Yesterday was a sad day for Serbs from the short-lived Krajina. As I found out that morning, convicted Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač, sentenced last year to 24 years and 18 years respectively, were completely acquitted, and now they are free! This reversal is an insult to all the Serbs from the fallen Krajina, especially to those from the areas affected by ‘Operation Storm’!
So many things keep going round my head about this outrage — a very appropriate word for this mockery of justice — that I feel compelled to share it. Last year, I was relieved to know that the suffering my people endured was at least beginning to be prosecuted. Now I’m just bemused; trying to make sense of it all, trying to find the words to describe how appalled I feel by this reversal. As you can see, I can’t be indifferent about this.
I saw last year’s verdict as a first step on the way to justice for Serb victims and their families. For a year and a half, I felt that we had that one small step, from where we could persist on getting justice for Serb victims of other war crimes before and after ‘Oluja’. Now thanks to yesterday’s verdict, we’re now back at square one! The justice I felt we had achieved last year, has been snatched from us. And I suppose, realistically speaking, the least amount of justice we can hope for now are some guilty verdicts for some of the perpetrators of some war crimes against some Serb victims, but even such cases will probably get dragged along before any justice is served to the families of the victims.
I don’t promote anti-Hague conspiracies or anything like that, but I do wonder on what basis they reached this disgraceful decision. I know it’s easy to just dismiss the whole court over this, and no doubt many of my fellow Serbs have done so long before yesterday. But being inquisitive as I am, I feel compelled to ask further questions as to how the court came to this devastating decision, especially how they came to the conclusion re: Gračac and other ethnic Serb towns not being civilian targets afterall. Why does the shelling of those towns no longer constitute “unlawful attack on civilians and civilian objects”? And what about the “destruction of a substantial part of Gračac on 5 and 6 August” committed by “Special Police members” acknowledged in last year’s verdict? All in all, what made them change their opinion from last year? Either way, it baffles me how those, who were initially punished for this, are now all of a sudden “un-punished”!
Of course, as a matter of principle, I don’t oppose any defendant’s right to appeal. But I still find this vindication disgraceful, and as a Serb from one of the towns listed in his initial conviction as being shelled by his forces, I’m outraged!
This verdict repudiates the whole “joint criminal enterprise”, and in some way vindicates Franjo Tuđman personally. But what is of great concern to me is how this plays to the self-righteousness on the Croatian side, while feeding into suspicion on the Serbian side. That is not going to help either side move forward, and will certainly dampen reconciliatory efforts.
However, if I must be honest, there was a part of me that would pop up once in a while, when thinking about Gotovina's conviction, that thought his conviction wasn’t strong enough. Funnily enough, something in me was saying that. So why am I so disappointed that this has been brought to light?
I will definitely read through the acquittal to understand this in greater detail. But at the end of the day, this kind of thing does make one wonder whether justice will ever be completely served for my people and our victims. It’s at times like these that many of my fellow Serbs hope for “Divine justice”, either in this life or the next, when injustice prevails here on earth.
I’ll end this unhappy post with this tragic reminder: justice has still not been served for the 106 Serb fatalities in the Gračac municipality alone (see the list of names here) during ‘Oluja’. Indeed, there are many other Serb victims from the Gračac area before August ‘95, who likewise don’t deserve to be forgotten. This disgraceful acquittal is an insult to the victims’ memory, their surviving relatives and to all of us from my hometown!
- You can also see this article on Britić here.