General Bobetko's mortal remains seen off in Sisak by 15 thousand citizens from all over Croatia
Farewell With Political Messages Of Retired Generals
"In the last few years there was no freedom in Croatia for those who had liberated her. If there is no freedom for generals Gotovina, Norac, and Ademi, than there is no freedom for anyone," Basarac shouted wearing a Croatian National Guard uniform
by Drazen CIGLENECKI and Sasa VEJNOVIC
Novi List, Rijeka, Croatia, May 3, 2003
Yesterday at 5:30pm retired General Janko Bobetko was buried at the Sisak City Cemetery. His widow Magdalena was handed by the officers of the Croatian Army the flag that covered General's coffin, a bugle played the tune "Silence" and about 10,000 persons who had come from all over Croatia to attend the funeral started to disperse. Although days before the funeral the media debated whether it would become a political rally, the funeral went quietly and without too much politics. As announced, there were no representatives of the authorities, while only a few opposition politicians attended. President Stjepan Mesic was represented by deputy head of his military cabinet Kresimir Kaspar. Representatives of the ruling coalition seen at the funeral included Milan Bandic [mayor of Zagreb, from the Social-democratic party] and Marijana Patir, representative of the President of the Parliament Zlatko Tomcic. The opposition was represented by presidents of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), the Croatian Party of Rights (HSP), the Croatian Block (HB), the Croatian Christian Democratic (HKDU), and the Croatian True Renewal (HIP), Ivo Sanader, Anto Djapic, Ivic Pasalic, Anto Kovacevic, Miroslav Tudman (who came with his mother Ankica Tudman), respectively.
Ivan Basarac's Fiery Speech
Among other, Croatian basketball national team player Stojko Vrankovic attended Bobetko's funeral. Out of three speakers, Ante Zivkovic, old friend of the late General, and retired generals Ivan Korade and Ivan Basarac, the fiery Basarac's speech met with most approval. He was the only speaker to opt for explicitly political messages.
"In the last few years there was no freedom in Croatia for those who had liberated her. If there is no freedom for generals Gotovina, Norac, and Ademi, than there is no freedom for anyone," Basarac shouted wearing a Croatian National Guard uniform. Basarac warned that the authorities had not accepted the demand of 400,000 signatories who had demanded calling of a referendum on cooperation with the Hague Tribunal. Basarac also accused unidentified individuals of violating the Constitution.
"All those who do such things must be held responsible by the Croat people," Basarac resolutely demanded. Basarac conveyed to late General Bobetko, as he said, "greetings from Generals Gotovina and Norac". To his wartime superior officer Bobetko Basarac suggested that upon encountering president Franjo Tudman he report to him that "we promise to defend the independent Croatia, freedom of the Croat people and dignity of the Homeland War".
He Did Not Betray Ideals
"In 1941 Bobetko confronted fascism, in 1971 he participated in the Croatian Spring, in 1991 he fought against the Serb aggression, while in 2001 he fought false charges. He never betrayed his ideals," Basarac emphasized. Referring to the fact that the Hague Tribunal had indicted him, Basarac quoted Bobetko's wife who on one occasion stated that "the persecution of her husband was equal to the persecution of Jesus Christ". "Farewell commander, my second father," Basarac concluded his speech.
The procession with general's coffin arrived at the Sisak Cemetery a bit after 4:30pm led by the military orchestra of the Croatian Army and Sinj Alka Knights. A big cross was carried in front of the coffin by Brigadier Zdravko Vladanovic, one of Bobetko's closest collaborators at the southern front, instead of General Norac as Bobetko had specified. General Bobetko's decorations were carried by retired generals Miljenko Filipovic, Ljubo Cesic Rojs, Stanko Sopta Baja, and Ante Kotromanovic. The Roman Catholic mass was served by military bishop Juraj Jezerinac.
Mortal remains of General Bobetko were displayed a few hours before the burial in the yard of his childhood home in the village of Crnac, near Sisak. Numerous villagers filed by the coffin in silence paying their respects to Bobetko's visibly shaken widow. Besides villagers, numerous war veterans who had come to Crnac from all over Croatia also paid their respects to the late General. During that time retired generals and Sinj Alka knights stood at attention next to the coffin.
From Seventh Century
Miroslav Skoro and Drazen Zanko fulfilled one of Bobetko's last requests, singing at the funeral "Mate" and "From seventh century". And while Skoro very emotionally, with teary eyes and accompaniment of mandolin players sang "Mate", Zanko stood at the microphone opening his mouth while the song was played back from a CD.
