News 08 May 17

Extradite War Suspects, Ex-UN Peacekeeper Urges Croatia

A former soldier with international peacekeeping forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina has written to the Croatian authorities, appealing to them to extradite Bosnian Croat war crimes suspects to stand trial.

Denis Dzidic
BIRN
Sarajevo
A former prisoner at the Kostana hospital, 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 sent an open letter to Croatia’s president, prime minister and chief prosecutor, calling for Croats suspected of committing war crimes in the Mostar, Stolac and Capljina areas to be extradited to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In the letter - which Gullan also sent to Bosnian and US governments, as well as to European Union representatives - Gullan said that former Bosnian Croat fighters Ivan Ancic and Vid Palameta, who are accused of war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as three other suspects, are living in Croatia.

Gullan, who was honoured in Britain for his role in the Bosnian war, said he decided to write the letter after recent appeals against the Hague Tribunal’s verdict convicting six high-ranking officials from the unrecognised Bosnian Croat wartime statelet of Herceg-Bosna reminded him about “the full horror and scale of what went on in Bosnian Croat-dominated areas from mid-1993 to mid-1994”.

He said that those suspected of being responsible for the “mind-numbing crimes executed in the pursuit of a Herzeg-Bosna statelet”, including ethnic cleansing, the destruction of Stolac and “raw brutality meted out on Bosniaks” who were imprisoned at the Dretelj detention camp and the Kostana hospital, should be brought to trial.

He called on the authorities in Croatia, in interest of justice and in the name of the camp’s victims, to change their attitude to extradition in war crimes cases and to transfer Ancic and Palameta to Sarajevo.

He argued that this could be seen as “a positive initiative on the part of Croatia to enhance justice, truth and reconciliation”.

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.

Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia do not extradite citizens who are accused of war crimes to each other, but the prosecutor’s offices in the two countries have a protocol of cooperation that allows the transfer of cases.

In January 2014, the Bosnian state prosecution filed an indictment against Ivan Ancic for 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 against Vid Palameta in May 2014 for crimes committed at the Dretelj camp. Palameta, who also lives in Croatia, did not attend a plea hearing in January 2015.

The six Herzeg-Bosna 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.

In March this year, the verdicts were appealed - UN prosecutors requested more severe sentences, while the defence claimed that there was no joint criminal enterprise with the aim of creating a ‘Greater Croatia’ and that all six should be acquitted.

The final verdict is expected later this year.

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