Israel Weighs Extraditing Citizen to Bosnia
by Julia Gorin
Forty-two-year-old Alexander Cvetkovic, an Orthodox Christian Serb and now Israeli citizen, is accused of war crimes for killing Muslims in the fall of Srebrenica, in 1995, when he was a 25 year old soldier.
His extradition was demanded by Bosnia and granted by Jerusalem, though now the decision is under appeal.
His ultimate fate is important for global human rights, because among the four warring ethnicities in the Balkan wars of the 90s, one has been disproportionately targeted for prosecution by the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY), at The Hague and its affiliate courts, often given draconian sentences for crimes whose scope has yet to be determined—the Serbs. If it can happen to Serb soldiers and generals, it can happen to Israeli ones in their own, parallel conflict with the Palestinians. Indeed, Samantha Power has suggested the possibility of a Yugoslavia-style NATO occupation of Israel.
In the darkest days of the Yugoslavian civil war, Srebrenica was used by the Bosnian-Muslim military as a base from which it launched gruesome raids on nearby Orthodox Christian Serb villages, with Muslim fighters and civilians alike murdering Serb inhabitants, in an orgy of violence that the world never heard about or saw pictures of, in contrast to the images of Muslim suffering that were beamed into every TV set.
As Cvetkovic sits in an Israeli jail (as per Bosnia’s request), while appealing the adverse decision by the Jerusalem District Court to let his extradition proceed, his case is calling into question Israel’s responsibility to protect his life.
In an Op Ed in the Jerusalem Post, Stephen Karganovic, president of the Dutch NGO Srebrenica Historical Project, wrote:
“[Cvetkovic] is charged with taking part in an episode at a site called Pilica where several hundred Muslim prisoners of war are alleged to have been shot… For the past 20 years, Cvetkovic has been married to a Ukrainian Jewish woman and has two sons with her…. The case raises some disturbing issues if this Israeli citizen is handed over to Sarajevo authorities… The overwhelming majority of indictees are predictably non-Muslim (133 Serbs, 21 Croats, and only 29 Muslims). They generally receive lengthy sentences, compared to minimal punishment meted out to the relatively few Muslims who were tried for crimes committed during the Bosnian war… The defense are allowed scant resources for adequate personnel and investigation as they face a well funded and staffed prosecution machine. Witness intimidation by the prosecutor is standard procedure…with disturbing stories of pressure and blackmail.”
According to Haaretz, “The Jerusalem District Court conditioned [Mr. Cvetkovic’s] extradition on assurances by Sarajevo regarding incarceration standards there.”
“Assurances by Sarajevo” – it could be the title of a satire! One requested “assurance” was that Cvetkovic be kept separate from other prisoners because of safety concerns for non-Muslims. Indeed. Witness the cautionary tale of a Serb general in a British prison where there were many Muslims. In 2004, Britain tossed General Radislav Krstic into a prison housing sex offenders and murderers. The predictable headline followed a few years later: Radislav Krstic – Three Muslims Slash His Throat Open in Jail Revenge Attack
And who was this Krstic, the Serb “war criminal” and “brute,” as news reports described him upon the near-fatal attempt on his life? Examining Krstic’s case shows what’s wrong with the charges against Cvetkovic.
Krstic was sentenced to 46 years (reduced to 35) for a crime whose nature has yet to be determined, and for bodies that had yet to be unearthed at the time of his conviction. Gen. Krstic was convicted of the summary execution of “more than 7,000 people,” though Tribunal investigators had never discovered all the bodies. All this may be macabre, but it is also worth noting in any discussion of fair play that his sentence of 46 years in prison seemed excessive to other more notorious war criminals, including Adolf Hitler’s successor, Admiral Karl Doenitz (10 yrs.), and Albert Speer (20 yrs.), the Nazi war production chief.
The Krstic judgment raised some eyebrows among Hague observers. In his analysis of the 2004 Krstic appeal judgment, longtime Hague critic Andy Wilcoxson wrote:
“Not even the tribunal could conceal the fact that it had convicted an innocent man. In paragraph 239 of the judgment they admit that: ‘Radislav Krstic and the Drina Corps under his command did not personally commit any crimes against the Bosnian Muslim civilians…the transfer of the Bosnian Muslim civilians organised by the Drina Corps was a disciplined and orderly operation, and that Krstic specifically ordered that no harm was to befall the Bosnian Muslim civilians….'”
In other words, the 20,000 women, children and elderly of Srebrenica whom the 28th Bosnian Army Division abandoned by order of Sarajevo (as part of the attempt to stage an atrocity that would bring in NATO) “were safely evacuated by Bosnian Serb troops, using trucks and buses hastily requisitioned from Serb civilians,” wrote Nebojsa Malic, proprietor of the libertarian blog “Gray Falcon.”
To get Krstic convicted, the forensics were apparently fudged, with forensics experts noting that the judgment made use of skeletons from graves dug years before, other dead from artillery ammunition or mine fragments, and a practice of double counting.
The case against Cvetkovic for the Pilica killings also seems more dubious, with journalists now questioning the testimony of the solitary witness on whose 1996 testimony the entire Srebrenica-massacre edifice rests.
