Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Suspicious Goings-On at the Hague

Wed, August 25, 2004
Mysteries at The Hague
By PETER WORTHINGTON

Calgary filmmaker Garth Pritchard admits to being confused -- and angry. He has rejected Slobodan Milosevic's attempt to use him as a witness at his war crimes trial, but Pritchard says The Hague now wants him as a witness -- but not against Milosevic.
Instead they want him as a witness for atrocities and human rights abuses committed by Croats when they overran the centre of Knin, capital of Serbian-occupied Krajina, which Croatia attacked and conquered in 1995.
"I don't get it," says Pritchard. "Film footage I shot for the National Film Board around 1995 was turned over to prosecutors at The Hague, as evidence of massacres of people and all livestock in Knin. My tapes and testimony mysteriously disappeared -- were supposedly lost. Now they are found. Equally mysteriously."
After a report in the Sun last weekend, Pritchard says he was phoned yesterday by the RCMP working in The Hague, saying his video footage has since been found and he's wanted to testify.
"Something seems fishy," Pritchard says. "The Sun article was quoted, and I was told my tapes and testimony had been turned over to the Croats for prosecution."
He said RCMP officer Tom Steendoordan phoned him from The Hague, reported finding his "lost" material and it was now intended to investigate what happened in Knin.
Pritchard has fretted over the ignoring of Knin atrocities for years -- one of the Balkan war's horror stories.
When the Croats -- re-armed by the Germans -- occupied Krajina, attention focused on the Medak pocket where Canadians came under Croat fire.
"I was in Knin, where Maj. Gen. Alain Forand was in command of some 32 Canadians and gave sanctuary to about 800 Serbian refugees, feeding and protecting them for close to two months."
The UN insisted these Serbs were not refugees and should not be protected. "We all knew they'd be killed if we didn't protect them. Forand told the world 'not on my watch' will they be turfed out to be killed. In my eyes, Forand is a hero for refusing to turn these people over to the Croats."
Eventually the 800 were safely delivered to Serbian territory, and Knin was relegated to the Memory Hole.
"But I had it all on video," Pritchard says. "Livestock slaughtered, women eviscerated, raped, burned."
He says Steendoordan told him 82 bodies were found in Knin, and that the Croats want to follow up on war crimes.
"That makes me suspicious," says Pritchard. "Croats investigating Croat war crimes in Knin? They've got to be kidding. It smells of coverup." As for Kosovo, Pritchard says, Steendoordan corrected his claim of only 3,000 bodies found, not the widely accepted 200,000 dead in mass graves.
"He said 3,000 was accurate then. Now 5,080 bodies have been found -- but still no mass graves." Pritchard is pleased that some of the truth is beginning to come out. Pritchard told the Sun that Milosevic could "rot in hell" before he'd testify on his behalf that there were no mass murders in Kosovo.
Bosnia, yes, but not Kosovo.
"Yes, I want the truth to come out, but as a journalist I have no intention of testifying on behalf of Croats either. They only got my video footage in the first place because the film board owned it and gave it to them."
A test of The Hague's sincerity in exposing war crimes in Knin will be if Gen. Forand, now retired, testifies.
"This is a man whose courage and integrity saved the lives of 800 Serb refugees, when his Canadian superiors and the UN wanted them sacrificed to expediency." He adds: "Frankly, I don't trust much that happens at The Hague."