Tag Archives: Yugoslavia

Prisoners in their own Land: The Struggle and Resistance of Serbs in Kosovo

NATO’s war against Serbia is far from over. Even before Serbia’s government, a pro-Western puppet regime, could come to a conclusion about whether or not to join NATO, NATO troops were already present on Serbian soil, more precisely in its southern province of Kosovo.

After the NATO bombing of the then-existing Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999 and the agreement of Kumanovo, the installation of a UN Mission to Kosovo and the retreat of the Yugoslav army and Serbian police forces were agreed upon. In reality this has meant the expulsion of 250,000 Kosovo Serbs, Roma and other minorities by members of the NATO-hatched “Kosovo Liberation Army” (KLA) and other Albanian extremists, under the command of its so-called “protection force”. As a result, hundreds of civilians (many of them Albanians who opposed the KLA regime) were murdered, and in the remaining Serbian enclaves locals now lead a ghetto existence. Up to this point, only in the North of Kosovo has the Serbian population managed to lead a more or less self-determined lifestyle, thanks in no small part to the administrative border to the rest of Serbia. Nonetheless, they are increasingly isolated, impoverished and vulnerable, receiving little to no support from Serbia’s government.

After Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in 2008 under the leadership of alleged organ trader and recognized terrorist Hashim Thaci, the situation deteriorated further: in the manner of a Catch-22, NATO troops, known locally as “Kosovo Force” (KFOR), and the so-called “European Union Rule of Law Mission” (EULEX) were mandated to enforce the “sovereignty” of a territory which chose to separate against international laws, a process which also included the installation of Albanian customs officers along its Northern border in order to eradicate Serbian “parallel structures”.

In response, Serbian inhabitants constructed approximately 20 street barricades last July in the predominantly Serbian region of Northern Kosovo (consisting of the communities of Leposavić, Zvečan and Zubin Potok and the Northern section of Kosovska Mitrovica) in order to keep out EULEX and the “Kosovo government” frontiersmen. Clashes have already been provoked several times by KFOR soldiers who attempted to remove some of the barricades, employing the use of tear gas and truncheons against unarmed protesters.

Activists from Belgrade recently started to organise free bus trips into the Northern region of Kosovo in order to supply moral and material support to the Serbian population. The author was permitted to join one of these trips on the 26th of November, as one of approximately 200 participants. The group could be described as heterogeneous, ranging from members of Serbian youth organisations and humanitarian activists, to writers and private persons of all ages. Some of the people had roots in the different regions of the Province of Kosovo (now completely under Albanian/NATO control), such as a doctor whose father was killed by the KLA in 1999, and a young man living in Belgrade, who had to flee with his family from the provincial capital of Priština when he was still a child.

The administrative border of Kosovo can be passed without customs control and the Belgrade convoy arrived in Northern Mitrovica towards evening. Once there, inhabitants showed the visitors the first barricade, built with gravel and concrete, over the Ibar River that separates the Serbian North and the Albanian South of the town. Many graffiti with the label “1244” can be seen, which refers to the 1999 UN Resolution that explicitly excludes the possibility of an independent Kosovo. On the other side of the river silhouettes of pedestrians can be seen, locals who would probably never cross the few meters to the other side of town — a case which applies even more strictly in the reverse. It is not for nothing that in a nearby store, postcards with the engraving “bridge of disunion” can be purchased.

Barricade on the bridge dividing Northern and Southern Mitrovica

Northern Mitrovica is a place where civilians have become victims of assault again and again, the worst incident since 1999 being in March of 2004, when an Albanian mob killed 19 people and caused much destruction, both in the town as well as within the enclaves.

Barricade within the town of Mitrovica

While at the barricade, members of a Serbian writers’ association started to decorate the structure with hundreds of books that would later be donated to the local library. In a nearby tent tea was being served to the people to warm up during the night, while a gusle player performed for the crowd. (The gusle is a traditional South Slavic string instrument.)

Later several activists held speeches and a number of writers read their poetry. Volunteers were invited to donate blood for the local population. Several nearby coffee houses, as well as conversations with the bridge guards, made the night pass unexpectedly fast. The bridge guards are there to protect the people from assaults, and some have been doing their jobs already since the retreat of the Yugoslav Army in 1999. Protection has not been available from any other sources, the only exception being a group of French soldiers, who in the beginning at least tried to prevent attacks against civilians on some occasions. The German soldiers have a reputation locally that is considerably worse.

Early the next morning further excursions were organised, including visits to the localities of Rudar, Jagnjenica and Dudin Krs, where the most recent violent incidents took place a short time before the trip. Locals and soldiers are separated by barbed wire, and although the atmosphere seemed to be quiet, the previous happenings have shown that this can change rapidly.

