The Hague Syndrome
by Zija DIZDAREVIC
Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo, Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, B-H, March 3 2000
Reactions to the sentencing of Tihomir Blaskic confirm the advantage for Bosnia-Hercegovina stemming from the fact that Stjepan Mesic, rather than Drazen Budisa, was elected the president of Croatia. Since he parted his ways with Franjo Tudman, Mesic hasn't modified, but only clarified, his attitude with respect to the conflict between Croats and Bosniaks, very precisely speaking out about the responsibility of the political and military leadership in Zagreb for the attack on Bosnia-Hercegovina and crimes against Bosniaks. On the other hand, Budisa has all the time made equivocal statements on this topic only to respond to Blaskic's sentence with a veritable HDZ vocabulary. Mesic does not question relevancy of the International Tribunal for War Crimes, emphasizing the importance of the appeal process of the Tribunal, while Budisa questions the credibility of the Tribunal in the Hague and announces a less cooperative Croatian attitude to the collaboration with that institution. The Prime Minister and deputy Prime Minister, Ivica Racan and Goran Granic respectively, were also emotional in their reactions, but they did not question the cooperation with the International Tribunal. However, Budisa gave himself the right to proclaim Blaskic totally innocent. It is obvious that someone who commanded the HVO in central Bosnia where Ahmici provide a horrendous testimony of crimes, definitely cannot be innocent. Besides, it does not become a recent candidate for the president of a country, a member of the United Nations, to question the competence of such a respectable panel of judges, whose professionalism and moral authority is backed up by the United Nations. Racan, Granic and a series of other Croatian officials believe that Blaskic's sentence is too harsh. The Appeals Chamber will decide whether that is the case, but what about the adjustment of the punishment to the character of the crime, if only the one committed in Ahmici, where the soldiers of the Croatian Army and the Croatian Council of Defense even burned children alive? The criticism that the Hague Tribunal is a political institution which uses primarily political criteria in its work has been renewed. That Tribunal was indeed established because of political will and its financing and capture of individuals accused of war crimes depends on that political will. However, that is not sufficient basis to question the moral and legal dignity of the members of the International Tribunal. Political aspects are unavoidable in the work of the Hague Court, among other because the crimes prosecuted by the Tribunal are a pure political product. The trial of Blaskic also revealed those two dimensions. First, the President of the Tribunal, judge Claude Jorda, clearly stated that Croatia had intervened militarily in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Thus, as in the previous case when FR Yugoslavia was qualified as an aggressor in Bosnia-Hercegovina, the Tribunal confirmed the international character of the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina. That is a political fact of paramount importance. Secondly, testimony about the role of Croatian political factors both from Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina in the command and therefore ordering of crimes was prominent in the case. It is understandable that Ante Jelavic and other HDZ leaders are reacting very strongly having in mind their political-military role in the war. The trial of Dario Kordic and the so-called Lasva group will be especially interesting exactly because of that political aspect.
A pathetic-bombastic statement by Ante Jelavic that the sentence to Blaskic is the sentence to Croats in Bosnia-Hercegovina is an attempt at base swindle. On the contrary, the punishment of any criminal from any nation leads to neutralization of the advocates of theory of collective national guilt and establishment of conditions for the reconciliation between nations. Leaders attempt to continue to project their fears on all of their compatriots trying to repeatedly raise national tensions for their own political and other purposes. Ignoring the repetition of theories about international conspiracy against only one nation, it is necessary to support the demand that Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, and hopefully even Slobodan Milosevic, finally face justice in the Hague. It is good that France has expressed readiness for such an action, and that Washington has started to support both through media and financially the hunt on the worst culprits. The statement by Alija Izetbegovic about the importance of punishment of Bosniak war criminals and the need for an apology regarding that is also important. There's been enough hiding of full truth about Kazani and Grabovica and enough lack of adequate trials in connection with those cases. The Hague syndrome rules this region. Its symptoms are naked fear of the executors of crimes and those who issued orders for the execution of those crimes, an attempt of spreading of false war reality via the theory about civil war, maintenance of paranoia about conspiracy against certain nations and the theory about genocidal character of (only certain) nations, the inclination to dismiss decisions of the Hague Tribunal, and turn its convicts into innocents and saints. In any case, any forgery of war reality is a strategic strike against the normalization of Bosnia-Hercegovina and reaffirmation of its multinatonal essence. These forgers should be evaluated from that angle, especially when they are on highest state and political positions.
