Proceedings against Pope & Vatican possible

April 15, 2010

“Less than one percent of priests are guilty of this…” ( Ratzinger)

When visit of pope Benedict is coming closer in UK a wide debate has started about possibility to put pope in court due protecting paedophile priests. George Monbiot wrote in the Guardian how the case against pope rests on international law’s potential to judge all alike. A quote:

Over the weekend, the authors Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens announced that they’ve asked lawyers to prepare a case against the pope. Recently, in the Guardian, Geoffrey Robertson, the barrister they are consulting, explained that senior churchmen who protected paedophile priests, swore their victims to secrecy and allowed the perpetrators to continue working with children, committed the offence of aiding and abetting sex with minors. Practised on a large scale, this becomes a crime against humanity recognised by the international criminal court. This is the general Vatican policy over which the then Cardinal Ratzinger is accused of presiding. When Benedict comes to the UK in September he could, if Dawkins and Hitchens get their warrant, be arrested.

An article “The pope should stand trial by Richard Dawkins – a scientist and writer – was most viewed in the Guardian and gives more reasons for case.

From my viewpoint not only the Pope but Vatican as state and some its institutions should put on trial for crimes against humanity. And not only due the spreading paedophile scandal but WWII crimes too. With later I have in my mind especially Vatican’s role in holocaust and preserving war criminals from justice. These issues are dealt in my earlier article “Jasenovac – Holocaust promoted by Vatican” but the crucial questions were following:

During WWII Croatia’s Ustashe leaders declared that they would slaughter a third of the Serb population in Croatia, deport a third and convert the remaining third from Orthodoxy to Roman Catholicism. 3rd biggest extermination center – behind Auschwitz and Treblinka – created by Nazis was Jasenovac in Croatia. The death toll is estimated to be 300,000 to 700,000, some 80 % of them Serbs the rest Jews and Romas. While for Nazi-Germany Jasenovac was more a tool for ethnic cleansing for Ustashe religious aspect played crucial role. The religious motivation may be the explanation to the extreme brutality of butchers in Jasenovac. 743 Roman Catholic priests personally murdered Serbs, Jews and Gypsies. Jasenovac was for a time, run by Fr. Filipovic-Majstorovic, a Catholic priest. The Jasenovac system of Croatian camps also included a camp for children run by Catholic nuns who used toxic soda to save bullets.

As the war ended, the Vatican Bank helped to and transfer funds Franciscans in Rome helped smuggle and launder the Ustasha Tresury, which was looted from victims of Jasenovac. The Vatican not only hoarded the gold the Croats looted, it also helped Ustasha war criminals in escaping justice in what is now nicknamed the “Vatican Ratline”.

Today a class action law suit against the Vatican Bank to recover $100 million in damages for the Vatican’s participation in these war crimes and money laundering the proceeds from their Serb, Jewish and Roma victims is still ongoing. Vatican lawyers have three times tried to get this case thrown out of court. The Supreme court has rejected their claims. In US District Court the case against the Vatican Bank (but not the Franciscan Order) was dismissed on grounds the Vatican Bank is an organ of a sovereign entity, the Vatican, which is immune from lawsuits. The just filed appeal however argues that the Vatican Bank is not sovereign and engages in commercial activity in the United States and therefore should be held accountable in a United States Federal Court.

In principle I think that these kind of issues should be handled in international court like International Court of Justice (ICJ) or The International Criminal Court (ICC) both in Hague or in some maybe new International Criminal Tribunal (like ICTY for Yugoslavia and Ruanda). The second option could be trial in national courts like now ongoing against Vatican in US and now planned in UK. Third possibility could be solving case outside courtroom with money and compensations but I prefer more formal procedure or at least that Vatican would really confess its guild for events during WWII and after that.



Holocaust, commemoration and Balkans

January 29, 2009

The UN General Assembly chose January 27 as the official day for the commemoration, as it was on this day in 1945 that Soviet troops liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp. Throughout Europe, tributes will be paid to the 53 million people who died during World War II, of whom 31 million were civilians.

Commemoration has linked usually also to International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The background is, that on January 27, 1945, Soviet troops entered the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, the last such camp still functioning. They found 7,000 survivors from among the more than 1,000,000 people murdered there. The memory of the Holocaust in western Europe has historically been a kind of spur for ‘anti-racist’ movements, but how to define Holocaust?

