06 June 2013

Still the Wrong Kind of Croats

Embattled Bosnian Croat enclaves in Central Bosnia during the Muslim-Croat War

In December I wrote about the attitude of the ICTY toward the Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I noted the court has shown itself to be negatively disposed to them and highly energized to pursue them.

I noted this differed from its demonstrated disposition toward Croatia. Indictments against soldiers and officials of the Croat Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia were issued much earlier and were more numerous (27) than those issued against the officials and soldiers of Republic of Croatia (6).

Also, the outcome of subsequent trials was far different. All procedures against officers of the Croatian military ended up in withdrawals, acquittals or transfers to Croatian courts so that in the end the ICTY did not condemn any of them to any length of imprisonment. Meanwhile the twelve Bosnian-Herzegovian Croats who found themselves condemned gathered convictions that add up to 166 years of imprisonment.

At the time, one trial against the Bosnian-Herzegovian Croats was still ongoing, the trial of six of their highest war-time political and military officials ("the Herzeg-Bosnian Six"). Last week they were proclaimed guilty and sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging between 25 to 10 years, for a total of 111 years for all six. If the sentences are confirmed at the inevitable appeal, it will mean the disconnect between condemnation by the ICTY of Bosnian-Herzegovian Croats and of Croats from Croatia will amount to 277 years for the former, to zero for the latter.

Apparently encouraged by the fact that last year the sentences against two Croatian generals (Gotovina and Marka─Ź) were overturned on appeal, many media outlets in Croatia have carried opinions speculating the same could happen with regards to the "Herzeg-Bosnian Six". Especially since the verdict was a split decision one of the three judges published a dissenting opinion in a 600 page-long dissertation.

First of all that seems at least somewhat self-serving. This is the very same media that year upon year of the trial has shown extremely little interest in publicizing the details of the proceedings and reminding the public it was happening. Instead it has been happy to see the marathon-trial pass from the mind of the public. Now that a verdict has been proclaimed and it has been forced to report on it, however, it opts to accompany the reporting with a prediction it may be realistic to expect the proclamation of guilt to yet be revoked which just happens to lessen the impact of the news.