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(E) Your letter on Human Rights Watch's research
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  09/17/2003 | Letters to the Editors | Unrated
(E) Your letter on Human Rights Watch's research




Matter of our choice

To:radzind@hrw.org
CC:hrwatcheu@skynet.be, hrwnyc@hrw.org, hrwdc@hrw.org, hrwla@hrw.org, hrwsf@hrw.org, hrwuk@hrw.org, hrwgva@hrw.org

Dear Ms. Radzin,
I appreciate your answer to my letter related to HRW reporting on human rights in Croatia. Let me say a few comments.

>> ... Human Rights Watch is not involved in any conspiracy against Croatia, Croats, or any other entity, group, or person, and that what we report about is entirely a matter of our choice.

And what is your choice depends on – who this “we” stands for. I mean - who pays for this business (governments, companies, individuals – whoever it is). In that respect, it is so natural that what HRW reports about is entirely a matter of “HRW’s” choice.

I didn't think this is about conspiracy against anyone. It’s about working FOR someone. I do admire those few souls that volunteer in HRW with best intentions. But for the most part people are there employed simply as executives – just as in any other business.
Do you do this in your free time? That’s fair enough. Neither your donators do this for the sake of righteousness on the planet. Not more than some other figures in democratic countries make wars for the sake of democracy and freedom of people ruled by the dictator whom these “liberators” themselves supported and armed earlier.

>>You also state that HRW does not report on human rights of non-Serbs in Serbia and Montenegro. According to your letter, on our web page on Serbia and Montenegro (http://www.hrw.org/europe/fry.php), we do not "say a word" about violations of non-Serbs' rights. This is manifestly wrong. For example, the seventh document on our Serbia-Montenegro page, entitled, "Progress on War Crimes Accountability, the Rule of Law, and Minority Rights in Serbia and Montenegro" (http://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/eca/serbiatestimony060403.htm),
addresses violations of rights of ethnic Albanians in southern Serbia and the rights of Roma in the country.

I went earlier through titles on your web page related to S&M to see if I could find an equivalent report on violations of human rights of Croats in Vojvodina and in Boka Kotorska (where Croats constituted until not so long ago about 90% of population and today about 5%).

I did go all the way down the page, so - to seventh title and below. But by the time I reached to the seventh one, I probably did not read all titles whose beginnings clearly were not related to what I was looking for. And you can probably see why title that starts with: “Progress on War Crimes Accountability” does not seem like the topic I mentioned.

So I missed this title but nevertheless – there is nothing in that report about violations of human rights of Croats in Serbia.
Furthermore, this well buried report with misleading title makes some wrong implications. Because only Albanians and Roma are mentioned, this wrongly suggests that either:
(1)Albanians and Roma are the only minorities in Serbia or
(2) That these are only minorities whose human rights are violated in Serbia.
Each of these is far from correct.

Croats are mentioned in that report in this context:
“Issuance of indictments or other concrete and verifiable evidence of progress on domestic investigations into prominent alleged war crimes, including Batajnica (mass graves in Belgrade’s suburbs, containing some 500 bodies of Kosovo Albanians killed in 1999), the Bitiqi Brothers (U.S. citizens of Albanian origin, allegedly killed by the Serbian police in 1999), and Ovcara (killing of 200 Croats near Vukovar in 1991).”

My questions related to this are:
Vukovar is in Croatia, unlike Batajnica and Kosovo. How Vukovar finished in Serbian violations of human rights in Serbia? How is it Serbian "domestic" crime? It was crime commited during their aggression on Croatia.
If you wanted to talk about Serbian war crimes in Croatia (which you didn't but if you did) - than Vukovar is not the only place in Croatia where Serbs committed the same kind of crime.
Further, what is it that makes these two people of US citizenship so special in this report? Is it bigger crime since they were US citizens? I know it’s not in theory. But practically?
Maybe two other of your reports related to ICC suggest the practical answer to my last question (please see below). I am glad you are bringing that up. But the above sentence indicates you act (report) along the same lines:

