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Human rights in Croatia: Reaction on Human Rights Watch Report from Sept 2003

Zdeslav Hrepić

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 -----Original Message-----
From:               Hrepic, Zdeslav 
Sent:                Monday, September 08, 2003 6:00 PM
To:                   'hrwatcheu@skynet.be'
Cc:                   'hrwnyc@hrw.org'; 'hrwdc@hrw.org'; 'hrwla@hrw.org'; 'hrwsf@hrw.org'; 'hrwuk@hrw.org'; 'hrwgva@hrw.org'
Subject:           Human rights in Croatia

Dear Ms. Leicht,

Related to "fresh" Human Rights Watch report on Croatia (http://www.hrw.org/press/2003/09/croatia090203.htm), let me ask the following:

 I am a Croat, born in Split, Croatia. I am currently abroad and I would like to go back to Croatia but I can not find a job for which I am qualified. Even if I find it, I can not secure a simple place to live with it - unless I take a loan for which I would have to pay off an average Croatian salary every month for next 20 years.

 Did anyone in your watchful organization ever considered to find out how many Croatians in Croatia can not find a job and can not do anything to secure a place to live?

You might also add to this pool those Croatians abroad, like myself, that would like to go home but have no opportunity to make living there (although they e.g. did not kill and bombshelled civilians). Eventually you might care to express your concern about our human rights too.

 Since you did not care about HUMAN rights in Croatia during communist rule nor during Serbian occupation,  this might be a chance for you to make up for those great omissions. Please consider starting to protect HUMAN rights in Croatia, rather than Serbian rights. Croatian government is breaking them daily - and regularly in coordination with (or even under pressure of) "western democracies". However, I hope you consider Croatians, Hungarians, Romanians, Italians, Bosnians and others - humans too. And their rights worth protecting too.

 Following your own twisted ways, one would expect that you will also report about status of human rights of Croatians and other non-Serb nationalities in Serbia and Montenegro. For the organization of your "caliber" it should not be too difficult to realize their rights are wildly violated. Much more than human rights in Serbia on average. And far more than Serbian rights in Croatia. And again these people did not kill and bombshelled civilians in Serbia or anywhere else.

 However, on your web page related to Serbia and Montenegro (http://www.hrw.org/europe/fry.php) not only that you do not say a word about these violations of human rights - but you make a step further - and put your report on Serbs in Croatia at the top of the page - related to Serbia and Montenegro. So that reader who wants to see if there are any problems in S&M can quickly realize that everything is fine in that country and real problems are in Croatia - and those problems are related to rights of Serbs only.

 Amazing.  I simply love those of your kind. One can just hope s/he does not ever need your protection.

 I sincerely hope your "eyes" will one day reach longer than you are instructed to, paid for or in the best case - just allowed to.

 Humanly

Zdeslav Hrepic

 

  -----Original Message-----
From:               Hrepic, Zdeslav 
Sent:                Thursday, September 11, 2003 9:19 PM
To:                   'hrwatcheu@skynet.be'
Cc:                   'hrwnyc@hrw.org'; 'hrwdc@hrw.org'; 'hrwla@hrw.org'; 'hrwsf@hrw.org'; 'hrwuk@hrw.org'; 'hrwgva@hrw.org'
Subject:           RE: Human rights in Croatia

 Dear Ms. Leicht,

 In addition to my earlier letter related to your report on Human rights in Croatia I wanted to inform you about one of the sources that you used for this report. I would kindly ask you to read about it:

http://www.croatianworld.net/CROWNframes.htm?/Letters/3070.htm

 My comment to this is that it is amazing that the way in which western public is informed about Croatia still works the same way as it worked 14 and more years ago during communist Yugoslavia: Namely, western informators go to Belgrade to ask about Croatia. 

What I never understood is why westerners have been so eager to believe whatever they were told there. Also  - why they have been so persistent in presenting this one side of info. In spite the abundant evidence they should not.  E.g.:

 Cohen, P. J. (1996). Serbia's secret war: Propaganda and the deceit of history (1st ed.). College Station: Texas: A&M University Press.

 One another, painful example for this illogical yet unconditional cooperation with sources from Belgrade is that westerners still teach that that Serbo-Croatian language is spoken in Croatia.

http://www.lmp.ucla.edu/profiles/profs01.htm

 This "Serbo-Croatian" thing communists invented in 1954 as a transitional phase to Serbian language for all. This lasted until 1991. So during "full" 37 years of history.

