What’s next for Croatia after Gotovina’s sentence?

Thousand of Croats protested against the ICTY verdict as Gen. Ante Gotovina was sentenced to 24 years in jail on for atrocities against Serbs committed during Operation Storm in 1995.

Questions:

1. How will Croatia cope with this? Would you say we can expect some tensions in the society and on the political scene?

2. Could it influence somehow also the Croatia’s accession process to the EU?

Answers:

Eric GordySenior Lecturer, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London

1. There is clearly a group of people who are outraged – largely veterans and older people. They will certainly have some demonstrations over the next several days. But as time goes on the number of people who are attached to the war and its protagonists is decreasing.

The verdict is interesting because of two things it revealed: 1) it characterized the crimes committed as part of “operation Storm” as having the purpose of engaging in illegal deportation, naming in particular Franjo Tudjman (the president), Gojko Šušak (the defence minister) ond Zvonimir Červenko (the military chief of staff) as the leaders. All three of these people have died but clearly the verdict is a verdict on the regime that Croatia had until 2000. 2) It made the public aware of the “Brioni transcripts” in which the decisions to commit crimes were made. It follows that there is an increased responsibility to deal seriously with crimes committed during “Operation Storm.”

There will be elections in Croatia soon. I do not expect the verdict to affect the outcome much. The people who are outraged at the verdict are outraged at the entire political elite, not a single party. HDZ is expected to do poorly in the election for a lot of reasons that are not related to the war: a bad economic situation, corruption, incompetence. Remember that the protestors are not necessarily representative of society as a whole! Some of them may switch from supporting HDZ to supporting an extremist party, but this will make very little difference.

2. There are two principal effects of the verdict: 1) on the reputation of the state internationally and 2) on the obligations of the state in the future. These are related in the sense that what Croatia will have to do in order to address them is the same thing, which is to energetically prosecute people who have committed crimes in the course of the war.

This was a bigger problem before Ivo Josipović became president than it has been since. Before 2006 in particular the Croatian war crimes prosecutor concentrated on prosecuting Serbs who were suspected of crimes. The approach has been more evenhanded in recent years. The main task that Croatia will have is to continue to demonstrate that the state is satisfying the standards of justice in this area.

In at least one regard the verdict may help: it shows Croatia and Serbia that they have a common problem and a common task, and could stimulate greater cooperation between their judicial and legal institutions. This is a process that in many ways has already begun – aside from a few well publicized scandals, Serbian and Croatian prosecutors are cooperating very well in addressing different types of crime.

Robert English, Professor and Deputy Director, School of International Relations, University of Southern California

1. Croatia will “cope” with the verdict/sentence because it has no choice.  It has (and will continue) to provoke anger, outrage, etc. at the ICTY for its judgment on what most Croatians view as a legitimate war to defend/liberate their territory, and on an individual (Gotovina) whom most see as a hero of that war.

Croatians, and those who sympathize with them in other countries, are understandably furious at the apparent injustice of such a stiff sentence (24 years) for an operation that resulted in the loss of a few hundred civilian lives to liberate territory that had been taken earlier at the cost of many thousands of civilian Croatian lives by Serb armies/paramilitaries whose leaders received much shorter (less than 10 years) sentences.   In other words, the original aggressors killed many times more Croats, but the defenders are much more harshly judged/punished.

It is not only the apparent double standard in punishment, it is the apparent lack of understanding of the judges that Croatia’s was an essentially defensive–not offensive–war.

2.  Croatia is well along in the process of joining the EU, for which many sacrifices have been made and which promises significant benefits to the country in the future.  So, as I say, Croatia will ultimately “cope” with this verdict but it will leave a very sour taste for years to come.  Still, if part of the anger is not only at an excessive sentence on Gotovina but also at the unjust equating of the Croatian and Serbian campaigns/wars, the best way to show that Croatia is “better” than Serbia and truly part of Europe (and not the Balkans) is to join Europe and leave Serbia behind.  And that means the EU.

So I do not expect this to derail Croatia’s accession to the EU, but will certainly lower still further many Croats’ view of European justice.  It does not seem impartial, balanced, fair, but rather biased, cynical, and ultimately “political.”  Croatians will get over it, and like other states that have joined the EU (from Poland to Romania) popular disillusion will continue to grow.