Badges and Placards
The commotion at the entrance to the Sisak City Cemetary was partly caused by numerous badge vendors. Thus, a small badge with General Janko Bobetko's portrait could be bought for 15 kunas [$2] but the vendors were prepared to reduce the price if someone was prepared to bargain. A small badge with the portrait of Mirko Norac went for 10 kunas. Although it had been announced that about hundred persons would come to the funeral with black T-shirts bearing General's portrait and the motto "Expecting your orders General", only a handful appeared at the funeral, in addition to a few persons wearing T-shirts with General Ante Gotovina's portrait. Only one placard was carried in the funeral procession: "Holy Trinity - Franjo [Tudman], Gojko [Susak], Janko [Bobetko]".
Djapic: "It's Better That Mesic Did Not Come"
The opposition leaders attending the funeral were outraged by the failure of the authorities to send their representatives. "That is shameful and unacceptable. The role of Janko Bobetko is known by everyone and regardless of differences in political views authorities should have sent their representatives to the funeral. There are moments in history of every nation in which all disputes must be laid aside," Croatian Block (HB) president Ivic Pasalic told us. Anto Djapic, the leader of the HSP was even more direct. "Actually, President Stjepan Mesic correctly guessed that he did not belong here and it is perhaps good that he did not come to the funeral," Djapic emphasized.
Honorary president of the Croat People's Democrats (HND) Josip Manolic also attended the funeral. As Manolic told us, he had known Bobetko for 50 years. Commenting on the failure of the authorities to send their representatives to the funeral, Manolic said that the authorities were involved in the funeral to the extent it had been agreed with General Bobetko's family. "I don't know why President Mesic failed to come to the funeral, why he made such a decision. But his statement that no one is guilty until proven guilty is a good illustration of his views regarding the events around the Hague Tribunal," Manolic told us.
Maltese judge next week decides about "Bobetko case"
Hague For Now Suspends Bobetko Case
In similar cases the court usually relies to time-limited solutions, so that a new medical check up will be scheduled in a few months," attorney Mikulcic says
by Boris PAVELIC
Novi List, Rijeka, Croatia, February 2, 2003
Next week, Maltese judge Carmel A. Agius will decide if the Hague Tribunal will stop the procedure against General Bobetko after a Dutch medical team confirmed the findings of Croatian medical experts that Bobetko is unfit for trial. Yesterday, Tribunal's spokesperson Jim Landale could not specify when Agius will make his decision, refusing to confirm or deny the news that Dutch physicians have confirmed the findings of their Croatian colleagues until judge Agius announces his decision.
However, sources from the Croatian government unofficially confirmed the news, declining to comment further, since the Tribunal hasn't officially informed the government about the findings of the Dutch physicians. Namely, they must inform the Hague Tribunal about their findings, while they are not obliged to inform the authorities of the country from which the indictee comes.
Attorney Goran Mikulcic, representing Croatian authorities in Bobetko case in front of the Hague Tribunal, yesterday explained that the Hague Tribunal and judge Agius, respectively, can make two decisions: they can either temporarily or finally stop the procedure against General Bobetko. "A final suspension of the case would be a surprise for me. In similar cases the Hague Tribunal takes a pragmatic approach and usually leans towards temporary solutions. Consequently, the most likely outcome is a temporary suspension of the proceedings against General Bobetko, followed by a new medical check up in a few months time, even though it may seem obvious that Bobetko is permanently unfit for trial," Mikulcic told us. And if the next medical check up produces identical results, only in that case we can expect the final suspension of the case.
General's attorney Petar Sale is satisfied with the denouement. "It could not have been any different. Croatian physicians are competent and would not have made any mistakes. I am not surprised. It had to be this way," he told us yesterday.
Florance Hartmann, spokesperson of the Hague Tribunal Prosecutor's office yesterday did not want to comment on the unofficial news from the Hague. "I will not comment on gossip nor encourage leaking of information," she said clarifying that the Tribunal has not yet officially announced the findings of the Dutch physicians. "I do not know where you got that information. The Tribunal hasn't confirmed anything. In any case, the Prosecution has its view, but judges make final decisions. Until they announce their decision I will not comment," Hartmann told us yesterday.
Sale Contradicts Government
Petar Sale yesterday contradicted leaks from the government indicating that attorneys, rather than the government, had passed the news about the findings of the Dutch physicians to the media. "That is not true. Government hasn't told us anything. I read the news this morning. And how could the authorities inform us about anything? It is common knowledge that we barely communicate with the authorities, which drove my colleague Bosiljko Misetic to protest. The authorities are again passing the buck and trying to blame us. What sort of behavior is that? How can they play games with such important issues?! This is not a flea market!" Sale was angered by the attempt by the authorities to justify the illegal leaking of news that had seriously angered the Hague Tribunal.
