or after the operation should be ignored. "A commander of any rank is responsible for punishing soldiers who violate rules of war, and the amended indictment wanted to emphasize that in the operation ‘Storm' crimes were not punished or prevented. On the contrary crimes were tolerated," Hartmann concluded.
"If the indictment does not face further objections or if those objections are rejected, the prosecutor will have to prove her assertions in court. Consequently I think that in this phase it makes no sense to spend a lot of time discussing the indictment and that the discussion can only take place on the emotional or political level [sic]," Josipovic said.
by Drago PILSEL
Talking about the Pope's canonizations during the burial of John Paul II in the Vatican, CNN's correspondent Christiane Amanpour mentioned that some of them were "very controversial". She added that (the Pope) "beatified a Croat from the time when Croat fascists were virtually allies of the Catholic Church and carried out horrendous pogroms of Serbs during WWII". After that the CNN's reporter John Allen, agreed with her statement and concluded that "for many Cardinal Stepinac was unacceptably close to Ustashe, a paramilitary organization in Croatia allied with Nazis".
Bishop Kosic emphasizes that the truth has nothing to do with what CNN's reporters were saying and adds that "Cardinal Stepinac all the time opposed the regimes, both Ustashe and Communists".
It is not true that Stepinac at all times opposed Ustashe. At first Stepinac generously met with them, encouraged and welcomed them. We know that on April 28, 1941 he welcomed the establishment of Pavelic's Independent State of Croatia demanding loyalty to the Leader. That proclamation was written after the destruction of the synagogue in Osijek (on April 14) and introduction of first measures discriminating against Jews and Serbs (April 17), at the point when every intelligent person should have been aware that the new authorities have taken a course opposite to Christian values and fundamentals of the just society.
CNN's broadcast was not a documentary on the history of the Catholic Church. Consequently, the CNN could not specify the nature of the Church's alliance with the fascists, but the CNN knows very well that some bishops serving under the Independent State of Croatia, such as Sarajevo archbishop Ivan Saric were open supporters of the Ustashe regime. The CNN wanted to emphasize an undeniable historical fact that part of the Church for a long time ignored the worst crimes of the Ustashe.
For those Catholics who celebrate him Stepinac is a martyr fallen for faith, but he is not untouchable. Catholics may be critical when writing and thinking about him. Let me quote Goldstein: "It remains totally unclear how Stepinac envisioned that laws discriminating against whole ethnic groups could be reconciled (he demanded from minister Artukovic that those laws be implemented in such a way that ‘individuality and human dignity of every human be respected', Drago Pilsel's remark) with respect for ‘individuality and dignity' of every member of theses ethnic groups" ("Holocaust in Zagreb," page 567). What remains is the irreconcilable contradiction - irreconcilable from the point of view of logic, ethics, legal theory and practical implementation - which remained present in Stepinac's letters and public appearances all the way until the end of 1942 or early 1943. In any case, way too long.