The fall-out from the Gotovina protest continues, with a statement from the NFCA:
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF CROATIAN AMERICANS CULTURAL FOUNDATION CRITICAL OF JUDGMENT AGAINST ANTE GOTOVINA AND MLADEN MARKAC
For Immediate Release – April 25, 2011
Washington, DC: The National Federation of Croatian Americans Cultural Foundation (NFCA CF) is appalled by the guilty verdicts announced by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on Friday, April 15, 2011, in the case against Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac. In its judgment, the ICTY sentenced General Gotovina to 24 years and Mr. Markac to 18 years in prison for actions surrounding Operation Storm in August 1995.
As a result of Operation Storm, the Croatian Army successfully broke the Serbian siege of Bihac, a major city in Bosnia and Herzegovina whose population faced the imminent threat of genocide at the hands of Serbian forces only weeks after the mass killings of approximately 8,000 Bosniak civilians at Srebrenica by the same Serbian forces. The Operation further ended the four-year long occupation of approximately one-third of Croatian territory during which time Serb forces massacred countless Croat civilians and ethnically cleansed the entire area under their control.
Operation Storm directly led to the liberation of substantial portions of Bosnia and Herzegovina and set the stage for the Dayton Peace Talks which brought the war to a close. Significantly, Operation Storm was carried out with the active support and encouragement of the United States under a Croatian Army trained by American advisors.
General Gotovina and Mr. Markac oversaw portions of the Operation and, as a result of their successful efforts, Slobodan Milosevic’s goal of establishing a “greater” and “ethnically pure” Serbia came to an end.
The ICTY’s verdict relied on flimsy evidence to find that Gotovina and Markac, along with certain leaders of the Croatian government, engaged in a “joint criminal enterprise” (JCE). This JCE allegedly came into force days before the commencement of Operation Storm, which supposedly had as its objective the permanent removal of the Serb population from the so-called Krajina region – an area that had been under Serbian occupation for four years in spite of UN resolutions that recognized the area as Croatian territory. The ICTY’s verdict further implicates certain leaders of the then Croatian government in this alleged JCE, even though many of them have never been indicted and some of the most important of whom have been dead for more than a decade.
Documents and other evidence clearly show that the Serb population was in fact not removed by the Croatian Army but had been evacuated as a result of orders issued by Serbian leaders. Regarding this important distinction, Peter Galbraith, the US Ambassador to Croatia at that time, stated last week that no ethnic cleansing took place during Operation Storm and that the civilian population “left the territory before the arrival of the Croatian armed forces.” Indeed, more Croat civilians were killed during the four-year long Serbian occupation of the Krajina than the number of civilians killed in the aftermath of Operation Storm.
To get around these inconvenient facts, the ICTY relied on weak circumstantial evidence such as the supposed deliberate targeting of civilian targets by shells, in particular, against the town of Knin. This town was a major Serbian military base and the site of the headquarters of the local Serbian administration from which it directed its rule of terror against Croat civilians. Approximately 1,500 shells were allegedly fired at Knin inflicting minimal damage. By contrast, Serb forces lobbed an average of 4,000 shells a day against Sarajevo over the course of a 42-month siege.
While the ICTY has inexplicably found it appropriate to convict some of Croatia’s top leaders for a military operation that lasted a matter of days, it has never indicted any members of the top leadership of the Communist-led Yugoslav People’s Army for their role in the war against Croatia and Slovenia in 1991. This particular campaign witnessed the deaths of at least 20,000 people, the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands, and the destruction of numerous Croatian towns and cities, including Vukovar. These events eventually set the stage for genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Indeed, the sentences imposed on Gotovina and Markac are in marked contrast with the sentences imposed on Biljana Plavisic (11 years of which she served only 7) and Momcilo Krajisnik (20 years). They, together with Radovan Karadzic, led the Republika Srpska in its genocidal campaign against non-Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina that resulted in the deaths of over 100,000 people. In contrast to Plavisic, Krajisnik, and many other Serb defendants – who received much lighter sentences from the ICTY – General Gotovina and Mr. Markac never personally engaged in any wrongdoing. Furthermore, they never ordered the killing or forcible removal of any civilians.
Given these facts, it is not surprising that the ICTY has failed to live up to the expectations of the primary victims of Serbian aggression – the Bosniaks and the Croats.
The United States, in its capacity as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has a responsibility to police the workings of the ICTY. Accordingly, the NFCA CF calls upon the U.S. Department of State to undertake a vigorous review of the policies and deficiencies of the ICTY to ensure that its proceedings are fair and that its sentences are applied consistently.
Given the United States’ active assistance for and the encouragement of Operation Storm, the ICTY verdict implicates the United States as well. As a result, the NFCA CF strongly urges the United States to provide its full support to the appeal that General Gotovina’s and Mr. Markac’s attorneys have vowed to file with the ICTY. The United States must defend Operation Storm as a legitimate military operation undertaken in the defense of the sovereignty of both Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The NFCA CF is the national umbrella organization of Croatian American groups that collectively represents approximately 130,000 members. For additional public affairs information, please contact Mr. Joe Foley, Public Affairs Director, at (301) 294-0937, or NFCA CF Headquarters at (301) 208-6650. The email address is NFCAhdq@verizon.net. For recent newsletters, important NFCA CF membership application and chapter information, and other Croatian American news please visit the Web Site at http://www.nfcaonline.com.
National Federation of Croatian Americans Cultural Foundation (NFCA CF)
2401 Research Blvd, Suite 115
Rockville, MD 20850
PHONE: (301) 208-6650
FAX: (301) 208-6659
WEB SITE: www.nfcaonline.com <http://www.nfcaonline.com>