Vecernji List Poll: Bobetko Must Not Be Extradited To Hague Even If International Community Imposes Sanctions
by N.C. and S.D.
Vecernji List, Zagreb, Croatia, September 22, 2002
Surprisingly many Croats (60.2 percent) believe that the government should not extradite General Bobetko to the Hague Tribunal even if sanctions are imposed. 14 percent of poll participants disagreed with that statement, while 25.8 percent could not decide. These results were produced by the telephone poll conducted for Vecernji List on Friday by agency Metron. As many as 79.6 percent of citizens support the Government's decision to return the indictment of General Bobetko to the Hague tribunal. Only 7.1 percent opposed the decision and 13.3 percent chose "don't know" as their answer.
Collection of signatures for the petition in support of General Bobetko has started in Sisak. One of the petitions is supported by the Coordination of Associations of Victims of the Homeland War of Sisak-Moslavina County. Within one hour, yesterday, more than 1,200 signatures were collected.
"Because of all these events, someone's on duty 24 hours a day, and we'll continue collecting signatures in the future. On behalf of our 8,500 members we sent a telegram of support to General Bobetko and now, just like during the Homeland War, we await his command for further activities," Zeljko Kardas from the Coordination said.
The city organization of the HDZ [in Sisak] also organized signing of a petition in support of General Bobetko in front of the political parties building in S. and A. Radic street. During the last two days they have collected several hundreds of signatures.
Zlatko Tomcic, President of the Parliament
We Shall Explore All Legal Options
Zlatko Tomcic, president of the parliament, in connection with the current events regarding General Bobetko, emphasized that Croatia is in a very sensitive spot that can be exploited for further political polarization, but also for the creation of homogeneity of the Croatian national being [sic].
"I support the latter option. Let us not give in to base passions and permit clashes within the Croatian national corpus. On behalf of the Croatian Parliament, I promise that we shall exploit all options based on the Constitutional Law About Cooperation With the Hague Tribunal in connection with General Bobetko's case, and these options are significant, and will keep General Bobetko away from the Hague. I am convinced that he does not belong there," Zlatko Tomcic, president of the parliament concluded.
Government To Discuss Indictment of Bobetko Early Next Week
Country To Defend Bobetko
Legal experts believe that the government can successfully confront the indictment
by D. KNEZEVIC
Vecernji List, Zagreb, Croatia, September 22, 2002
On Monday, the government will probably again discuss the Hague tribunal and the indictment against General Bobetko. The arrest warrant, which was sent back to the Hague on Friday, due to legal omissions, was corrected the very same day and immediately returned to Croatia together with the indictment. However, the legal procedure obliges the Tribunal to deliver the warrant and indictment officially and personally to the Government, which cannot happen before Monday. The government has for the most part indicated what will happened after Monday.
After the Hague War Crimes Tribunal published on Friday evening the indictment on the Internet, deputy Prime Minister Goran Granic revealed that a legal team employed by the government had already completed analysis of the indictment and concluded that it violates the Constitution of Croatia. According to Granic, the Government cannot process such an indictment, implying that the Government will enter a dispute with the Hague Tribunal.
Although disturbed by the decision of the Hague Tribunal to issue an indictment against Bobetko, the government will be careful to confine the communication with the tribunal to the legal field. At the same time, while he characterized the indictment as unconstitutional, Granic added that the government would prefer if that conclusion of the legal experts was not understood as a declaration of war against the Hague Tribunal. The government is portraying the whole procedure regarding the indictment as a purely legal matter, rather than a political dispute. It appears that the analysis of legal experts gives the government sufficient material to oppose the indictment on purely legal grounds. The central argument will be the alignment of the indictment with the Statute of the Hague Tribunal, the Rules for Procedure and Evidence, and the Constitution of Croatia.
In contesting the constitutionality of the indictment the main role will be taken by the state institutions and, naturally, independent legal experts who cooperate with the government regarding Hague related topics. That may explain relative calm with which the government reacted to Bobetko's decision to dismiss Goran Mikulcic, the lawyer recommended by the government, as his defense attorney. Based on the current situation, Bobetko's defense attorneys will not be very busy, as the authorities will defend Bobetko.