Mikulcic: Croatia Proved Its Cooperation
The decision of the Dutch Physicians confirmed that Croatia does not try to avoid cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, attorney Mikulcic asserted. "Now it is clear that the issue was not non-cooperation but protection of elementary human rights of the indictee". Croatia, according to Mikulcic, can be satisfied because it has proven that it was justified in demanding a check up of General's health. "Some claimed that Croatia did not cooperate with the Hague Tribunal. But, does cooperation boil down to execution of senseless orders or does it make sense to check if those orders are justified?" Mikulcic wandered.
Ivan Bobetko: My Father Indicted For Acts Under Jurisdiction of Military Police
The son of the indicted General, Ivan Bobetko, described the decision of the Dutch physicians as a "normal step" in a process that was abnormal from the start. "It makes no sense that they even suspected my father. He did not go to Medak Dzep to burn houses! And punishment of culprits was not under his jurisdiction, it was the duty of the Military Police," Ivan Bobetko told us yesterday. To the question what his father's response to the physicians' decision was, Ivan Bobetko said: "And what should he say, he's a sick man... What else could have physicians said?"
Croatia Helping Milosevic?
by Jelena LOVRIC
Novi List, Rijeka, Croatia, September 28, 2002
It seems that no one in Croatia is concerned by the consequences of the fact that the odium against the Hague Tribunal is on the increase at the moment when the Tribunal is about to start the trial of Slobodan Milosevic for crimes committed in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina. Some media have even advised president Mesic to refuse to testify against Milosevic. According to them, if Croatia is fighting the Hague Tribunal's decision to indict General Bobetko, it is unseemly that the president of Croatia help the Tribunal. Angry defenders of "Croat generals" apparently hope to shut down the Hague Tribunal, and win freedom for all of its prisoners and indictees.
Naturally, the trial of Milosevic and the indictment of the wartime Chief of Staff of the Croatian Army are connected. But the connection should not be sought in the attempt to achieve artificial balance of guilt. It can easily be concluded that the Hague Tribunal does not make crude instant-balances and "fails to distinguish between the aggressor and the victim" simply by consulting the list of the indictees. The Serb colony is by far the largest in the Hague prison. It is far ahead of others both regarding the number and the rank of the indictees, which reflects the facts. Croatia has so far received only three indictments. General Ademi is currently free, Racan's authorities have made it possible for General Gotovina to escape and the Hague Tribunal did not react too harshly. Consequently, Croatian whining cannot be tolerated anymore because otherwise it would justify Milosevic's claims that the Hague Tribunal "only tries Serbs".
The trial of the "Balkan butcher" - it immediately became obvious - will for Croats not only be a moment of long awaited justice but will also in a way force Croatia to face the facts that are here gladly swept under the carpet. Prime Minister Racan pointed that out when in the context of the indictment of General Bobetko he stated that the Hague Tribunal wants to take away Milosevic's argument that it had failed to investigate and try crimes against Serbs.
But the Prime Minister ignores the fact that he bears a lot of blame in this case. Tudman's authorities tolerated crimes. Since the change of authorities some investigations have been initiated but, apart for one, all of them quickly deteriorated into mockery of justice and law. Even a massacre of thirteen prisoners of war has been qualified as self-defense. Racan is justified in criticizing the bloody legacy of his predecessors, but he is wrong in blaming the opposition for failing "to create an atmosphere more conducive to investigating and trying what was necessary". Racan's administration has done almost nothing to create such an atmosphere since coming to power three years ago.
Racan's administration is also not prepared to face the fact that crimes were not only committed by undisciplined looters and that they were not sporadic. Political scientist Zakosek warns that the authorities have failed in critical analysis of the recent past; they failed to find the right way to separate the glorious tradition of defense from crimes and violation of human rights. The Homeland War was a defensive war; however Tudman has also included in it plans for greater Croatia that would be ethnically as "clean" as possible.
One distinguished columnist, a priest [Zivko Kustic], has recently asserted that "the most important issue in this case is not what happened during the operation Medacki Dzep, but how Croats experience the indictment of General Bobetko". For those who cannot see, it is perhaps enough to substitute just a few words to reveal the full horror of such attitude. For example: it is unimportant what happened during the siege of Vukovar; what rally matters is how Serbs experience the Hague indictment of Milosevic. Indeed the trial of "the father of war" can become a mirror for his local mini-copies.
Translated on August 11, 2006