Saturday, August 08, 2009

Greek journalist sued for writing about the presence of Greek paramilitaries in Bosnia

INTERVIEW: On 27 July 2009 Greek journalist sued for writing about the presence of Greek paramilitaries in Bosnia
August 5, 2009
Interviewer:Daniel Toljaga
Congress of North American Bosniaks
On 27 July 2009 Mr. Stavros Vitalis, representing the Panhellenic Macedonian Front, filed a libel suit against the acclaimed journalist Mr. Takis Michas, best known for his authorship of the book “Unholy Alliance: Greece and Milosevic’s Serbia.” He is suing the journalist for describing- in the daily “Eleftherotypia” - Greek mercenaries as “paramilitaries who took part in the slaughter in Srebrenica.”
Mr. Vitalis is one of the leading Greek volunteers who have admitted taking part in the Srebrenica genocide. But, that’s not how he sees it.
In a statement distributed to the media, he claimed that the Greek volunteers who fought in Bosnia under the command of General Mladic were there in order to help the Serbs “who were being slaughtered by international gangs that were also stealing their houses, their country and their dignity.”
DANIEL TOLJAGA: Mr. Michas, thank you for agreeing to take part in this interview. To begin with, what is the Panhellenic Macedonian Front that has filed this suit against you through its representative Mr. Vitalis?
TAKIS MICHAS: It is a Greek nationalist political organization which also includes socialists and conservative former politicians. Up until now its central campaign theme has been its advocacy of the view that Macedonia along with everything related to it (history, symbols, etc.) is exclusively Greek.
DANIEL TOLJAGA: What exactly does Mr. Vitalis hope to achieve with this lawsuit?
TAKIS MICHAS: Bearing in mind that Karadzic’s trial will also be taking place next year, what they will be hoping is to create an alternative debate in which the substance of what happened at Srebrenica will be called into question. In other words, while the world is trying the war crimes perpetrated at Srebrenica, in Greece they will be putting the critics of the war crimes at Srebrenica on trial!
DANIEL TOLJAGA: Do you have any comments about the lawsuit and the press statements Mr. Vitalis has made?
TAKIS MICHAS: Yes. First of all Mr. Vitalis explicitly admits that Greeks (i.e. himself) took part in the planning and execution of the Serb “re-occupation” (as he calls it) of Srebrenica. As he says in his press statement “I was present with a group of senior Serb officers in all the operations for the re-occupation of Srebrenica by the Serbs”.
Secondly, Mr Vitalis admits that the recruitment of Greek volunteers for the war against the legitimate government of Bosnia took place with the implicit approval of the leading Greek politicians Andreas Papandreou and (to a lesser extent) Constantine Mitsotakis. As he puts it:
“The whole of Greece knows that the Greek volunteers had the broad support of Greek society as a whole as well as the support of politicians, mainly belonging to PASOK, because of the warm friendship between Andreas Papandreou and Radovan Karadzic. They also enjoyed the support of New Democracy, through the friendly diplomatic initiatives of Constantine Mitsotakis.”
This reinforces the point I have repeatedly made, namely that Greek support for the Serb war effort was not only moral, economic, diplomatic and political but also military.
DANIEL TOLJAGA: Was Mr. Vitalis present during and after the fall of Srebrenica when Greek paramilitaries hoisted the Greek flag over the town?
TAKIS MICHAS: Well in his own statement he said that together with high ranking Serb officers he took part in all the operations that dealt with the “reoccupation” (as he calls it) of Srebrenica. Now as to whether he was physically present in the hoisting of the flag this is something that only Mr. Mladic knows (and perhaps Mr. Karadzic)!
DANIEL TOLJAGA: It is interesting that he publicly admitted being present himself “in all the military operations” related to the “re-occupation” of Srebrenica. Do you have any idea why Mr. Vitalis has not been investigated for possible war crimes?
TAKIS MICHAS: Because, as I have shown in my book, in Greece Serb actions during the war in Bosnia are not regarded as “crimes” but as “heroic deeds”. This applies to Srebrenica as well. No Greek government has made any statement at any time during the last 15 years explicitly condemning the killings at Srebrenica - this is a unique state of affairs for a European country.
DANIEL TOLJAGA: In the words of U.N. Judge Theodor Meron, who served as the President of the ICTY, Serbs - and I quote - “targeted for extinction the forty thousand Bosnian Muslims living in Srebrenica.” In your opinion, is Mr. Vitalis fully aware that the military operations he took part in resulted in the summary killings of more than 8,000 and the ethnic cleansing of approximately 30,000 people in July 1995? Is he aware that he took part in genocide?
TAKIS MICHAS: According to his own admissions, yes. However, just like Holocaust deniers, these people refuse to accept that mass killings took place in Srebrenica.
DANIEL TOLJAGA: Your book revealed for the first time the presence of Greek paramilitaries in Bosnia. Why has Mr. Vitalis waited so many years since the publication of your book to file a suit?
TAKIS MICHAS: This is an interesting question. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that as I have hinted in other articles I am now in possession of confidential diplomatic documents that show the Greek authorities for the first time admitting the presence of Greek paramilitaries in Bosnia. Possibly they think that by putting pressure on me now they will prevent me publishing these documents. But this of course is only one explanation. There may be others.
DANIEL TOLJAGA: Mr. Vitalis has claimed that the operations of the Greek volunteers “were widely endorsed by Greek society because of the warm friendship that existed between Andreas Papandreou and Radovan Karadzic.” To what extent did this friendship suggest that the government may have been involved?
TAKIS MICHAS: Obviously it involves government in the sense of knowing, tolerating and endorsing the open recruitment of Greek citizens with the aim of fighting against the legally recognized government of Bosnia. It certainly implicates the government of PASOK under Andreas Papandreou.
DANIEL TOLJAGA: I remember, and you also referred to this in your book, that leading Greek judges had publicly refused to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Considering that your right to a fair trial may be seriously impaired by the extreme ultranationalist atmosphere in Greece and the fact that Mr. Vitalis has announced that he plans to call leading Greek nationalist politicians as witnesses, I would like to know whether you intend to seek support from prominent international organizations that specialize in the protection of journalistic freedom?
TAKIS MICHAS: I will certainly be trying to spread the word. Judging from the lawsuit they have filed against me, I guess that from now on they will also be making the glorification of the Serb war effort in Bosnia one of their campaign themes.
DANIEL TOLJAGA: Are you worried about the forthcoming trial?
TAKIS MICHAS: In any other European country this lawsuit would have been thrown out of court. But as I have said repeatedly Greece is not a normal European country. Given the spirit of extreme nationalism that permeates the country and the fact that Karadzic and Mladic are venerated as saints by the majority of the public and the political class, I have every reason to feel worried.
DANIEL TOLJAGA: Thank you for taking part in this interview. We will be keeping a close eye on the progress of your case.