Definitions 

Most scholars define the Holocaust as a genocide of European Jewry alone, or what the Nazis called the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question”. Taking into account all the victims of Nazi persecution, the total number of victims would be between nine and 11 million of which figure appr. six million were Jews.

Earlier the word holocaust has been used since the 18th century to refer to the violent deaths of a large number of people, e.g. many writers used it before World War II to describe the Armenian Genocide of WWI.

If and when the word holocaust is reserved to describe murdering six million Jews during WWII the other similar brutalities need another term and the word Genocide is most used to describe the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group. A word pogrom is used mostly in relation with a form of riot directed against a particular group, whether ethnic, religious, or other, and characterized by the killing and destruction of their homes, businesses, and religious centers.

Balkans

Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest extermination center created by the Nazis. It has become the symbol of the Holocaust and of wilful radical evil in our time. The death tolls in extermination centers vary but rough estimations are following (source Wikipedia):

  • Auschwitz II 1,400,000
  • Belzeg 600,000
  • Chelmno 320,000
  • Jasenovac 600,000
  • Majdanek 360,000
  • Maly Trostinets 65,000
  • Sobibor 250,000
  • Treblinka 870,000

Few people know that 3rd biggest extermination center was Jasenovac. Two reasons maybe explain this: 1st it is located in Croatia and 2nd the main part of victims were Serbs. From total 600,000 murdered ones some 25,000 were Gypsies, some 25,000 Jews and over half a million Serbs.

Yad VaShem – “Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority” – is Israel’s official memorial to the Jewish victims of the holocaust describes Jasenovac as follows (source):

Located in Croatia 62 miles south of Zagreb, Jasenovac was Croatia’s largest concentration and extermination camp. Jasenovac, was a network of several sub-camps, established in August 1941 and dissolved in April 1945. The Nazis gave control of Jasenovac to the puppet Croatian government, which was run by the fascist Ustasa movement. A large number of Ustasa members served in the camp, most notably Miroslav Filipovic-Majstorovic, who was notorious for killing prisoners with his bare hands.

The Independent State of Croatia was created and supported by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. It thus adopted their racial and political doctrines. Jasenovac had a role in the Nazi “final solution”; it was also used, however, in the ethnic cleansing of Romany and Serbian inhabitants. So during the WWII, Serbs shared the similar fate as Jews at the hands of Nazis. Jasenovac was not the only place where Serbia’s neighbour Croatia ran several concentration camps where Jews, Serbs and Roma have been murdered. Bosnian Muslims and Kosovo Albanians were allies of Hitler as well.

(More about Jasenevac in my document library )

Memory today

In April 1945 the partisan army approached the camp. In an attempt to erase traces of the atrocities, the Ustaša blew up all the installations and killed most of the internees. An escape attempt by the prisoners failed, and only a few survived.

It seems that after WWII Croats tried to hide all evidence about brutalities in Jasenovac, all material evidence disappeared as if there had not been any camp in that place. Later – during Tito’s time – the state and the authorities tried to implement “Brotherhood and Unity” motto, with the aim of creating tolerance between the nations and the crime had to be forgotten as soon as possible.

On Summer 2008 Israel’s ambassador to Croatia,  Shmuel Meirom,  harshly criticized the funeral given to a head of a WWII Jasenovac concentration camp in Zagreb, saying also that it insulted the memory of those killed in the camp run by Croatia’s Nazi-allied Ustasha regime. “I’m convinced that the majority of the Croatian people are shocked by the way the funeral of the Jasenovac commander and murderer, dressed in an Ustasha uniform, was conducted,” ambassador Meirom said in a written statement to the state news agency Hina. “At the same time, I strongly condemn the inappropriate words of the priest who served at the funeral and said that Sakic was a model for all Croats”Meirom said. (More about this in my article )

So commemoration or International Holocaust Remembrance Day or events and history related to them has recent times been observed with various ways. In Serbia Serbs and Jews held the main commemoration ceremony at the Memorial to the Victims of Genocide in the Second World War at the Old Fairgrounds (Staro Sajmiste) in Belgrade – a place where thousands of them were murdered during WWII.

