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The Deal That Led to the Srebrenica Massacre

by AFSHIN RATTANSI

And so the United Nation’s Yugoslav war crimes court fines its own former spokeswoman, Florence Hartmann $10,000 for contempt. Judge Bakone Moloto lambasted the woman who was the public face of the court for more than half a decade as knowingly and wilfully interfering “with the administration of justice.”

Hartman was fined for disclosing confidential documents from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague. The Serbian government submitted the documents during the war crimes case against former President Slobodan Milosevic, on the condition that they were kept secret. That trial ended without a verdict as Milosevic died in custody at The Hague in March 2006.

As of today, the documents are still not in the public domain. Hartmann was found guilty on two charges of contempt, for which she could have faced a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. Judge Moloto accepted the defense’s argument that some of the information had been disclosed by other journalists before Hartmann, but said there was a need to deter wrongful disclosure of confidential information in the future.

And yet, as the wire agencies glossed over the more serious implications of the conviction, we heard nothing from President Obama’s Afghanistan envoy. How could Richard Holbrooke be connected with what has been alleged to be  the worst massacre in Europe since the Second World War, then? What has Holbrooke got to do with former Le Monde journalist, Florence Hartmann? I’ve spoken a few times to the former Bosnian foreign minister, Mohammad Sacirbey and about a year ago, he told me “It seems to be an attempt to intimidate her… I am concerned to what extent information from the tribunal will fall freely now or for that matter in the future so that we have the judgment of history.”

No one can portray the former Bosnian foreign minister of being an apologist for Serb atrocities. Critics of President Clinton’s NATO destruction of Yugoslavia are smeared, just as Edward Herman has been for allegations about what the war on Yugoslavia was really about. Herman –- the co-author with Noam Chomsky of Manufacturing Consent —  has said the Srebrenica massacre was the greatest triumph of propaganda to emerge from the Balkan wars. Did President Clinton, Prime Minister Blair and President Chirac create the circumstances for a Srebrenica massacre so that they could persuade their publics to support a war?

Mohammed Sacirbey talked to me about Hartmann whom I had wrongly suspected as being a source: “I may or may not agree with some of her views but I would certainly encourage a free flow of information from the tribunal, especially since in this instance we are talking about her being charged … long after Milosevic died.”

On July 31, 2008, Sacirbey told me about a few deals. The first deal concerned letting Radovan Karadzic go free. The former minister revealed his source: “My source was Ambassador Robert Frowick, at that time the head of the OSCE mission in Bosnia that was overseeing the elections.” Frowick died in 2007.

Then there was the other deal, the deal that would lead to a massacre that would encourage those arguing for NATO intervention, the deal over Srebrenica. Scirbey told me:

“That involved Richard Holbrooke and involved Carl Bildt who, then, was the EU mediator and now is Sweden’s foreign minister. It involved a French general who was the head of the military forces of the UN in Bosnia — Bernard Jean Vieh. It involved Yasushi Akashi who was the head UN civilian official. They, in effect, acquiesced, gave the green light to Milosevic, Mladic as well as Karadzic to take over the territory of Srebrenica but also Zepa and Gorazde.

“At that time there was enormous pressure on us to trade these territories and to give in, in effect, to Belgrade and the Bosnian Serbs what they wanted in return for them presumably accepting conditions during the peace talks that would end up being Dayton. We refused and as we resisted the green light was given to the Serbian forces to attack that enclave. Of course, I did not know about it.

“Holbrooke denies all the accusations and retracted a statement made on Bosnian TV in November 2005 in which he, himself, said that his ‘initial instructions’ were to ‘sacrifice Srebrenica, Gorazde and Zepa.’ Dayton, as we know and poor Bosnians know well, today, was about the privatization – the neoliberalization – of the resources of the former Yugoslavia. The IMF’s deals with Milosevic had already put paid to the economic miracle of 1970’s Yugoslavia but Dayton would allow the IMF to appoint and run the Bosnian Central Bank, for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to direct the restructuring of the public sector, the fire sale of the assets of state and society.

“I do not think anyone in my government knew about it and the result was 8,000 people murdered. So the second deal is probably explained by the first deal. I suspect many people who were in the U.S. administration at that time, even if they objected to making deals with Milosevic, Mladic and Karadzic, who all subsequently were indicted at that time — they clearly would not be very pleased if that information came out right now.”

Right now might be a good time. Florence Hartmann was always more forthright than the former chief prosecutor at The Hague, Carla del Ponte. Del Ponte told the former Republika Srpska speaker, Dragan Kalinic in 2004 “I am investigating the story of an agreement between Karadzic and Holbrooke.” When Kalinic asked, “Do you believe that the agreement exists?” Del Ponte replied, “Yes”.

Hartmann is on the record about U.S. officials doing “nothing” when given the exact locations where Karadzic and Mladic were hiding, on several occasions. In the Belgrade magazine Blic, she said the U.S., Britain and France blocked the arrests of the perpetrators of the Srebrenica massacre. Most damning of all and what may have catalyzed the contempt charge was when she said “the reasons why Western powers don’t want to see Karadzic and Mladic on trial is … their very likely intent to put the blame for the crimes they have committed on the international community by saying that they have been given a green or orange light to take over the Srebrenica enclave…Western powers created the conditions for mass killings to happen”, she said.

From the day the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was created, she continued, “there was an effort to steer justice to justify the actions of the big powers in their response to the war, the genocide. They consistently tried to overlook who was indicted, and then selectively provided evidence and even altered it depending if the Tribunal mandate to establish the truth would harm them or not.”

Hartmann says her motive is for the International Criminal Court to learn from the mistakes of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. None of the international media kind enough to report the conviction of Florence Hartmann for contempt of the court talks about any of this. Many of those encouraged by the formation of an International Criminal Court at The Hague to try cases that concern “international law” are looking the other way. As to how the NATO war inspired some young volunteers to embrace Al Qaeda and threaten European cities with terror, there is as little about this in the corporate media as there is about U.S.-training programs for those who would create the Taliban.

Perhaps, while Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón presses ahead with his case against six senior Bush administration lawyers for torture at Guantánamo he should also look into the culpability of the special envoy appointed by the husband of the present U.S. Secretary of State, the man who now has diplomatic responsibility over Afghanistan. If Holbrooke is guilty, he had form before taking on his current role. More Muslims, and more NATO soldiers, are being killed in Afghanistan than in Srebrenica.

AFSHIN RATTANSI has helped launch and develop television networks and has worked in journalism for more than two decades, at the BBC Today programme, CNN International, Bloomberg News, Al Jazeera Arabic, the Dubai Business  Channel, Press TV and The Guardian. His quartet of novels, “The Dream of the Decade” is available on Amazon.com. He has been living and working in Iran for the past year. His new current affairs show, “Rattansi & Ridley” will begin broadcasting soon on international satellite TV. He can be reached at afshinrattansi@hotmail.com

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Afshin Rattansi is host of RT’s award-winning Going Underground news and current affairs show broadcast around the world. He will be joining Julian Assange on the eve of the referendum for a live webcast from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London as well as a special edition of Going Underground on Saturday.

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