Daily Israel Report

When Goldstone Indicted a Fictional Character (and a Dead Man)

Judge Goldstone, who said Israel committed war crimes in Gaza, once indicted a fictional Serbian character and a dead man for war crimes as well.
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
First Publish: 9/29/2009, 5:06 PM / Last Update: 9/29/2009, 6:09 PM

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Judge Richard Goldstone, whose recent United Nations Human Rights Council investigation purported to find evidence of Israeli war crimes in Gaza, once indicted a fictional Serbian character and a dead man for war crimes as well. As in Gaza, those indictments were also allegedly based on "eyewitness testimony."

Goldstone headed the Office of the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY),
The problem for NATO forces in tracking down the serial rapist was that Gruban from Bijelo Polje, also known as Gruban Malic, is a fictional character.
established by the United Nations in 1993. In 1995, one year into his term as chief ICTY prosecutor, Goldstone presented an indictment of several Serbs for war crimes and crimes against humanity. As brought to light in the weekend edition of the Hebrew-language Makor Rishon newspaper, among those indicted was a man identified as "Gruban".

Gruban, later identified more fully as Gruban from Bijelo Polje, was charged with viciously raping Muslim prisoners in what was identified by the prosecution as essentially a Serbian concentration camp. His crimes were given weight by an anonymous individual identified only as "Witness F", who claimed to have suffered at the hands of the notorious war criminal.

As described by Makor Rishon, "Within just a few months, the black silhouette of 'Gruban' was plastered on a poster of the most wanted war criminals in Bosnia." At the time, Makor Rishon noted, the American newspaper The Boston Globe published an article wondering why the poster of "Gruban" stated that his description, father's name, location and age were all listed as "unknown".

The problem for NATO forces in tracking down the serial rapist was that Gruban from Bijelo Polje, also known as Gruban Malic, is a fictional character from Hero on a Donkey, a famous Serbian novel about World War II by Miodrag Bulatovic.

The Gruban hoax was the result of a conversation in a Bosnian cafe between Yugoslavian war correspondent Nebojsa Jevric and an American journalist desperate to see a "real war criminal", according to Makor Rishon. Jevric identified "Gruban Malic" by name as the Serbian people's "worst war criminal", having committed the most rapes.

After the indictment of "Gruban" became known, Jevric capitalized on his countrymen's bemused fascination with Goldstone's "investigation" and wrote a book called Hero on a Donkey Goes to The Hague. In the book he detailed how his comment to an American reporter took on a life of its own.

In 1998, even after the true identity of the "war criminal" was known, the charges against "Gruban Malic" were officially dropped for lack of evidence by Goldstone's successor. Thirteen other flesh-and-blood Serbs were also taken off the same ICTY indictment docket alongside "Gruban" - including a man that Goldstone indicted several years after he had already died.