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A court run by wolves

NATO and the Srebrenica events

By John Catalinotto

When rich and powerful nations sit in judgment of the poor and powerless, it's naïve to believe they will dispense evenhanded justice. Nowhere is this more evident than at the NATO court--the International Criminal Tribunal on the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) sitting in The Hague, Netherlands.

On Aug. 2, this court found Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstic guilty of genocide. It sentenced him to 46 years in prison for his role in an alleged massacre of thousands of people in Srebrenica, Bosnia, in 1994. This is the first time the ICTY has found a Yugoslav defendant guilty of genocide.

Before examining the guilt or innocence of an individual in the hands of this court, it is imperative to examine the origins of the court itself, the nations involved in the case under study, the background of the case and see who gained by the result.

The NATO countries set up the ICTY, with the initiative coming from Washington. It is a remarkably biased international court. Instead of examining potential crimes by all nations involved, its defined mission is only to investigate alleged crimes in the former Yugoslavia, especially the alleged crimes of Serbs.

Later, this court's responsibility was extended to Rwanda, and some people from other Yugoslav nationalities have appeared before it. Still, it remains mainly a weapon to persecute Serbs, especially those who defied NATO.

To put Krstic's alleged crime in perspective, consider that official U.S. documents have recently been revealed confirming that Washington delivered the names of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian communists to the military coup regime in Jakarta, thus participating in the massacre of between 500,000 and 1 million political activists in 1965-1966. The U.S., which is the main force behind this NATO court, has also maintained sanctions against Iraq since 1990 that have led to the deaths of 1.5 million Iraqis, including half a million children.

Washington also has on its hands the blood of millions of Koreans and Vietnamese, for whom there has been no restitution or even apology.

A serious international tribunal could bring U.S. politicians up on genocide charges for these crimes. That's one reason why both the Clinton and the Bush administrations have opposed setting up a really international tribunal to hear war crimes charges against anyone. The ICTY tries only Yugoslavs.

Civil war in Bosnia

The trial of General Krstic involves events during the civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina from 1992 to 1995. Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats made up the three major ethnic groups. All three groups had shared power in the days of the multinational Yugoslav socialist republic. However, antagonisms grew among these groups as the socialist perspective weakened in Eastern Europe. Nationalist parties from these three groups eventually made up the three sides in the war.

A regime in Sarajevo based on the Muslim majority declared Bosnia's independence from Yugoslavia. Since large Croat and Serb minorities existed inside Bosnia, this made civil war virtually inevitable. The German and U.S. governments backed this call for independence.

Twice Washington sabotaged international plans when it looked as if there would be a settlement of the civil war. In March 1992 the European Union had brokered an agreement in Lisbon, Portugal. The so-called Vance-Owen plan was signed in March 1993, brokered by the EU and the United Nations. In both cases Washington undermined the accords by urging the Sarajevo government to break with them.

Ironically, the accord that was finally signed differed little from the Vance-Owen plan. But the U.S. government made sure that Washington, and especially the Pentagon, was the main player this time. It was signed in Dayton, Ohio, on Nov. 21, 1995.

Srebrenica 'massacre' used
to justify NATO bombs

Whatever happened at Srebrenica in July 1995, whoever died there, no matter how they were killed, it was U.S. intervention that set up the bloodletting. Yet no U.S. officials are facing trial at the ICTY. That itself is a sign of the illegitimacy of this court.

Srebenica, a mostly Muslim town, was patrolled by United Nations "peacekeeping" troops and had been declared a "safe haven" where civilians would be protected.

In fact, however, the troops of the Bosnian regime in Sarajevo used the "safe havens" as places from which their troops could launch attacks on the Bosnian Serb armies. When these forces retaliated, the Bosnian regime complained to the "peacekeepers" and demanded air strikes against their enemies.

In early July 1995, Bosnian Serb troops pushed back the Bosnian regime's troops and took Srebrenica after bitter fighting. Thousands of men fled the town. Tens of thousands of people, mostly non-combatants and children, surrendered.

At that time, the Bosnian regime accused the Bosnian Serb army of slaughtering 7,000 to 10,000 Muslim men caught in Srebrenica. The imperialist media repeated these charges and used them to demonize the Serb forces.

These charges served another purpose. Dutch troops under UN command were in Srebrenica. According to U.S. officials, these troops failed to intervene while "genocide" was taking place. Washington used this "failure" as an argument to justify military intervention under NATO, which is U.S.-dominated and unrestrained by the UN Charter.

The Pentagon began a more massive bombing of Bosnian Serb positions and threatened to hit inside Serbia. This finally led to the Dayton Accords and de-facto NATO occupation of Bosnia.

Was there genocide?

A study of the Srebrenica events by investigator George Pumphrey showed that thousands of the Muslim men had escaped the Bosnian Serb army and made it to their own lines. In addition, no evidence of massive killings was found for years after the alleged event. Indeed, over 3,000 people on a Red Cross list of the "missing" turned up on a list of voters the following year. (See www.iacenter.org.)

None of this evidence has prevented the same media from presenting the old tales that many thousands of people were slaughtered. These charges have never been substantiated.

At the recent "trial" before the kangaroo court in The Hague, anonymous witnesses-identified in court notes as "witness R," "witness BB" and similar codes-claim they saw Bosnian Serb forces under Gen. Krstic's command kill small groups of prisoners. Many of these witnesses were troops from the Bosnian forces opposing Krstic.

Krstic and his defense team were not allowed to confront these witnesses. Everything was in the hands of the court officers, who are beholden to NATO. Even if the stories the witnesses told were the truth, it would only show that during a bitter civil war illegal acts are committed. Crimes, perhaps, but far from genocide--and committed by both sides.

Currently the most famous defendant before this court is former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Media reports imply that those behind the ICTY intend to bring charges relating to Srebrenica against Milosevic, perhaps after bringing these same charges against Bosnian Serb leaders. U.S./NATO wants to find Milosevic and others from his government guilty of "genocide," for its other charges are weak.

No one should be deceived into thinking these cases have anything to do with justice. They are weapons in NATO's arsenal to break up Yugoslavia, whose struggle to remain sovereign and united goes back to the magnificent resistance of the Partisans to fascist occupation during World War II.

This article is copyright under a Creative Commons License.
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