- The Washington Times - Monday, April 22, 2002

The lawyer for a Croatian general indicted by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague says his client's case opens the possibility that former President Clinton will be charged with crimes against humanity for authorizing a Croatian military offensive in 1995 that recaptured territory from rebel Serbs.
"According to the unjust indictment brought against my client, there is a basis for an investigation and indictment of high-ranking Clinton administration officials who oversaw Operation Storm," said Luka Misetic, the defense attorney for Gen. Ante Gotovina.
The high-ranking Croatian general was indicted in June 2001 by the prosecutor's office at the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague on charges that he exercised "command responsibility" over the military campaign in which 150 Serbian civilians were killed.
Secretly supported by the Clinton administration, Croatian forces launched a three-day massive military offensive known as "Operation Storm" on Aug. 5, 1995 in which Croatia recovered territories occupied by rebel Serbs following Croatia's bloody drive for independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.
Gen. Gotovina was the military commander of Sector South of the operation, which was responsible for the capture of the rebel-held city of Knin. He is also accused of overseeing the ethnic cleansing of 150,000 Serbs who fled from Croatia during the military offensive.
The United States provided military and technical assistance to Operation Storm in order to block then-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's goal of forging an ethnically pure "Greater Serbia."
The Clinton administration viewed Croatia's military campaign as pivotal to tilting the strategic balance of power in the region against Serbian forces, paving the way for the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords that ended the war in neighboring Bosnia.
However, Mr. Misetic said U.S. support and approval for the military offensive means the indictment against Gen. Gotovina could lead to the prosecution by The Hague tribunal of Mr. Clinton and other high-ranking U.S. officials on charges of having command responsibility for war crimes that were committed during the operation.
"The theory against Gotovina can now be brought against Clinton, [Assistant Secretary of State Richard] Holbrooke and all the way down the U.S. chain of command. On the prosecution's logic, they should be indicted as well. They knew the attack was coming and gave it the green light," Mr. Misetic said.
"The prosecutor's office is punting on an issue that is clearly there. They are claiming that ethnic cleansing took place during this operation. They are claiming that by virtue of his position, Gotovina had knowledge of war crimes. His knowledge was shared and given to him by the Pentagon," he said.
Florence Hartmann, spokeswoman for chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte, said the tribunal is not challenging the legitimacy of Croatia's military offensive but individual atrocities carried out by Croatian soldiers whose actions fell under the responsibility of Gen. Gotovina.
"It is not Operation Storm that is being indicted, but the crimes that were committed during and afterward," Mrs. Hartmann said.
U.S. support for the operation "has to be established," she said. "I don't know that the [Clinton] administration was involved."
Asked whether the prosecutor's office was planning to issue indictments against either Mr. Clinton or other administation officials, Mrs. Hartmann said: "We have no comment because there is no evidence to substantiate the charges of Gen. Gotovina's lawyers. They can make their case with evidence to the court."
Mr. Misetic dismissed Mrs. Hartmann's comments as "blatant hypocrisy."

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide