Sunday, February 01, 2004

Carla's Capitulation

Carla del Ponte, chief ICTY prosecutor, gave exclusive interview to Croatian state television in which she all but capitulated to the demands of the very people whose arch-nemesis in Croatia she had always been. She claims that there would only "few new war crimes indictments against Croatian citizens", that most of war crimes trials would be left to Croatian (in other words, more lenient) courts and that she would "most enthusiastically" lobby for quick Croatian entry to EU. The most important news is del Ponte's call for General Ante Gotovina to surrender; in exchange he would be allowed to defend himself at large. Since General evaded capture and made mockery out of ICTY and del Ponte's authority for years, this is nothing short of del Ponte's admission of humiliating defeat.

There are two reasons for del Ponte's change of policy. First is political pressure from USA and various other European countries. ICTY, which was always more of a political pressure tool rather than instrument of justice, is widely perceived of having outlived its purpose. Most of Balkan troublemakers are either in jail, turned into pathetic fugitives or conveniently dead. War on Terror brought new foreign policy priorities and recent past of Balkans, regardless of its bloodshed, is perceived as being past. All current regional problems are swept under the carpet. Finally, even people on the ground generally give impression of being still too tired of war and preferring rebuilding economy to settling old scores.

The most important reason for Carla del Ponte's defeat is, of course, her policies being counterproductive and sometimes having disastrous consequences. Although her treatment of Croatia was in gloves compared to the hammering she had given to Serbia, it was often perceived as unjustified meddling into country's internal affairs, national humiliation and few years ago brought country to the verge of armed insurrection and in many ways contributed to the collapse of Račan's (Racan's) coalition government and its replacement with Tudjman's nationalists. In Serbia consequences were even worse – assassination of prime minister, still unsolved political crisis and rise of nationalists who, unlike current rulers of Croatians, don't even pretend to be reformed.

ICTY failed even to bring closure in some very simple cases. Milan Babić (Milan Babic), former Knin dentist and "Krajina" Serb leader, has recently pleaded guilty to war crimes charges and in exchange received lighter sentence. He publicly expressed apology for his actions and called "Croatians to forgive and allowed two peoples to live in peace and move on". Following that apology, there was very little gloating in Croatian media. Many people doubted Babić's sincerity, since he had been known both as ICTY star witness against Milošević (Milosevic) and one of the most embittered critics of Serbian President. Like many other former "Krajina" officials, Babić never forgave Serbian leadership for letting them down during Operation Storm. In Croatia his apology is seen as being motivated more with desire to spend less time behind bars and vindictiveness than with some kind of remorse. In the same time, many Croatians are embittered over Croatian generals like Blaškić (Blaskic) and Norac having to spend more time in jail that Babić.


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