By Jan Oberg
General Ratko Mladic has finally been sentenced – to life – for crimes committed in Bosnia during the Yugoslav dissolution wars in the 1990s.
That motivated Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to make a statement to the effect that “Mladic is the epitome of evil, and the prosecution of Mladic is the epitome of what international justice is all about.”
But that statement is, if anything, the epitome of exemplary nonsense, pro-Muslim bias and something the UN S-G ought to distance himself from since it is a purely political statement.
The media – in the West in particular – have of course lapped it up. Most media people today are too young to have any personal experience of the events some 25 years ago and would have to read thick books to understand some of it.
The verdict’s political effect – whether intended or not – is to justify the horrible way the so-called “international community” intervened in the Yugoslav complex of intertwined conflicts with an inverse proportion between its intellectual understanding and its brutality.
Now, if you think I am thereby defending Mr. Mladic, let me say that there are strong reasons to believe that he is guilty of much including some of the killings in the massacre of Srebrenica.
Essentially, the argument of this article is not about Mladic. It’s about the Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s unacceptably politicized – but hopefully well-intentioned – statement.
But the Jordanian prince – who was with UNPROFOR in Yugoslavia at the time and should know better – anyhow got it all wrong because:
• The human evil card is a cheap one to play that doesn’t explain anything. Any serious intellectual knows that there are very complex economic, political, historical and other factors associated with crimes of this type. What happened in Srebrenica can’t be reduced to one man’s evil as little as the Second World War can be reduced to the single person Hitler.
• What made Srebrenica happen was, among other things, that the six safe zones the UN Security Council had established was never made safe by the UN members. Then UNPROFOR top General Wahlgren of Sweden whom I knew very well had required around 30.000 more UN troops to make those zones safe for refugees to be in; the international community gave him only 1200 Turks with a Turkey firmly sympathising with the fundamentalist Muslim leadership in Bosnia under Alija Izetbegovic.
• Interestingly, the safe zones were not de-militarised. The international community – the US? – had permitted Izetbegovic’s government to place its ammunition depots and troops inside these zones – from which they could then make excursion out and fire into Serbian villages while Serbs obviously could not fire into safe zones filled with refugees.
• In addition, the UN as such was bankrupt at the time – member states such as the US having ignored to pay its dues to the organisation.
• The media coverage of this ICTY sentence leaves any mention of what preceded Srebrenica and that it was part of a political game.
For there to be an epitome of international justice, we are still these many years later waiting for things like these. And the Prince of human rights must know it or he is not a worthy representative of the UN:
• A conviction proportion at the Tribunal that better matches the atrocities likely committed on all sides. This is how the convicted are distributed in terms of background: 94 of them are Serbs, 29 are Croats, 9 are Albanians, 9 are Bosniaks (Muslims), 2 are Macedonians and 2 are Montenegrins.
• An answer to the question: Why is it that there are only special tribunals for two conflicts, namely Rwanda and Yugoslavia? And to which extent is ICTY a political and a legal institution?
• Where was the trial of Croatian president Dr. Franjo Tudjman and his people – inspired as they all were by the World War II Fascist Ustasha government under Pavelic – cf. the Jasenovac concentration camp in Croatia?
• Where are the trials of the non-convicted top leaders of today’s Kosovo, all protected by the US ever since the Rambouillet “negotiations”?
• And for there to be some kind of international justice – and not only justice inside what was Yugoslavia – where are the legal procedures pertaining to, among others:
1. President Bill Clinton, secretary of state Madeleine Albright, vice-president Al Gore and others who were main responsible for the bombings in Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo and for carving out the latter of former Yugoslavia (talk about Crimea as a crime!) by violence and changing the borders in Europe and lacking every UN Security Council mandate?
2. The US ambassador in Zagreb, Peter Galbraith, Croatia who, in collusion with the Croatian government, masterminded and turned a blind eye to the proportionally largest ethnic cleansing in all the wars, namely the Croatian Serbs out of Croatia – not exactly occupiers as the fake media narrative at the time most often would tell you but people who had lived there the last 400 years? And what about the humanitarian people at his embassy whom I met and have reasons to believe were CIA operatives from the war they talked about the desirability of getting Milosevic murdered?