While the government insists on legal means and insists that its actions should be interpreted in that manner abroad, there are other initiatives in Croatia, going against government's initiatives. On the radical right and elsewhere in the opposition, the indictment of Bobetko was interpreted as a call to war against the Hague Tribunal and the current authorities. The government is so far optimistic and Prime Minister Racan has no doubt that Bobetko affair will not bring the government down. That optimism is based on legal deficiencies of the indictment.
Modification Of Law About Cooperation With The Hague Not Effective
What was deputy Prime Minister Goran Granic referring to when he stated that the Hague indictment of General Bobetko violates the Constitution of Croatia? Attorney Goran Mikulcic, who has left General Bobetko's defense team, says that the indictment probably places the events covered by the indictment in the context of an armed conflict. However, the assertion would be that the action in Medak Pocket was not an armed conflict but a legitimate military-police action of a sovereign country. That means that anything that transpired during that action is out of jurisdiction of the Hague Tribunal and should be dealt by the Croatian judiciary. However, the Constitutional Court of Croatia cannot decide whether the action Medak Pocket is under jurisdiction of the Hague tribunal. Something like that can only be achieved by diplomacy [sic].
Legal experts warn, however, that even a modification of the Constitutional Law About Cooperation With the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague would not be effective, as in that case the Rules and Statute of the Hague Tribunal would apply directly, and Croatia has endorsed the founding of the Tribunal. Ultimately, it is questionable whether the Constitutional Court can consider the constitutional character of the indictment, as no procedure has been specified for that sort of a case. The law merely states that a request or decision of the Hague Tribunal cannot violate the Constitution of Croatia, and nothing else. The defendant can approach the Constitutional Court once the county court issues an extradition warrant, and the Supreme Court rejects the defendants appeal against the warrant.
Bobetko Affair: Various options for the politicians
Smart Moves or Unbuttoned Shirts
by Visnja STARESINA
Vecernji List, Zagreb, Croatia, September 22, 2002
After being suddenly and against its own will dragged into the game of political destabilization of the country, with the indictment of General Bobetko, the Croatian political elite has a chance to demonstrate whether it can play the game. The circumstances are not that unfavorable. The credibility of the Hague Tribunal in the international community has been shaken, and the USA would like to shake up tribunal's credibility even more. No one can accuse the Croatian government of not demonstrating good will to cooperate with the Hague Tribunal. Even the most strongest supporters of the Hague Tribunal would have difficulty to recognize in the indictment of General Bobetko a solid legal document. Command responsibility has been stretched further than in the Yamashita case, the most controversial case considered by the Tokio Tribunal. The number of the victims, soldiers and civilians, in the operation Medak Pocket has increased threefold since last year, all Serb soldiers have in the meantime become civilians. People killed by shrapnel are treated as victims of war crimes. The circumstances in which the operation started are totally ignored, there is no mention of daily bombardment of Croat settlements from the territory covered in the Medak Pocket operation, whose goal was ethnic cleansing. However, it is questionable to what extent our political elite is capable of playing the game and to what extent it even understands its rules. Our political elite has various options.
Agreement of Government and Opposition
A smart game would imply that Prime Minister Racan reach out to opposition leaders, especially Sanader and Pasalic, and agree a joint strategy with them. In that, Racan would have to truly convince opposition leaders that Bobetko could under no circumstances be arrested, let alone extradited to the Hague, and that he would take all future steps in this case in agreement with the opposition. The opposition leaders would have to refrain from bringing down the government and winning political points from Bobetko case. If such an agreement is reached, the government can give the whole affair very low political profile and dedicate itself to a long and thorough clarification of legal details: consider whether the indictment violates the constitution, then send its conclusions and queries further to the Parliament, then consider what conclusions can be made, what steps can be taken, and then all of that can be sent to the Constitutional Court... All of this would take a very long time. All along Racan must at all times emphasize his readiness to cooperate with the Tribunal, and the opposition would have to refrain from pushing him to make extreme statements. In the meantime the authorities should secure American support for the transfer of all war crimes trials involving Croats to local courts. And most likely, it would be necessary to sign a treaty with the USA about non-extradition of American citizens to the Permanent International Crime Court. Given the composition of the UN Security Council, it is unlikely that the president of the Hague Tribunal would bother to report Croatia for lack of cooperation if the procedure with Bobetko's indictment drags on. In the meantime the EU may realize that a legally deficient and politicized indictment can create a new crisis in the region, where it had finally been put under control. Bobetko case would soon be forgotten, and the government and the opposition would in advance have to refrain from claiming credit for saving Bobetko from the Hague. However, it is questionable whether the Croatian political elite includes sufficient number of smart politicians needed for such a course of action.
