News 22 May 14

Croatian Ex-Minister Acquitted of WW2 Killings

A Zagreb court on Thursday acquitted former interior minister Josip Boljkovac of any role in the mass killing of 21 civilian detainees near Duga Resa in 1945.

Josip Ivanovic
BIRN
Zagreb

A County Court in Zagreb has acquitted former interior minister Josip Boljkovac of killing civilians at the the Second World War during the Communist Partisan takeover of Yugoslavia.

“The conclusion of the court council is that this crime was committed as an act of the system," Judge Tomislav Jurisa said.

Boljkovac, a former secret service officer in the notorious Yugoslav Communist secret police, OZNA, pleaded not guilty at the start of his trial.

He had no direct control over the people who killed civilian prisoners near Duga Resa in May and June 1945, during the Communist takeover of Yugoslavia, he said.

“The decision wasn't mine. The district police were in charge,” Boljkovac told the court in February, at the beginning of the trial. He was absent at the reading of verdict.

“The most important thing for the court and this trial was that there were no written order, which is understandable as even then everybody knew this was an evident war crime,” Judge Jurisa noted.

“Not a single witness nor a single document indicated the guilt of Josip Boljkovac... The state attorney’s office based its charges on his status of a county chief of the OZNA that committed the crime,” the judge added.

The judge added that while “a certain degree of doubt about whether Boljkovac ordered the killing still exists, it is not enough to pronounce someone guilty”.

Anto Nobilo, lawyer for 94-year-old Boljkovac, welcomed the verdict but said that the whole case left a "bitter" taste.

“This would never have happened had a former interior minister not wanted to become head of the main rightist opposition party," he said, referring to Tomislav Karamarko, current president of the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ.

Karamarko had deliberately organised the high-profile arrest of the then 92-year-old, Nobilo asserted.

Nobilo said Croatia would not become a truly lawful state until officials ceased to use their authority over the law to achieve political goals.

Earlier in the trial he said the state attorney had not been able to establish or identify which law had been in power at the time of the crime.

“The only document the prosecution referred to was the Hague convention that proscribes the behaviour of the occupying forces," he said.

"Thus this is a legal scandal because the [victorious] Partisans were the liberators and the Independent State of Croatia, NDH, was the occupier,” Nobilo added, referring to the Fascist statelet that governed Croatia during the Second World War.

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