1 comment:

JP said...

The night of July 13- July 14 1995 President Izetbegovic said live on Radio Sarajevo: “the majority of our troops successfully pulled out from Srebrenica and is heading to Bihac to give a hand to Croatian army.” He mentioned no massacre. The same day Radio TV Sarajevo broadcast a documentary about the Srebrenica siege. A Bosnian soldier was interviewed. He stated “ we pulled out but many were still there. Arab volunteers are trying to stop them from running away”. Another Bosnian soldier came on and said “don’t say anything, to journalists jus f..k them off”.
When did commentators first start using the phrase “The Srebrenica Massacre [of x-thousands of Muslim men and boys. No reports from 11 July 1995 and ensuing days and weeks refer to a “Srebrenica massacre of 8000 Muslim men and boys.”
The search-engine Lexis-Nexis registers the following.
11 July: “Iranian foreign minister [Velayati], in a message to the UN secretary-general, has asked for immediate action to prevent a massacre of the defenceless people of Srebrenica by the Serb rebels. SOURCE: Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran Network 1, Tehran, in Persian 0930 gmt 11 Jul 95; Source: Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran Network 1, Tehran, in Persian 0930 gmt 11 Jul 95; SECTION: Part 4 Middle East; THE MIDDLE EAST; IRAN; ME/2353/MED. Message to UN secretary-general. Text of report by Iranian TV on 11th July.
18 July: Reports from the front in mid-July 1995, e.g. Chris Hedges in the New York Times of 18 July 1995, reported that thousands of armed Muslim fighters “slipped” through Serb lines under fire and arriving safe in Tuzla, held by Muslim forces (and a US garrison).
7 August: The news would have still been hot when Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote an Op-Ed piece in “The New Republic” of 7 August 1995 , under the headline: AFTER SREBRENICA. Zbig Brzezinski says only that something awful “might” happen. Nowhere does Brzezinski mention a “Srebrenica massacre”.
19 August: David Rohde, who spearheaded the story that became known as “the Srebrenica Massacre”, did not himself use any such phrase or make such a claim. In his story, in the Guardian of 19 August 19 1995 we find “...I saw what appeared to be a decomposing human leg protruding from freshly turned dirt...” He repeated Albright’s fabrication about a massacre in a soccer stadium in a nearby town, [where] human faeces, blood, and other evidence indicated large numbers of people were confined, and perhaps shot.” Also: “United Nations official estimate that 4,000 to 6,000 Muslim men are still missing in the wake of the Srebrenica and Zepa assaults.”

The lag time between 11 July 1995 and the first mention or press reports adverting to a “Srebrenica Massacre” is two [2] months.
The catch phrase “Srebrenica Massacre” does not appear until weeks after the alleged event. It will not be found in the press until the American-sponsored Croatian “Storm” (Oluja) on Serb Krajina in August-September 1995.

Did the “Srebrenica Massacre” happen? If so, never in the history of journalism since the advent of steam navigation and the electrical telegraph has it taken so long for a big “story” to break.
Chris Hedges of the NY Times reported from the Srebrenica front in mid-July. He had nothing to say about massacres at Srebrenica. He reported that 6000 to 15000 Muslim soldiers had “slipped” through Serb lines" (but shooting all the while).
John Pomfret of the Washington Post reported a week after the fall of Srebrenica that he witnessed about “4,000 Srebrenica troops who made their way through the forest for safety in Tuzla.”

John Peter Maher Ph. D.
Professor Emeritus
Chicago