Yearly commemoration is important remainder for fair picture of history.  At least one day per year is good to think what ultra nationalism can be at its worst level, what kind of interests, power game, attitudes and hidden motivations are creating possibilities for murdering civil populations or ethnic groups.  And to remember that these actions have been continuing also after WWII e.g. in Cambodia, Ruanda and Darfur even today.



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Croatia’s and Serbia’s ‘Genocide’ Case To Proceed

November 19, 2008

Last century was marked deep ethnic tensions between Croats and Serbs. These tensions erupted most violent way during WWII and Yugoslavia’s breakup wars early 1990s. Now this brutal past is going on tables of international courtrooms while Croatian lawsuit against Serbia and Serbia’s countersuit will be heard in Haague.

ICJ

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on Tuesday 18th Nov. 2008 that it can hear a Croatian lawsuit filed against Serbia for genocide during the war in the early 1990s. The verdict of the 17-member trial chamber at the United Nations’ highest court was delivered by Court President Rosalyn Higgins at a public session. The trial chamber officials voted 10 to seven in favour of Croatia.

Earlier Belgrade claimed that the International Court of Justice has no authority in the case. However the court ruled that Belgrade recognised the jurisdiction of the ICJ during the 1990s by responding to suits filed against it by Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, and by filing charges against the NATO alliance for its bombing of Serbia in the spring of 1999.

Since an out-of-court settlement is highly unlikely, the next expected step is the confirmation of the suit being filed by Croatia, after which the Serbian legal team would be given at least a year to prepare both its defence and the countersuit announced by its legal representatives for the alleged genocide committed by Croatia against ethnic Serbs during the war. (Source BalkanInsght).

Croatia’s case

Croatia filed the suit in 1999, claiming that Belgrade participated in the ethnic cleansing of Croats, through its command over the armed forces, information agencies and paramilitary units that perpetrated war crimes in Croatia. Serbs in Croatia set up their own entity in 1991 in response to Croatia’s declaration of independence from Yugoslavia, forcing thousands of Croats out of the area referred to as the Republic of Serb Krajina.

However, the breakaway state was defeated in 1995 in a Croatian military offensive known as “Operation Storm,” pushing thousands of ethnic Serbs out of Croatian and forcing them to seek refuge in Serbia.

Serbia

Serbia will file a lawsuit against Croatia for ethnic cleansing and war crimes committed during the so-called Op Storm, FM Vuk Jeremić said late on Tuesday 18th. “Croatia did not appropriately respond to the hand of reconciliation which Serbia repeatedly offered, with a desire to leave the past behind and turn to our common future in Europe. A lawsuit will now be filed against Croatia in order for the truth finally to be found out,” the minister told the state television RTS.

Jeremić said that Croatia had refused to face the fact that 250,000 ethnic Serbs had been ethnically cleansed from the territory of Croatia in 1995. “We will do all in our power to have our case appropriately presented to the court. We will review all developments in the 20th century, World War II and Independent State of Croatia. We will turn to history to find out the truth for the sake of our common future,” the foreign minister stressed.

My point

It is quite clear that both sides have made brutalities, ethnic cleansings, war crimes etc to each other. On the one hand these events also include a part of myths or one-sided propaganda for political purposes, on the other hand the full picture or true story is still waiting for its paragon. While the process in ICJ will take at least some two years I am in doubts if this is the right way to complement the history. I think that a better way could be a “Truth Commission” like implemented in South Africa after apartheid. Due the lack of verdicts this kind of forum can go deeper to issues on the ground, it can also make base for mutual understanding better than some technical court procedure far away.

About Croatian/Serbian conflicts I have published few articles earlier, such as “Operation Storm” 5/8/2008 and 22/9/2008, “Nazi’s Funeral shadows Croatia’s past” on 1/8/2008, which can be found from my Archives:Blog.


Operation Storm – follow-up document

September 22, 2008

As follow-up to my previous article “Operation Storm – forgotten pogrom” published on 5th August 2008 I have now added to my document library a document “Croatia: Krajina 1991 genocide” which includes a comprehensive study “Tudjman & the Croatian Ustashe Nazi genocide of Krajina Serbs in 1991 – Part 1 and Part 2 – by Nathan Pearlstein, Joshua Rosenberg, Max Rosenthal and Shlomo Baum”.

Due the reason that part 2 includes extremely brutal photographs I have removed them from this document. If one wants look the full article it can be found through following links:



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