Danas daily, 13.02.2014.

Interview with Nataša Kandić, RECOM Coordinator: Review the Acquittals of Generals Perišić and Gotovina

Belgrade – It is my firm belief that the judgements against Nikola Šainović and the generals have created a legal space for a review of the final judgement of acquittal against General Momčilo Perišić.It would be fair to find legal grounds also to review the acquittal of General Ante Gotovina.

Also, I expect that the acquittal of the former chief of the Serbian State Security Service, Jovica Stanišić, will not be upheld on appeal.Unfortunately, the legal errors committed by the Hague Tribunal have caused much damage to that tribunal and to the international system of justice.We are the worst affected, because the legal decisions in question have reinforced the tendency, much in evidence in post-Yugoslav states, to try the perpetrators rather than the generals; which not only paints a false picture of the events, but creates scope for all kinds of political interpretations, says Nataša Kandić, Coordinator of the RECOM project, in an interview with Danas.

Serge Brammertz, The Hague Tribunal prosecutor, has requested a review of the Perišić case, because in that case and in the Šainović case the Tribunal adopted completely different positions on the same issues, as a result of which the one was convicted and the other acquitted.Does the Tribunal apply double standards?

– The appeal judgements against Šainović and the generals are a shattering blow for Serbia; however, if we take them as a historical warning, they can help us to realize what this state of ours has done to others and, in the final analysis, to the Serbs in Kosovo themselves, only for the sake of territory.The fact that Serbia’s entire state leadership has been convicted and not only Slobodan Milošević – who is portrayed in Serbia as the only culprit – implicates the many generals and officers who have been hiding behind their support for the authorities: yesterday for Boris Tadić and today for Aleksandar Vučić.I am referring, in particular, to General Ljubiša Diković and Goran ‘Guri’ Radosavljević.So, this is less a matter of double standards with reference to the Balkans; but more that during the closing stages, the Hague Tribunal has manifestly deferred to the political interests of big states present in other wars on the territories of other victims.It is as well that there are courageous judges who have resolutely resisted such attempts.

What is your comment on the recent piece of information concerning the Štrpci case, that police officers from Serbia, who acted as escorts on the Belgrade-Bar train from which twenty passengers were kidnapped on 27 February 1993, joined the kidnappers in that crime?

– The kidnapping of the passengers, Muslims, could not have been carried out without support from the state authorities.The fact is, it was the state authorities themselves who engaged members of the police force to carry out unlawful acts such as kidnapping and murder.The Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor is not ready to deal with this, because it has been given a political brief – specifically, in connection with preparing the defence in the Bosnia and Herzegovina vs. Serbia case before the International Court of Justice – that all the crimes were isolated incidents and that it must not pursue evidence indicating links between particular crimes and state authorities.As a result, in the Štrpci case, too, the policemen involved are going to be portrayed as individuals who were ‘out of control’.

Why have the crimes committed by Željko ‘Arkan’ Ražnatović and his Serbian Volunteers’ Guard (SDG) never been investigated?You say that later many of [his] ‘Tigers’ were seen in other units – the Red Berets, the JSO [Special Operations Unit] and others – but that none of them has ever been charged with a crime.

– In my estimation, about 300 members of ‘Special Forces’ moved from one unit to another set up by the Serbian State Security Service.Thus ‘battle-hardened’ fighters from the SDG were assigned to the Red Berets; following the passivization of the SDG, some of its members were transferred to the Scorpions and to the Bosnian Serb Army; the majority of members of the Red Berets, which has been renamed JSO, today serve in the Witness Protection Unit, or as security guards for state officials, or in a number of Serbian embassies.They are not being put on trial.Members of the JSO were present at the trial of the accused on charges of murdering the Bytiqi brothers. During the trial, from 2008 to 2010, one could see that their presence instilled fear in the witnesses, members of regular MUP (Ministry of Interior) units undergoing training at the police camp in the village of Petrovo Selo.

What about the SDG crimes in the municipality of Zvornik?

– As to the crimes in the municipality of Zvornik, for which the former municipality president and member of the Serbian DB [State Security] in charge of the TO [Territorial Defence] was tried before the War Crimes Chamber in Belgrade, it turned out that the SDG ‘liberated’ Zvornik when in April 1992 it entered that town, dragging the most respected Muslims out of their homes and murdering them. During the years-long trial, a good deal of valuable evidence was collected that could have helped any professional Prosecutor’s Office to investigate those murders, i.e. information regarding the formula of the Serbian DB implemented in other places in Bosnia and Herzegovina, for example in Teslić and Sanski Most, which would have resulted in the identification of the role and the masterminds of the crimes committed by Arkan’s unit.Unfortunately, this did not happen; instead, the impression was instilled that an officer of Arkan’s, by name of Peja, ‘looked after’ of the Muslims in Kozluk.

The world has been shown the photograph in which a soldier from Arkan’s unit is about to give a kick to a woman lying on the pavement in Bijeljina, but this case has not been investigated either, although one could well take a guess as to his identity.What does that say to you?

– The photograph by Ron Haviv, which is also featured on the cover of Slavenka Drakulić’s book, is a testimony about us as a society and our state institutions.The perception created among the international public is that Arkan’s soldier is trampling on the Muslim woman he has killed. The same perception exists for a portion of the domestic public, but there has been no strong civil pressure on the Prosecutor’s Office to institute proceedings.I believe that the prosecutors with the Prosecutor’s Office have not even heard of Ron Haviv and Slavenka Drakulić.On the basis of various sources as to the identity of that soldier, I would say that most probably the photograph is of a certain Bojović nicknamed ‘Bojke’, though I cannot rule out the allegations that the person in question is ‘Maks’, a Belgrade ‘patriot’ and DJ, who was detained two years ago in connection with a criminal offence.While I am not aware of the outcome, there clearly has been no investigation into the crimes in Bijeljina, including the murder of the woman lying on the street, with ‘Bojke’ or ‘Maks’ standing above her and Pejkan Pejkanović, said to be working at the police station in Zemun, positioned behind the lorry.

Trials before national courts:

Will the trials before national courts bring justice?

– No, because they focus on the perpetrators and the onus is on the victims to prove their guilt. I was driven mad during the trials whenever the prosecutor, the judge or the counsel for the accused interrupted a survivor with the words, ‘Proceed to the indictment – we’re not concerned with how you felt – tell us whether you know anything about what the accused did. ‘This is why I and the Coalition for RECOM espouse the establishment of RECOM. It alone can help us to adopt standards of empathy and respect for others, something without which there cannot be justice and security at the personal and human levels.

By: Boban Karović