Two US-based Serb NGO’s are taking legal action against a private US military company they accuse of helping Croatia commit genocide against Croatian Serbs in the final stages of the 1991-1995 Yugoslav wars.
The groups, “Victims of Genocide in Krajina” and “Serb Krajina Congress”, submitted a lawsuit to the federal court in Chicago in August 2010, accusing MPRI (Military Professional Resources Inc.) of being an accomplice in genocide.
Last week, the Chicago court ruled it could have jurisdiction in the matter and gave the case the green light to proceed to trial.
The plaintiffs are seeking more than $10 billion in damages from the company, $25,000 per victim, plus 16 years interest at 5%. MPRI has filed an appeal and requested that the trial be held in Washington, DC, while the plaintiffs claim a Washington would be biased in MPRI’s favor.
The plaintiffs allege that MPRI – comprised of former high-ranking US military figures, including a chief architect of Operation Desert Storm a few years prior in Iraq – was behind the Croatian military’s “Operation Storm”.
MPRI, founded in late 1980s by retired US generals, is one of the top and earliest private defense contractors in the US. Its employees have trained foreign armies at ranges in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and South Africa.
During the Balkan wars, local forces in Croatia were referred to MPRI by the US Department of Defense and used their training. After the war, MPRI signed a $140 million contract with the US government to train the Bosnian army. Nearly 200 MPRI personnel participated in the US-supervised “Train and Equip” program.
The lawsuit alleges that MPRI trained and armed the Croatian army ahead of Operation Storm and participated in the operation, which expelled 200,000 Serbs from the Krajina region of Croatia. The offensive led to the recapture of the Serb-held Krajina region, the defeat of rebel Serbs, and ultimately, the end of the war.
Operation Storm, the largest European land offensive since World War II, began in early August 1995, with 150,000 Croatian Army troops attacking some 300 kilometers of front lines, aided by the Bosnian Army on the other side of the border.
On the second day of the offensive, Croatian Serb forces collapsed and the bulk of the RSK army retreated and fled to Serbia and Bosnian territory under Bosnian Serb control.
In April this year, Croatian top generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac were found guilty and sentenced to 24 and 18 years in prison, respectively, for the persecution and murder of more than 300 ethnic Croatian Serbs.
Many military experts believe that logistically and tactically the Croatian army could never have conducted an operation of this scale without MPRI training. In addition, they claim that Operation Storm bore typical US tactical characteristics, combining air, artillery and infantry attacks with initial disabling command and control networks. The UN commander’s presence during the operation provoked further suspicions.
MPRI officials continue to deny any role in Operation Storm. Some former MPRI officials said that they provided some training, largely for commissioned officers, but had no significant intelligence activities or professional influence.
However, after the war, Croatian bestowed upon former MPRI executive director General Richard Griffits the Order of the Croatian Clover, the country’s top military decoration. The company’s website also uses praise from Croatian authorities as a key reference and marketing tool.
MPRI’s training of the Croatian army and speculations that MPRI officers were behind Operation Storm was indeed beneficial for the company’s future prospects. In 2000, MPRI was acquired by L-3 Communications for $40 million.
The absolute military success of Operation Storm helped MPRI metamorphose from a small company to a major military and security contractor.
With the Croatian ‘job’ as a business reference, MPRI went on to sign several other multi-million-dollar contracts, from providing security training to African countries and aiding fighting drug cartels in South America to dozens of contracts in Iraq.
by Anes Alic for ISA Intel. Copyright 2011, ISA Intel. All rights reserved