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Coverup at The Hague Tribunal

Mercenary Outfit on Contract to the Pentagon

behind 1995 Ethnic Massacres in the Krajina region of Croatia

www.globalresearch.ca   July 2003

The URL of this article is: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO307D.html


The Hague Tribunal (ICTY) has asked:

"to interview retired [Croatian] general Mirko Norac as a suspect over two military operations during the 1991-95 war, a government statement said.

Norac, 34, was sentenced in March by a Croatian court to a 12 years in jail for organizing the executions of at least 50 ethnic Serbs civilians in October 1991 near the central town of Gospic.

He is the highest ranking Croatian officer to be sentenced by a local court for war crimes committed during the 1991-95 war with Belgrade-backed rebel Serbs, who opposed Croatia's independence from the former Yugoslavia.

The International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) wants to interview Norac about a 1993 operation in the so-called Medak pocket, in central Croatia, and a 1995 operation -- dubbed Storm -- which practically ended the conflict." AFP, 19 July, 2003).

On 21 July,  the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) acknowledged the role of MPRI, a US mercenary Outfit on contract to the Pentagon in Operation Storm,  the 1995 ethnic massacres in the Krajina region of Serbia. Since the 1990s, both the ICTY and the media have been involved in a coverup of the role of the US military in the 1993 Medak pocket  and 1995 Operation Storm ethnic massacres. 

Below you will find  the following texts:

1. Transcript of CBS New Story: Croatian Atrocities being forgotten: http://www.cbc.ca/MRL/clips/ram-audio/dyer1_wr030721.ram

2. Part of a text by Michel Chossudovsky on the role of MPRI, in Krajina first published in 1999 as part of a larger study entitled NATO has Installed a Reign of Terror in Kosovo, ( http://www.iacenter.org/warcrime/chossu.htm or http://www.softmakers.com/fry/docs/chossudovsky.htm )


Croatian Atrocities being forgotten

CBC Report

21 Jul 2003 9:32:11 OTTAWA 

Canadian officers say they are frustrated by inaction over a 1995 ethnic cleansing operation by Croatians against Serbs – one in which the Croats may have had western help.

They documented numerous atrocities during Operation Storm, which was a four-day campaign by the Croats to recover land held in central and southern Croatia for four years by Serbian militias.

However, not one person has been arrested and brought before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

More than 200,000 Serbs were expelled, and thousands were killed.

"Just amazing. You can see the holes in the back of the head," said Capt. Gerry Carron, showing pictures he took to document the killings.

"We found people in wells," he said. "There was an old lady we found head-first in a well. Why did they do that?"

Some top military officers said the expertise required to plan and execute Operation Storm meant it couldn't have been done by the Croats alone.

Croatia's American consultant

Fingers have been pointed at Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI), a U.S. consulting company based in Alexandria, Virginia. The company's Web site points to an article in which the Croatian government praised the job MPRI has done for it – although MPRI has denied involvement in Operation Storm.

"I don't think it was the Croats themselves that did that," said Maj.-Gen. Alain Fourand, who commanded UN forces in the area of Operation Storm, adding he suspected it was MPRI.

Maj.-Gen. Andrew Leslie, who will be going to Afghanistan to command Canadian troops, also said he doubts the Croats themselves pulled off Operation Storm.

"That was done by people who really knew what they were doing," he said, adding he didn't think the Croats had the expertise.

Croatia was getting assistance in other ways. Argentina supplied artillery used in Operation Storm – despite a UN ban and even though their own soldiers were working there as peacekeepers.

Looking back, Carron said peacekeepers may have made things worse by disarming the Serbs while the Croats re-armed.

Canadian officers say the involvement of the West could explain the foot-dragging on prosecution, although the tribunal said the case is largely circumstantial.

The Canadians also believe the Croatian commander of Operation Storm is being protected by supporters in Croatia's government, and that not enough diplomatic pressure is being exerted.

Written by CBC News Online staff


The Role of the MPRI in the Krajina Massacres

by

Michel Chossudovsky

31 July 1999

This following excerpt was part of a text presented to the Independent Commission of Inquiry to Investigate U.S./NATO War Crimes Against The People of Yugoslavia, International Action Center, New York, July 31, 1999. The full text entitled: NATO has installed a Reign of Terror in Kosovo, can be consulted at . http://www.iacenter.org/warcrime/chossu.htm or http://www.softmakers.com/fry/docs/chossudovsky.htm


According to the Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, Operation Storm resulted in the massacre of at least 410 civilians in the course of a three day operation (4 to 7 August 1995).22 An internal report of The Hague War Crimes Tribunal (leaked to the New York Times), confirmed that the Croatian Army had been responsible for carrying out:

"summary executions, indiscriminate shelling of civilian populations and "ethnic cleansing" in the Krajina region of Croatia...."23

In a section of the report entitled "The Indictment. Operation Storm, A Prima Facie Case.", the ICTY report confirms that:

