NEWS 20 Mar 17

Bosnian Croat Wartime Leaders Appeal Against Convictions

Six former high-ranking officials from the Bosnian Croat wartime statelet of Herzeg-Bosna are appealing against war crimes convictions in a Hague Tribunal case which also has implications for Croatia.

The defendants in court during the original trial.

Jadranko Prlic, the former prime minister of the unrecognised wartime Herzeg-Bosna Croatian Community, is the first of the six Bosnian Croat ex-officials to launch an appeal on Monday against war crimes convictions at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY in The Hague.

The six former senior leaders of a short-lived Bosnian Croat wartime statelet called Herzeg-Bosna were convicted in May 2013 by the ICTY of crimes against humanity, violations of the laws or customs of war, and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions committed between 1992 and 1994.

The verdict said they intended to “permanently remove and ethnically cleanse Bosnian Muslims and other non-Croats” from the territory of the newly-established Herceg-Bosna with the aim of creating a ‘Greater Croatia’.

Jadranko Prlic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoje Petkovic, Valentin Coric and Berislav Pusic all held senior political or military roles from 1992 to 1994.

The six men are hoping that the court will clear them of involvement in any joint criminal enterprise with the political and military leadership of Croatia.

If this happens, it could defuse accusations that the Croatian political and military leadership was involved in the Bosnian war.

Croatia insists that it had no hand in war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but according to 2013’s first-instance verdict, the six men participated in the joint criminal enterprise together with Croatia President Franjo Tudjman, Defence Minister Gojko Susak and Croatian Army general Janko Bobetko.

After the first-instance verdict was handed down, Croatia asked to be involved in the appeals procedure in order to refute the court’s conclusions about the role of Tudjman, Susak and Bobetko, all of whom are now dead.

Zagreb asked to be given ‘friend of the court’ (amicus curiae) status in the case, which would have allowed Croatia to present testimony or other information without being on trial itself – but the request was rejected by the Tribunal.

The Tribunal “does not have jurisdiction to render conclusions on responsibilities of a state”, underlined Hague Tribunal president Carmel Agius.

Defence appeals hearings will continue until March 27.

The prosecution will then lay out its appeal on March 28, hoping to persuade judges to almost double the sentences, which amounted to a total of 111 years in the original verdict.

Under the first-instance verdict, Prlic was jailed for 25 years, Stojic, Praljak and Petkovic for 20 years each, Coric for 16 years and Pusic for ten years.

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