Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Former US Envoy Speaks at Martic Trial

Ex-ambassador says Croatian offensive against Serb-held territory came after the accused dismissed a peace proposal out of hand.
By Janet Anderson
A former United States ambassador to Croatia this week told the Hague tribunal how Milan Martic’s resistance to an internationally-backed peace plan in spring 1995 led to military action to retake the Krajina region by force later that year.



Martic - who held various positions in Republika Srpska Krajina, RSK, the self-declared Serb territory in Croatia, between 1991 and 1995 - is charged with involvement in a joint criminal enterprise to expel non-Serbs from Croatia and Bosnia during this period.



“War is the consequence of what happens if you don’t make peace,” said Peter Galbraith, who served as ambassador in Zagreb between 1993 and 1998.



Croatian forces launched Operation Storm later in 1995 during which tens of thousands of Serbs were driven from their homes in Krajina.



Galbraith said that early in 1995, he and a Russian colleague tried to present a peace plan known as Z-4, which envisaged broad autonomy for the Serb population in Krajina.



At that time Martic was president of the RSK.



Galbraith described his many meetings with Croatian president Franjo Tudjman and Croatian officials, and separately with Martic and Milan Babic, who at that time had been appointed foreign minister of the Serb entity.



Babic, who also gave evidence at the Martic trial and later committed suicide in his Hague cell, agreed to consider the Z-4 plan, said Galbraith.



But Martic would not even touch the document.



“He refused to receive a peace plan from the most powerful countries in the world,” said Galbraith.



The former ambassador said Babic had told him that former Yugoslav presiident Slobodan Milosevic could have played a decisive role in getting the peace plan accepted by the Croatian Serbs. “One sentence from Milosevic,” Babic reportedly told Galbraith, and Martic and other Serb politicians would have accepted.



In response to cross examination by Martic’s defence counsel Predrag Milovancevic, Galbraith said that he thought it was “extremely stupid” of Martic not to have discussed the Z-4 plan.



If Martic had accepted, said the witness, there would have been no Operation Storm, the Serb population would still be in Krajina, and quite possibly the defendant would not now be in the courtroom.



“It was an avoidable tragedy,” said Galbraith.



Martic is charged with 10 counts of crimes against humanity and nine of violations of the laws and customs of war for crimes including extermination, murder, imprisonment, torture and the destruction of villages.



Milovancevic brought up allegations that a photograph had been published of Galbraith on a Croatian tank during Operation Storm.



The former ambassador explained that he had joined a convoy of Serb refugees in his embassy car and had climbed aboard a tractor when invited to do so, in order to prevent the refugees from being stoned by the angry mob or assaulted by Croatian police.



Galbraith was followed on the witness stand by Slavko Erstic, who described how he was arrested in 1991, and along with more than 100 other Croats, beaten and tortured in a detention facility in Knin, run by police under Martic’s control.



The trial continues on May 2.



Janet Anderson is the director of IWPR’s International Justice Programme in The Hague.

More IWPR's Global Voices

Tourism in Kazakstan: Bad Service, Inflated Prices
Experts say that the government is failing to develop what could be a rich and profitable sector.
Ukraine Prepares for Elections
Defending Media Freedom