Spinning in his grave?
Croatia's late nationalist leader Franjo Tuđman would have been indicted by the UN war crimes tribunal, according to an interview given by tribunal's chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte to Dani in Sarajevo. "We were investigating the case of Franjo Tuđman. The investigation was nearing an end and we were ready to issue an indictment when he died," Del Ponte said.
"Were he not dead, he would have been one of The Hague tribunal indictees," she added.
Tuđman died in December 1999. After his death, a process of democratisation could begin and Croatia could start to emerge from the consequences of his isolationist rule. That process is still not ended, and as recent demonstrations against the arrest of suspected war criminals have shown, not yet secure.
Independent media had often speculated that Tuđman might have been indicted by the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), for his role in Bosnia's 1992 to 1995 war.
Tuđman's regime provided military backing to Bosnian Croats during the 1993 to 1994 conflict with Muslims. The conflict led to a creation of the self-styled separatist small state of Herceg-Bosnia, which Zagreb hoped would eventually become part of Croatia.
Bosnia's Muslims and Croats, allies in the Muslim-Croat Federation—one of the country's two postwar entities—fought each other for eleven months in the 1993 to 1994 period.
Raging against Dayton
Part of Tuđman's legacy is still very much alive just across the border in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Račan warned this week of a possible escalation of violence in Bosnia and urged a political dialogue to address demands by Croatian nationalists seeking autonomy.
Speaking after a meeting with Bosnia's top international mediator Wolfgang Petritsch, Račan singled out the electoral law as an area where Bosnian Croatian grievances should be addressed. "We have voiced concern over the actual situation in Bosnia-Hercegovina and danger of possible escalation of the conflict," Račan told journalists.
Electoral reform would help
Croatia is willing to contribute to the stability of Bosnia, the prime minister said, underscoring the need for a "better solution which would be satisfactory to all three people concerning the electoral law."
Bosnian Croat nationalist parties proclaimed in early March "temporary" autonomy for Croats in Bosnia to protest electoral rules drawn up for the November poll which they argued was biased against them. The Dayton peace accords which ended Bosnia's 1992 to 1995 war left the country divided into two semi-independent entities— the Muslim-Croat federation and the Serbs' Republika Srpska. Nationalist Croats still dream of a separation from Muslims and absorption into Croatia.
During the meeting, Petritsch briefed the Croatian Prime Minister on recent raids by NATO troops on a bank, headquartered in the south Bosnian town of Mostar, suspected of funding the breakaway Croat movement. "The recent events in Mostar are not so much about the national rights of people, it is more about criminal and illegal activities that the international community must not and cannot accept," he said.
The first attempt to get hold of the bank's records provoked violent riots in predominantly Croatian areas in which 25 people, including 21 peacekeepers, were injured.
The move had to be taken because "we cannot allow that things happen in Bosnia-Hercegovina that would in effect destroy this very sensitive fabric that exists there according to Dayton."
History haunts Bihać
The Bihać cantonal court in northwest Bosnia confirmed that it had sent documentats to Croatia's judiciary containing evidence that Fikret Abdić committed war crimes against civilians and prisoners-of-war in the area of Velika Kladuša in 1994 and 1995.
The cantonal court has gathered evidence and compiled it in a book with over hundred pages about crimes which Abdić perpetrated when he proclaimed the self-styled autonomous province of west Bosnia and set up concentration camps for political opponents and POWs.
A copy of the documentation was forwarded to Zagreb after Croatia refused to extradite Abdić, who was given Croatian citizenship during the war. The competent bodies in Croatia must now decide whether to instigate the criminal proceedings against Abdić on the basis of the documentation.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was informed of the entire case and agreed that there was a basis for initiating a procedure against Abdić. The tribunal, however, recommended that Abdić should be processed by Croatia's courts.
The Croatian Justice Ministry received the documentation on Thursday, and on Friday the Ministry forwarded it to the state prosecutor's local office in the coastal city of Rijeka where Abdić has been living for several years.
Sarajevo forwarded its first request for Abdić's hand-over in April 1999, but Croatia's Supreme Court refused the request explaining that Croatia did not extradite its citizens.
Father of a tiny nation
Abdić, a manager and businessman in food-processing industry, used to be the helm of the Agrokomerc company in Velika Kladuša (west Bosnia). Prior to the war, he became a member and leader of the (Muslim) Party of Democratic Action (SDA). He was admired with a fierce loyalty by many of those who benefited from his wheeling and dealing.
During the war, he fell out with the SDA leadership, and established the self-proclaimed autonomous province in west Bosnia, supported by rebel Serbs, and according to most accounts, with funding and military support from Serbia itself. Later on he moved into Croatia, when his "mini-state" collapsed.
Dan Damon, 22 April 2001
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Agence France Press