UN Civil Affairs, Region Bihac
HAPPY HOUR (3)
Judgement at UN House
Deep in my heart I always knew that my preoccupation with Happy Hour would lead to my ultimate undoing. But I never thought the end would be so self-inflicted and come so soon and so drastically. I should have become cautious when malicious rumours (no doubt hatched in Janet’s office) began to spread in the RHQ that I managed to do all those Happy Hours because I had nothing else to do. My demise became unmistakably imminent the day I made the fatal mistake of telling Janet how to “doctor the reports”. Stupidly enough, I thought I was cleverly showing her the UN ropes. “You mean you’ve been making up all those DSRs, Weekly Assessment and Special Reports?” she slyly asked. I grinned like an idiot as I confided that the whole Regional Implementation Plan was the brainchild of my imagination. The “I see” with which Janet commented jolted me into realizing the magnitude of my blunder. I implored her, actually going down on my knees, not to disclose my little secret. “Sure”, she responded evasively and I immediately knew that my goose was cooked for sure. Serves me right for being such a trusting blithering fool.
So it really came as no surprise when one morning Naqib accompanied by his armed guards marched into my office and curtly informed me that I was under arrest. “I’ve orders to transport you to MHQ under guard immediately”, he said waving a piece of paper, “anything you say would be taken down and used in evidence”. I requested to go to the bathroom; Naqib promptly jotted that down. I should have known better. That was obviously not an ‘authorized’ place to waste time in.
As I was led away with my wrists handcuffed to my ankles, the atmosphere in Civil Affairs offices was not exactly gloomy. Elise chided me with an unsympathetic ‘regarde ce que tu as fait!’ and then started appreciatively eyeing my swivel chair. Carol lost no time confiscating my office and car keys, my ID and (this really hurt) my ration card. Amra was jumping around shouting excitedly, “can we take the day off?” Aida was busy placing a call to East Timor presumably to inform her significant other of a new vacancy in Civil Affairs. Only Elvira seemed a bit perturbed wondering nervously to anyone who cared to listen if the falsely glowing recommendation I had made up for her upgrade would now mean demotion. As I was led past CJAU offices I thought of sending a SOS to John but then I thought better of it. The worst I could get as my own counsel was life imprisonment in SFOR stockades. With John defending me I ran a serious risk of ending up in front of the SFOR firing squad, probably with John himself tied up next to me.
The trip to Sarajevo (in a convoy of five UN Security and IPTF cars and three SFOR APCs) was uneventful except for an insignificant little mishap. Russ (bless his British heart) rolled over the lead security vehicle while trying to demonstrate, apparently to the local crowd in Travnik, an elaborate advance-to-the-rear maneuver. (That was the third UN vehicle the Brit managed to total in the two weeks he had been in the mission. At this rate, Rubina’s record was in dire danger of being overtaken in a matter of weeks. And to think that they were taking me to the cleaners for some harmless embellishment of the bloody DSRs!)
The courtroom in UN House was packed. I did not recognize the presiding judge (a big fellow with a huge cigar) but I didn’t like the look on his face. The second judge sitting to his right was a General in French gendarme uniform (I didn’t like the look on his face either). But I recognized the third judge sitting to the left as our own Mr. Grinberg (the look on his face sent a shudder down my spine). As I usually do in such circumstances, I considered carefully the options open to me: I could refuse recognition of the court’s jurisdiction (Hell, if Slobodan could do it why not me?), or I could throw myself at the mercy of the court. But the look on Mr. Grinberg’s face made it abundantly clear no quarters should be begged as none would be given.
So I kept my trap shut as the presiding judge asked whether I wanted to be represented by counsel and whether I wanted the indictments read out to me (that’s his problem, yes?). The judge then called for the Prosecutor who like a genie materialized from nowhere as though by a magic wand. This was the most frightening Kafkaseque moment in my trial. (I recall repeating to myself in absolute panic “this ain’t fair, this really ain’t fair at all. Milosevic gets the gentle Carla Del Ponte and they throw Bob Gravelle at me!”) For what seemed ages Gravelle fixed me with his trademark stare. I thought miserably to myself “stop the theatrics, Bob, for Heaven’s sake. I saw you doing that stunt to the unhappily departed MoI Matic, and if you think it’s scaring the shit out of me, you’re damn right. So let’s get on with the lynching”.
The lynching was vintage Gravelle. I was asked to identify a photo of a man I’ve never seen before in my life. “Item one, ladies and gentlemen of the jury” Gravelle triumphantly proclaimed, “the defendant has just failed to recognize Canton 1 MoI Babic with whom, according to his reports, he had regular weekly meetings for the last eighteen months”. Gravelle then proceeded to read highlights from my reports (“I’ll spare you the details, ladies and gentlemen”). “Item two: Karadzic and Mladic get SFOR permission to help with mosque reconstruction in downtown Prijedor. SDA Bihac rally celebrates Fikret Abdic’s election as Canton 1 Governor. HDZ organizes a ‘welcome home’ festival for Serb returnees in Drvar. 600 surplus prosecutors in Canton 10 re-deployed to New York City. Bosanski Grahovo celebrates new status as BiH prime tourist attraction”. Gravelle paused for dramatic effect before proceeding with more of my gems. “Item three: according to the defendant’s latest RIP progress report, 999% of our mandate has been achieved. The defendant has single-handed (pause and yet another glare at me) tilted the ethnic balance so that TSG now has a 95% Serb majority while Mrkonjic Grad has become 90% Croat and Livno almost 100% Bosniac? No wonder the few remaining Serb officers in Prijedor PSC can’t find a place to hang their hats on, and the handful of Croats in Livno and TSG are unable to find their way to the local branch of Hercegovacka Banka. Now we need an UNMIBH 2 for remedial reversal to post-war percentages.”
By the time Gravelle got to “item two hundred”, I had already lost track of the court proceedings. I couldn’t understand why he kept flogging a dead horse. When the time of my sentencing came, the courtroom was overflowing. I had steeled myself for the worst but the severity of the sentence really stunned me. A gasp ran through the hushed courtroom as the presiding judge intoned: “ you’re to be taken, under heavy IPTF and SFOR escort, to a place of incarceration in a new Civil Affairs office in Neum. There you will spend the remaining days of the Mission’s mandate deprived of doing any form of reporting whatsoever. Under no circumstances are you allowed to venture near Bosanski Grahovo, Drvar, Prijedor, Bihac or Livno. Your movements are by court order restricted to Split and Dubrovnik. May Heaven have mercy on your soul!”
So if any of you can spare a thought for me, be kind and remember me in your prayers. And, please, do send me some of those lovely Bosanski Grahovo postcards!