"During the course of the military offensive, the Croatian armed forces and special police committed numerous violations of international humanitarian law, including but not limited to, shelling of Knin and other cities... During, and in the 100 days following the military offensive, at least 150 Serb civilians were summarily executed, and many hundreds disappeared. ...In a widespread and systematic manner, Croatian troops committed murder and other inhumane acts upon and against Croatian Serbs." 24

US `GENERALS FOR HIRE'

The internal 150 page report concluded that it has "sufficient material to establish that the three [Croatian] generals who commanded the military operation" could be held accountable under international law.25 The individuals named had been directly involved in the military operation "in theatre". Those involved in "the planning of Operation Storm" were not mentioned:

"The identity of the "American general" referred to by Fenrick [a Tribunal staff member] is not known. The tribunal would not allow Williamson or Fenrick to be interviewed. But Ms. Arbour, the tribunal's chief prosecutor, suggested in a telephone interview last week that Fenrick's comment had been `a joking observation'. Ms. Arbour had not been present during the meeting, and that is not how it was viewed by some who were there. Several people who were at the meeting assumed that Fenrick was referring to one of the retired U.S. generals who worked for Military Professional Resources Inc. ... Questions remain about the full extent of U.S. involvement. In the course of the three yearinvestigation into the assault, the United States has failed to provide critical evidence requested by the tribunal, according to tribunal documents and officials, adding to suspicion among some there that Washington is uneasy about the investigation... The Pentagon, however, has argued through U.S. lawyers at the tribunal that the shelling was a legitimate military activity, according to tribunal documents and officials".26

The Tribunal was attempting to hide what had already been revealed in several press reports published in the wake of Operation Storm. According to a US State Department spokesman, MPRI had been helping the Croatians "avoid excesses or atrocities in military operations."27 Fifteen senior US military advisers headed by retired two star General Richard Griffitts had been dispatched to Croatia barely seven months before Operation Storm. 28 According to one report, MPRI executive director General Carl E. Vuono: "held a secret top-level meeting at Brioni Island, off the coast of Croatia, with Gen. Varimar Cervenko, the architect of the Krajina campaign. In the five days preceding the attack, at least ten meetings were held between General Vuono and officers involved in the campaign..."29

According to Ed Soyster, a senior MPRI executive and former head of the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA):

"MPRI's role in Croatia is limited to classroom instruction on military-civil relations and doesn't involve training in tactics or weapons. Other U.S. military men say whatever MPRI did for the Croats and many suspect more than classroom instruction was involved it was worth every penny." Carl Vuono and Butch [Crosbie] Saint are hired guns and in it for the money," says Charles Boyd, a recently retired four star Air Force general who was the Pentagon's No. 2 man in Europe until July [1995]. "They did a very good job for the Croats, and I have no doubt they'll do a good job in Bosnia."30

THE HAGUE TRIBUNAL'S COVER UP

The untimely leaking of the ICTY's internal report on the Krajina massacres barely a few days before the onslaught of NATO's air raids on Yugoslavia was the source of some embarrassment to the Tribunal's Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour. The Tribunal (ICTY) attempted to cover up the matter and trivialise the report's findings (including the alleged role of the US military officers on contract with the Croatian Armed Forces). Several Tribunal officials including American Lawyer Clint Williamson sought to discredit the Canadian Peacekeeping officers' testimony who witnessed the Krajina massacres in 1995.31

Williamson, who described the shelling of Knin as a "minor incident," said that the Pentagon had told him that Knin was a legitimate military target... The [Tribunal's] review concluded by voting not to include the shelling of Knin in any indictment, a conclusion that stunned and angered many at the tribunal"...32

The findings of the Tribunal contained in the leaked ICTY documents were downplayed, their relevance was casually dismissed as "expressions of opinion, arguments and hypotheses from various staff members of the OTP during the investigative process".33 According to the Tribunal's spokesperson "the documents do not represent in any way the concluded decisions of the Prosecutor." 34

The internal 150 page report has not been released. The staff member who had leaked the documents is (according to a Croatian TV report) no longer working for the Tribunal. During the press Conference, the Tribunal's spokesman was asked: "about the consequences for the person who leaked the information", Blewitt [the ICTY spokesman] replied that he did not want to go into that. He said that the OTP would strengthen the existing procedures to prevent this from happening again, however he added that you could not stop people from talking".35

THE USE OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS IN CROATIA

The massacres conducted under Operation Storm "set the stage" for the "ethnic cleansing" of at least 180,000 Krajina Serbs (according to estimates of the Croatian Helsinki Committee and Amnesty International). According to other sources, the number of victims of ethnic cleansing in Krajina was much larger.

Moreover, there are indications that chemical weapons may have been used in the Yugoslav civil war (1991-95).36 Although there is no firm evidence of the use of chemical weapons against Croatian Serbs, an ongoing enquiry by the Canadian Minister of Defence (launched in July 1999) points to the possibility of toxic poisoning of Canadian Peacekeepers while on service in Croatia between 1993 and 1995:

"There was a smell of blood in the air during the past week as the media sensed they had a major scandal unfolding within the Department of National Defense over the medical files of those Canadians who served in Croatia in 1993. Allegations of destroyed documents, a coverup, and a defensive minister and senior officers..."37

The official release of the Department of National Defence (DND) refers to possibility of toxic "soil contamination" in Medak Pocket in 1993 (see below). Was it "soil contamination" or something far more serious? The criminal investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) refers to the shredding of medical files of former Canadian peacekeepers by the DND. In other words did the DND have something to hide? The issue remains as to what types of shells and ammunitions were used by the Croatian Armed Forces ie. were chemical weapons used against Serb civilians?