Meters of barbed wire separate the people from NATO soldiers

With winter setting in, the question arises of what the future holds for the locals. After the 9th of December, when Serbia was denied status as an EU candidate, it can be expected that President Boris Tadić will try to strengthen pressure on the Kosovo Serbs to abandon their barricades. Tadić has his sights set on bringing Serbia closer to the European Union in order to gain the support of people who still think that Serbian membership might improve their living conditions, as the corporate media are saying.

In fact many people across all of Serbia, facing unemployment and privatisation, say that the current government is the worst and most unsocial one they have ever had. Certainly the Kosovo Serbs cannot count on the support of President Tadić’s pro-Western government, but they do have most of Serbia’s public support on their side, as demonstrated by the convoys being sent to the barricades.

More makeshift barricades block the roads within Kosovo

During the trip back to Mitrovica, a cemetary catches the visitor’s eye: the names on the tombstones are all Albanian, and in stark contrast to the centuries-old Serbian Orthodox monasteries and graves that have been decimated in recent years, this place is in good shape and there are no signs of vandalism. It is also not unusual to hear people speaking in Albanian in the Serbian-majority region of Northern Mitrovica, and in fact the whole city used to be ethnically mixed before the war.

Arguably, the lives of Albanians in what is now the Serbian-populated North seem to be more bearable than is the case for Serbs in the Albanian-dominated South: according to Serbian media there is one sole Serbian person left in Southern Mitrovica, an elderly retired woman who generally does not leave her house and receives her supply of daily goods through an Albanian colleague.

Another local ethnic group that has suffered significantly are the Roma. In June 1999, a short time after the NATO bombings, Albanian extremists burned down the “Romska Mahala” in Southern Mitrovica, which was one of the oldest Roma settlements in the Balkans. The UN administration settled them in a camp in the North, close to the famous Trepča mines. Tragically, because of lead poisoning, dozens of children became seriously ill.

The trip back to Belgrade was a time to reflect upon the experience as a whole. It is impossible to picture the population in the North of Kosovo ever accepting the reign of a force that is responsible for some of the most terrible crimes that could be imagined, from alleged organ trade and child prostitution to countless ethnically-motivated murders. Not to mention the NATO presence that dominates all of Kosovo.

The justified resistance of the Kosovo Serbs against a regime of globalised war, terror and poverty has to be treated as such and deserves support from across the globe. The name of Kosovska Mitrovica should stay in the memory of all engaged citizens, alongside names like Gaza, Caracas, Fallujah and the many other places where people stand up for a life of dignity.

People who are interested in getting more information on the issue or want to help or participate in a trip to the barricades are asked to contact Mr. John Bosnitch:  jbosnitch@gmail.com

Published on:

Global Research, December 12, 2011

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Articles in English, Former Yugoslavia

The Criminalization of Justice at The Hague: Former Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte Faces Charges of Witness Intimidation

Carla del Ponte, the former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, has recently been confronted with charges of intimidation of witnesses, which has led to the tribunal’s opening an investigation into the matter. This was made public by the British newspaper “The Guardian” in an article dated August 18th 2010.[1] According to this article, the court will nominate an external expert to examine the accusations and decide within six months whether a lawsuit is justified. Del Ponte’s former close associates, Daniel Saxon and Hildegard Ürtz-Retzlaff, are affected by the accusation as well. The charges were brought forward by the Serbian politician Vojislav Seselj, who himself is a Hague prisoner. The alleged victims of intimidation are several witnesses of the prosecution in his trial.

Seselj voluntarily surrendered to The Hague in 2003, this in spite of the fact that he does not recognise the court, arguing that it has never been legitimised by the UN general assembly, which in fact should be mandatory according to the UN Charter. The trial against the politician, who once presented himself as the nationalist alternative to the more Yugoslav-oriented former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, finally started at the end of 2006 and is still going on today, with several interruptions and so far with no relevant results.[2]

The fact that the ad hoc tribunal of The Hague deems it necessary to take this case into consideration in one way or another is in itself remarkable. After all, the tribunal’s manner of conduct cannot be called impartial: the methods The Hague employs to reach their desired convictions range from the denial of the right to self defence, to silencing the microphone when the accused speaks out on facts that are embarrassing to the prosecution or, as already mentioned, the intimidation of witnesses. Such occurrences happened often enough during the Milosevic trial[3], as when the former head of the Serbian secret service, Radomir Markovic, testified as a witness of the prosecution that he had been pressured in Belgrade to wrongly accuse Milosevic of having ordered war crimes.[4] For this he was offered a new identity abroad, but after these revelations, Markovic was sent back to Serbia where he is still serving a prison sentence.

