On November 16 the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Theodor Meron announced that the Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac were found not guilty and would be released. Festivities started all over Croatia. In Zagreb’s main square, the Ban Jelacic Square, thousands of people gathered chanted “Ante”. The Serbians considered it yet another insult to their country and those people who were killed by Ante Gotovina and his men and whom they drew away from their homes.
During the entire time of its existence, the ICTY found guilty 60 Serbians, 12 Croatians, 5 Bosnians and 2 Albanians. In total the Serbians got 1112 years in prison, while the Croatians – 166, Bosnians – 41,5 and the Albanians – 19. Four Serbs received a life sentence. None of the Croatians, Bosnians or Albanians received a life sentence. And here is another detail from the ICTY documents: the court released 2 Serbs, 7 Croatians, 3 Bosnians and 2 Albanians. 13 Serbs, 2 Croatians and 1 Bosnian died in prison before the verdict was passed.
Former ICTY Prosecutor General Carla Del Ponte, who can hardly be called a good friend of the Serbs made a statement to the Serbian Blitz right after the release of Gotovina and Markac:
"I am shocked and amazed. It is impossible that it happened after the Tribunal had sentenced Gotovina to a 24-year term in prison. I cannot agree with the verdict of judge Meron. I feel solidarity with the Serbian people, with the victims and those who suffered from the Storm operation. The court had all the proof of the Croatians’ guilt, but the Tribunal ignored them and passed quite a disputable decision."
Back then I worked in the Balkans and witnessed the Storm operation together with the filming crew of the Russian TV show Vremya. We saw burned down houses of the Serbs and looted and pillaged villages. That horrible sight was accompanied by an awful smell of the death. In Knin, where the half-drunk winners celebrated their victory, we got into the staff, where the Croatian commanders could not understand how Russian journalists got to that territory. There for the first time I met Ante Gotovina who was the commander of the Knin Corps. Naturally, the general refuse to give an interview and asked his men to quickly escort the unwanted witnesses out of the town. Looking at the entire material that we filmed on the way to Knin, the chief of the local intelligence unit forced the cameraman Vladimir Golovnya to erase a part of the video. The Croatian military did not want the Russian audience to see what they did with their own hands during the Storm operation. According to various estimates, over the four days of the Storm operation, the Croatians deported from the Republic Serbska Kraina from 200 to 250 000 Serbs. A few thousand Serbs were killed or disappeared.
A week later Croatia’s president Franjo Tudjman hosted our group in his residence. Doctor Tudjman talked about the operation Storm and boasted about his victory. He was satisfied and happy and kept saying that finally Croatia became a free country. Tudjman talked about his hero generals, about his soldiers, but never mentioned the fact that the Storm had been conducted according to the scenario of the US special services and the US Ambassador in Zagreb Peter Galbright. I found that out later from my colleagues journalists.
A few days ago Ante Gotovina himself admitted that. Besides that on November 17 Ante Gotovina in his interview to the Belgrade’s “Kurir” called upon all those who he had driven away from their homes in August 1995 to return to Croatia: “It is your home country as much as it is mine”. However, the general did not say what was the state of the property of almost 200 000 refugees, who would pay for their move and compensate them for the physical and moral damage. The Croatian president, prime minister or the parliament? The state coffers are practically empty. Or the EU will allocate money for this operation, despite the fact that it has huge financial difficulties itself?
0Currently Hague is preparing a new shock for Belgrade. One cannot rule out that on November 29 the same judge Meron can drop all charges against another odious personality – the Kosovo Albanian Ramush Haradinaj. In Pristina people say that it would be the fairest decision made by the ICTY over its entire history. In Kosovo people are already getting ready for the festivities to greet their “hero”. The former Croatian general who is now in charge of all the Kosovo security services Agim Cheky recently said that Haradinaj is entitled to the position of the prime minister, while Hashim Thaci should become president. Former warlords, who drew the Serbs away from their land, as Ante Gotovina did in Croatia in August 1995, have long been considered national heroes. In Hague people cannot understand that there is a long historic memory in the Balkans. It is not a custom to forgive insults or crimes here. And the boomerang launched by the ICTY in November can hit those who don’t want to or cannot find the truth about the events that shook Yugoslavia in the 1990s.