Monday, October 16, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [18]

UNDUE PROCESS [continued]

There is more--much more--of the same. We get the cases, of Momcilo Krajisnik and Momir Talic, along with lurid descriptions of trigger-happy US Navy SEALS itching to kill a war criminal. Charges of "genocide" (she always put the word in quotes) are trumped in order to justify the arrest of any and every Serb leader vindictive Western forces can get their hands on. There is nowhere to hide. Serbs are being hounded from one end of the globe to another. The persecution is ceaseless and ruthless, driven only by an insane hatred of "the Serbs."

Think I'm exaggerating the hyperbole? Have a gander at this example of sober, even-handed analysis and rhetorical restraint:

"Far from home, in a hostile environment, the defendants attract no attention from the human rights activists who concern themselves with the fact of accused criminals in the United States or European countries. They are pariahs, doomed to rot in prison."

And those veiled implications that the Tribunal allows, or even causes, the deaths of indictees? The veil comes off:

"In addition to killing defendants or virtually burying them alive..."

Honestly. The overwrought prose is bad enough; but to speak of the fate of prisoners in the cushy prison at The Hague to "rotting in prison" is borderline obscene when one considers that two of the five case studies she presents were indicted for, among other things, responsibility for the sadistic horror of Trnopolje. Johnstone's sympathy for "the Serbs" appears to be a zero-sum game; she has absolutely no sense of proportion or sensitivity for their victims--for, surely, if we are to withold judgement on the guilt of the accused, shouldn't she be equally respectful of the accusers?

Perhaps I'm merely venting; in this section her facade of imparitiality has come off, revealing not only open collusion with ethnic cleansing in Bosnia but even admiration
for the architects of that genocidal exercise. A paragraph attacking the prosecutors for the Tribunal for having been spotlight-grabbing bullies concludes with this tribute to the Big Guy:

"Until Milosevic defied the Tribunal's exhortations to take charge of his own defense, the defense was invisible and inaudible. His skill in cross-examining witnesses and exposing glaring contradictions in the Prosecution's case soon caused the media spotlights to be turned off."

Anyone familiar with the crudetactics Milosevic used in his cross-examinations shouldbadger share my disgust at this passage; to describe such cyncial and cruel bullying as "skillful" requires a level of callousness I simply cannot fathom.

She goes on to draw ridiculous parallels; the decision to deny the defense access to information allegedly related to ongoing intelligence work might be a cause for legitimate concern, but it hardly conjures up comparisons to the Dreyfus case in my mind; the use of pixilated images to protect the identity of witnesses is not, contrary to her bizarre assertion, reminiscent of the Inquisition. Her assertion that:

"This anonymity is particularly grave in proceedings where verbal testimony rather than material proof constitutes the principal basis for conviction."

deserves--but does not receive--elaboration. Why is the anonymity so grave? Given the circumstances in Bosnia, given the situation, isn't anonymous testimony a reasonable protection to provide victims and witnesses in exchange for agreeing to testify? Don't witnesses have rights?

The answer, of course, is that Johnstone--like Milosevic and her other heroes--simply does not acknowledge the legitimacy of the Tribunal; it, not war criminals from the Yugoslav wars, is on trial as far as she is concerned.

Her final attempt to question the reliability of verbal testimony in cases involving genocide is clumsy; she reports a case from March 1993, where a "Muslim" [sic] court convicted a Serb of "genocide", for killing two brothers--a ridiculous charge. It turned out that he had been tortured into confessing, and that his victims were still alive.

To Johnstone, this is proof that "witnesses statements and even confessions are the least reliable proof of guilt." A less apt analogy would be hard to draw; the ICTY does not torture confessions out of suspects; the Bosnian court in 1993 was hardly an impartial or objective venue; nobody in The Hague is there as a lone citizen committing two murders; the charge of "genocide" in that case was absurd. Making sloppy, wild parallels like this expose her self-delusion to the reader.


Owen said...

Kirk, you seem to forget that to some people, no names, no pack drill, Trnopolje was a refugee camp to which people came for shelter and which they were free to leave at any time. That was the basis of the LM case claiming that the ITN pictures had misrepresented the situation there.

As we know, a jury decided otherwise, convinced in particular by the evidence of Idriz Merdzanic, the doctor from Prijedor, who testified to his own imprisonment and the savage treatment inmates received at the hands of the guards.

I mention Dr Merdzanic because I've just come across an extraordinary article by Jared Israel. It seems very much in tune with the spirit of Johnstone's defence of the right of the bullies and torturers to shelter behind the injustice inflicted on the Serbian people by the Western media.

Israel turns on LM and Deichmann, arguing that the explanation for the loss of the libel case - British libel laws and an unfair Judge - that portrays Deichmann and LM as "abused heroes" is wrong.

In fact what happened was a betrayal of the Serbian people, ITN's real targets, by Deichmann and LM, who accepted everything the man Israel refers to simply as "the physician" as "gospel truth".

"Who is this "physician"? Deichmann doesn't tell us. Does he know? Did anyone from the LM side challenge the physician's credentials? Apparently not."

By failing to counter the doctor's "attack" on the Serbs, LM and Deichmann lost the case and so betrayed the Serbian people. (The possibility that the LM legal team seem to have worked out that the doctor's evidence was so strong challenging him would have dealt the death blow to any hope they had of convincing the jury of their technical argument over the pictures is lost on Israel.)

And we think Johnstone lives in Wonderland.

Owen said...

Sorry, forgot the quotation marks around "injustice".

Kirk Johnson said...

I am aware of Jared Israel, but not of this article--thanks for the heads up.

Shaina said...

Does she really protest against the use of pixilated images?!

I guess it shouldn't surprise me, but that seems to be a new low-even for her.

For one, the same measure is used in courts around the world to protect witnesses.
Secondly,the defense witnesses in many situations are also under protection and have their images distorted.
I'm sure if one of Milosevic's defense witnesses had his or her identity protected Johnstone wouldn't protest one bit.

Owen said...

Anonymity of witnesses is a problem for any legal process. But Johnstone seems to be suggesting that it is wrong for a court to consider that on balance the interests of justice are best served by allowing anonymity.

Owen said...

Of course Johnstone would have a point regarding the reliability of anonymous witnesss - I presume she refers to the issue of the "coached" witnesses in the Tadic case. There are a number of issues concerning "due process" that have arisen concerning both the ICTY and the ICTR. So it is legitimate to criticise some of the decisions that the Tribunals ahve taken.

However - if Johnstone wants her criticisms to be given a hearing she should reassure herself first that her listeners are anticipating an objective discussion of how best justice can be achieved rather than the grating sound of the grinding of axes.