Another way to make the witnesses tell the most fantastic stories are the so-called “plead guilty” lawsuits: someone who is accused of having committed war crimes by himself and who has testified already can be convicted in a summary procedure without the prosecution having to investigate and to prove the confession. The only important thing is that the right persons are being charged. The most well known example is the case of the Bosnian Croat Drazen Erdemovic, who pleaded guilty in 1996 to having served in the army of the Bosnian Serbs and having participated at the so-called “Srebrenica massacre” in July 1995. In 2000 Erdemovic was set free and was offered a new identity. Since then he has served the prosecution as a protected witness in several trials. Even the charge of having committed “genocide” in Srebrenica against the former Bosnian Serbian president Radovan Karadzic and his army chief General Ratko Mladic is based on Mr. Erdemovic’s confessions. The German-speaking journalist Germinal Civikov has written a book that deals with all the contradictory statements Erdemovic has given, and all the obvious lies he is telling.[5]

The German-language online magazine “Schattenblick” has published an article on the tribunal’s dealings with the Bosnian Serb officer Momir Nikolic, who was pressured to incriminate himself and others with regard to alleged crimes that are supposed to have taken place in Srebrenica. In exchange for this the prosecution offered to take back the charge of “genocide” against the officer and “only” blame him for having committed “crimes against humanity”. But they did not succeed:

“Nikolic, who was sentenced to 27 years, said in another case against one of his officer colleagues that he had been lying throughout. His lies were exposed by the American attorney Micheal Karnavas. He testified not to have ordered the alleged mass execution he had been blamed for and that he was not even at the place where the crime is supposed to have taken place. The attorney of the other accused officer demonstrated how Nikolic had confirmed that he had to “give something” to the prosecuting counsel, something he “did not have” for reducing his prison punishment to 20 years. Thus the model-witness for the “Srebrenica massacre” was “burned” judicially as well as politically.”[6]

Seselj had already mentioned the use of “false witnesses” in his testimony at the Milosevic trial in September 2005. Momir Nikolic also plays a role in his testimony, in the context of the trial against another officer, Miroslav Deronjic:

“I was an eyewitness in the prison of The Hague Tribunal as to how Miroslav Deronjic was broken down by The Hague Tribunal, how they blackmailed him and the process of breaking him down. I was on good terms with him to begin with. He told me how he was arrested, how he was beaten, how they put him in a barrel of water and so on and so forth. He confided in me, and they — it took months to break him down. And they didn’t succeed in breaking him down until Momir Nikolic, in his testimony before the Prosecution, said that Deronjic was present at a conversation where an execution was agreed. Well, then Deronjic broke down completely and agreed to testify on any subject whatsoever and against anybody whatsoever. He agreed to falsely testify against Karadzic.”[7]

Another important key witness of the prosecution who probably had been pressured was the former President of the Krajina Serbs, Milan Babic. He testified against Milosevic, blaming him of being responsible for war crimes. Seselj doubted his credibility as a witness:

“For example, Milan Babic, during his testimony mentioned my name on several occasions in a completely false context. And I’m conscious of it being a false context.”[8]

Babic will not be able to be questioned any more: he died in his cell in The Hague in March 2006, officially because of suicide, one week prior to Milosevic’s death under suspicious circumstances.

This and other examples are the subject of a new book written by a Swiss researcher with Serbian roots, Alexander Dorin [9], who, as Civikov, is researching facts, legends and the methods of justice in The Hague concerning the happenings in Srebrenica. But Ms Del Ponte is also facing dissatisfaction from unexpected circles, the ones she is claiming to fight for: the organisation “Mothers of Srebrenica”, founded by Bosnian Muslim women whose sons died in the war, blame Del Ponte for having destroyed their personal belongings that were supposed to help determine the causes of their sons’ deaths:

“Members of the Women of Srebrenica NGO are gathering signatures to file a lawsuit against former Hague prosecutor Carla Del Ponte. […]Our memories have been murdered as well and Carla Del Ponte must be held responsible,” the organization said. Current Chief Hague Prosecutor Serge Brammertz confirmed in May of last year that some 1,000 pieces of evidence recovered from mass graves in and around Srebrenica were destroyed. Brammertz said this was regular procedure, implemented as the evidence could not be archived.”[10]

The justification of the destruction of “IDs, photographs and pieces of clothing” (B92) with the lack of sufficient storage space to archive them appears strange indeed, if one considers that we are talking about an incident that politicians and the mainstream media claim to be the “worst massacre in Europe since World War Two”. And in the ongoing trial against Radovan Karadzic, the politicians planned conviction for his alleged responsibility for “genocide” is supposed be justified with the Srebrenica case. The question should be allowed (without any intention to downplay the suffering of the Mothers of Srebrenica) if the destroyed documents maybe did not fully sustain the official version of the happenings in Srebrenica. After all, there was extensive fighting in the region, especially when soldiers of the Bosnian Muslim army were trying to break through the Serbian lines and reach the Muslim-controlled town of Tuzla. Dorin speaks of 2000 soldiers who died during the fighting and are now being counted as “massacre victims”.[11] Or, if soldiers were actually murdered, this alone is not conclusive evidence for a crime that was ordered from above, as the prosecutors of the tribunal pretend to know.