Another option is sensible political action. It also implies general agreement between the ruling and opposition leaders about the basic strategy and a common goal - that Bobetko never end up in the Hague. However, the opposition would from time to time pretend not to believe that the government really intends to stick to that goal. That option provides opportunity for picking up political points, both for Racan and the opposition. Under the pressure of the opposition, which would criticize the indecisiveness of the government, the government would from time to time clash with the Tribunal, while the opposition would attempt to use Bobetko to improve its electoral chances. The political scene would be more dynamic and stressful, but remain far from danger of sliding into chaos. In that case the government would have to pay for the support for transfer of other possible war crimes trials to Croatia with a non-extradition treaty concluded with the USA. Given the nature of our political scene, this development seems most likely.
The third option is that of stupid actions. I am referring to those who would unbutton their shirts, attack the government for indecisiveness and treason and build their political image on primitive and crude patriotism, claiming that they would never extradite anyone to the Hague. Exactly such patriots could serve as a fuse for the destabilization of the country, provided they manage to gather critical mass of protesters and secure political support of political parties on the right. However, this time, the government has stripped this possible movement of its motivation with its appropriate actions. Mature reactions of the political parties on the right indicate that they so far do not intend to support such crude and ultimately catastrophic patriotism. And certain characters from the political underground, who are always spontaneously drawn to stupid actions, would in that case remain simply picturesque distractions.
Many use Saturday morning to visit General Bobetko
Misetic: Government Demonstrates Political Maturity
Mirko Condic, Andrija Hebrang, Ljubo Cesic, Damir Krsticevic, and Drago Krpina spent the morning with the general
by I. PANDZIC
Vecernji List, Zagreb, Croatia, September 22, 2002
The parking in front of General Bobetko's house was full yesterday morning. Mirko Condic, Andrija Hebrang, Drago Krpina, Ljubo Cesic Rojs, retired general Damir Krsticevic, Damir Varazdinac from Hvidra [war veterans' association], and Bobetko's attorney Bosiljko Misetic spent the morning with the general discussing the latest developments. After more than two hours, Misetic reported the conclusions:
"We welcome and support Prime Minister Racan's decision to return the indictment to the Hague Tribunal, as it demonstrates a high degree of political maturity. I believe that the indictment should be totally rejected. The Government and the Parliament should re-examine the constitution, because such cooperation should be in agreement with the highest law of the country. If the conclusion is that the cooperation is unconstitutional, the government will end up in an unpleasant situation, but that is its duty with respect to this nation," Misetic concluded.
He added that in case of defensive wars, such as the Homeland War, crimes may happen, but that indictments based on command responsibility are pure nonsense. Such indictments are indictments of the whole nation and attempt to prove that Croatia was created on crimes.
Leaving general to get some rest, Andrija Hebrang commented upon leaving the house that the indictment is totally absurd. Since Hebrang, as the head of military medical service also reported to Bobetko, he confirmed that the general always insisted that the rules of war were respected.
"Besides courage, the general always displayed exemplary humanism. On numerous occasions he ordered that all wounded be treated equally, and we especially had to be careful with civilians. The indictment of General Bobetko is an indictment of humanitarian work," Hebrang emphasized.
Once general turned in, the stream of visitors stopped. From time to time only his son Ivan came out from the house and confirmed for the gathered journalists, with smile, that "dad is fine", but also that neither he, nor anyone else knows what the final solution will be.
Translated on August 5, 2003