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The Kafkaesque nightmare:

Template for World "Justice"

New American 
October 13, 1997,
Vol. 13, No. 21

By William Norman Grigg

For fair use only
Published under the provision of
U.S. Code, Title 17, section 107.


To appreciate the potential danger of a permanent United Nations International Criminal Court, the following experiment would be useful: Imagine that you are a retired mayor living in a small town a short distance from your former jurisdiction. One evening, two strangers pay a visit to invite you back to your old hometown to help iron out some of its civic affairs. You are initially somewhat reluctant, as there are parties in that city who may seek to harm you. However, amid assurances from the strangers that they will provide for your safety, you accept the invitation. Once you leave your home, however, you are seized by foreign troops and informed that UN authorities have placed your name on a "sealed indictment." Your captors bundle you onto an airplane which conveys you to a UN holding facility in a foreign country, where you are to stand trial for "crimes against humanity."

You will not enjoy any of the procedural rights or immunities provided for in the Bill of Rights. There will be no trial by jury, the right to confront your accusers will be refused, no bail will be set, and the court will not be guided by a presumption of evidence. The prosecutors and judges will work in tandem under the same mandate, seeking the same results: the creation of historically binding precedents in "world law," not the vindication of individual justice. Both the judges and prosecutors will be accountable to no one. The verdict will be handed down from a three-judge panel that may include jurists from Cuba, Bulgaria, Russia, or Red China, and the same court that renders a verdict will hear your appeal.

Your defense attorney - who will be provided by the court and given a tiny fraction of the budget used by the prosecution to create its case against you - will have no opportunity to interview the prosecution witnesses prior to the trial, and will not have access to unedited transcripts of the pre-trial testimony. Accordingly, he will not be able to establish whether a witness has altered or embellished his testimony. Not that this will matter in the long run, as the court will accept as "evidence" hearsay, double hearsay, and self-contradictory and speculative statements from witnesses.

During your trial, you will be surrounded by a phalanx of heavily armed security troops and treated as if your guilt had already been established. Your trial may be simulcast on global television as an illustration of "world law" in action. You will be kept physically separated from your counsel, supposedly for "security" reasons, thus reinforcing the presumption of your depravity. You may even be called upon to provide evidence against yourself - and if you refuse to make a statement in the courtroom, this may be regarded as evidence against you. As the proceedings unfold, it will become clear that the UN Tribunal wasn't established to acquit those who stand before it. It was created to punish those thus arraigned.

This Kafkaesque nightmare is not hypothetical. Every element of the scenario has been realized by the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which is intended to be a model for a permanent International Criminal Court (ICC).

World Law in Action

"Not many eyebrows will be raised at the revelation that there is a prison, in a small foreign country, where you can be indefinitely incarcerated without trial, or where you can be delivered on the orders of an ad-hoc Court which sets its own rules as it goes along, and sometimes issues warrants only after politically motivated arrests had been performed," observes Dr. Srdja Trifkovic, executive director of the Lord Byron Foundation. "Some may be surprised, however, that this "faraway country" is not North Korea, Bourkina Fasso, or Syria, but the civilized little Holland. The prison is in the North Sea resort of Scheveningen.... The court in question is ten miles away, in The Hague...."

Dr. Trifkovic, a former commentator for Radio Free Europe, lived under the communist tyranny of Tito and is thus well-acquainted with the modalities of communist "justice." His study of UN "world law" in action has led him to conclude that the Hague Tribunal is "the New World Order's posthumous tribute to Felix Dzherzhinsky," founder of the Soviet KGB.

Nikola Kostich, a defense attorney from Milwaukee, is well-acquainted with the Tribunal's peculiar version of "justice." Kostich is a first-generation American who was born in Yugoslavia during World War II. His father fought the Nazis under the heroic leadership of General Drazha Mihailovich, a stalwart anti-communist who was betrayed by his supposed allies in the American government and executed by Tito's communists. Kostich is volubly proud of his Serbian roots and has served as a legal adviser to the government of the Republika Srpska (the Serbian portion of the UN-created "nation" of Bosnia-Herzegovina). However, he readily admits that "all sides did horrible things in that war" and accurately describes Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic as "an unreconstructed communist." Kostich is intimately familiar with the workings of the UN's war crimes tribunal, having represented Bosnian Serb prison camp guard Dusko Tadic during his recent trial in The Hague. He has also provided legal counsel to several other Bosnian Serbs who have been indicted by the UN for "crimes against humanity."

