THE HAGUE – Serbia has filed enough evidence to prove that Operation Storm planned by the Croatian government bodies contains all elements of the criminal act of genocide and that Croatia violated its obligations according to the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Serbia’s agent to the court Sasa Obradovic stated before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
The statement which Croatian president Franjo Tudjman made at the Brijuni on July 31, 1995 when the plan for Operation Storm was prepared together with Croatia’s military top officials, can serve as the evidence of intention to destroy a part of the Serb national and ethnic group which lived in the Krajina region, the areas protected by the UN forces, Obradovic said.
Elaborating on the Serbian countersuit, Obradovic said before ICJ on Wednesday that the existence of Croatia’s genocide intent is also backed by especially intense criminal activities against Krajina Serbs in the course and after Operation Storm.
The genocide intent was confirmed by non-selective shelling of cities in Krajina, forceful displacement of Serb civilians, mass murders of Serbs who decided to stay in areas under the UN protection, attacks on helpless refugee convoys, mass destruction and pillage of Serb property and introduction of administrative measures preventing the return of Krajina Serbs to their homes, Obradovic said.
He presented to the court abundant evidence on this matter and noted that according to the data of NGO Veritas, 1,719 Serbs were killed in Operation Storm and around 200,000 more were banished as stated in the UN report.
Refuting the Croatian charges according to which the Serbian government committed genocide in the territory as part of a Greater Serbia project, Obradovic noted that the Serbian government never accepted the idea put forth by leader of the opposition Serbian Radical Party (SRS) Vojislav Seselj. However, he noted, Croatia headed by president Franjo Tudjman conducted the policy of a Greater Croatia.
To support this, Obradovic quoted former U.S. ambassador in Croatia Peter Galbraith who noted that Tudjman advocated the realisation of a Greater Croatia project which would also include Bosnian Muslims because he believed that Muslims are Croats by origin.
As Galbraith noted, Tudjman approved of the displacement of citizens.
As a result, we had a Greater Serbia against a Greater Croatia, however with one important difference, in Croatia this was the government’s policy, he underlined.
Obradovic said that Croatia’s legal representatives are misleading the Court unifying the idea of a Greater Serbia with the one upheld by Slobodan Milosevic about constitution of a new Yugoslavia as a state where all Serbs would continue living.
This tendency cannot, as Croatia’s legal team does, be automatically labelled as a criminal plan, let alone genocide, he said and explained why Serbs in Croatia wanted autonomy and stay in Yugoslavia.
Obradovic said that the roots of these tendencies should be sought in Tudjman’s statements that several thousand (3,000-4,000) people were killed in (extermination camp run by Nazi Ustasha) Jasenovac, mostly Roma, Jews, Serbs, and the fact that Serbs in Croatia lost their position as the constitutive element.
Serbia’s agent to the court underlined that Croatia has not condemned anyone of mass murders committed during and after Operation Storm.
Quite the opposite, this criminal operation is even celebrated as a public holiday in Croatia, Obradovic said, adding that the celebration of the crime is the sharpest form of the impunity.
He underlined that Serbia has a legitimate interest to request a remedy for the Krajina Serb victims and refugees, out of whom more than 150,000 found shelter on its territory, and at least one third of those refugees in the meantime have become Serbian citizens.
In the continuation of Serbia’s counter-claim, the members of the Serbian legal team, British lawyer Wayne Jordash and Serbian lawyer Novak Lukic, analyzed on Wednesday the statements of seven witnesses called to testify in the oral proceedings about the crimes committed by the Croatian forces during Operation Storm.
The witnesses included Krajina Serbs and Canadian officers of the UNPROFOR who were deployed in the UN protection zone in Knin Krajina.
They testified about the destruction and plunder of the Serb property in the towns and the villages of the former Republic of Serb Krajina, and also continued killing of civilians, including women, children and the elderly, during Operation Storm, the British lawyer said.
Unfortunately, these witnesses will not appear before the ICJ judges because the Croatian representatives have not requested a cross-examination.