News 23 Jun 17

Croatia Seeks Role in Bosnian Croats’ Hague Trial

Croatia has filed an appeal to the Hague war crimes tribunal, asking to be allowed to participate in the trial of six former Bosnian Croat officials, but prosecutors have objected.

Denis Dzidic
The former Bosnian Croat officials in court during their appeal in March.

Croatia has filed a motion to the appeals chamber of the Hague Tribunal, asking it to revise the decision to reject Zagreb’s request to have the status of ‘friend of the court’ in the case against former Bosnian Croat officials Jadranko Prlic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoje Petkovic, Valentin Coric and Berislav Pusic, the UN court said on Friday.

The Croatian authorities said in their motion that the prosecution’s allegations that former President Franjo Tudjman, former Defence Minister Gojko Susak and Croatian Army general Janko Bobetko were participants in a joint criminal enterprise in Bosnia and Herzegovina represented “new facts”.

Because of that, they asked the Tribunal to allow them to address the appeals chamber prior to the pronouncement of the final verdict in the trial of the six defendants.

The appeal filed by the Croatian authorities at the beginning of this month says that their appearance in the case against Prlic and the others would help eliminate “legal mistakes”.

But the Hague Tribunal prosecutors objected to the appeal, saying that the first-instance trial chamber had made the correct decision when it rejected Croatia’s first request to appear as a ‘friend of the court’.

“The first-instance chamber made factual conclusions concerning the roles of the three Croatian officials, but it did not make any conclusions regarding their criminal responsibility. These three officials were not pronounced guilty of any crimes,” the prosecution said.

“Also, the Appellate Chamber has already emphasised that no conclusions on responsibilities of states for crimes will be made in this case,” it added.

The prosecutors also said that appeals procedures at the tribunal usually concerned “issues of law” and that Croatia’s role would be to deny “factual conclusions”, so its appeal should therefore be rejected.

The tribunal last year rejected Croatia’s initial request for the status of ‘friend of the court’ in the case against Prlic, Stojic, Praljak, Petkovic, Coric and Pusic, who were initially sentenced in 2013 to a total of 111 years for committing crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1994.

They were convicted of participating in a joint criminal enterprise aimed at persecuting and ethnically cleansing Bosniaks from the unrecognised Bosnian Croat wartime statelet of Herzeg-Bosna, which they wanted to attach to a ‘greater Croatia’.

Under the verdict, Prlic was sentenced to 25 years in prison, Stojic, Praljak and Petkovic got 20 years each, Coric was sentenced to 16 years and Pusic to ten years.

In March this year, both defence and prosecution presented their appeals against the verdict.

The defence teams requested that the verdict be quashed or revised and conclusions on the joint criminal enterprise and the participation of Tudjman, Susak and Bobetko annulled.

The Hague prosecutors requested longer sentences for the defendants and confirmation of the conclusions on the joint criminal enterprise.

The second-instance verdict is expected by the end of this year.

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