News 13 Jun 07

Croatia Welcomes Martic's Sentence for War Crimes

Osijek _ The war crimes trial and conviction of Milan Martic, the former leader of self-styled Republika Srpska Krajina, shed new light on plans to carve a Serb homeland from Croatian territory in the 1990s, political observers said.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague on Tuesday convicted Martic, 52, and sentenced him to 35 years in prison.


Evidence presented at Martic’s trial confirmed the involvement of Serbia and its plans to create a unified Serb state through ethnic cleansing of Croat territories, said Dr. Ivo Josipovic, a professor at the Zagreb University Law School.

"The conviction for one of the rebel Serb leaders, Milan Martic, is harsh but in accordance with the crime,” Josipovic said. It “will be an important contribution to establishing the truth about the criminal undertaking which clearly shows attempts aimed at creating greater Serbia."

The three-judge UN tribunal described Martic as one of the key participants in a criminal plot led by former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic. The court panel said Martic, Milosevic and others sought to carve out an ethnically pure Serbian region out of about one-third of Croatia’s territory and join it into a "greater Serbia." Milosevic died in UN detention last year during his trial on war crimes charges.

Martic was convicted on 16 counts of the indictment including persecution, murder, torture, deportation, attacks on civilians, wanton destruction of civilian areas and other crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war. Martic was acquitted on one count of the indictment charging him with extermination. The Hague court's prosecution had asked for a life sentence.

Party leaders also welcomed the Martic’s conviction and sentence.

"From the Serb side, Martic symbolized policies of persecution, killing and destruction,” said Dr. Milorad Pupovac, a deputy in the Croatian Parliament and the deputy head of the Independent Democratic Serbian party, the largest party of Croatia's ethnic Serbs.

“We Serbs in Croatia are interested to see not only the final end of such policies but to see punishment of all those who, along with Martic, participated in the creation of such a policy."

Josip Friscic, the head of the centrist Croatian Peasants' Party, said Martic was among those with the most responsibility for manipulating Serbs into fighting to carve out their own region from Croatian territory. Ante Djapic, the head of the hard right HSP party, has said that the sentence “was justified.”

In May 1995, after the Croat Army drove Serb rebels under Martic’s command from western Slavonia, he ordered a rocket attack on the Croatian capital, Zagreb. Seven people were killed and more than 200 people were wounded. Martic admitted in TV broadcasts he ordered the rocket attacks.

The attacks prompted his July 1995 indictment by the Hague court. Martic surrendered to the court in May 2002. The trial started in December 2005 and concluded in January.

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