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The ICTY expert witness dr. Mladen Ancic

Written 02.12.2009. 15:40

Prosecution case based on Holbrooke’s autobiography

At the end of the September, just one week before Croatian president Stjepan Mesic took the stand as a witness for prosecution in the case against former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, dr. Mladen Ancic, a historian and member of Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences history department in Zadar, as well as the professor at the University of Zagreb, took the role of defense expert witness in the case against the indicted Croats from Bosnia, Naletelic and Martinovic. Dr. Ancic testified elaborating on his own expert analysis “From cultural differences to the war for the land possession: historical roots of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina”. His analytical study was deposited in the archives of the ICTY.

This was dr. Ancic’s second appearance in this role before the court, because he had been already involved in the case against another Croat from Bosnia, Dario Kordic, when he authored the text “Society, ethnicity and politics in B&H”, presented to the court by a professor of the modern history from the University of Oxford. According to dr. Ancic, the prosecution considers as undisputable the moral and political authority of the “Government of B&H” (Bosnian Muslim government, located in Sarajevo 1992-1995) in the period of 1992 till 1997 (that is, until the implementation of the Dayton agreement)- although all the international plans and agreements have been treating them as just “one of the three warring parties”.

All those not enamoured with the communist Yugoslavia are potential indictees

Dr. Ancic explains how the Hague prosecutorial team formed its perception of the historical events that took place in the area of the former Yugoslav federation. This is their take, ironically adumbrates dr. Ancic: “The war was started by Milosevic & co. Hastily, the notorious Croatian nationalist president Tudjman and his boys joined the action. In the spring of 1991, these two quasi-fascist conspirators agreed on the “devils pact” during the secret meeting at the Serbian estate Karadjordjevo. They jointly started the business of dismemberment and pillaging of helpless and innocent B&H, which was headed by Muslim leader Izetbegovic, the only true defender of the “brotherhood and unity” (a communist slogan referring to the supposed inter-ethnic harmony that allegedly existed in communist totalitarian state). The similar picture/cartoon about the events in the early 90s has been accepted by former communist apparatchiks and Yugo-addicts in Croatia who regard the Hague tribunal as independent institution of the international law that is only trying to punish responsible far the crimes committed.

It is easy to realize that generally everybody who can be labeled as “nationalist”-who either was not in love with the idea of Yugoslavia or did not work enthusiastically on its preservation qualifies as a potential “guilty” label/indictee by the Hague court. Since the majority of the political elite in the former Yugoslavia run on the political platform that easily can be labeled as “nationalist” (especially looking through the liberal Western binoculars), it looks as that on the basis of “objective responsibility” everybody except those terminally affected by “Yugo nostalgia” syndrome are potential Hague’s targets. Basically, the ICTY prosecutors do not see any “positive” roles. There are just villains. Big and nasty, and minor, “regular” villains. There are no exceptions in this twisted perception.

This approach has generated many absurd situations. Let me give you an example, continues dr. Ancic. During my interrogation at the witness stand, the prosecutor brought about the tape of the famous transcripts recorded in the president Tudjman’s office in Zagreb in 1993. At the meeting attended by dr. Franjo Tudjman, Bosnian Croat leader Mate Boban, Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic and peace envoy Lord David Owen, the continued military conflict between Bosnian Croats and Muslims was discussed. The prosecutor read only the accusations against the Croats delivered by Alija Izetbegovic, who blamed the Croats for instigating all the incidents. The prosecution was trying to interpret that as an independent and impartial view of the events. Because of my insistence, the judge panel decided to take the break after which we were given the chance to present the entire text to the panel. The completely different picture was revealed.

At the same time during the conversation Mate Boban, the Croat leader, was targeting Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic with the same kind of accusations he himself was targeted with. In conclusion of the meeting, Lord David Owen confirmed quoting Western intelligence services that indeed both sides should be held responsible for the fighting and numerous incidents. Such picture given by somebody who is being regularly quoted by the prosecution team as a source of generally very negative opinion of dr. Franjo Tudjman, proves that prosecution’s accusation that Croats have started the war with Muslims in the attempt to carve out pieces of B&H and integrate them into Croatia proper has nothing to do with the facts.

In addition, the prosecution very often, without hesitation and restraint of professional and intellectual responsibility, declares biased historical “explications” of the causes for the Croat-Muslim war, either directly or by using its “universal” expert-witness, American historian Robert Donia. Donia’s professional credentials include twenty years of experience- working as a bank clerk. If this is not enough, let’s add that during the war he was the head of the shadowy organization called "Donia Vakuf" (Vakuf, or, in the Arabic original, Waqf, is an Islamic institution meaning religious endowment) that was (mis)used to transfer money from the Islamic countries to Bosnian Muslim government and institutions. It is perhaps even more important to mention that he usually writes his expert texts defying any scientific practice and without using the primary or secondary sources of information.

Looking from the broader diplomatic perspective, it is even more important to mention the unnamed but unquestionable authorities behind the scene. Theses presented by the prosecution, continues Ancic, are word for word Xerox of official American policy toward B&H. One should just read the memoirs of American diplomat Richard Holbrooke and find out how much the support and proclivity toward Izetbegovic correspond with the prosecution's general attitude. But these memoirs also reveal that American policy toward Bosnia and Herzegovina had the hidden agenda and was double sided (and double faced). One side was official and publicly proclaimed-and only a facade, while the other was “hidden” and “true”. Just one single example shows the real American intentions. In the summer of 1995 American negotiator Holbrooke lobbies with Croatian President Tudjman to take three more Bosnian Serb towns and give them over to the Muslim authorities although at the same time the UN Security Council (including the US State Department) was vigorously requesting the withdrawal of Croatian troops from B&H and threatening Croatia with sanctions.

A glance on ICTY

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