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The War Crimes Tribunal: A tragi-comedy in robes

Open letter from Prof. Raymond Kent to Carla del Ponte, Chief Prosecutor, International Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ITY), The Hague

2 June 2000

[Raymond K. Kent is Professor Emeritus, History Department, University of California, Berkeley] [emperors-clothes]

I am a former secretary to a California-based Citizen's Committee set up to monitor the International Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ITY) since its establishment.

I resigned in 1997 but you will find me in an article I had sent to the Tribunal and the Secretary General of the United Nations as a reprint from the Paris-based trilingual journal Dialogue (no 20,1996). It is entitled "Contextualizing Hate-The Hague Tribunal, the Clinton Administration and the Serbs." A copy is enclosed. (1)

The ITY was set-up, under open indictments, ostensibly to punish all those involved in the armed intra-ethnic conflicts who killed innocent civilians since 1991. It became obvious by the third year of its operation that the Tribunal's Prosecutor pursued only the Serbs as alleged criminals in a tripartite conflict.

In one prominent case, two high-ranking officers of the Bosnian Serb Army were kidnapped in Sarajevo after Dayton and delivered to the Hague without being accused of anything. This is the case which led to a change from open to secret indictments to pre-empt additional accusations against a Tribunal with an anti-Serb bias impossible to mask.

Although two Chief Prosecutors have followed the one from South Africa and although some alleged criminals of Croat and Bosnian Muslim background were indicted, there is hardly any doubt that the reality emerging in the first three years of ITY's work is the same. It pursued mainly Serbs. This is also confirmed by the fact that the alleged Croat and Bosnian Muslim criminals have been accused of doing harm to one another's civilian populations but not to Serb civilians. It is only in the most recent times that the ITY has looked at all at what was done to the Serb civilians in Western Slavonia (August 1991- March 1992) and Krajina (2) (mainly August 1995). This was done only under pressure from a variety of complaints.

Against this background, it is not surprising that you have rejected international (not only Serb) claims that NATO committed war crimes without mentioning the other two areas in ITY indictments, those of crimes against humanity and peace. (3)

You simply did not have the will and courage to bite the hands that feed you as the major NATO players in the 78 days of bombing are also the major supporters and financial backers of your Tribunal. (4)

Nor is it surprising that you have claimed to have been "stupefied" to "even hear" Russia's claims that the ITY is "politicized" and "biased" against the Serbs. At this point it seems salutary to show you just how the Tribunal is really polluted with political considerations.

Murderer at large

Tuzla is a major NATO base in Bosnia. One of its Discotheques is run by Nasir Oric. He was the Bosnian Muslim Commander at Srebrenica. He happens to be a self-admitted war criminal of the most bestial kind. For nearly a year, from the UN-protected Srebrenica, Oric and his "elite corps" raided its Serb countryside. They destroyed 48 Serb villages, looting, torching and killing about 1,800, including women and children.

The good old Ottoman art of impaling was "enhanced" by roasting the victims of the mujehadin alive on the spit. May we send you the photographs of [partly carbonized] victims? This is what led to the Serb capture of Srebrenica, the evacuation of its women and children, and the flight of the Muslim soldiers under Izetbegovic's orders, to northern Bosnia. Oric bragged to at least two foreign reporters and showed one of them a video tape of the mayhem. You do not even have a "secret" indictment against him under the bogus claim that he had been" killed." He will not be grabbed by the NATO troops and sent to the Hague out of fear that this would alienate and radicalize the Bosnian Muslims against NATO ground personnel.

Exactly the same type of fear of alienating NATO's allies concerns the case of Agim Ceku, General of the Kosovo Liberation Army. (5) He is now a major player in what is happening in Kosovo but you have excluded Kosovo's Albanians from the category of war criminals since the war at Kosovo is defined as an internal civil war while Bosnia was internationalized in order to get at the Serbs. Actually, you are seeking evidence of mass murders of Albanian civilians at Kosovo from which to shore-up an indictment against Milosevic (curiously made public after Judge Arbour's visit to Madeleine Albright, ITY's "Mother" in Washington), stemming from the Bosnian conflict. Yet, Agim Ceku was a general of the Croat Army responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Krajina in August 1995, the looting and torching all of the Serb properties as well as killing several hundred, probably more, of older Serbs who either could not or would not run. Agim Ceku is now saluted by NATO troops and remains the behind-the-scenes coordinator of the ex-KLA. To grab him and ship him to the ITY at the Hague could alienate the still-extant KLA from NATO and impel some of its more extreme elements to cause harm to the NATO and U.N personnel in situ.

Clearly, Madame Prosecutor, your Tribunal is "politicized" as is documented beyond refutation by the two cases. Both Oric and Ceku should have been indicted, tried and sentenced long ago if your Tribunal really belonged to a civilized judicial system, with the mechanics of a real court of law. It is an instrument of an emerging neo-Nazism. What makes it Right is the Might of NATO and more specifically the U.S. Super-Power. Its would be lofty ends justify the dirtiest of means and humiliations of Serbs in particular.

