ICTY Appeals & Koleda Ensemble

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The Appeals Process for 6 Bosnian Croats at the ICTY

The Voice of Croatia’s Branko Lozančić and Croatian Radio Television journalist Tihomir Vinković.
(Photo: VOC/Branko Lozančić)

Over the past two weeks the appeals process, at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague was held for 6 Croats from Bosnia and Herzegovina, convicted in a first instance ruling for war crimes during the early 90′s in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Jadranko Prlić, Bruno Stojić, Milivoj Petković, Valentin Ćorić, Slobodan Praljak and Berislav Pušić all received sentences of between 10 and 25 years in prison for war crimes allegedly committed during the war. The Voice of Croatia’s Branko Lozančić spoke to Croatian Radio Television journalist Tihomir Vinković who covered the story from the Hague.

Croatian Radio Television journalist Tihomir Vinković.
(Photo: VOC/Branko Lozančić)

Vinković notes that the case has big implications for Croatia, since the Croatian leadership at the time are accused of taking part in a joint criminal enterprise with the objective of removing the Muslim population from the territories on which the Bosnian Croat leadership, acting in concert with the leadership of Croatia, wanted to establish Croat domination.

He notes that according to the prosecution there was a political conspiracy to carve up Bosnia and Herzegovina and create a Greater Croatia or a state dominated by Croats within the borders of what was once Banovina Croatia.

The defence teams are arguing that they did not receive a fair trial, their evidence and witnesses were disregarded. They even claim that testimonies given by prosecution witnesses under cross examination was also disregarded and only their first statements were taken into account.

The prosecution has used terms such as ethnic cleansing and joint criminal enterprise in their cases against the accused, despite the fact that these terms do not exist in international law and have not been applied elsewhere, lacking a concrete legal definition.

Slobodan Praljak on trial at the ICTY.
(Photo: ICTY)

In the past, first instance rulings at the ICTY and final rulings have proven to differ drastically. The appeals council overturned a first instance ruling in the case of Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač who were sentenced to 24 and 18 years respectively. How can an international court’s rulings differ so drastically and is this the face of international law?

Koleda: Keeping Ties through Song and Dance

Croatian Folkloric Ensemble Koleda at the Opera House (Zrinka Lušić)

Croatians living in Australia have always been keen on keeping ties their homeland. The Croatian Folkloric Ensemble Koleda, founded in 1977 by Ljubo and Vera Crvenković, has since its beginnings been an integral part of life for many members of the Croatian community in Sydney. Like many Croatian families looking for a better future in the 1950′s, Vera and Ljubo chose to take on a new adventure and emigrate from post-war Yugoslavia.

Croatian Folkloric Ensemble Koleda archive photos (Zrinka Lušić)

For a short period they lived in Germany arriving in Sydney, Australia in 1960 to start a brighter future. Their ties to their home were very strong. As former members of the Ivan Goran Kovačić Ensemble in Zagreb, they had both developed a strong love for song and dance. This was the spark that led them to establish their own ensemble. It was 1967 when they officially formed the Croatian Folkloric Ensemble Koleda.

Their daughter Nives Crvenković says their idea of creating a common ground for gathering allowed Koleda to develop into much more than just a choir ensemble. “Now that we are celebrating 50 years, and looking back at all of that you can see how much of an impact Koleda has had not only on the Croatian community here, but I think its networks are further reaching than just within Australia”, says Nives. Koleda has provided a true bond for Croatians in Australia. Nives herself believes that if she hadn’t taken part in the ensemble, she might not have learnt to nurture her Croatian heritage. Although an exact number can’t be specified, Nives says that Koleda over the last 50 years has had many hundreds of members.

Croatian Folkloric Ensemble Koleda in Sydney. (Zrinka Lušić)
Croatian Folkloric Ensemble Koleda archive photo (Zrinka Lušić)

Continuous hard work, time and knowledge about Croatian folklore is what has kept this Croatian cultural gem going. The Koleda folkloric ensemble is known for its traditional authenticity. As the late Ljubo (John) Crvenković liked to say, a nation needs to share its traditions, pass them on from generation to generation, in order to preserve itself. It is apparent that the preservation of traditions is a true family affair for the Crvenković family. Each and every member living in Australia has performed or is still an active member of Koleda. Currently, there are three generations of the Crvenković’s actively take part in the ensemble.

On the 22nd April, the Croatian Folkloric Ensemble Koleda will commemorate its 50 years of promoting Croatian heritage, folklore and culture here in Australia and Croatia, with a big concert in Canberra. Their collaborators, as Nives calls them, the Lado Croatian Folkloric Ensemble of Western Australia as well as a musical ensemble from Canberra will join in the celebration. Performing various pieces from Dalmatia and Slavonia and Baranja, 75 dancers and singers will mark all the efforts and success Koleda has had throughout the years.

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