by Drazen CIGLENECKI and Zlatko CRNCEC
President of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Ivo Sanader stated that the support of his party for the resolution is conditional and depends on the obligation of the government to initiate changes of the Constitutional Law on the Cooperation With the Hague Tribunal. His demand was met in a special motion that was signed by representatives of all political parties except for the Croatian People's Party (HNS). The motion obliges signatories to organize and conduct a debate on the changes of the constitutional law by the end of October at the latest. Next Friday, October 4, the extended presidency of the Parliament will hold consultations on that topic. The Parliament continues with its regular activities on October 2.
Prime Minister Ivica Racan expressed yesterday in the parliament his conviction that his government will not fall because of the indictment of Bobetko since most citizens approve its actions so far. He rejected advice of everyone "abroad and in Croatia" to unconditionally extradite Bobetko without resorting to tools offered by the Constitutional Law on Cooperation With the Hague Tribunal and the statute of the Hague Tribunal.
"We do not accept such demands because we do not interpret our behavior as a conflict with the Tribunal. On the contrary, we interpret it as cooperation," the Prime Minister warned.
Similarly, he refused to break off relations with the Tribunal, "which would directly lead to serious sanctions and international isolation". Racan said that he is aware that the pressure on Croatia will grow and that the country has already suffered some harmful consequences due to his administration's actions, but he urged citizens to trust the authorities.
"Our citizens will not eat grass because of this policy and this government because we are aware that the very same citizens would in a month or two overthrow the government that would take them into such an impossible situation. This government will not take Croatia in that direction by making radical moves," the Prime Minister promised. He announced defense of legitimate liberation actions in the Homeland War, as well as processing of "proven" crimes that took place during those actions as "that is our national interest". Changes of the Constitutional Law on cooperation with the Hague Tribunal and a referendum would be radical moves, according to Racan.
"The government finds that the Hague Tribunal indictment violates the constitution inasmuch as it describes the context of the military action Medacki Dzep, in the description of the crime and the character of the crime," Granic said.
He explained that the questionable part of the indictment asserts that the action Medzcki Dzep was a conflict between Croatian Serbs and Croatian military forces, as well as an attack on the Republic of Srpska Krajina and its civilian population.
"Consequently, the indictment claims that military action Medacki Dzep was planned, prepared and carried out with the goal of persecuting Serb civilians on political, ethnic and religious basis," Granic said. He added that the indictment fails to mention that during only six month Gospic was hit by 2,335 grenades which killed 13 and wounded 61 persons.
Granic reminded that the goal of the action Medzcki Dzep was liberation of the territory of the Republic of Croatia held by terrorists and added that the Constitution obliges Croat armed forces to protect sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of the country.
"The Constitution obliged General Bobetko to initiate a military action with the goal of liberating Croatian territory in order to protect property and people in that territory," Granic said reminding that during the military actions 88 persons were killed, 73 percent of them soldiers and 29 percent civilians.
"Unless changes of the Constitutional Law do not appropriately resolve fundamental issues we shall soon end up in the identical situation, if not worse," Pasalic said. He offered Italy and the United States as examples of countries that refused to extradite suspects to the Tribunal that prosecutes crimes committed in Rwanda. In its second demand the HB urged the government to bring down the indictment referring to the article 108 of the prosecution's rules of conduct.
HDZ president Ivo Sanader criticized President Mesic's statement since the President "took the position that is totally different from that of most political parties and most Croats".
"His statement reiterated his views that we all share blame and that we should all apologize to each other, which is nothing but historical revisionism. He compared the trial of Milosevic with the indictment of Bobetko. That is simply impossible, as we all know that Milosevic is a war criminal, while Bobetko is a hero," Sanader said. Sanader also supported changes of the Constitutional Law giving the local judiciary the right to reject or accept indictments issued by the Hague Tribunal. Sanader urged the government to call a referendum on cooperation with the Hague Tribunal if everything else fails. Mato Arlovic emphasized that the Social-democratic party (SDP) firmly rejected all claims that Croatia wanted to break off cooperation with the Hague Tribunal. On the contrary, Croatia merely "wants to protect its national interest based on objective jurisprudence and its laws".
