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By Boba Borojevic
Ottawa – October 14, 2006 -- Several media outlets have reported in the past couple of days that the Sarajevo county court had initiated an investigation on the alleged rape charges against retired Canadian General Lewis MacKenzie, who commanded UN peacekeepers in Bosnia at the start of the 1992-95 war.
The oldest cliché is that truth is the first casualty of war. The former Bosnian Muslim government of Alija Izetbegovic knew very well how much of a powerful tool the media could be and the role it could play in portraying Muslims as the only victims in the Bosnian bloody war. The rule of the game worked for Bosnian Muslims then as it does today.
When I asked Gen. MacKenzie about the new media reporting on alleged rape, he said that he spoke about these allegations to the media before and that there was nothing new to be added. In his interview to the Peace Magazine of 1998, Gen. MacKenzie said that: "The accusations started to come out that my wife is a Serb - she is a McKinnon, of Scottish descent. My men were also being threatened with death because they worked for me, which is one of the reasons I left 6 months early. But when I came home, I appeared in front of the U.S. Senate and said," America, don't get involved![in Bosnia] "and that's when the allegations started, big time.”
The major allegation, fortunately, has been exposed by a German reporter as part of the Herak fabrication. Herak was a Bosnian Serb soldier who had been captured by the Bosnian government. He said in an interview with John Burns, a Canadian journalist with The New York Times, that General MacKenzie would come over to Sonya's Cafe in northern Sarajevo and pick up Muslim girls, who would subsequently be found dead with their throats cut.
“The story about me broke about 48 hours later when the Bosnia judiciary said they were assigning a lawyer and charging me with war crimes. At that time, Burns was back in the U.K. and called me. He said that he advised his Bosnian escort not to release the allegations involving me as he knew they were not true based on Haraak’s inaccurate physical description of myself and my rank badges. He said if the allegations were made public it would erode the credibility of the article he was writing. Burns later won a Pulitzer Prize for his article on Herak.,” Gen. MacKenzie said.
“The Canadian government, the military, and myself decided to take a low profile on the allegations because the North American media refused to carry the story. But the story broke on the day of the Islamic conference in Riyadh , Saudi Arabia when Izetbegovic arrived there,” said MacKenzie.
“Sonya's Cafe is where the Serbians were allegedly keeping prisoners of war. During my time there, which was at the height of the war in the early days, we couldn't even get to that part of town. Not only that, we were alleged to have shown up in jeeps. The U.N. didn't use jeeps at that time. Yet the real convincing piece of evidence for the people of Sarajevo was a photograph taken on my last day there, which was July 31. Four secretaries from my headquarters came in to see me. I had spirited them out of Sarajevo when we were ordered to move our headquarters to Belgrade a few months after the start of the war- one of them had a child - so they were grateful because I had overruled a civilian U.N. guy who said they couldn't leave Sarajevo. They returned shortly after the U.N. came back to Sarajevo. They asked if they could have their picture taken with me. I put my arms around the four of them. They were all crying,” explained Gen. MacKenzie.
“I guess it was about two months later; a Canadian doctor came back from Sarajevo . He told me that a picture was being circulated around Sarajevo of four crying girls with me in the middle. People are saying that these are the girls I raped and murdered on my last day there. When I went back to do the documentary, three of the same girls met me when I arrived at Sarajevo airport,” says Gen. MacKenzie
“Nevertheless, these allegations are still brought up in international conferences - particularly German or Islamic ones. I went to my lawyer and asked how I could deal with this. If I am an accused war criminal than let's get this out. Let me go to The Hague and testify. The bit that really bothers me is that, to the best of knowledge, the Canadian ambassador in Sarajevo has never protested or asked for a withdrawal of the charges.
Subsequently, the entire Herak thing, including my alleged role, was revealed as a fabrication. It was a little show put on to elicit sympathy. The four people I allegedly killed have all been found alive. If any of this were true - even one percent - it would have been on television. I had 32 of the top journalists living in my headquarters in Sarajevo. I went nowhere without a television camera in tow. So if I had gone to Sonya's Cafe or anywhere else, ten television journalists would have come with me."
The current allegation against Gen MacKenzie by Mr. Oleg Cavak of the Sarajevo county court is a repetition of the same 1993 accusation, which according to Gen. MacKenzie was thoroughly investigated at that time. “I still carry a letter by Kofi Annan [the UN Secretary-General] with me”, said Gen. MacKenzie, “to show the people who accuse me that the commission determined that I was not even in Bosnia at the time when the alleged incident was supposed to have happened. Unfortunately, there is always going to be people who would believe in those kind of allegations.”
Gen. MacKenzie suggested that he intends to undertake certain steps to bring to an end these accusations: “It is getting little bit tiring coming up every three or four years,” concluded Gen. MacKenzie.
The time has come for Canadian government to take an active role in bringing the whole allegation against Gen. MacKenzie to an end forever. As for John Burns, I would join author Peter Brock , who described Burns' interview with Herak as "a manipulated confession and interrogation in which Burns was the key participant”, and journalist David Binder, who said that the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting awarded to John Burns should be revoked.
Dear Major General MacKenzie,
Thank you for your letter on 10 May, in which you referred to the conclusions reached by the Special Commission of Inquiry, headed by Major General C.Greindl (retired).
I was extremely sorry to learn that you are continuing to face problems concerning the allegations made against you. I hope that the following will help lay the matter to rest.
As you are aware, the Final report of the Greindl Commission was submitted to the United Nations in 1993. It dealt with several allegations concerning the conduct of United Nations personnel, one of which was “that certain personnel of UNPROFOR or associated UN Programmes are or have been involved in prostitution activities. Regarding this particular charges it stated that an investigation into the allegation of misconduct by UNPROFOR personnel at “Sonja’s Kon-tiki Restaurant” in Vogosca, Sarajevo District had commenced and would be addressed under separate coverate cover.
In March 1994, the Special Commission submitted its report on the matter, which dealt with the so-called “MacKenzie Allegation”. In the conclusion, the report states the following: (…)
“P2. Allegations against Major General Lewis MacKenzie are unfounded. Evidence shows that General MacKenzie departed the mission area approximately one month prior to any alleged incident.”
I hope that this provides you with the information you require. My I say again how appalled I am to hear of the difficulties with which you have had to deal and take this opportunity to thank you for your service to UNPROFOR.
With best wishes.