Richard Goldstone, the first chief prosecutor of the UN war crime tribunal for former Yugoslavia, told N1 that the final verdict in the trial of Serbian former security officers Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic is very important and is a proper end to the 30-year-long work of the Hague Tribunal.
Speaking in N1's Pressing show with Amir Zukic, Goldstone pointed out the fact that this was the first time senior officials of Serbia were sentenced for serious war crimes.
Asked to comment on words of current chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz, who assessed that the verdict proved there was no civil war but international conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Goldstone said he absolutely agrees with this take.
According to him, this verdict as well as the one from 2011 which convicted Bosnian Croat politicians and military officers for a joint criminal enterprise led by former and late Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, defines the aspect of the character of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
War crimes were committed on all sides, he stressed, adding however that the court rulings determined there was a plan on which the crimes were committed against the people of BiH.
Asked if this verdict will remain a dead letter, Goldstone replied that the importance of these decisions is in having good leaders who can start the process of reconciliation based on the facts.
As long as crimes are glorified, there will be no peace, Goldstone stressed, adding that the peace will come when victims feel there is a justice.
Also, he said, there will be no peace as long as the leaders in Croatia and Serbia do not recognise crimes.
The facts are there but as long as they are denied, you will have hatred among the people, he underlined.
Goldstone also spoke about a possibility of Bosnia and Herzegovina relaunching the revision of verdict against Serbia before the International Court of Justice. Asked if this could happen now that two senior officials of Serbia of that time were sentenced in a final verdict, he replied that the deadline for that – which is ten years, has expired.
He deems this is the end of the road for the international criminal procedures in the former Yugoslavia and this will not happen.
Commenting on the fact that some politicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia still glorify war criminals such as Dario Kordic, Goldstone said this practice must end because a war criminal remains a war criminal, even after serving the sentence, while victims are to decide whether they will be accepted in the community.
If they did not ask for forgiveness, they cannot expect to be accepted in the society where the victims live and there is no discussion on that, he stressed.
Speaking about the role of the UN troops in the arrest of convicted war criminals, Bosnian Serb military and political officials Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, Goldstone said he was shocked by the fact that the UN forces refused to arrest them.
However, he noted, he did not think of the political background of that. According to him, there was a main objection coming from military leadership in Washington, which said it should be the police and not army who would conduct the arrests. Then president Bill Clinton was not ready to deny Pentagon's decision, according to him.
Goldstone also said some agreed with him that the UN troops should arrest those suspected of war crimes, adding that both Karadzic and Mladic should have been arrested back in the 1990s.
Asked if he knew that the Serb leaders were told there would be no NATO intervention against the Serb forces that besieged Srebrenica and committed genocide, which was confirmed by Geoffrey Nice and Diego Arria in their interviews with N1, Goldstone denied having such information.
At the time when genocide was committed, we knew nothing, he added.