Translated on May 15 2000
To the Hague at 3:10am
by Gojko BERIC
Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo, Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, March 3 2000
Momcilo Krajisnik, who had one of the key roles in the Greater Serbian aggression against Bosnia-Hercegovina, has ended up in the Hague. Sly like a fox, he has during the last few months avoided several close encounters with SFOR special forces. He withdrew to his house near Arandjelovac in Serbia, choosing not to show off in Pale and dare his fate, but his instinct failed him when he needed it the most. Listening to the news about his arrest I remembered the famous movie "At 3:10am for Yuma". SFOR members arrested Momcilo Krajisnik at roughly the same time, at dawn. Krajisnik's political biography is paradigmatic for the first decade after the demise of Communism in the Balkans. Economist by training, he demonstrated inclination for acquisition and thievery and in the waning years of the previous regime was sentenced to a jail term. That, as to many nationalists, was the best reference for a high position in the Serb Democratic Party and thereby in the coalition authorities of the three [nationalist] parties. However, he differed from other members of the criminal gang from Pale. He was not cynical like Karadzic, he avoided Koljevic's hypocritical intellectualism, as well as chauvinist statements thrown around by Biljana Plavsic. And still, he was in a way the most dangerous of them all. During the war General Mladic took revenge upon Sarajevans by "driving them crazy" and blasting weapons of all calibers at the city. Krajisnik continued to drive Bosniaks crazy during the peace. As a member of the state Presidency he did not hide that he was an uncompromising opponent of the Dayton Agreement and was masterful in obstructing its implementation, functioning as a political alter ego of Radovan Karadzic. Once, as Carl Bildt testifies, he did agree that the leaves used for decoration of the table at which the Presidency was sitting, could be green. After forced Milosevic's parting with Karadzic, Krajisnik was the most reliable Leader's man in his attempts to keep control of the Republic of Srpska. He and Mladic were the only people on this side of the Drina river to whom the doors of Milosevic's office were always open. There is no doubt that Momcilo Krajisnik is one of the worst criminals of the past war, and consequently, his extradition to the Hague Tribunal is completely natural, expected and logical. The irony of fate in his case is not total: ten years ago Serb nationalists pulled him out of a prison cell in Sarajevo, and yesterday on the wings of that same nationalism he arrived to the Hague, to the jail that he may never leave.
Translated on May 15 2000
by Mirko SAGOLJ
Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo, Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, April 25 2000
Yesterday, the newspaper Oslobodjenje changed its owner: starting today the owners of the oldest and most influential daily newspaper in Bosnia-Hercegovina, established on August 30 1943, in the heat of struggle against fascist occupation, are employees of the company and their business partner from Germany. Until yesterday, the owner was the state of Bosnia-Hercegovina. In the process of privatization of our newspaper, wishes and demands of the employees were fulfilled: they made the best offer. More precisely, no other potential buyer made an offer, the employees of the newspaper met the conditions of the tender and thus, deservedly, confirmed the ownership of the name, reputation, tradition and property of the newspaper which is a personification of the statehood of Bosnia-Hercegovina and independent and free journalism in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Thereby the environment in which our paper is published and read also confirmed a high degree of democratic maturity, since no one even tried to endanger the traditional achievements of Oslobodjenje. With pleasure we inform out readers that the newspaper Oslobodjenje will remain consistent in achievement of "Standards and principles of editorial policy" adopted on June 4 1990, thanks to which the paper has in the last ten years won all the most significant global journalistic awards. The mentioned "Standards and principles" from June 4 1990, among other contain the following: "In new conditions of political pluralism Oslobodjenje should direct all of its creative energy to its further development and affirmation as a newspaper of the citizens of Bosnia-Hercegovina. That implies continuous and systematic care for the most important interests of the citizens of this republic - their common life in individual, national, religious, and other rights and freedoms and equality; the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia-Hercegovina." That is what yesterday was bought by journalists and other employees of Oslobodjenje determined to follow the same editorial line as in the previous five decades; whether they will fulfill that obligation and how they will carry that pride in the future, depends only on them.