In any case, no written or otherwise recorded order from the hand of President Karadzic or his chief of army, Mladic, pertaining to the killing of soldiers or civilians has so far been found. But it is a fact that there was at the time a great amount of hatred on both sides in that region: the Muslim warlord Naser Oric, whose specialty was the production of videotapes of “burning houses, dead bodies, severed heads, and people fleeing”[12], was spreading terror among the Serbian villages around Srebrenica, which were officially declared a UN “safe haven” before the Serb invasion.

David Owen, the British politician who was the former negotiator from the European community for Yugoslavia, testified in at the Milosevic trial and spoke of a phone call he received in April 1993 from the former Serbian president, who was then already worried about the situation in the region:

“I rarely heard Milosevic so exasperated and also so worried. He feared that if the Bosnian Serb troops entered Srebrenica, there would be a bloodbath because of the tremendous bad blood that existed between the two armies.”[13]

Many other writers are nowadays contributing to the debunking of the official version of what happened in Srebrenica. Apart from the authors already quoted in this article, one should mention Philip Corwin [14], who was the highest UN-representative in Bosnia during the war (1992 – 1995), the journalist George Szamuely [15], and the well known writer Prof. Edward S. Herman [16], among many others.

The media’s prejudgment of Serbia, with the use of the term “genocide” when referring to Srebrenica as its climax, has enabled the tribunal to act in ways that serve neither the finding of truth nor the reconciliation between the Yugoslav peoples. The construction of “evidence” with the use of dishonest methods is intended only to justify in retrospect the western politics towards the Serbs as an “inevitable reaction” to their “savage and ruthless” behaviour.

So The Hague is using a strategy of creating “evidence” that puts the blame solely on the Serbian policymakers who were in power during the war, holding them personally responsible for the planning and execution of all the atrocities that took place in the civil war. A conflict that actually was fuelled from the outside is being presented to the western public as a “joint criminal enterprise” for the creation of an ethnically cleansed “Greater Serbia”.

It can be assumed that the tribunal will find a way to whitewash itself from the accusations. But the fact that the prosecutors will for the first time be forced to explain some of their strange conduct before a broader public restores an inkling of hope that the mainstream version of what happened with Yugoslavia will not be the one that people will learn in the future.


Notes

[1] http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2010/aug/18/carla-del-ponte-prosecution.

[2] See Hannes Hofbauer in “Neues Deutschland”, 26 10 2009:
http://www.neues-deutschland.de/artikel/158031.kriegsgraeuel-vor-umstrittenem-gericht.html.

[3] See for example the Dutch documentary “De zaak Milosevic”:
http://tv.globalresearch.ca/2010/03/milosevic-trial-corruption-international-justice-110.

[4] See trial transcript from 26 07 2002: http://www.milosevic-trial.org/trial/2002-07-26.htm.

[5] Civikov, Germinal: “Serbrenica. Der Kronzeuge”, Wien 2009.

[6] Translated from German: http://www.schattenblick.de/infopool/geist/meinung/gmeid-96.html.

[7] See trial transcript, 16 September 2005, page 44264: http://www.milosevic-trial.org/trial/2005-09-16.htm.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Dorin, Alexander: “Srebrenica. Die Geschichte eines salonfähigen Rassismus”, Berlin 2010.

[10] B92, 23 August 2010:
http://www.b92.net/eng/news/region-article.php?yyyy=2010&mm=08&dd=23&nav_id=69240.

[11] See interview with Alexander Dorin in “junge Welt”, 10 July 2010: http://www.jungewelt.de/2010/07-10/051.php.

[12] See: http://original.antiwar.com/malic/2006/07/05/crime-and-punishment.

[13] See trial transcript, November 3th 2003, page 28411:
\http://www.milosevic-trial.org/trial/2003-11-03.htm.

[14] See: Interview with Corwin in “junge Welt”, 31 7 2008:
https://www.jungewelt.de/loginFailed.php?ref=/2008/07-31/059.php.

[15] http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=5847.

[16] http://www.zcommunications.org/the-politics-of-the-srebrenica-massacre-by-edward-herman.


Published on:

Global Research, September 7, 2010

Leave a comment

Filed under Articles in English, Former Yugoslavia