The ITY is a tragi-comic political theater, draped in judicial robes, engaged in over-blown acting and pompous self-esteem, providing endless perqs and high-paying remunerations, a "sweetheart deal" for those "pre-selected" to sit on it and most unlikely to oppose any secret indictments or pre-conceived verdicts against the Serbs.

Let me now pass on the components of your rejection. You have not denied in any known instance that the accusations against NATO indeed fall within the Tribunal's mandate from the Security Council. In fact, one of the key assignments in your Security Council mandate demands it. However, you tabled, in the American sense, for the time being these accusations because you were "too busy searching for mass graves at Kosovo." Well, your legal staff acted pretty fast as the accusations were multiplying in several European countries and in the United States. You are, I am sure, at least aware that Citizens Tribunals have been working for some time to indict NATO leaders and principal actors as having committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and against peace. In rejecting the war-crimes charge you are quoted to have said that while "accidents" have taken place, you are "satisfied that there was no deliberate targeting of civilians." I am not sure what evidence you examined in person but the numbers of churches, schools, non-military factories, water purifying facilities, heating oil depositories and even medical facilities fully or partially destroyed, add up to staggering numbers. ALL OF THEM ARE CIVILIAN TARGETS EVEN IF A SINGLE CIVILIAN WAS NOT DIRECTLY KILLED IN ANY. Targeting all of them could not have been an "accident." If you need another proof of NATO war crimes here it is and you can look it up. In her 10th May last speech at the University of California's Berkeley Campus, Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright admitted: "to have raised the bar" high enough so that "Milosevic could NOT jump over it" because "YUGOSLAVIA NEEDED A LITTLE BOMBING." This is a prima facie confession of the "Mother" of your Tribunal. It refers to the addition of Appendix B at Rambouillet after the Serbs were ready to sign an agreement to restore Autonomy to Kosovo. Appendix B demanded the occupation of Yugoslavia, including Belgrade, by NATO troops. The intent is deliberate bombing of a country and not even you can exclude its civilian population simply because you do not have the courage to practice law instead of politics.

There is also a memo, which your legal toadies could not somehow excavate from the NATO files. It reveals the change from going exclusively after military targets into the civilian ones. It is a prima facie document showing that CIVILIAN TARGETS WERE DELIBERATELY INCLUDED after the initial bombings failed to produce Milosevich's signature to the main text and Appendix B of the proposed Rambouillet Accord. I am sure that you must be aware how ridiculous is the claim of NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson that the "alliance acted entirely in accordance with international law." It is illegal, under extant International Law, by international convention, to secure Presidential signatures with a pointed gun and the threat to use it. It is further illegal under International Law to mount 78 days of bombing a sovereign state without a mandate from the Security Council. The U.N. Charter demands it but it was shredded instead. As there was not even a formal declaration of war, the Constitutions of at least two member-states, France and the United States, were violated because they allot that power to declare war only to their respective Legislatures. Lord Robertson is simply extending ad infinitum the lies and propaganda used first to mount the NATO attack and later to whitewash this collective crime and its aftermath. You cannot negate the physical evidence of destruction from the air in Yugoslavia (which still includes in theory Kosovo itself), enshrined with pictures, names, dates and targets actually hit. The Yugoslav government has published four factual volumes that need no further discussion about authenticity. No one can deny that civilian targets have been extensively hit. Figures for civilian deaths and for those injured more or less seriously do vary. Some 3000 dead have been claimed at the maximum with three times that number for the maimed. On the lowest end about 300 dead and some 2,000 injured are on hand. We even have a visually recorded tragedy in the complaints of General Clark that NATO's civilian authorities would not allow him to "further extend" the number of civilian targets, another item of evidence "missed."

Clearly, Madame Prosecutor, your entire case for rejection rests only on the presumed lack of INTENT to punish the Serb civilians. The intent is clearly admitted by the U.S. Secretary of State more than a year after the bombs stopped falling on civilian targets in Yugoslavia. The INTENT WAS TO ACTUALLY PUNISH YUGOSLAVIA. How much more proof do you need to shed your judicial glaucoma and see the real shapes of dead Serbs and Albanians from NATO bombs, parachuted mines, cluster bombs (many unexploded and killing daily), shells with depleted uranium which will be hitting local genes for decades to come since it is a mutant without known limits? When you were appointed to replace Louise Arbour, a reputation preceded you from your native Switzerland. Its criminal elements and its politicians could not "crack" your judicial integrity. In fact, they deflected you because of it, like "The Godfather" of Mario Puzo, with an offer you could not refuse. It is a pity that what ordinary criminals and local politicos could not do has been reversed by the heady brew of rendering some sort of "international justice". It is curious that you "missed" a major collective crime committed under the open sky -- rockets and cluster bombs against Sunday markets, against bridges, passenger trains and busses by day, maternity hospitals by night.

Sincerely, Raymond K. Kent


Further reading...

(1) Raymond Kent's tour de force 'Contextualizing Hate' can be read at

(2) 'The invasion of Serbian Krajina' by Greg Elich at

(3) Report: Meeting with Carla del Ponte on NATO Crimes of War by Michael Mandel at

(4) Money Talks - US Funds ICTY Public Relations at

(5) The UN appoints an alleged war criminal by Prof. Michel Chossudovsky at

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