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 »  Home  »  Opinions  »  (E,H) Croatia's Democracy on Trial by Jeffrey T. Kuhner
(E,H) Croatia's Democracy on Trial by Jeffrey T. Kuhner
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  05/9/2005 | Opinions | Unrated
(E,H) Croatia's Democracy on Trial by Jeffrey T. Kuhner

 

Croatia’s Democracy on Trial
 

By Jeffrey T. Kuhner

Truth & Justice
View from Washington

The recent indictments by the ICTY against four Croatian journalists are a stake aimed at the heart of the country’s democracy. The four journalists—Ivica Marijacic, Markica Rebic, Domagoj Margetic and Stjepan Seselj—have been indicted for the alleged crime of “contempt of the tribunal” for publishing the identity and statements of protected witnesses in the Blaskic case. They face a possible punishment of a 100,000 Euro fine and seven years in prison.
This situation would be comical if it were not so tragic and serious. These indictments would be thrown out of any Western courtroom, especially an American one. The Hague Tribunal’s prosecutor’s office is seeking to justify these outrageous indictments by claiming that the witnesses’ statements were given in a “non-public,” secret proceeding. Hence, by publishing those statements these four journalists supposedly violated the witnesses’ protection rights guaranteed by the tribunal.
This is nonsense. It is the responsibility of the tribunal, and not that of the Croatian or international media, to make sure that secret witness testimony is not leaked to the public. The prosecutor’s office is trying to pass off blame to others for its failure to provide adequate protection for witnesses.
More importantly, this is a clear-cut case of freedom of the press and the public’s right to information trumping any claims the tribunal may have about witness protection. It is the role of journalists in a free society to hold public officials accountable for their actions, and to reveal sensitive, even privileged information in order to inform the public. The public’s right to be informed, along with the rights of journalists to publish their reporting free of any censorship is at the core of an open, free press. (The sole exception is the publication of deliberately slanderous material bereft of any factual basis. This is definitely not the case in this matter, as everyone agrees the witnesses’ testimony did take place. The only issue is whether they should have been made public.)
If I had received information from a reliable source about secret witness testimony at the ICTY for one of my columns in The Washington Times, I certainly would have published it. Yet the tribunal would never dare to indict me for supposed “contempt of the tribunal” because it knows the firestorm of opposition it would create in the American media. It would be seen for what it is: a crude attempt to silence a journalist.
Carla Del Ponte is essentially claiming that the institutional prerogatives of the ICTY are more important than the rights of all Croatians to free expression and freedom of the press. These indictments are an assault on the fundamental pillars of a liberal democracy. Once the sacred principles of freedom of the press and freedom of speech are violated, then all the other basic rights and freedoms central to a democracy simply wither away. In short, Del Ponte is now expressing her outright contempt for Croatia’s democratic institutions.
This is why Croatians of all political stripes—right, left and center—should come together and denounce these indictments as unacceptable intrusions upon the country’s basic liberties. If these journalists are convicted, what is to stop Del Ponte’s office from indicting others in the media for “contempt of the tribunal?”
Del Ponte is seeking to determine what can and cannot be published in the Croatian press. Her goal is to silence any opposition to the ICTY within Croatia. It is no accident that all four journalists have been leading critics of Del Ponte. In particular, Mr. Marijacic and his first-rank magazine, Hrvatski List, have emerged as a leading intellectual force in defense of Croatia’s national sovereignty and the Homeland War. For this he is now paying a steep price. But Mr. Marijacic and his brave band of patriots will be vindicated in the end.
These indictments may prove to be Del Ponte’s Afghanistan; the point of imperial overreach that will lead to the collapse of the entire rotten structure known as the ICTY.
During the next few weeks the fate of John Bolton, who is President George Bush’s nominee to be the next American ambassador to the United Nations, will be decided. If he is approved by the U.S. Senate, which I suspect he will, then Del Ponte’s position as chief prosecutor is in serious trouble. Mr. Bolton has made no secret of his dislike for the ICTY, and especially for Del Ponte’s dismal performance as chief prosecutor.
Previously, Mr. Bolton’s harsh criticisms of Del Ponte have been downplayed by the Balkanists in the State Department’s Foreign Service bureaucracy, many of whom are rabidly pro-ICTY and anti-Croatia. As undersecretary of state for arms control, he lacked the power to rein in Del Ponte and her fellow zealots at the tribunal. This time, however, he will have the authority to take action. If confirmed, Mr. Bolton will be overseeing America’s diplomacy toward the United Nations—including U.N.-sponsored tribunals like the ICTY.
When he finds out about this latest outrage, he will almost certainly demand that Washington withdraw its support for Del Ponte and the ICTY. She has given Mr. Bolton the diplomatic rope he needs to finally hang her. He now needs to finish her off—once and for all.
- Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a historian and regular contributor to the Commentary pages of The Washington Times. He is currently writing a book, “Fatal Embrace: The Croat-Serb Conflict in the 20th Century.”