 However this transitional language continues to live in academic space of western universities. Knowledgeable professors support their claims with literature from this period (notice that there are no references before 1954 nor after 1992). Also, this litereture -  all had the identical source.

 I guess when there is too much democracy in politics and media, it is difficult for any tiny bit of truth to go through.

And human rights are not tiny. They are big thing.

 When are they going to pass through?

 Am I asking a wrong person / organization?

Sincerely

Zdeslav Hrepic

 ------------------------------------------------------------------- 

-----Original Message-----
From: Dorit Radzin [mailto:radzind@hrw.org]
Sent: Monday, September 15, 2003 2:46 PM
To: Hrepic, Zdeslav
Subject: your letter on Human Rights Watch's research on Croatia

Dear Mr. Hrepic,

 Thank you for your letter commenting on our recent report on impediments to refugee returns to Croatia.

 Human Rights Watch sometimes receives complaints from private individuals, government officials, and other persons, similar to yours

-- namely, that we are biased against ethnic groups or states to which they belong. In Serbia, for example, many believe that Human Rights Watch has singled out Serbia and Serbs as the favorite "target" for criticism.  What those who complain about HRW's alleged bias all have in common is insistence that the "other side" is also violating rights, implying that the other side's violations somehow justify or make less relevant the violations made by "our side."

 From Human Rights Watch's point of view, however, a violation of human rights remains a violation irrespecive of whether somebody else violates rights or not.  Human Rights Watch does not count and compare violations committed by or against members of one group with the violations committed by or against by members of another group.  We are concerned with violations of rights no matter which group the victim or the perpetrator belongs to.

 Another common feature the critics of Human Rights Watch share is the belief that the organization's alleged bias makes it part of a conspiracy.  As you write in one of your letters, we are "instructed to, paid for or in the best case - just allowed to" report about certain violations.  I assure you, Mr Hrepic, that Human Rights Watch is not involved in any conspiracy against Croatia, Croats, or any other entity, group, or person, and that what we report about is entirely a matter of our choice.

 Finally, the allegations of Human Rights Watch's bias often simply state

 facts wrongly.  The inaccuracies in your letter may have contributed to the overall negative assessment you make of our latest report and our work in general.

 You begin by stating that the report ("Broken Promises: Impediments to Refugee Return to Croatia") was done by "western informators go[ing] to Belgrade to ask about Croatia."  On the contrary: the research for the report was conducted in Croatia, with the exception of several interviews conducted in Serbia.  You can very easily establish that by looking into the locations (in the footnotes) of the interviews conducted during the research.

 You also state that HRW does not report on human rights of non-Serbs in Serbia and Montenegro.  According to your letter, on our web page on Serbia and Montenegro (http://www.hrw.org/europe/fry.php), we do not "say a word" about violations of non-Serbs' rights.  This is manifestly wrong.  For example, the seventh document on our Serbia-Montenegro page, entitled, "Progress on War Crimes Accountability, the Rule of Law, and Minority Rights in Serbia and Montenegro" (http://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/eca/serbiatestimony060403.htm),

addresses violations of rights of ethnic Albanians in southern Serbia and the rights of Roma in the country.  There are also numerous press releases, reports, and backgrounders on our Serbia-Montenegro page advocating cooperation of Serbia and Montenegro with the International Criminal for the former Yugoslavia, so that perpetrators of war crimes against non-Serbs could be brought to justice.  Just as numerous are the reports about violations of human rights of Kosovo Albanians.

 With regard to the letter by Mr. John Kraljic, President of the National

 Federation of Croatian Americans (NFCA), to which you kindly draw our attention, you have probably noticed that the letter does not dispute any of the facts in our 61-page report.  Instead, it discusses extensively the work and personal qualities of Mr. Savo Strbac.  Such a disproportionate attention given to Mr. Strbac is peculiar, given that Mr. Strbac is only one of about eighty persons interviewed in the report; he is quoted in eight, out of 333, footnotes in the report.

