11 July 1997
William Woodger explains how Operation Tango reveals who really calls the shots
in the former Yugoslavia
Yesterday a NATO hit-squad of SAS soldiers killed former Bosnian Serb police
chief Simo Drljaca outside his home near Prijedor. Drljaca's son and son-in-law
were kidnapped at the same time. A second SAS team conned its way into a nearby
hospital to arrest its director, Doctor Milan 'Mico' Kovacevic and spirited him
and the other detainees away to The Hague. Summary justice, Western style. NATO's
Operation Tango was immediately welcomed throughout Europe and hailed as proof
that the peace promised in the Dayton Accord was slowly emerging.
The overbearing moralising of New Labour's Foreign Secretary Robin Cook making a
statement in Downing Street set the tone for the unquestioning media. Cook said
the two men were 'indicted war criminals' - what's more Drljaca was a 'notorious
Bosnian Serb war criminal' - and that is what the media swallowed and have
reproduced. On contacting the UN Tribunal in The Hague to find out more about the
gory accusations against the men, I discovered a problem: there was no public
indictment against either man, according to spokesman Christian Chartier. Was
either on the list of those secretly indicted? No comment, from Chartier.
The hitch was only temporary. Later in the afternoon Chartier was trumpeting how
the men had been indicted on 13 March 1997, in a 'sealed' (read secret)
indictment. The indictment was transmitted to NATO's Stabilisation Force (S-For)
- the 30,000 Western troops occupying Bosnia - but not to local law enforcement
agencies who have legal jurisdiction over the areas where the men live and work.
Chartier said this was because the War Crimes Tribunal hoped S-For would have an
opportunity to arrest the men. This excuse seems flimsy when the attempted
'arrests' occur four months later.
Contrary to allegations, Drljaca and Kovacevic were on no recognised list of 'war
criminals.' They do, however, along with at least 5,000 others, appear on various
propaganda 'war criminal' lists. Journalists and human rights organisations have
smeared these men, and many other Serbs, over a long period. The ITN film crew
who visited Omarska and Trnopolje in August 1992 interviewed Kovacevic, and
Channel 4 News presented this film as an admission of guilt. Another admission of
guilt was offered by Ed Vulliamy, who interviewed Kovacevic in early 1996. A
remark open to more than one interpretation was offered as 'evidence' of
complicity in the Western view of the war (Serb aggressors, genocidal campaign,
systematic rapes) and not of having been in Prijedor in 1992 and part of a civil
war. Kovacevic's admission that a situation he expects historians will find
difficult to explain for the next 50 years might be termed 'collective madness'
is inverted so that Kovacevic instead admits his part in the plan.
A Human Rights Watch report from January 1997, 'The Unindicted: Reaping the
Rewards of Ethnic Cleansing,' took the lead in the NGO-led clamour for action
against 'war criminals,' including, from the title, those the UN hadn't got
around to yet. The term 'unindicted war criminals' was added to 'indicted war
criminals' as the sleight-of-tongue people use to pretend they haven't pre-judged
'war criminals'. It now seems clear that any Bosnian Serb who was part of the
Prijedor Crisis Staff is also under secret indictment. Simple membership of the
Crisis Staff now warrants charges of genocide.
In May this year, Dusan Tadic was found guilty of Crimes Against Humanity for
beating people (LM 102, 'Put the war crimes tribunal in the dock'). Tadic was
mobilised as a part-time policeman. The charges and the manner in which Tadic was
found guilty indicate that any and all Serbs are regarded as war criminals. At
the whim of the Tribunal, any Serb in a position of authority related to the SDS,
the Bosnian Serb political party, can be charged with genocide, secretly, and
killed if deemed necessary.
Will Radovan Karadzic be next on the list? Will he be killed in a hail of bullets
while 'defending himself'? The lynch-mob is still out on that. In what might turn
out to be his last interview as a free man, Radovan Karadzic said of the Tribunal
'they fear me because I am not going to defend myself. I am going to accuse'.
NATO, S-For, the SAS, the International War Crimes Tribunal and every other
western force involved in the former Yugoslavia should be in the dock - the
recent course of international politics suggests we better not hold our breath.
Buy the current LM 102 to read the full text of the exclusive interview with
Radovan Karadzic 'I accuse' and Helen Searls' expos of the reality behind the
International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.
Join a discussion on this commentary