Defense Challenge

Kostich explained to The New American that, as a defense attorney, "my immediate responsibility is to provide the best possible defense for my client. However, my ethical responsibility is to contribute to a process whereby justice is achieved. But the UN tribunal is pursuing a different objective; it is dedicated to the creation of precedents in international law, and in pursuing those precedents it is literally making up the law as it goes along. This provides a defense attorney with an interesting challenge, to say the least."

One reason why the "law" applied by the Tribunal is so protean, Kostich elaborates, is that "at any given time, most of the 11 judges who either hear trials or appeals will be representatives of countries outside the Common Law tradition. Some of them come from communist or Islamic nations in which the systems are much more prosecution-oriented, and look upon a "trial" as an exercise in fixing penalties, rather than weighing the facts to reach a verdict."

The rules of evidence followed by the Tribunal are vastly different than those recognized in American courts. Explains Kostich: "Indictments have been filed on the basis of hearsay - that is, a witness testifying as to what another party was supposedly told - and even double hearsay, in which an investigator offers hearsay testimony regarding witness' hearsay account. Evidence like this was admitted against Tadic, for instance, since the court ruled that it was "probative" - whatever that means."

Kostich notes that the Hague Tribunal does not provide an opportunity for the accused to confront his accuser: "Accusatory testimony is offered via closed-circuit television, and the witnesses remain anonymous. This not only denies the accused a basic right protected in our system, but also denies the victim an opportunity to confront his assailant. These confrontations are not only cathartic for the victim, but also carry a lot of weight in a jury's eyes. It is much more credible when a witness offers testimony in the presence of the accused, particularly when he can look the accused in the eye, point his finger, and say, "he did this." But in the UN court, witnesses are kept anonymous and isolated from the courtroom, and given extraordinary leeway in terms of the consistency of the testimony they offer."

Accountability Question

"The fact that there is no jury in that system also stacks the deck against the accused," Kostich continues. "The judges who hear the evidence also interrogate witnesses and offer summations before reaching a verdict, which suggests a blending of their role with that of the prosecutor. A jury composed of the peers of the accused would not only separate those roles, but would provide a natural check in the form of identification with the accused. This would lead a jury to examine the evidence more critically and deliver a verdict that hopefully reflects the preponderance of evidence. Our American jury system assumes that a panel of one's peers is endowed with sufficient common sense and critical intelligence to make a sound determination based on the facts. The UN system apparently assumes that unaccountable appointed judges can fill that role - although I have no idea what pool those supposedly impartial judges can be drawn from."

It is the UN Tribunal's lack of accountability that most deeply offends Kostich's sense of justice. "If a district attorney or a federal prosecutor is guilty of malfeasance, there are people above him who will hold him accountable," he observed to The New American. "The same is true for the other officers of the court who might be corrupt, incompetent, or abusive. But the Hague Tribunal, its prosecutors, and its officers are all completely unaccountable. They define their own rules of procedure, their own rules of evidence, and their own jurisdiction. The law they apply is newly minted by them in their courtrooms. And they have no difficulty employing criminal means in the pursuit of what they define as the global good. After all, who's going to stop them?"

Case Study

Kostich and other observers of the Hague Tribunal contend that the case of Slavko Dokmanovic, former mayor of the city of Vukovar in Eastern Slavonia, illustrates the Tribunal's willingness to employ criminal means to carry out its self-appointed mandate. Eastern Slavonia, a hotly contested corridor between Serbia and Croatia, is to be turned over to the Croats in January 1998. Vukovar was nearly destroyed in vicious fighting in the early stages of the war in 1991, and is presently being "reconstructed" under a UN protectorate - although Kostich, who has spent a great deal of time in the region, insists that the UN "peacekeepers" assigned to it have "done nothing to rebuild that city. They're too busy running every imaginable variety of racket."

Until June, Dokmanovic was residing in western Serbia, although he occasionally visited Vukovar. He was aware that Croat officials had included his name on a list of "war criminals" but insisted that this was simply a politically motivated fabrication. Last June, the former mayor received a visit from two men claiming to be representatives of the UN transitional administration for Slavonia (UNTAES). They invited Dokmanovic to return to Vukovar in order to assist in the transition to Croatian control. "Dokmanovic initially balked, as the Croats had made no secret of their intention to seize him and drag him before a court in Zagreb," Kostich recalled to The New American. "But he wanted to help the remaining Serb population work out their property claims and other affairs. Eventually he agreed to go, after the supposed UNTAES representatives assured him of safe passage to and from Vukovar."

In the company of a friend, Dokmanovic met the UN representatives on June 27th in Bogojevo, a town on the Serbian side of the Danube river. "The officials met him there in two vehicles, both of which were black vans," Kostich narrates. "He and his friend got into the first van and started across the bridge over the Danube. About half-way across, the vans stopped suddenly, and 20 armed commandos wearing ski masks jumped out of the trailing vehicle and seized Dokmanovic." The two men posing as UNTAES representatives informed Dokmanovic that they were actually investigators hired by the Hague Tribunal, and that the court had issued a "sealed indictment" against him for war crimes.

"Dokmanovic knew that the Croats had listed him as a "war criminal," but had never been informed that the UN had placed him on what was essentially a secret list," Kostich points out. "He was acting in good faith to cooperate with UN authorities in the transition to Croat control (of Vukovar), which suggests that he wasn't a fugitive from international "justice." The UN authorities acted with premeditated dishonesty to use Dokmanovic's good faith against him." The commandos who apprehended Dokmanovic were provided by the NATO Stabilization Force (SFOR). They reportedly included members of Britain's SAS and U.S. Navy SEALS in a support capacity.

Atrocity in Vukovar

According to press accounts, Dokmanovic is under indictment for participating in a massacre of 261 civilians in Vukovar Hospital in 1991. Bosnian Serb authorities maintain that the former mayor was not even present in the city when it fell to a combined assault by elements of the Yugoslav National Army (JNA) and Serb partisans. The battle for Vukovar was vicious. Serbian reports allege that as the JNA advanced, Croat soldiers directed their rage at Serbian civilians. The indictment against Dokmanovic and three other defendants (all of whom, unlike Dokmanovic, were officers of the JNA) records that "in the last days of the siege, several hundred people sought refuge at Vukovar Hospital - in the belief that it would be evacuated in the presence of neutral international observers.... In addition to the sick and wounded, civilians, families of hospital staff, and (Croat) soldiers who had been defending the city, some posing as patients or hospital staff, gathered on the hospital grounds."

When JNA units arrived at the hospital on November 19, 1991, they captured about 400 men. The soldiers loaded 300 onto buses and let the remainder go free. Several dozen more were identified as hospital staff and released after spending approximately two hours inside the buses. The rest were driven to a site four kilometers outside of the city, divided into groups of ten or twenty, and systematically shot, then buried in a mass grave.

By any measure, this was an atrocity and a war crime. What role did Dokmanovic play in it? The indictment, which was authored by Richard Goldstone, the Tribunal's South African prosecutor, simply maintains that Dokmanovic "at all material times - aided and abetted or otherwise participated in these events." Specific allegations are lodged against his co-defendants, all of whom allegedly had hands-on participation in the selection and execution of the victims. However, the document simply describes Dokmanovic's role as that of "President of the Vukovar Municipality" - meaning, apparently, that his elected position made him "criminally responsible" for "beatings - killings - grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, violations of the laws or customs of war (and) crimes against humanity."

"I'm the first to acknowledge that the JNA's actions in Vukovar were appalling," Kostich states. "I've been there, and that city was almost entirely destroyed. Nobody in that fight came out with clean hands. But Dokmanovic has never been materially connected to any of those crimes. The indictment does not list an action he took, a specific omission for which he is liable, or even put him in a specific place where he could either materially assist in the crimes or by conscious omission be party to them. It simply envelops him in a vague liability for those actions, apparently on the basis of his political position."

It is useful to contemplate the potential precedent Dokmanovic's indictment sets for political leaders who somehow provoke the disfavor of the United Nations. Might a UN criminal court some day arraign U.S. municipal authorities and hold them responsible for "human rights violations" allegedly committed by policemen? Could the same principle apply to other elected officials as well?

Muzzling the Media

Another ominous precedent being set in Bosnia involves the use of UN-authorized military personnel to censor media outlets that publicize anti-UN news and opinions. This development is an outgrowth of the UN Tribunal's indictment of former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic and military leader Ratko Mladic, and the escalation of SFOR's efforts to isolate them in anticipation of arresting them.

In late August, U.S. troops in the northern Bosnian town of Brcko were pelted with rocks and bottles during a heated confrontation with enraged Bosnian Serbs. NATO and UN authorities maintained that the mob had been incited by televised reports in which images of WWII-era German tanks were "morphed" into images of SFOR tanks from the ongoing occupation. This message was readily understood by Bosnian Serbs, many of whom have deep ancestral memories of the atrocities inflicted upon the Serbs by the Nazis, their Croatian Ustashi minions, and their Muslim allies during WWII. Media officials loyal to current Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic reacted to the transmission by cutting off media access to studios run by Serbs loyal to Karadzic and his top aide, Momcilo Krajisnik.

The UN-authorized occupation force, having felt the sting of the Nazi parallel, promptly vindicated it. On August 29th, according to the Los Angeles Times, NATO's commander in Bosnia, U.S. Army General Eric Shinseki, and German diplomat Gerd Wagner warned Krajisnik that "the Serbian Radio Television network (SRT) was being given its last chance to tone down its rhetoric or it (would) be subjected to permanent censorship by an imposed outside monitor...."

Among the "inflammatory" messages deemed unacceptable by the occupation force was the charge that the UN and NATO had "overstepped its mandate" in Bosnia by overtly supporting Plavsic. "We are basically telling them that the SRT's days are numbered," a UN media official told the Times. An August 30th Associated Press report was more explicit, noting that the options being considered by UN/NATO occupation troops "include blowing up transmitters, removing broadcasting equipment and jamming broadcasts...."

Javier Solana, the Spanish Marxist who serves as NATO's secretary- general, warned that NATO troops "will not hesitate to take necessary measures, including the use of force, against media networks or programs inciting attacks." Three hundred American troops were sent to make good on Solana's threat by occupying a television tower near Tuzla, which had been held by Karadzic's supporters. According to the September 4th New York Times, "The Americans withdrew when Serbian hard-liners agreed to moderate their propaganda war against the Bosnian peace agreement." Robert Gelbard, the Clinton Administration's special envoy to Bosnia, insisted that the uprising in Brcko was typical of "a totalitarian dictatorship losing control." While it is entirely reasonable to describe the late Karadzic regime in those terms, reasonable people might also point out that the actions of the UN/NATO occupation force are typical of a totalitarian dictatorship taking control. Although the crackdown on dissent was not directly mandated by the Hague Tribunal, the seizure of opposition media outlets in Bosnia follows a precedent set in Somalia, in which UN troops seeking to serve a warrant on "warlord" Mohamed Farah Aidid seized Radio Mogadishu, which had been used by Aidid's supporters to broadcast views deemed unsuitable by UN authorities. (See "Behind Our Defeat in Somalia," in the September 5, 1994 issue of The New American.)

Speaking at a Pentagon briefing on September 3rd, NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark made it clear that NATO will continue its escalation until Karadzic is delivered to the UN Tribunal. "I call on him to submit himself voluntarily to justice," Clark declared on September 3rd. "He should be turned in. He should report to The Hague.... (H)e is free in violation of the Dayton agreement. He should have been turned in long ago by the signatories of that agreement to face international justice." Clark noted that Karadzic is usually surrounded by armed bodyguards, and did not rule out the possibility that a commando raid might be undertaken to seize the former Bosnian Serb leader.

"An Element of Compulsion"

Officers and partisans of the Hague Tribunal cite the case of Karadzic as an illustration of the supposed necessity for a standing court with the means of compelling individuals to submit to its jurisdiction, and preparations are underway for the creation of a standing International Criminal Court (ICC). Speaking at an August 11th session of the ICC's Preparatory Committee, Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald of the Hague Tribunal insisted that the ICC must be able to employ "an element of compulsion" in order "to redress gross violations of human rights and international law...." She also insisted that the ICC's authorizing statute "should be one of principle and not of detail.... (It should) be a flexible statute based on principles which may be developed by the Court as the circumstances require while still providing sufficient guidance to establish an international framework within which the Court can work."

In other words, the ICC - according to an American judge presently serving on the UN's court in The Hague - should be granted universal jurisdiction, the means to compel submission to its indictments, subpoenas and judgments, and unlimited authority to write "international law" at whim.

"Whatever you think of the Bosnian Serbs, the precedents being set at The Hague are incredibly dangerous in terms of our national sovereignty," declares Nikola Kostich. "I'm an ethnic Serb by birth; I treasure that heritage and I admit that it plays a role in my view of events. But more importantly, I'm American by choice - a naturalized U.S. citizen - and I'm passionately committed to our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, and our national sovereignty. Americans have to understand that the movement toward a permanent UN criminal court is a deadly threat to all of the above, and if the people promoting it aren't stopped, the precedents being set and the methods being used by the Hague Tribunal are going to be used to destroy our own liberties."