 Moreover, even if everything Mr. Kraljic writes about Mr. Strbac were true, it would be irrelevant as to the issue of accuracy of the information provided by him and used by Human Rights Watch in the report "Broken Promises."  Mr. Kraljic does not point at any inaccuracy in those sentences in the report in which Mr. Strbac is a source.  To find such inaccuracy would be difficult indeed, because Mr. Strbac's figures on the number of arrested war crime suspects among Croatian Serbs mainly coincide with the figures provided separately by the OSCE.  Mr. Strbac also provided Human Rights Watch with the dates on which particular Serb suspects were arrested and the date of their aquittals or convictions. Such dates are rather trivial pieces of information, not "politically charged," and unsuitable for manipulation for political purposes.  There is nothing to suggest that Mr. Strbac "fabricated" the dates, and one hardly conceive what goal could anybody try to achieve by making that sort of fabrication.

 Finally, Mr. Hrepic, I would like to clarify the following: under international human rights law, difficulties in finding employment do not constitute, in and of themselves, a human rights violation. Employment becomes a human rights issue when discrimination on ethnic, religious, and some other grounds prevents a person from finding a job. It is in that narrow sense that Human Rights Watch dealt with the issue of unemployment of Serb returnees in Croatia.  We acknowledge in the report that "employment discrimination on ethnic grounds is difficult to prove since unemployment among Croats is also high."  However, we have come across a number of cases in which it was precisely the ethnicity of the (Serb) job-seeker  -- and not objective difficulties that many in Croatia face when searching for a job -- that prevented the person from getting employment.

 I hope that you will consider these clarifications and approach the Human Rights Watch report as a piece of objective analysis rather than a conspirational attempt to undermine Croatia.

 Thank you for your interest in our work.

 Sincerely,

Dorit Radzin
Associate
Europe & Central Asia Division
Human Rights Watch
radzind@hrw.org 

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-----Original Message-----
From: Hrepic, Zdeslav
Sent: Tuesday, September 16, 2003 9:03 PM
To: 'Dorit Radzin'
Cc: 'hrwatcheu@skynet.be'; 'hrwnyc@hrw.org'; 'hrwdc@hrw.org'; 'hrwla@hrw.org'; 'hrwsf@hrw.org'; 'hrwuk@hrw.org'; 'hrwgva@hrw.org'
Subject: RE: your letter on Human Rights Watch's research on Croatia

Dear Ms. Radzin,

I appreciate your answer to my letter related to HRW reporting on human rights in Croatia. Let me say a few comments.

 >> ... Human Rights Watch is not involved in any conspiracy against Croatia, Croats, or any other entity, group, or person, and that what we report about is entirely a matter of our choice.

 And what is your choice depends on – who this “we” stands for. I mean - who pays for this business (governments, companies, individuals – whoever it is). In that respect, it is so natural that what HRW reports about is entirely a matter of “HRW’s” choice.

 I didn't think this is about conspiracy against anyone. It’s about working FOR someone. I do admire those few souls that volunteer in HRW with best intentions. But for the most part people are there employed simply as executives – just as in any other business.

Do you do this in your free time? That’s fair enough. Neither your donators do this for the sake of righteousness on the planet. Not more than some other figures in democratic countries make wars for the sake of democracy and freedom of people ruled by the dictator whom these “liberators” themselves supported and armed earlier.

 >>You also state that HRW does not report on human rights of non-Serbs in Serbia and Montenegro.  According to your letter, on our web page on Serbia and Montenegro (http://www.hrw.org/europe/fry.php), we do not "say a word" about violations of non-Serbs' rights.  This is manifestly wrong.  For example, the seventh document on our Serbia-Montenegro page, entitled, "Progress on War Crimes Accountability, the Rule of Law, and Minority Rights in Serbia and Montenegro" (http://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/eca/serbiatestimony060403.htm),

addresses violations of rights of ethnic Albanians in southern Serbia and the rights of Roma in the country.

 I went earlier through titles on your web page related to S&M to see if I could find an equivalent report on violations of human rights of Croats in Vojvodina and in Boka Kotorska (where Croats constituted until not so long ago about 90% of population and today about 5%).

 I did go all the way down the page, so - to seventh title and below. But by the time I reached to the seventh one, I probably did not read all titles whose beginnings clearly were not related to what I was looking for. And you can probably see why title that starts with: “Progress on War Crimes Accountability” does not seem like the topic I mentioned.

 So I missed this title but nevertheless – there is nothing in that report about violations of human rights of Croats in Serbia.

Furthermore, this well buried report with misleading title makes some wrong implications. Because only Albanians and Roma are mentioned, this wrongly suggests that either:

(1)Albanians and Roma are the only minorities in Serbia or

(2) That these are only minorities whose human rights are violated in Serbia.

