» (E) Why Doesn't the Hague Tribunal allow Croats Pre-Trial Release
|(E) Why Doesn't the Hague Tribunal allow Croats Pre-Trial Release
|By Nenad N. Bach |
(E) Why Doesn't the Hague Tribunal allow Croats Pre-Trial Release
|My thanks again to Mike Baresic for the following item, which has been |
circulated in Croatian, but this is an English version
December 20, 2001
Why Doesn't the Hague Tribunal allow Croats Pre-Trial Release?
By Marko Baresic
Zagreb-Even though they can sometimes be deceptive, statistics most often
reveal the criteria under which certain institutions operate. With a very
simple comparison of facts about individuals whom the ICTY has granted
pre-trial release, one arrives at some very perplexing conclusions.
Specifically, the tribunal has thus far allowed Serbs and Bosniaks to defend
themselves while on pre-trial release, but not a single Croat. Is this
merely a coincidence or are these facts the result of some unwritten
(unwritten because it would clearly be ethnic discrimination), but
nevertheless very real practice? In order to avoid speculation, here's what
the facts are.
The Hague tribunal allowed pre-trial release for Biljana Plavsic, the former
president of Republika Srpska and a close associate of Radovan Karadzic. She
voluntarily surrendered and is now in Belgrade until the beginning of her
trial. The Serbian government gave guarantees that she would return to the
Hague and now, instead of a Hague cell, she can choose whether to spend the
winter holidays in Kopaonik or someplace else.
Also on pre-trial release is Pavle Strugar, an officer of the former JNA who
in 1991 led the assault on Dubrovnik. He was released on almost an express
basis, to the chagrin of the people of Dubrovnik who cannot forget that time
when forces under Strugar's command pillaged the outskirts of Dubrovnik, and
the town itself and its citizens were exposed to death and destruction.
Logic suggests that the same will occur with Miodrag Jokic, and admiral in
the former JNA who, as Strugar's deputy, actively assisted in the
Serbian-MonteNegrin aggression on southern Croatia.
A few days ago Bosniaks under indictment for crimes in central Bosnia also
found themselves free men. Enver Hadzihasanovic, Mehmed Alagic, Amir Kubura
and Sefer Halilovic were received as heroes upon their return to Sarajevo,
and their government is considering whether, despite the fact that they are
under indictment, they should return to the positions they held prior to
their departure for the Hague. Thus, negotiations are underway for Halilovic
(who is connected to crimes against Croats in Grabovica and Uzdol, and who is
passing responsibility on to Alija Izetbegovic) to return to his ministerial
portfolio, and Kubura to return as an officer in the BiH Army.
In principle, there should be no objection to this because everyone is
innocent until proven guilty. What is objectionable is that this principle
does not appear to apply to Croats.
The possibility of pre-trial release for Croats has in advance been
eliminated by the Hague court, which did not allow pre-trial release for not
only for Blaskic or Kordic, but not for any Croat whatsoever. Not even for
those Croats who voluntarily surrendered to the Tribunal. And those who
voluntarily surrendered include Blaskic, Kordic, Ademi, Ljubicic, and many
General Blaskic is now in his sixth year of custody in the Hague, and he
still does not have a final judgment. Kordic and the group of Croats from
central Bosnia who voluntary surrendered at the Split airport in 1998 under
assurances from Robert Gelbard that they would receive a quick and just
trial, also were denied pre-trial release. The Kupreskic brothers, who were
recently acquitted by the Tribunal after four years as prisoners, were also
not allowed pre-trial detention. At the time, they asked the Bosnian
government to provide the Tribunal with assurances that they would return,
but it refused. In contrast, the new BiH government quickly gave assurances
of the return of accused Bosniaks.
Furthermore, how do you explain that an officer of the Croatian Army, General
Rahim Ademi, voluntarily surrendered to the ICTY well before Strugar,
Hadzihasanovic, Halilovic and Kubura, and that they have since been released
but Ademi has not?
Does this perhaps mean that the assurances of the Croatian government on
Ademi's behalf (that he would return) are worth less than the assurances of
the Serbian government or the government of the BiH Federation for Serbs and
Bosniaks? If that is the case, then Ivica Racan and Goran Granic should be
deeply concerned, because that fact would speak volumes about their (lack of)
credibility and respect among Hague officials. No, as in all likelihood it
has nothing to do with that, the question becomes what exactly is going on
The attempt to connect Ademi's pre-trial release to the Gotovina case totally
lacks in credibility. If Ademi's freedom hinges on Gotovina's decision to
voluntarily arrive in the Hague, and if this type of contingency were to
become official ICTY policy, then the guarantees of the Serbian government
for Biljana Plavsic and Pavle Strugar would be worthless, because that
government harbors Mladic, Sljivancanin, Mrksic, Radic, and refuses to
extradite them. Moreover, the President of Serbia (Milutinovic) is himself a
In all likelihood what is going on here is something completely different.
What is happening is that the Hague tribunal appears to be applying a double
standard in which it grants pretrial release to some Serbs and Bosniaks who
have voluntarily surrendered, while a Croat, meaning a member of the Croatian
Army or the HVO (even an ethnic Albanian like Ademi) who has voluntarily
surrendered cannot receive pre-trial release, if we judge by the practice to
date of the Tribunal.
Should we then be shocked by the results of Croatian public opinion polls
which reveal a deep lack of trust of the Hague Tribunal, and that the
principle criticism is that the tribunal does not act on the basis of rules
of procedure and evidence, but rather on political and other non-legal
criteria? Unfortunately, the statistics above regarding accused who are
allowed pre-trial release and those who are not confirm that the results of
these Croatian public opinion polls are not without a basis in fact.
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