Guardian and UK Daily Mail contributor John Laughland reported: “Deutsche Welle reporter Germinal Civikov …explains that the ICTY ruling that genocide was committed at Srebrenica…is based on the testimony of a single witness [ethnic Croat Drazen Erdemovic]…. The prisoners, he claimed, were shot in groups of 10. They were bussed in, taken off the busses, marched to the execution spot in a field several hundred metres away, frisked for their possessions, and shot. Arguments broke out between the executioners and the victims; the executioners drank and quarreled….[I]t is not possible to kill 1,200 people this way in 5 hours unless one assumes that each group of 10 men was killed in 2.5 minutes. Even if it had taken only 10 minutes to kill each group, itself an achievement, it would instead have taken some 20 hours to kill so many people…
“Erdemovic belonged to a mercenary unit….[which was offered–he ‘forgets‘ by whom] a lot of money (gold, in fact) to commit a war crime… The mercenaries then hijacked busses of prisoners which were on their way to be exchanged…and murdered them…[T]here were reports in Serbia of a rogue French secret service unit…. The West, it is implied, ‘needed‘ a big atrocity at Srebrenica, and it was indeed immediately following the fall of that town…that NATO intervened.”
Then we arrive again at the unaccountable and secretive ICTY’s forensics problem. From Srebrenica Historical Project’s 2011 monograph Deconstruction of a Virtual Genocide:
“[N]o bodily injuries were found [in Pilica exhumations done in 1996]…there were no blindfolds or ligatures [indicating execution]…[T]he cause of death is impossible to determine, and that is precisely what the forensic scientists stated in their autopsy report. However, when they were obliged to state the manner of death, they nevertheless concluded that it was homicide… In the mass of defective autopsy reports, some indeed stand out….Tribunal forensic experts found a handkerchief in the victim’s pocket and they characterized it as a possible ligature…suggesting that…after the execution, [the executing soldiers] removed it and placed it in the pocket of the executed person…In another example a knee injury is treated as a possible cause of death.”
For its DNA results, the Tribunal relies on the International Commission for Missing Persons lab in Tuzla, Bosnia, but Karganovic describes how it misrepresents DNA evidence:
“On the 16th anniversary [in 2011] of the Srebrenica massacre ICMP claimed that it has ‘closed 5,564 cases of Srebrenica victims’ and that ‘only about 1,500 remain to be resolved.’ [But]…no exhaustive and transparent analysis of DNA evidence has ever been conducted.
“For instance, DNA evidence was offered in the most recent ICTY case PopoviÄ‡ et al., but in closed session…The Tribunal’s rationale for such extraordinary restrictiveness was that public insight into this data would constitute a ‘callous’ act which might injure the dignity of the victims and could even inflict great pain on their surviving relatives…Each and every request to ICMP by private parties facing serious accusations or research organisations to be allowed access to DNA samples…is invariably met by the same polite response…
“In the course of the PopoviÄ‡ trial it was disclosed that until October of 2007 ICMP was operating without professional certification from the international agency which approves DNA laboratories, Gednap…According to London Financial Times, 93% of ICMP personnel are Bosnian Muslims.”
Commenting on this judicial dystopia in August 2009, Hague analyst Wilcoxson wrote, “It’s a little bit shocking that the Tribunal relies on the ICMP’s findings to substantiate allegations as grave as genocide when they haven’t even seen the evidence — let alone tested its quality or reliability.” And in his contribution to the Deconstruction volume, Wilcoxson stressed that “ICMP is limited to determining the identity of human remains through DNA analysis….It does not make any determination about the cause of death, the circumstances of the death, the military status of the deceased, the deceased’s connection to Srebrenica or the motives of the people responsible.”
In an August 2011 article, Wilcoxson wrote, “Discrepancies have also been found between the ICMP’s findings and the original military records of the Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The ICMP claims to have found the mortal remains of at least 140 soldiers in Srebrenica-related mass graves whose original military records listed them as having been killed months, and in many cases years, before Srebrenica fell. The Bosnian government has resolved these discrepancies by…amending them to match the ICMP’s findings.”
Soldiers’ bodies from all over Bosnia have been moved to the Srebrenica memorial site. As well, among the “dead or missing” are people who are alive and well, as is apparent from this London Times article of Aug. 2, 1995, to name just one: “Thousands of the ‘missing’ Bosnian Muslim soldiers from Srebrenica who have been at the centre of reports of possible mass executions by the Serbs, are believed to be safe to the northeast of Tuzla…’without their families being informed’…it had not been possible to verify the reports because the Bosnian Government refused to allow the Red Cross into the area.”
Meanwhile, the “needed atrocity” that Guardian writer John Laughland hinted at earlier is something being looked into by the Dutch, now that they may have to pay large indemnities over a questionable number of victims to litigious groups like Mothers of Srebrenica–for their UN troops not protecting the Muslim enclave-cum-military-base. In fact, on July 11, 2011, the 16th anniversary of the celebrated “genocide,” a rather heretical text was published on a prominent Dutch news portal, examining the staged aspects of Srebrenica.
The Jewish State shouldn’t buy into the political concoction of “genocide” either, and should stand up for Citizen Cvetkovic–or set a dangerous precedent for its own military.