news 15 May 12

Gotovina and Markac Claim They Protected Civilians

During their appeals hearing at The Hague on Monday, Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac addressed the Trial Chamber and declared their innocence.

Justice Report
BIRN
The Hague

Generals Gotovina and Markac are appealing the Hague Tribunal verdict that sentenced them to 24 and 18 years in prison, respectively, for their involvement in the joint criminal enterprise aimed at the forcible removal of Serb civilians from Krajina in Croatia.

Markac’s defence argued that it could not be asserted that everyone who attended the meeting in Brioni was a member of the joint criminal enterprise.

Immediately before Operation Storm, a meeting was held in Brioni and was attended by Gotovina, Markac and other high-ranking Croatian military officials and political leaders. The prosecution argues that the departure of Serb civilians from Krajina was discussed at the meeting.

According to The Hague Prosecutor’s Office, Gotovina said at the meeting, “if the Croatian forces resume with pressures, the only civilians who would not leave would be the ones who could not.”

The Prosecutor’s Office further stated, “Markac ordered the shelling of Gracac [a town in the Croatian region of Krajina] and knew that the attack would bring about the forcible displacement of Serbs.”

Markac’s defence said that out of 150 missiles fired at Gracac, the Trial Chamber identified only six places of impact, which is why “we now have to carry the burden of proof.”

Gotovina addressed the Appellate Chamber and emphasised that he deeply regretted the loss of life but that he could not be held responsible for the actions of the soldiers that may have committed crimes during the operations he commanded.

“In the course of Operation Storm, I tried to protect the lives of civilians and soldiers. Any civilian or soldier should not be killed because he is a Serb or a member of any group. My actions during the Storm were correct. The orders I gave testify to that,” said Gotovina.

Markac said he was not a member of the joint criminal enterprise, or a war criminal.

 “I did not act dishonourably, it is not in accordance with my honour. I [performed] police jobs, and liberated occupied territories. As a humanist, I feel regret for all the victims of these unfortunate events. Honourable Court, I am not guilty. I expect you to pass a just verdict,” said Markac.

Under the first instance verdict, the Trial Chamber of the Hague Tribunal, ICTY, found the two generals guilty of persecution, murder, deportation and other crimes against Krajina Serbs and their property during and after Operation Storm in the summer of 1995.

The offensive was launched to recover territory seized by Serbian forces at the start of the war in Croatia.

The Appellate Chamber will make the decision regarding the generals’ appeals at a later date.

 

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