News 24 Nov 17

Ex-UN Peacekeeper Accuses Croatia of Harbouring Criminals

A former soldier with international peacekeeping forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina has appealed for Croats accused of committing wartime crimes in Stolac and Capljina to be sent from Croatia to Bosnia to face trial.

Dzana Brkanic
The Kostana hospital in Stolac, where Bosnian Croat fighters imprisoned Bosniaks. Photo: BIRN.

Patrick Hector Gullan, a British former member of UN peacekeeping forces who was stationed in the Bosnian town of Stolac immediately after the war, has published an open letter accusing Croatia of continuing to harbour indicted war crimes suspects.

Former Bosnian Croat fighters Ivan Ancic and Vid Palameta, both accused of war crimes, are living in Croatia, Gullan said in the open letter addressed to the people of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and prosecutors in The Hague and Sarajevo.

“With the forthcoming verdict on 29 November by the Hague Tribunal on the appeal by the former six senior political and military leaders of the short-lived Bosnian Croat statelet called Herzeg-Bosna… I believe it is pertinent to raise ‘the Stolac case’ once again,” Gullan wrote.

The six former Herzeg-Bosnia political and military officials – Jadranko Prlic, Milivoj Petkovic, Slobodan Praljak, Valentin Coric, Bruno Stojic and Berislav Pusic – were initially sentenced to a total of 111 years in prison in 2013. Their appeal verdict is due on Wednesday.

But Gullan said that “sadly, no progress has been made in cases relating to the extradition of Bosnian Croats who are indicted for war crimes by the state court in Bosnia and who are living in Croatia”.

The authorities in Zagreb clearly remain determined to avoid allegations that Croatia played an active part in the Bosnia conflict,” he added.

In January 2014, the Bosnian state prosecution filed an indictment charging Ivan Ancic with wartime crimes in the Capljina area, but he did not attend a plea hearing in September the same year. He lives in Split in Croatia.

The Bosnian prosecution filed an indictment in May 2014 charging Vid Palameta with committing crimes at the Dretelj detention camp in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Palameta, who also lives in Croatia, did not attend a plea hearing in January 2015.

Gullan accused Palameta, Ancic and several other suspects of being “key ‘middle men’ who went about the business of physically establishing the Herzeg-Bosna statelet, as envisaged by the six senior political and military leaders currently appealing in The Hague against their sentences”.

“Please do all you can to bring ‘the Stolac case’ to a satisfactory conclusion in the law courts. Without justice and the truth about what happened being told there will never be proper reconciliation,” he added.

Gullan has been calling for Bosnian Croat war criminals to be brought to justice for many years; in 2001, he headed an investigation into the intimidation of Bosniaks displaced by the war who were trying to return to Stolac.

The report called for the arrest of 22 people for post-war violence and intimidation and for the ethnic cleansing of Bosniaks during the 1992-95 conflict.

However Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia do not extradite citizens who are accused of war crimes to each other.

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