Why the US needs this court
America's rejection of the International Criminal Court is a threat to its own security
The irony is obvious: that Washington simultaneously demands complete co-operation with international justice at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal (or else), and complete non-co-operation with international justice at the ICC (or else).
June 15, 2003 Commentary

U.S. Pressure on Croatia and Slovenia Undermines Justice
Former Yugoslav States Should Reject ICC Side Agreements
The Bush administration's pressure on Croatia and Slovenia in pursuit of a special exemption from the International Criminal Court (ICC) while rightly insisting on cooperation with the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal is blatant hypocrisy, Human Rights Watch said today. (Bosnian)


>>Finally, Mr. Hrepic, I would like to clarify the following: under international human rights law, difficulties in finding employment do not constitute, in and of themselves, a human rights violation. Employment becomes a human rights issue when discrimination on ethnic, religious, and some other grounds prevents a person from finding a job.

This makes sense to me. But why don’t you follow this yourself? Your report on Croatia suggests that: “The government should offer tax exemptions and other financial incentives to owners of private businesses who employ minority returnees.”

Don’t you suggest with this that Croatian government should “prevent a [nonminority] person from finding a job”. Precisely in situation when you yourself acknowledge that: “...unemployment among Croats is also high.”
Again - please consider investigating problems with human rights in Croatia.

Would you please also consider this:

In the period of ex-Yugoslavia, 70% of the police stuff in Croatia was Serbian, while they constituted 12.2% of the entire population. In some Croatian regions these figures were even more striking: in Istria the police stuff was 82% Serbian, 95% school teachers were the Serbs. The Serbs also occupied almost all the leading positions in majority of the Croatian schools, enterprises and political institutions.
http://mirror.veus.hr/darko/etf/et112.html#jugo

I sincerely hope this is not what you aim at with your suggestions in this report.

With respect to sources, you made several good points. Nevertheless, what you find - always depends on what you look for. And what you look for is again, as you put it “entirely a matter of your choice”.

In a similar way, for example, International Criminal Court (ICC) is investigating war crimes in Croatia so they started and ended at very particular places and at very particular points in time. Surely they find what they need. And what they need is apparently pre-determined by what they look for. Due to this kind of justice, these righteousness protecting agencies together with media managed to equate agressor and victim - for reasons that only they know. This created situation in which many war crimes likely will never be investigated and masters of war like Karadjic and Mladic are free.


So specially because things are so biased, I can not understand why your top pages on both – Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro start with two reports from Croatia. And why is equivalent report from Serbia buried down into the page, masked with other, not really related things and inaccurately and inadequately presented.

This is a big issue because EVEN if HRW and similar organizations would do their fair share - in a way they claim they do - it is media (media owners - again owners) who pick what to talk about from there. I hope you are not deliberately misleading anyway biased media.

I hope that you will consider these clarifications and approach all the people in Croatia and elsewhere in the world as to equally valid human beings.

Sincerely,

Zdeslav Hrepic
zhrepic@phys.ksu.edu

-----Original Message-----
From: Dorit Radzin radzind@hrw.org]
Sent: Monday, September 15, 2003 2:46 PM
To: Hrepic, Zdeslav
Subject: your letter on Human Rights Watch's research on Croatia


Dear Mr. Hrepic,

Thank you for your letter commenting on our recent report on impediments to refugee returns to Croatia.

Human Rights Watch sometimes receives complaints from private individuals, government officials, and other persons, similar to yours
-- namely, that we are biased against ethnic groups or states to which they belong. In Serbia, for example, many believe that Human Rights Watch has singled out Serbia and Serbs as the favorite "target" for criticism. What those who complain about HRW's alleged bias all have in common is insistence that the "other side" is also violating rights, implying that the other side's violations somehow justify or make less relevant the violations made by "our side."

From Human Rights Watch's point of view, however, a violation of human rights remains a violation irrespecive of whether somebody else violates rights or not. Human Rights Watch does not count and compare violations committed by or against members of one group with the violations committed by or against by members of another group. We are concerned with violations of rights no matter which group the victim or the perpetrator belongs to.