Each of these is far from correct.

 Croats are mentioned in that report in this context:

“Issuance of indictments or other concrete and verifiable evidence of progress on domestic investigations into prominent alleged war crimes, including Batajnica (mass graves in Belgrade’s suburbs, containing some 500 bodies of Kosovo Albanians killed in 1999), the Bitiqi Brothers (U.S. citizens of Albanian origin, allegedly killed by the Serbian police in 1999), and Ovcara (killing of 200 Croats near Vukovar in 1991).”

 My questions related to this are:

  1. Vukovar is in Croatia, unlike Batajnica and Kosovo. How Vukovar finished in Serbian violations of human rights in Serbia? How is it Serbian "domestic" crime? It was crime commited during their aggression on Croatia.
  2. If you wanted to talk about Serbian war crimes in Croatia (which you didn't but if you did) - than Vukovar is not the only place in Croatia where Serbs committed the same kind of crime.
  3. Further, what is it that makes these two people of US citizenship so special in this report? Is it bigger crime since they were US citizens? I know it’s not in theory. But practically?

Maybe two other of your reports related to ICC suggest the practical answer to my last question (please see below). I am glad you are bringing that up. But the above sentence indicates you act (report) along the same lines:

 Why the US needs this court
America's rejection of the International Criminal Court is a threat to its own security
The irony is obvious: that Washington simultaneously demands complete co-operation with international justice at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal (or else), and complete non-co-operation with international justice at the ICC (or else).
June 15, 2003     Commentary

 U.S. Pressure on Croatia and Slovenia Undermines Justice
Former Yugoslav States Should Reject ICC Side Agreements
The Bush administration's pressure on Croatia and Slovenia in pursuit of a special exemption from the International Criminal Court (ICC) while rightly insisting on cooperation with the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal is blatant hypocrisy, Human Rights Watch said today.   (Bosnian)

  >>Finally, Mr. Hrepic, I would like to clarify the following: under international human rights law, difficulties in finding employment do not constitute, in and of themselves, a human rights violation. Employment becomes a human rights issue when discrimination on ethnic, religious, and some other grounds prevents a person from finding a job.

 This makes sense to me. But why don’t you follow this yourself? Your report on Croatia suggests that: “The government should offer tax exemptions and other financial incentives to owners of private businesses who employ minority returnees.”

 Don’t you suggest with this that Croatian government should  “prevent a [nonminority] person from finding a job”. Precisely in situation when you yourself acknowledge that: “...unemployment among Croats is also high.”

Again - please consider investigating problems with human rights in Croatia.

 Would you please also consider this:

 In the period of ex-Yugoslavia, 70% of the police stuff in Croatia was Serbian, while they constituted 12.2% of the entire population. In some Croatian regions these figures were even more striking: in Istria the police stuff was 82% Serbian, 95% school teachers were the Serbs. The Serbs also occupied almost all the leading positions in majority of the Croatian schools, enterprises and political institutions.

http://mirror.veus.hr/darko/etf/et112.html#jugo

 I sincerely hope this is not what you aim at with your suggestions in this report.

 With respect to sources, you made several good points. Nevertheless, what you find - always depends on what you look for. And what you look for is again, as you put it “entirely a matter of your choice”.

 In a similar way, for example, International Criminal Court (ICC) is investigating war crimes in Croatia so they started and ended at  very particular places and at very particular points in time. Surely they find what they need. And what they need is apparently pre-determined by what they look for. Due to this kind of justice, these righteousness protecting agencies together with media managed to equate agressor and victim - for reasons that only they know. This created situation in which many war crimes likely will never be investigated and masters of war like Karadjic and Mladic are free.

  So specially because things are so biased, I can not understand why your top pages on both – Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro start with two reports from Croatia. And why is equivalent report from Serbia buried down into the page, masked with other, not really related things and inaccurately and inadequately presented.

 This is a big issue because EVEN if HRW and similar organizations would do their fair share - in a way they claim they do - it is media (media owners - again owners) who pick what to talk about from there. I hope you are not deliberately misleading anyway biased media.

 I hope that you will consider these clarifications and approach all the people in Croatia and elsewhere in the world as to equally valid human beings.

 Sincerely,

Zdeslav Hrepic

Na vrh

 

2003-09-08