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10 Responses

  1. you english shithead, always loved serbs didnt you, we do have a choice, and we will fight until our heroes are free and the real aggressors are put in jail, shame on un and haag an eu, criminals that is all you are, for money you would sell your own mother

  2. I would be ashamed if Croatia enters EU under these conditions. The real war criminals are those who watched attrocities being committed and did not do anything about it for years: the same UN and EU that now has the moral right to judge us.

  3. @Robert English
    You forgot to mention ethnic cleansing of 250000 Serbs from their homes in Croatia.
    Check the number of Serbs on census in Croatia 1991 and 2001. 400000 Serbs dont live in Croatia now. Dont we have name for that? I think ethnic cleansing is appropriate.

    • is this the same census written by serbs??? and are these the same serbs that received amnesty from the croatian president, the same serbs who own more land in croatia than i do today? During every single war Croatia has never left it’s borders, where was serbia during all these wars? not defending it’s homeland because nobody cares for it. So if Serbia is not a defender it must be an aggresor?
      i can’t stand bitter serbs, you lost your dream of a Greater Serbia, wipe the dust off and move on and stop spewing lies. if you want justice find ratko mladic?

  4. Many people outside Croatia (and not Croatian descent) are also outraged, and not merrely the demographic groups Mr. Gordy so confidently talks about.
    I for one think the British alliance with their royal Serbian relatives is not in good taste. The only good nations in the former YUGOSLAVIA according to them are nations conveniently obedient and quietly serving their Serbian masters. NEVER!
    I am not going to waste time explaining to idiots why the Croats had every right defending themselves the way they did.
    Try to find tapes of any Croatian soldiers marching through devastated towns singing (in rough translation): “Bring us salad, we’ve got meat, we’ll slaughter us some Croats.” Can’t? Because overall, they were just motivated to preserve THEIR OWN COUNTRY. They did not conveniently act as weekend warriors, indiscriminately killing, raping and pillaging the Croatian Untermenschen and then returning to their blase Belgrade existence until the next “hunting trip” to Croatia.
    Have personally visited Knin right after the Storm and it was not even close to what Vukovar looked like after the Serbs had their way with it.
    I know this truth twisting isn’t ever going to stop. But know one thing – not everyone believes the Serbs and the Brits. And that’s about the best thing that can happen. Justice and truth shall pervail.

    • Exactly, it is the young and the new generations organizing protests and vigils. i am personally attending one in NYC today and when you watch the news Mr Gordy, you will see a mix of young and old.
      i would also like to state i have not met one croatian citizen in or outside of Croatia that wants Croatia in the EU, when has the government asked its citizens what it wants? we don’t care about the EU and the burning and ripping of the EU flag on 4/16/11 was proof of that. And don’t believe the government officials who look excited to be in the EU, they have deceived their people and sold Gotovina and Markac for the entry ticket into the EU for these two honorable generals who protected their homeland. Who cares for the EU it’s a reinvention of serbia’s failed greater serbia and Hitlers failed greater germany.

  5. Warwho Youngman – Ratko Mladic

    translate in english 🙂

    • Funny. But the gruesome part is that Gotovina is in the same prison for DEFENDING HIS OWN country.

      As for Mladič – I am quite convinced he gave himself up because he was sick of living in poor conditions and his health is failing. Well, if nothing else, he’s suffering from lymphoma these days. If the Hague farse can’t get to him, God can, whatever you choose to call him/her/it. There is a higher force that sees to it that evil people get what they deserve.

  6. And to answer the question of what’s next for Croatia –

    they’re going to become an EU member state, and later Serbia is going to join the EU, and then Bosnia (in whatever shape or form it will be at the time), and then the so-called citizens of the so called republic of Srpska and the so called Krajišniki from the so-called and non-existing Krajina are going to start chaos again, supported from Belgrade and under the patronage of their London third cousins. There won’t be any kind of serious stability until the injustices are resolved satisfactorily. This is what the rest of the world wants : an unstable region easy to manipulate with, providing yummy ethnic foods, sexy skinny women just dying to be top models and awesome cheap holiday locations (which will, of course be bought up by corrupt individuals like Dennis “McShane”)…
    Wish I was wrong. I do, but I’m afraid I9m right.

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