In the cross-examination of Miomir Zuzul, testifying as Ante Gotovina’s defense witness, there was another linguistic debate over Tudjman’s sentence that the Serbs’ ‘civil rights should ostensibly be guaranteed’. The prosecution noted that after saying that the president ‘chuckled a little’. The witness argued that he didn’t chuckle at the thought that Serbs should have civil rights, but at the concept of civil rights as it is understood in the West

Miomir Žužul, svjedok odbrane Ante GotovineMiomir Žužul, svjedok odbrane Ante Gotovine

As former Croatian foreign minister Miomir Zuzul continued his evidence, a linguistic debate reopened over a sentence president Franjo Tudjman said on 31 July 1995 at the Brijuni meeting. Tudjman said that the "Serbs should be provided with a route to leave, while we would pretend to guarantee their civil right". The issue was raised by the prosecution after the witness in his examination-in chief argued that the translation into English was not quite correct as the Croatian word he used in that context should be translated as ‘so-called’. According to the witness, that doesn’t mean that the president implied that Croatia should only pretend to respect the Serbs’ human rights during and after Operation Storm.

Prosecutor Stefan Waespi searched the Internet and found that the Croatian-English dictionaries provide a number of synonyms for the Croatian word Tudjman used, and all of them, the prosecution alleged, indicate that Tudjman intended to guarantee the Serbs’ rights only before the eyes of the international community and not for real. The witness disagreed, claiming that the word was used to qualify the term ‘civil rights’ because Tudjman didn’t believe in that and some other Western concepts. As Zuzul put it, it didn’t mean that the Croatian president meant ‘ostensible guarantees’ of the Serbs’ rights.

The prosecution noted then that, according to the audio recording of the Brijuni meeting, Tudjman ‘chuckled a little’ after he said the controversial sentence. According to Zuzul, this actually proved his point. The president, Zuzul clarified, chuckled at the mere mention of civil rights because his views were not close to the views prevalent in the modern world and to the concepts of the Western civilization, such as democracy, freedom of press or civil rights. Tudjman often used the term ‘so-called’ when he spoke about them, Zuzul said, inviting the prosecution to conduct a ‘lexical analysis’ of the president’s speeches to verify his claim.

Regardless of frequent use of the terms ‘ostensibly’ and ‘pretend’, and sporadic chuckling at the mention of the Serbs’ human rights, Tudjman was committed to the respect of those rights, because he knew it would bring Croatia closer to the international community, Tudjman’s former advisor and envoy maintained.

In an effort to prove that Croatia only pretended to allow the Serbs to return to Krajina after Operation Storm, the prosecution showed Zuzul’s several statements he had made at the time. A text published in the New York Times in July 1995 quoted Zuzul’s words about a ‘canker sore on Croatia’s body’. In his diplomatic diary US ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith noted that Zuzul told him to ‘forget about the Serbs returning to Krajina as it would only bring trouble’. The witness clarified that by saying ‘canker sore’ he had meant the occupation of Croatia and not the Serb population. According to Zuzul, Galbraith’s notes didn’t correspond the actual events.

Former Croatian foreign minister and one of Tudjman’s most prominent diplomats thus completed his evidence. The trial of Gotovina, Cermak and Markac, charged with crimes perpetrated during the Operation Storm and after it in August 1995 continued in closed session with the evidence given by the next witness of Ante Gotovina’s defense.