Another common feature the critics of Human Rights Watch share is the belief that the organization's alleged bias makes it part of a conspiracy. As you write in one of your letters, we are "instructed to, paid for or in the best case - just allowed to" report about certain violations. I assure you, Mr Hrepic, that Human Rights Watch is not involved in any conspiracy against Croatia, Croats, or any other entity, group, or person, and that what we report about is entirely a matter of our choice.

Finally, the allegations of Human Rights Watch's bias often simply state

facts wrongly. The inaccuracies in your letter may have contributed to the overall negative assessment you make of our latest report and our work in general.

You begin by stating that the report ("Broken Promises: Impediments to Refugee Return to Croatia") was done by "western informators go[ing] to Belgrade to ask about Croatia." On the contrary: the research for the report was conducted in Croatia, with the exception of several interviews conducted in Serbia. You can very easily establish that by looking into the locations (in the footnotes) of the interviews conducted during the research.

You also state that HRW does not report on human rights of non-Serbs in Serbia and Montenegro. According to your letter, on our web page on Serbia and Montenegro (http://www.hrw.org/europe/fry.php), we do not "say a word" about violations of non-Serbs' rights. This is manifestly wrong. For example, the seventh document on our Serbia-Montenegro page, entitled, "Progress on War Crimes Accountability, the Rule of Law, and Minority Rights in Serbia and Montenegro" (http://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/eca/serbiatestimony060403.htm),
addresses violations of rights of ethnic Albanians in southern Serbia and the rights of Roma in the country. There are also numerous press releases, reports, and backgrounders on our Serbia-Montenegro page advocating cooperation of Serbia and Montenegro with the International Criminal for the former Yugoslavia, so that perpetrators of war crimes against non-Serbs could be brought to justice. Just as numerous are the reports about violations of human rights of Kosovo Albanians.

With regard to the letter by Mr. John Kraljic, President of the National

Federation of Croatian Americans (NFCA), to which you kindly draw our attention, you have probably noticed that the letter does not dispute any of the facts in our 61-page report. Instead, it discusses extensively the work and personal qualities of Mr. Savo Strbac. Such a disproportionate attention given to Mr. Strbac is peculiar, given that Mr. Strbac is only one of about eighty persons interviewed in the report; he is quoted in eight, out of 333, footnotes in the report.

Moreover, even if everything Mr. Kraljic writes about Mr. Strbac were true, it would be irrelevant as to the issue of accuracy of the information provided by him and used by Human Rights Watch in the report "Broken Promises." Mr. Kraljic does not point at any inaccuracy in those sentences in the report in which Mr. Strbac is a source. To find such inaccuracy would be difficult indeed, because Mr. Strbac's figures on the number of arrested war crime suspects among Croatian Serbs mainly coincide with the figures provided separately by the OSCE. Mr. Strbac also provided Human Rights Watch with the dates on which particular Serb suspects were arrested and the date of their aquittals or convictions. Such dates are rather trivial pieces of information, not "politically charged," and unsuitable for manipulation for political purposes. There is nothing to suggest that Mr. Strbac "fabricated" the dates, and one hardly conceive what goal could anybody try to achieve by making that sort of fabrication.

Finally, Mr. Hrepic, I would like to clarify the following: under international human rights law, difficulties in finding employment do not constitute, in and of themselves, a human rights violation. Employment becomes a human rights issue when discrimination on ethnic, religious, and some other grounds prevents a person from finding a job. It is in that narrow sense that Human Rights Watch dealt with the issue of unemployment of Serb returnees in Croatia. We acknowledge in the report that "employment discrimination on ethnic grounds is difficult to prove since unemployment among Croats is also high." However, we have come across a number of cases in which it was precisely the ethnicity of the (Serb) job-seeker -- and not objective difficulties that many in Croatia face when searching for a job -- that prevented the person from getting employment.

I hope that you will consider these clarifications and approach the Human Rights Watch report as a piece of objective analysis rather than a conspirational attempt to undermine Croatia.

Thank you for your interest in our work.

Sincerely,

Dorit Radzin
Associate
Europe & Central Asia Division
--
***********************
Dorit Radzin
Associate
Europe & Central Asia Division
Human Rights Watch
radzind@hrw.org
Tel: (202) 612-4321
Fax: (202) 612-4333


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