News 27 Jan 15

Croatian Policemen Indicted for Operation Storm War Crimes

The former deputy commander of the Croatian special police, Zeljko Sacic, and a member of a special police unit, Franjo Drljo, were charged with war crimes against Serb civilians in August 1995.

Sven Milekic

A burning house in Grubori in August 1995.

The state attorney’s office in Zagreb on Tuesday issued an indictment against two former special policemen for war crimes against civilians in late August 1995, after the Croatian military’s Operation Storm.

As deputy commander of the Croatian special police headquarters at the time, Sacic is accused of not monitoring, sanctioning and reporting on war crimes committed by members of the ‘Lucko’ special police unit.

Members of the Lucko unit killed six elderly Serb civilians in the village of Grubori, near the town of Knin, and burned most of the houses there.

The killings happened amid an ‘anti-terrorist’ operation in the area involving 560 special policemen, just after Operation Storm which seized back parts of the country that had been under Serb control during wartime.

Sacic did not take any action to stop the killings, sanction the perpetrators or report the crimes to a more senior commander, the indictment alleges. He also banned police from searching for evidence in the area and thus interfered with the criminal investigation.

Sacic is further accused of filing a false report to his senior commander which said that the unit had encountered an armed group of around eight to ten enemy soldiers, with the consequence that one of them was killed and four civilians died as ‘collateral damage’.

Drljo is accused as a group commander within the Lucko unit of participating in the burning of a number of houses in village the Ramljani, on the road from Knin to the town of Drnis.

Drljo was acquitted in June 2014 of the killings in Grubori, along with another member of the Lucko unit, Bozo Krajina. A third member of the unit, Igor Beneta, was also indicted, but was found hanged before the trial started.

“It is indisputable that six elderly people were killed and that these killings were committed by members of the Lucko anti-terrorist unit, but everything else is disputable,” said judge Zdravko Majerovic while explaining the verdict.

Commenting on the indictments, the Coalition of Refugees in Serbia association said that Croatia had only laid the charges under external pressure and accused the Zagreb authorities of not having the will to punish those responsible for war crimes.

“The decision by the state attorney’s office in Zagreb to issue two indictments against two former special policemen Zeljko Sacic and Franjo Drlja for war crimes committed after the Croatian military’s Operation Storm in Krajina came following strong external factors,” the Coalition said in a statement on Tuesday.

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