news 16 Nov 12

Croats Celebrate Acquittal of Gotovina and Markac

Croats celebrated the acquittal of Croatian army generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, with the President and Prime Minister saying they were not guilty of war crimes.

Boris Pavelic
Zagreb
Croatian citizens awaiting the ICTY verdict on Zagreb public square I Photo by Beta

The Hague Tribunal ruling was watched live on the main square in the Croatian capital Zagreb, with many citizens, mostly veterans of the independence war, present. The sentence was watched live also in several other cities, including Zadar, where Gotovina was army commander for several years.

As Judge Theodor Meron read out the sentence, the mood in the crowd changed rapidly from one of fear to cheer. When Meron announced the acquittal, loud celebrations erupted.

"We always knew that 'Operation Storm' wasn't a joint criminal enterprise. There were crimes, but Gotovina and Markac weren't guilty for them," Croatian President Ivo Josipovic declared soon after.

Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic made a similar statement. "Gotovina and Markac are obviously innocent, but that doesn't mean that the [independence] war wasn't bloody, that mistakes were not done," he said.

"There were mistakes, and for them Croatian state is responsible. To all these we did harm, Croatia will repay," Milanovic added, expressing gratitude to Gotovina and Markac "for withstanding so much for Croatia".

Stipe Mesic, Croatia's former President, said ther verdict was welcome but should not be politicised.

"The politicization of the decisions made by the ICTY Appeals Chamber would not serve Croatia or Croatian image in Europe and in the world," he said.

"Verdicts to  individuals, whoever they were and whatever they were, were never judgments on Croatian soldiers, the Croatian people and the Croatian state, as was once claimed.

"Today's decision should not be an obstacle to a much needed facing the truth about the past and learning lessons from the past. It's about time for Croatia to move forward."

Croatan Serbs meanwhile expressed discontent with the ruling, insisting it would not aid the reconciliation process.

Milorad Pupovac, vice-president of the Independent Democratic Serb Party and president of the Serbian People’s Council, said what was good for generals Markac and Gotovina was not good for the victims of the independence war.

“After the verdict, which is good for the generals, the question remains who is responsible for the murders, expulsion, destruction and incineration of houses [in the war], because no one has answered for that so far,” Pupovac said.

The government has sent an official plane to bring Gotovina and Markac back to Croatia on Friday.

Croatia's defence and war veterans ministers, Ante Kotromanovic and Predrag Matic, both veterans of the war, will go to The Hague to greet the released generals in person.

Photo by Beta

 

Celebration of Gotovina and Markac release I Photo by Beta

 

Main square in Croatian city of Zagreb I Photo by Beta

 

Celebration in front of the Hague Tribunal I Photo by Beta

 

 

 

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Background

Timeline – Cuska Case

Timeline of events in the case against 13 former Serb fighters charged with committing war crimes in the villages of Cuska, Zahac, Ljubenic and Pavlac in Kosovo in 1999.

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