NN: Istina i pravda/ Pogled iz Washingtona

Optuznice su noz u srce demokraciji!

Pod) Cilj Carle Del Ponte je usutkati u Hrvatskoj svaku oporbu Haskom sudu. Nije slucajno sto su sva cetvorica novinara njezini glavni kriticari. Posebno su gospodin Marijacic i njegov prvorazredni tjednik Hrvatski list izrasli u vodecu duhovnu snagu u obrani hrvatskog nacionalnog suvereniteta i Domovinskog rata. On sada za ovo placa visoku cijenu. Ali na kraju ce i on i njegova hrabra domoljubna momcad dobiti punu zadovoljstinu

Pise: Jeffrey T. Kuhner


Nedavne optuznice Haskog suda protiv cetvorice hrvatskih novinara noz su u srce njezinoj demokraciji. Njih cetvorica – Ivica Marijacic, Markica Rebic, Domagoj Margetic i Stjepan ©eselj – optuzeni su za navodni zlocin ‘nepostivanja suda’, odnosno objavljivanje identiteta i izjava zasticenih svjedoka u ‘slucaju Blaskic’. Prijeti im moguca kazna globom od 100.000 eura i sedam godina zatvora.

Ova bi situacija bila komicna da nije ozbiljna i tragicna. Svaki sud na Zapadu, osobito u SAD-u, takve bi optuznice odbacio. Ali tuziteljstvo Haskog suda pokusava opravdati ove skandalozne optuznice tvrdnjom kako su izjave svjedoka dane u ‘nejavnom’, dakle tajnom postupku. Time su cetvorica novinara navodno prekrsila prava svjedoka na zastitu koju im Sud jamci.

Ovo je besmislica. Odgovornost je Suda, a ne hrvatskih i stranih medija, osigurati da tajno svjedocenje ne procuri u javnost. Tuziteljstvo, dakle, pokusava prebaciti na druge svoj neuspjeh da na pravi nacin zastiti svjedoke. I, sto je jos vaznije, ovo je jasan slucaj obrane slobode tiska i prava javnosti na informacije koji potire svako moguce pravo Suda u odnosu na zastitu svjedoka.

Uloga novinara u slobodnom drustvu je nadzor javnih duznosnika i njihova djela, pa i otkrivanje osjetljivih, cak i ekskluzivnih informacija vaznih za obavjestavanje javnosti. Njezino pravo na informaciju, uz novinarsko pravo na objavljivanje svojih izvjesca mimo svake cenzure, srz je otvorenoga i slobodnoga tiska.
(Jedini izuzetak je objavljivanje namjernih kleveta, bez ikakve cinjenicne osnove. To bez sumnje nije slucaj u ovoj stvari jer postoji opca suglasnost kako je svjedocenja doista i bilo. Jedino je pitanje jesu li trebala biti objavljena).