Selective "Justice" Turns Blind Eye to Croatian Atrocities

The preferred refrain of partisans of the UN's war crimes tribunal in The Hague is that "there can be no lasting peace without justice." However, the Tribunal's equanimity regarding a large-scale Croat atrocity in southwestern Bosnia illustrates that both "justice" and "peace" can be sacrificed in the name of political expediency when pursuing them might expose the covert machinations of the very political elite that created the Dayton agreement.

"In March 1996 I took a Bosnian Serb prosecutor and a camera crew from Court TV to the site of a mass grave containing the bodies of at least 185 Serb civilians," Nick Kostich recalled to The New American. The site of that atrocity was Mrkonjic Grad, a small town in southwestern Bosnia near Croatia's Krajina region. "I was present when the site was exhumed," Kostich continues. "The bodies were not those of military personnel. They were civilians, including people as much as 80 years old." However, the gruesome discovery had little impact in the media: "There are videotapes of the exhumation of that site, and the New York Times published one photograph of the site with a caption identifying it as the scene of an atrocity, but there was no story to accompany the photo." Furthermore, the discovery "has led to no indictments yet, despite the fact that an investigator from the UN Tribunal's office of the prosecutor has visited the site."

One reason for the apparent indifference to the atrocity in Mrkonjic Grad is the fact that the Croatian army unit implicated in it may have been trained and equipped by Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI), a "private" military and intelligence consulting firm based in Virginia. MPRI literature describes the firm as "a professional services company engaged primarily in military-related contracting in the U.S. and international defense markets." MPRI's roster of founders, executives, and directors includes 14 retired U.S. generals, three of whom - Richard D. Lawrence, Jack Merritt, and Carl Vuono - are members of the Council on Foreign Relations, the focal point of America's foreign policy elite.

MPRI information officer Joseph Allred, a professor at Brigham Young University, explains that through his firm "the U.S. can have influence as part of its national strategy on other nations without employing its own army." In accordance with the Clinton Administration's Balkan strategy - which reduced the complex and tragic Bosnian civil war into a war of "Serbian aggression" - MPRI was hired by the Croatian regime of "ex"-communist President Franjo Tudjman in 1995 to refine his Soviet- created Ministry of Defense into a modern fighting force.

The February 18th Boston Globe reported that several months after MPRI signed its contract with Tudjman's regime, "the Croatian army mounted a summer offensive into the Serb-controlled region of Krajina, forcing more than 150,000 Croatian Serbs from their homeland."

Villages were sacked and burned, civilians were slaughtered, and women were raped. Estimates of total casualties in the four-day blitzkrieg in August 1995 run as high as 15,000 on the Serbian side, compared with a mere 118 Croat casualties (according to Croatian sources) - a disproportion suggesting a slaughter of civilians rather than a military engagement.

In short, the Croat assault presented all of the horrors associated with "ethnic cleansing." The four-day assault, as investigative journalist Ken Silverstein observes, was conducted by an army that a few months earlier had been regarded as "bumbling and inept." Although British and French observers on the scene accused MPRI of planning and directing the assault on Krajina, the firm's spokesmen insisted that MPRI's role had been limited to instilling "democratic values" in the "ex"-communist army. Some qualified observers have greeted that account skeptically.

"No country moves from having a ragtag militia to carrying out a professional military offensive without some help," observes Roger Charles, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel who monitored MPRI's activities in Croatia. "The Croats did a good job of coordinating armor, artillery, and infantry. That's not something you learn while being instructed about democratic values." The Croatian army's "democratic" handiwork in Mrkonjic Grad suggests that respect for the canons of civilized combat was not part of the MPRI training curriculum.

Was the mass grave at Mrkonjic Grad a sample of MPRI's handiwork? If so, the same political elite responsible for creating the "framework for peace" in the Balkans is creating the conditions for another round of genocidal violence. The July 15, 1996 Financial Times of London reported that a delegation of retired generals representing MPRI had arrived in Bosnia "to start a programme of instruction for the Bosnian Army, part of an effort by Washington and several Moslem states to counterbalance Serb military strength." MPRI's renewable 13-month, $140 million contract in Bosnia is underwritten by a consortium of Islamic states from Asia and the Persian Gulf. Coupled with the $100 million worth of weapons pledged to Bosnia by the Clinton Administration (including tanks and artillery), the MPRI- trained Bosnian army will have the capacity to sow numerous new killing fields in the Balkans.

End quote

NOTE: An excerpt from the above article can be found at New American's web site at this link.

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First posted: May 29, 1998
Last revised: January 27, 2004