"The international community has no solutions for south eastern Europe, Kosovo, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Macedonia and Montenegro. The only surviving idea in relevant political circles is integration of this region into a mini European Union," Budisa asserted, adding that such integration would be unfavorable for Croatia.
Given absence of Vesna Pusic, Darko Santic spoke on behalf of the HNS. He praised President Mesic's address to the nation "which legitimized Croatia in front of the international community as a democratic country with the rule of law".
"President has an easy time discussing such issues. We find it more difficult because we must secure majority support in the coalition, parliament and the public". Racan added that "someone else may have picked a different way or timing". The Prime Minister emphasized that he did not want to comment on differences between the government and President Mesic, although he "did not deny that such differences of intonation and style exist".
"I personally believe that the return of the right to power would not be a tragedy. The right has so far always cooperated with the international community, from the Constitutional Law to extradition of suspects to the Tribunal. The only exception is the Croatian Party of Rights (HSP), which has changed its taste in fashion but hasn't changed its policies". Kajin said that he believed that Croatian Generals were making it much more difficult for the government by "pushing each other to the Hague with mutual accusations aired by the media" than president Mesic.
"We are receiving many messages, and I can advise our friends from abroad to be patient. Croatia will continue cooperation with the Hague, but it has the right to use all legal means at its disposal so that it cooperatively resolves problems. I expect understanding from our friends from abroad given the overall situation in Croatia. It would be good both for Croatia and Europe and the rest of the world if Croatia remained a stable country and a factor of stability in the region," Racan said. The Prime Minister emphasized that at this moment Croatia cannot extradite General Bobetko but that it was trying to legally resolve problems through cooperation with the Hague Tribunal.
"We are in the midst of a legal move taken by the government with respect to the Hague. For now sanctions against Croatia are not realistic, although certain damage has been suffered since until now Croatia has always been mentioned in a positive context, while now it is being mentioned in the context of a dispute with the Hague Tribunal," Racan emphasized. He added that it is up to Croatia to prevent worse damages and full sanctions that would certainly follow an open conflict with the Hague Tribunal.
by B. PAVELIC
In his press release Stipetic explained how on September 15 1993 he signed with UNPROFOR an agreement regarding the withdrawal of the Croatian Army from the front lines taken in the battle for Medacki Dzep. On the same day he left to inspect the front lines in Banovina because Sisak was under an artillery attack and Stipetic was the head of the Zagreb regional command. Before he reached Sisak, he was ordered to turn back and return to Zagreb where the then Chief of Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces Janko Bobetko ordered him to sign the withdrawal agreement as a member of the permanent delegation of the Republic of Croatia for communication with UNPROFOR. Stipetic responded that he had not been informed about the operation Medacki Dzep and that the agreement should have been signed by the head of the regional command for Gospic. Bobetko's response was that the order for Stipetic to sign the agreement had come from the commander in chief, Franjo Tudman.
When Stipetic left to sign the agreement, Bobetko told him: "General, I would never sign such an agreement myself". Stipetic responded: "General, I am a soldier, you are my superior and I am executing your orders and the order of the commander in chief". Also, irritated by Bobetko's comment, Stipetic "said something that is not for press and tore the last copy of the agreement (I wonder what happened with General Bobetko's honor and dignity on that occasion)".
After that, following Bobetko's orders Stipetic went to Gospic and with UNPROFOR agreed that the withdrawal take place on September 15, 16, and 17. "I came back from Gospic when our forces left Medacki Dzep and when UNPROFOR forces took control of the last checkpoint they had controlled before the operation. I personally reported to General Bobetko on September 8, 1993 about the completion of the withdrawal," says Stipetic contradicting Bobetko's charges that he and Admiral Domazet were supposed to control the withdrawal. Stipetic emphasizes that the command line during the withdrawal "was the same as before and during the operation (the Chief of Staff - regional command for Gospic - subordinate units)". Stipetic also makes the following claim: "Upon my arrival in Gospic on September 15, 1993, everything that had taken place in Medacki Dzep was already over".