Translated on May 15 2000
by Emil HABUL
Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo, Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, April 8 2000
Prosecutor Sommers: "Did you receive Tihomir Blaskic's order to attack Fojnica?" Stjepan Tuka: "Yes, I did receive that order." Prosecutor Sommers: "Why were you not prepared to carry out that order?" Stjepan Tuka: "Because of my own conscience and because of other people, I was not prepared to carry out orders that would lead to killing and war".
This is a part of the testimony by the war commander of the HVO in Fojnica, Stjepan Tuka, in front of the Tribunal in the Hague, in mid November 1999. Tuka rejected Blaskic's order to on April 18 1993 attack the Army of Bosnia-Hercegovina. Before that he had received several initiatives for the HVO to take over the joint Croat-Bosniak authorities in the field. Tuka tried to justify to Blaskic his refusal to carry out orders. In one reply, Blaskic states that "it is not up to local commanders to judge orders but to carry them out". The epilogue was not surprising: the commander-peacemaker was dismissed. The hard-liners took over the command of the HVO in Fojnica and Tuka survived an assassination attempt. The Fojnica model of local authorities, based on balance and agreement within the war presidency, in practice fell apart after that. While that model was functioning, both commanders (Tuka and Nasuf Beba) tried to calm down tensions and implemented the decisions of the civilian authorities. Tuka's behavior is best illustrated by the following detail from 1992. An agreement not to display national symbols had been reached. However, a huge Croatian flag was spread at the entrance to the old town. Tuka took a chain saw and cut down the flagpoles. "Let us not screw around without a good reason," was his comment which earned him trust of Bosniaks and anger of Croatian extremists. The last utopian attempt of the civilian authorities to preserve Fojnica in the war-time environment as an oasis of peace, was the declaration of this town for a "health zone" that would be demilitarized. But the events went the other way: fighting raged in the neighborhood, control of the HVO was taken by the hard-liners, and the local commander of the Army of Bosnia-Hercegovina was replaced. Fate had it that Tuka ended up a hero of another unsuccessful attempt. In Mid July 1993, Tuka crossed front lines on a bicycle and appeared in front of the Army command. By chance, at the same time the commander of the Operative Group East, Behadil Memisevic, had just arrived from Visoko, and arrogantly and without a trace of respect he rejected Tuka's offer to negotiate. During the following 58 days, Tuka was a prisoner of war, and was later transferred to the Cloister, where he remained until May 1994. According to his own testimony, he left to exile with the assistance of Ivo Komsic and Nasuf Beba. That is how the war story of this God-fearing man and hard working farmer from the village of Gojevici (before the war he was the only owner of a combine in the municipality) ended up. Today, he is sorting his memories in exile. His side branded him a traitor, and those to whom he did a huge favor did not show much gratitude. In connection with that, opinions are still split: some believe that Tuka saved Fojnica, while others believe that the HVO was not militarily strong enough to win because of the grater number of the soldiers of the Army of Bosnia-Hercegovina and the configuration of the terrain. The latter explain the behavior of Stjepan Tuka as that of a "realist" and by "balance of fear". This theory however, does not work, since it does not value a courageous act of an individual, honor of a military commander who kept his word that he would implement decisions of civilian authorities and a moral act whose goal was to avoid spilling of blood. Regardless of his motivation, it is the fact that Tuka rejected to carry out the order to attack. In the past war, individuals who openly obstructed orders of their superiors and fought against the war, as the commander from Fojnica did, were rare. He was dismissed, picked up a burden of treason, and could have even met a tragic end. His act has wider meaning as well. It illustrates impotence of individuals, regardless of their noble intentions, to turn around or stop the war catastrophe. From Bosniak, or some neutral point of view, Tuka should be one of the heroes of the past war. If there were justice, a street in Fojnica should be named by him.
Translated on May 15 2000