3. NATO’s then European commander, Wesley Clark, who later tried to become President of the US and NATO’s secretary-general, Xavier Solana – for being the top responsible for the bombing of rest-Yugoslavia without a UN mandate?
4. What about trials against all the countries that poured in weapons to all sides over 5 years against the UN weapons embargo – e.g. the nightly deliveries of tons of weapons and ammunition to Split’s harbour and Tuzla Airport (just to mention Bosnia) only to prolong the violence and increase the death, destruction and suffering?
5. Or what about investigating the interests of Germany – concretely foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and BND chief Klaus Kinkel – and the consequences of their pro-Croatia leanings (Second World war again) when deciding to recognise Slovenia and Croatia out of Yugoslavia in blatant contravention of international law. That decision was the single most important reason that the war broke out in Bosnia – the Bosnia where Srebrenica happened. And that decision was taken by a unanimous EU pressured by Genscher’s initiative – against a series of warnings from the UN S-G, Genscher’s own ambassador in Belgrade and people like the present author who knew a little bit about the complexities. (It’s about the only time the EU has spoken with one voice on an important issue – and that released the war in Bosnia unavoidable. But did not prevent the Nobel Committee from awarding the EU its prize).
6. Or what about US ambassador Zimmerman who allegedly – he denies it – persuaded Bosnia’s Izetbegovic to withdraw his signature on the Lisabon Agreement (1992) with Serb and Croat leaders about the division of Bosnia. That signature withdrawal intensified and prolonged the fighting in Bosnia for 3 more evil years that ended in the Dayton Accords. The difference in division lines agreed in Lisabon and in Dayton was less than 2% of Bosnia’s territory. And – Prince Zeid can not not know that – those 3 years of prolonged fighting cost about ten times the number of people killed in Srebrenica.
The list could be made longer. I do not say that the people mentioned are guilty of war crimes. I’m not a lawyer.
What I do advocate is that those and many others should also held responsible for their contributions to the outrageous sufferings of the Yugoslav peoples and handling of international laws and human rights.
We must stop focusing on one place, one moment and one person and look at the whole thing, the whole process and the structures and mechanisms – that is the only way in which we can practise equality before the law. And that concept has been ignored completely in this case (and others).
Power must not automatically make right and that is what a UN official should point out.
Few remember anything today. Media didn’t bother about conflicts, only about the violence and blame game at the time. So too today. It requires too much knowledge.
They have had nothing intelligent to say except praising the sentence of Mladic in splendid isolation from everything else of relevance.
The media angle promotes the media narrative 25 years ago as well as the Western destroyers’ writing of history of what is one of the most shameful chapters in contemporary history: The ways the so-called international community contributed to and prolonged the suffering of all the peoples of Yugoslavia, carved up an existing state and did everything to take sides instead of being the much needed neutral mediator and peacemaker.
But, sure, they got NATO expanded.
There is a straight line from Croatia Krajina (border) to Ukraine today – the line that is the Clinton administration. And that, as so much else, is something NATO countries are deeply responsible for and thus their media love stories about the Hitlerist Serbs (tak about collective punishment by the media and political judges) who was the cause of everything bad.
Yes, Serbs did a lot of bad things (others too) but in all fairness – if that bothers anybody anymore – the Serbs were 43% of former Yugoslavia and the nation most widely distributed in other republics so that the carving up of Yugoslavia would unavoidably hit Serbs more than any other nation. It would turn them into minorities under majorities who had killed them 50 years before.
Conspicuously the West – lead by Germany and the US – sided with those groups who had been on Hitler’s and Mussolini’s side in the Second World War – Croats, Bosnian Muslims and Albanians.
There is much to explain. Still so many years later.
Even for a Prince of human rights.
The Transnational Foundation was deeply engaged in these processes in the 1990s. The present author has conducted about 3000 interviews on all sides and levels and was a goodwill mediator between the Kosovo-Albanian leadership under Dr. Rugova and three Yugoslav governments in Belgrade.
The foundation produced the only plan that exists for a 3-year negotiated solution concerning Kosovo and it has worked with virtually all UN missions at the time.
It is all documented in Yugoslavia – What Should Have Been Done – a blog of what our Associates wrote as it was written at the time, some 2000 pages (2015).