Stipetic also says that he stayed to see how the withdrawal went in the field, although he was not obliged to do so. However, he failed: "I was told that if I went to the field I would be killed, so I gave up". Stipetic also says that the soldiers were so upset with the withdrawal that they shot at the regional command building while he was inside.
Stipetic writes the following, among other, about the investigation of crimes in Medacki Dzep: "Documentation exists proving that Chief of Staff General Bobetko was informed about the decision of the Minister of Defense to order the Military Police to conduct an investigation into possible crimes in Medacki Dzep and submit a written report. According to the decision Bobetko was supposed to appoint one representative to the Investigative Commission". Stipetic does not specify whether Bobetko did appoint a representative to the commission, concluding his press release saying that he understands the difficulty of the current Bobetko's situation and promises to do all he can to assist him.
Other participants in the sad collapse of Croatia towards, as professor Viskovic said, "nationalist cretinism" also do not suffer from excessive consistency. This spring, Drazen Budisa, as a deputy prime minister stated that "Croatian citizens must respond to summons of the Hague Tribunal," explaining that in connection with the crisis regarding Gotovina the Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS) "has no doubts regarding the cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, which also implies extradition of our citizens to the Tribunal". He was adamant, on several occasions, that neither he nor the HSLS, after the indictment of Milosevic want to bring into question cooperation with the Tribunal. Last summer, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) boss, attempting to impersonate a European politician, supported the Hague Tribunal emphasizing that "the HDZ will not organize demonstrations against the Tribunal nor participate in them". Sanader has also changed his stance and is currently announcing organization of hot mass protests against the Tribunal.
The biggest turnaround comes, of course, from Racan. The man who less than three years ago came to power with the promise that he would take Croatia from international isolation and turn it into a civilized, well governed country with the rule of law, is today leading a new confrontation of Croatia with the Hague Tribunal and western alliances. His decisive "no" to the Hague justice, as usually happens, is followed by announcements that the nation, if necessary, will eat grass. The Prime Minister of the democratic Croatia, purportedly a reformist and a social-democrat has become a copy of Tudman. The difference being that the late Tudman knew when he had to slow down in his confrontation with the rest of the world. Racan is today marching shoulder to shoulder with the Croatian extreme right. We are witnessing an informal red-black coalition.
According to the Prime Minister, his highly questionable turnaround and risky dance on the edge of sanctions is actually a struggle for the truth. The only problem is that the truth defended today by Racan has a hole in its forehead. If everything that moved was not killed in Medacki Dzep and if Croatian forces did not follow a scorched earth strategy, that operation would remain what it should have been - a legitimate liberation of a part of occupied territory. Even Tudman feared that he would one day be prosecuted by the Hague Tribunal because of crimes committed in Medacki Dzep. Bobetko also does not question that crimes were committed. Crimes were never prosecuted. That omission of the current and previous authorities, which is not a mistake but a deliberate act, assisted the writing of Tribunal's indictments.
Racan's administration is prepared to take Croatia into isolation, conflict with the international community, perhaps even sanctions. The nation is called to offer a sacrifice, as that should be pleasure, honor and delight. If sanctions are indeed imposed on Croatia, no doubt they will hit the hardest the poor. Politicians, those who are taking the country towards a catastrophe will not suffer, just as it is unlikely that they will affect General Bobetko in his villa in the elite part of Zagreb and his social security payments, highest in Croatia.
But the situation is not dangerous because of possible sanctions only. Saving their own skin the authorities have engaged in a highly risky long term gamble with the destiny of the country. Croatia has been brought back to the time of blind national homogenization of the wartime years. Nothing remains of the reforms promised by Racan and his government. Instead, they are working hard on renewing HDZ's models.