Fair Play in the Balkans ?
Ask Toronto Croats to call the National Post editorial board and
ask them to run the enclosed letter to the editor from Luka Misetic.
Here is the editorial board's phone number: (416) 383-2300.
July 28, 2003
To The Editor:
I am the attorney for General Ante Gotovina, the subject of an editorial
published in today's National Post titled, "Fair Play in the Balkans."
I wish to correct the record on behalf of my client because your
editorial contains numerous factual errors.
Contrary to the assertion made in your editorial, Croatian soldiers did
not "force 200,000 Serbs from their homes in Croatia [in] the largest
ethnic cleansing in the Balkan wars." It is virtually uncontested that
most of the 200,000 Serbs in Croatia left their homes on orders from
their own Croatian Serb leadership. Testimony introduced by prosecutors
in the Hague in the case of Slobodan Milosevic indicates that Milosevic
and the Croatian Serb leadership purposely evacuated 200,000 Serbs from
Croatia in an effort to cement the results of ethnic cleansing by
resettling these civilians in areas like Srebrenica, which had been
ethnically cleansed by Milosevic, Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and
forces under their control only three weeks earlier. U.S. Ambassador to
Croatia Peter Galbraith testified last month before the International
Tribunal that Croatian forces did NOT ethnically cleanse the Serb
population from Croatia. Accordingly, your allegation is inaccurate.
It is true that Canadian military officers, including Col. Andrew
Leslie, have made various accusations against General Gotovina-including
that the town of Knin had been "excessively shelled" and that forces
under General Gotovina's command had intentionally shelled the hospital
in Knin, all in an alleged effort to scare the civilian population into
fleeing. Col. Leslie further claimed that there were a "large number of
bodies in the streets." However, absent from your editorial is any
mention of the fact that Col. Leslie's testimony has been largely
discredited by members of the international media who confirmed that UN
claims of high civilian casualties and excessive shelling of Knin were
in fact exaggerated. The claim that the Knin hospital had been shelled
has in fact been proven false. Human Rights Watch reported in 1996 that
the claims of the Canadian officers were exaggerated and may have
resulted from the fact that "U.N. military and civilian personnel had
been confined to their barracks or bases by Croatian soldiers and thus
were unable to witness many events directly." Canadian military
personnel throughout its deployment as peacekeepers in the Balkans was
notorious for its slanted, pro-Serb reporting of events on the ground.
Indeed, Canadian Gen. Lewis MacKenzie, in charge of U.N. peacekeeping in
Bosnia in 1992, is infamous for his claim that the beseiged Bosnian
Muslims were "shelling themselves" in Sarajevo in an effort to garner
international sympathy. After his retirement from the Canadian
military, General MacKenzie went to work as a paid lobbyist in North
America for Serb sympathizers. Why this pro-Serb bias existed in the
Canadian military is a subject that will be explored at the appropriate
time and in the appropriate forum.
Much evidence has come to light in recent weeks proving that Gen.
Gotovina was falsely charged by the Hague Prosecutor, including the
testimony of Mr. Galbraith. If Gen. Gotovina is in fact innocent, then
the Prosecutor has an ethical obligation to withdraw the indictment.
Should the Serb leadership claim bias (as your editorial suggests), such
a claim can be easily rebutted by this fact: the Hague Tribunal has
withdrawn sixteen indictments against individuals who had never been
arrested or brought to the Tribunal. All sixteen of these individuals
were Serbs. Thus, if anyone can claim bias on the part of the Hague
Tribunal, it is the Croats and not the Serbs.
Luka S. Misetic, Esq.
Chicago, IL USA
Enclosed is the article:
National Post (Canada) July 28, 2003 Monday National Edition
Copyright 2003 National Post, All Rights Reserved
National Post (Canada)
July 28, 2003 Monday National Edition
SECTION: Editorials; Pg. A11
LENGTH: 458 words
HEADLINE: Fair play in the Balkans
SOURCE: National Post
Eight years ago, Canadian peacekeepers witnessed one of the late 20th
century's most brutal attempts at ethnic cleansing. In August, 1995, over a
span of just 64 hours, Croatian soldiers forced 200,000 Serbs from their
homes in Croatia -- the largest single act of ethnic cleansing of all the
Balkan wars between 1991 and 1995. The military action -- dubbed Operation
Storm -- involved the Croats' entire 100,000-man army. Canadian soldiers
stationed in the area documented the Croats' efficiency. Colonel Andrew
Leslie, for example, reported that of the 40,000 people who lived in the
Serb stronghold of Knin, barely 1,000 remained once the operation ended.
It took some time, but two years ago, the UN's International Criminal
Tribunal (ICT) began seriously looking into claims regarding war crimes
committed during Operation Storm. In 2001, the ICT issued an indictment
against Ante Gotovina, a Croatian general with an allegedly central role in
the operation. But Gen. Gotovina promptly went underground. Lawyers working
on his behalf say he is willing to answer questions from the ICT -- but only
if it first drops its indictment.
Unfortunately, the Croatian government has failed to fully co-operate in
bringing Gen. Gotovina to justice. Though the Croatian Interior Ministry has
issued a warrant for his arrest (and a bounty of $80,000 for information
leading to his arrest), authorities have done little to apprehend him. One
reason for this is that ultra-nationalist Croats see the general as a hero.
In May, Gen. Gotovina even had the audacity to send an official message of
support to a gathering of 15,000 Croatian nationalists. They had met to
mourn the death of Janko Bobetko, another general who defied an ICT order to
answer questions about his own involvement in possible crimes against
humanity by Croatian forces.
The case of Gen. Gotovina is important not only as a matter of justice, but
of politics as well. The Croats and Serbs have had their share of murderous
feuds, and the Serbs would be understandably outraged if the world community
aggressively prosecuted allegations of Serb atrocities while passing over
those in which Serbs were victims. In 2001, the ICT formally demanded that
the Serbs force former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic to appear for
trial on charges of war crimes. NATO member states, including Canada and the
United States, put a full-court press on the Serbs to hand Mr. Milosevic
over -- and even made his handover a condition of economic aid. As a result,
Mr. Milosevic's successor, Vojislav Kostunica, duly served him up to The
Those same NATO states should make a similar effort to get Croatia to secure
Gen. Gotovina. He's been allowed to run free long enough.
LOAD-DATE: July 28, 2003