news 04 May 12

Croatia and the ICTY: "No More Open Questions“

There is “nothing to burden” relations between Croatia and the Hague Tribunal, ICTY, the Croatian government declared following a visit by the ICTY prosecutor Serge Brammertz.

Boris Pavelic
Serge Brammertz, Chief ICTY Prosecutor I Photo by Beta

Brammertz met the Deputy Prime Minister and President of the Council for Cooperation with the ICTY, Neven Mimica, and the Justice Minister, Orsat Miljenic, in the Croatian capital Zagreb on Thursday.

“Very good cooperation was emphasised at the meeting, and Brammertz confirmed that there are no more open questions which could burden relations between Croatia and the ICTY Prosecutor's Office,” the government said in a press release following the meeting.

In his regular report to the UN Security Council in December 2011, Brammertz declared that Croatia cooperates with his office, but expressed concern over the statements of then ruling Croatian officials who questioned the value and objectivity of the ICTY verdicts.

Last year, Jadranka Kosor who was the Croatian prime minister at the time, extolled two ex-generals, Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, at a rally marking the 16th anniversary of Operation “Storm.”  The generals were jailed by the ICTY for their role in the offensive operation that ended the Croatian war.

The Croatian president, Ivo Josipovic, stated last year that “wrong people are in the Hague,” meaning Gotovina and Markac.

The lack of cooperation with the ICTY had blocked Croatian accession to the EU for almost twenty years. In March 2005, Croatia became the first country ever to have EU accession talks postponed by the European Commission, because Croatia did not arrest general Ante Gotovina, who went into hiding following the ICTY’s indictment against him in 2001.

The EU accession negotiations started in October 2005, after Croatia proved to then ICTY prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, that it was aware of Gotovina's whereabouts. Gotovina was arrested in the Canary Islands two months later, in December 2005, and transferred to The Hague.

Until April last year, when the sentence for war crimes during the Operation “Storm” was pronounced, the ICTY complained about Croatia’s insufficient cooperation with the ICTY.

The ICTY indicted six high ranking Croatian army officers for war crimes in Croatia.

Generals Janko Bobetko, Rahim Ademi and Mirko Norac were indicted for war crimes committed in Medak Pocket in central Croatia in 1993. Bobetko died before the trial started in 2003, and the trial of Ademi and Norac was transferred to Croatia. Ademi was released, and Norac was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2008.

Generals Ante Gotovina, Mladen Markac and Ivan Cermak were indicted for participating in a “joint criminal enterprise” for expelling Serbs during Operation “Storm.” In April last year, Gotovina and Markac were sentenced to 24 and 18 years in prison, while Cermak was released.

Gotovina and Markac appealed, and the appeal hearing is scheduled for May 14.

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