The Gotovina Indictment:
Prosecuting the United Statesby Stealth?
22 April 2003
The Gotovina Indictment: Prosecuting the United States
By Brian Gallagher
All Americans who took part in assisting the Croatian
armed forces before and during ‘Operation Storm’ are
almost certainly - and unjustly -considered war
criminals by the Hague Prosecutor. This appalling
notion has been brought out by speculation that the
International Criminal Court may prosecute British
forces for alleged war crimes carried out by the
United States in Iraq.
Unlike the United States, Britain is a signatory to
the International Criminal Court (ICC). Articles
published in Scotland on Sunday and by the Institute
of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) revealed that
lawyers have told the British Ministry of Defence that
if American forces commit an alleged war crime,
British troops could be prosecuted simply for
providing intelligence or refuelling US aircraft in
connection with it.
Both articles were written by Chris Stephen of IWPR,
which receives funds from the international comunity.
IWPR is known for its support of the Hague
International Criminal Tribunal for the former
Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the ICC; in other words the
articles may reflect current thinking in those
organisations. The ICC is very much a product of the
The implications for the Gotovina indictment are
clear. The United States provided considerable
intelligence, training and support for Operation
Storm, which liberated large areas of Croatia, saved
Bosnia-Herzegovina and put an end to Milosevic’s
Greater Serbia project.
However, the Hague Prosecutor absurdly considers
Operation Storm to have been nothing more than an
ethnic cleansing operation; a war crime. This despite
evidence in the public domain that the Serb leadership
ordered their own people out; a fact amusingly
confirmed by Florence Hartmann, Hague Prosecutor
spokeswoman and possible Gotovina defence witness, in
her book on Milosevic.
The Gotovina indictment directly accuses the entire
Croatian Armed forces of ‘deporting’ thousands of
Serbs i.e. they are all war criminals. This is made
clear in the indictment; paragraph 4 defines Croatian
forces as “the HV, the Croatian airforce or Hrvatsko
Ratno Zrakoplovstvo also known as HRZ, the Special
Police and Military Police of the Republic of Croatia,
which were involved in Operation Storm in UNPA Sector
South “ Paragraph 30 accuses Croatian forces as
‘deporting’ the entire ‘Krajina’ Serb population -
i.e. not just in Sector South.
This dispels the myth that only General Gotovina is
being accused of war crimes. The indictment is clearly
stating that every single member of the the Croatian
armed forces committed war crimes by participating in
an operation the prosecution considers to be an ethnic
cleansing exercise. The ICTY also confirm this on
their website by referring to the Gotovina indictment
as ‘Operation Storm’.
There can be little doubt then that the Hague
Prosecutor considers all US intelligence and training
personnel involved - including the US private firm
MPRI - as war criminals for their significant
contribution to Operation Storm.
Given that Operation Storm itself is considered a war
crime by the Prosecutor, given the indictment accuses
Croatian armed forces of involvement in a crime and
given the current thinking on British troops possibly
being prosecuting for providing assistance to US
forces in Iraq it is impossible to see otherwise.
Of course, it would be daring of the Prosecutor to
indict US personnel. But a precedent has been set
for the new ICC; an operation with strong US
involvement has been declared a war crime by a UN war
The indictment does not mention the US, but this does
not matter; US involvement in Operation Storm is well
documented and beyond dispute. Indeed, the whole
point of the indictment may well have been in order to
subtly attack the United States; not mentioning the US
in the indictment simply helps to avoid attention.
It does not have to be the ICTY that prosecutes
American - or indeed Croatian - personnel over this.
There has been controversy in Belgium over ‘universal
jurisdiction’ i.e. Belgian courts trying various world
leaders for alleged crimes.
Many in the European left have never forgiven Croatia
or America for defeating Milosevic. An enterprising
anti-American prosecutor or judge in Europe or
elsewhere could well use a dubious conviction of
Gotovina - should he ever get to trial - as a basis to
prosecute the United States for its great crime of
being instrumental in defeating Slobodan Milosevic’s
Greater Serbia project.
(c) Brian Gallagher