OPERATION STORM: THE ACCOUNT OF THE ROYAL CANADIAN REGIMENT

Prior to the onslaught, Croatian radio had previously broadcasted a message by president Franjo Tudjman, calling upon "Croatian citizens of Serbian ethnicity... to remain in their homes and not to fear the Croatian authorities, which will respect their minority rights."38 Canadian peacekeepers of the Second Battalion of the Royal 22nd Regiment witnessed the atrocities committed by Croatian troops in the Krajina offensive in September 1995:

"Any Serb who had failed to evacuate their property were systematically "cleansed" by roving death squads. Every abandoned animal was slaughtered and any Serb household was ransacked and torched".39

Also confirmed by Canadian peacekeepers was the participation of German mercenaries in Operation Storm:

"Immediately behind the frontline Croatian combat troops and German mercenaries, a large number of hardline extremists had pushed into the Krajina. ...Many of these atrocities were carried out within the Canadian Sector, but as the peacekeepers were soon informed by the Croat authorities, the UN no longer had any formal authority in the region."40

How the Germans mercenaries were recruited was never officially revealed. An investigation by the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) confirmed the that foreign mercenaries in Croatia had in some cases "been paid [and presumably recruited] outside Croatia and by third parties."41

THE 1993 MEDAK POCKET MASSACRE

According to Jane Defence Weekly (10 June 1999), Brigadier General Agim Ceku (now in charge of the KLA) also "masterminded the successful HV [Croatian Army] offensive at Medak" in September 1993. In Medak, the combat operation was entitled "Scorched Earth" resulting in the total destruction of the Serbian villages of Divoselo, Pocitelj and Citluk, and the massacre of over 100 civilians.42

These massacres were also witnessed by Canadian peacekeepers under UN mandate:

"As the sun rose over the horizon, it revealed a Medak Valley engulfed in smoke and flames. As the frustrated soldiers of 2PPCLI waited for the order to move forward into the pocket, shots and screams still rang out as the ethnic cleansing continued. ...About 20 members of the international press had tagged along, anxious to see the Medak battleground. Calvin [a Canadian officer] called an informal press conference at the head of the column and loudly accused the Croats of trying to hide war crimes against the Serb inhabitants. The Croats started withdrawing back to their old lines, taking with them whatever loot they hadn't destroyed. All livestock had been killed and houses torched. French reconnaissance troops and the Canadian command element pushed up the valley and soon began to find bodies of Serb civilians, some already decomposing, others freshly slaughtered. ...Finally, on the drizzly morning of Sept. 17, teams of UN civilian police arrived to probe the smouldering ruins for murder victims. Rotting corpses lying out in the open were catalogued, then turned over to the peacekeepers for burial."43

The massacres were reported to the Canadian Minister of Defence and to the United Nations:

"Senior defence bureaucrats back in Ottawa had no way of predicting the outcome of the engagement in terms of political fallout. To them, there was no point in calling media attention to a situation that might easily backfire. ...So Medak was relegated to the memory hole no publicity, no recriminations, no official record. Except for those soldiers involved, Canada's most lively military action since the Korean War simply never happened."44


Notes

23. Quoted in Raymond Bonner, War Crimes Panel Finds Croat Troops Cleansed the Serbs, New York Times, 21 March 1999).
24. Ibid.
25. Ibid.
26. Raymond Bonner, op cit.
27. Ken Silverstein, "Privatizing War", The Nation, New York, 27 July 1997.
28. See Mark Thompson et al, "Generals for Hire", Time Magazine, 15 January 1996, p. 34.
29. Quoted in Silverstein, op cit.
30. Mark Thompson et al, op cit.
31. Raymond Bonner, op cit.
32. Ibid.
33. ICTY Weekly Press Briefing, 24 March 1999).
34. Ibid.
35. Ibid.
36. See inter alia Reuters dispatch, 21 October 1993 on the use of chemical grenades, a New York Times report on 31 October 1992 on the use of poisoned gas).
37. Lewis MacKenzie, "Giving our soldiers the benefit of the doubt", National Post, 2 August 1999.
38. Slobodna Dalmacija, Split, Croatia, August 5 1996.
39. Scott Taylor and Brian Nolan, The Sunday Sun, Toronto, 2 November 1998.
40. Ibid.
41. United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Fifty-first session, Item 9 of the provisional agenda, Geneva, 21 December 1994).
42. (See Memorandum on the Violation of the Human and Civil Rights of the Serbian People in the Republic of Croatia, http://serbianlinks.freehosting.net/memorandum.htm

43. Excerpts from the book of Scott Taylor and Brian Nolan published in the Toronto Sun, 1 November 1998.
44. Ibid.


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