News 28 Nov 17

Minister Denies Croatia’s Role in Bosnian War

Croatia’s interior minister said he expects the Hague Tribunal will acquit six former Bosnian Croat officials because Zagreb wasn’t involved in the Bosnian war - contrary to the UN court’s previous findings.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Croatian Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic speaking at the press conference. Photo: Anadolu/Stipe Majic.

Ahead of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia’s final verdict on six former Bosnian Croat officials, Croatian Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic told a press conference on Tuesday that he expects their acquittal because “Croatia wasn’t a party in the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina”.

The ICTY will hand down its final verdict on Wednesday in the case against Jadranko Prlic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petkovic, Valentin Coric and Berislav Pusic – the UN court’s last verdict before it shuts down at the end of this year.

“I expect that [the six officials’ guilt] won’t be proven because the Republic of Croatia wasn’t a party in the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and I hope for a verdict of acquittal,” Bozinovic said, Anadolu news agency reported.

The six officials of the unrecognised wartime Croat statelet of Herzeg-Bosnia were found guilty in 2013 of wartime crimes in the Bosnian municipalities of Mostar, Capljina, Ljubuski, Prozor, Vares, Gornji Vakuf and Jablanica, and sentenced to a total of 111 years in prison.

They were convicted of implementing a campaign of persecution of Bosniaks from the spring of 1993 to the spring of 1994 involving murders, rape, deportations, unlawful detentions, the destruction and confiscation of property, the destruction of villages, towns and cultural and religious buildings, forcing people to do hard labour and terrorising civilians.

Prlic was sentenced to 25 years in prison, Stojic, Praljak and Petkovic to 20 years, Coric to 16 years and Pusic to ten years for crimes against humanity.

The Tribunal determined that the crimes were committed within a joint criminal enterprise involving then Croatian President Franjo Tudjman.

The criminal enterprise was aimed at establishing “a Croat entity, whose borders would partially follow the borders of the Croatian republic from 1939” through the forcible and permanent deportation of the Bosniak population.

The prosecutors said the criminal enterprise was intended to establish a “Greater Croatia”.

In other cases against Herzeg-Bosnia officials, the ICTY has found that Croatia had “overall” or “operational” control on the ground in Bosnia and Herzegovina over the statelet’s armed forces, the Croatian Defence Council, HVO.

The court also found that the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina had “an international character”, as Croatia was involved in it – a fact that Zagreb has repeatedly tried to deny, despite documents that prove it.

Last week, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic also stated that she expects the acquittal of the six Bosnian Croat ex-officials.

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