Medj) I ja bih to objavio, ali mene ne bi smjela optuziti

Da sam, recimo, ja dobio obavijest iz pouzdana izvora o tajnom svjedocenju u Haagu za moju kolumnu u Washingon Timesu, zasigurno bih je bio objavio, ali se Sud nikad ne bi usudio optuziti me zbog navodnog ‘nepostivanja suda’ jer zna kakvu bi buru prosvjeda to stvorilo u americkim medijima. Smatralo bi se to onim sto jest: grubim pokusajem usutkavanja novinara.

Carla Del Ponte u osnovi tvrdi kako su institucionalne ovlasti Haskog suda vaznije od prava svih Hrvata na slobodu izrazavanja i tiska. Ove su optuznice nasrtaj na same temelje liberalne demokracije. Krsenjem svetih nacela slobode tiska i govora gaze se i sva temeljna demokratska prava i slobode. Ukratko, Carla Del Ponte ovim izrazava izravno nepostivanje hrvatskih demokratskih ustanova.

Stoga bi Hrvati svih politickih nagnuca – desnice, ljevice ili centra - trebali zajednicki prokazati ove optuznice kao neprihvatljivo krsenje temeljnih sloboda ove zemlje. Ako ovi novinari budu osudjeni, sto ce sprijeciti hasko tuziteljstvo da optuzi i druge novinare zbog ‘nepostivanja suda’?

Carla Del Ponte pokusava naredjivati sto se smije, a sto ne smije objavljivati u hrvatskome tisku. Njezin je cilj usutkati u Hrvatskoj svaku oporbu Haskom sudu. Nije slucajno sto su sva cetvorica novinara njezini glavni kriticari. Posebno su gospodin Marijacic i njegov prvorazredni tjednik Hrvatski list izrasli u vodecu duhovnu snagu u obrani hrvatskog nacionalnog suvereniteta i Domovinskog rata. On sada za ovo placa visoku cijenu. Ali na kraju ce i on i njegova hrabra domoljubna momcad dobiti punu zadovoljstinu.

Medj) Bolton ce dokrajciti Carlu Del Ponte

Mozda se, naime, pokaze kako je ovo tuziteljicin ‘Afganistan’– trenutak imperijalne nadmenosti koji ce dovesti do propasti citavog ovog ‘grijeha struktura’ imenom Haski sud.

Tijekom narednih nekoliko tjedana odlucit ce se i o sudbini Johna Boltona, kandidata predsjednika Georgea Busha za sljedeceg americkog veleposlanika u UN-u. Ako ga potvrdi Senat SAD-a, kao sto vjerujem da hoce, onda je polozaj Carle Del Ponte, kao glavne tuziteljice, ozbiljno uzdrman. Gospodin Bolton ne taji svoju odbojnost prema Haskom sudu, a navlastito za njezin bijedni ucinak kao glavne tuziteljice.

Ranije su Boltonove ostre kritike Carle Del Ponte ublazavali ‘balkanisti’ iz vanjskopoliticke birokracije americkog State Departmenta, medju kojima je mnogo haskih zagovornika i hrvatskih protivnika. Kao drzavni podtajnik za nadzor naoruzanja on nije imao ovlasti zauzdati Carlu Del Ponte i njezine fanatike u Haagu, ali sada ce ih dobiti. Ako, dakle, bude potvrdjen, Bolton ce upravljati americkom diplomacijom u UN-u, pa tako i prema UN-ovom Haskom sudu.
Kada, pak, sazna za ovaj najnoviji skandal, gotovo sigurno ce zatraziti da Washington uskrati potporu Carli Del Ponte i Haskom sudu. Ona je Boltonu pruzila diplomatsko uze koje mu je trebalo. Sada je samo treba dokrajciti – i to za vijeke vjekova!


- Jeffrey T. Kuhner je povjesnicar i stalni komentator Washington Timesa. Trenutno pise knjigu ‘Fatalni stisak: hrvatsko-srpski sukob u 20. stoljecu’.

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