The sentence of four years in prison given to the former Croatian special forces policeman Mihajlo Hrastov for killing 13 prisoners is too short, the Croatian human rights NGOs said on Friday.
After six trials, one of the longest war crimes prosecutions in Croatian judicial history may have come to an end on September 7, when Mihalo Hrastov was sentenced to four years in prison for killing 13 prisoners of war in 1991.
Hrastov has the opportunity to lodge one more appeal against his conviction.
Zoran Pusic, the president of the Citizen Committee for Human Rights, GOLJP, said at a press conference on Friday that “it is difficult to see how four years in prison could be an adequate sentence for killing 13 people“.
Pusic indicated that the system was in a mess, as ”the Croatian courts have been unable to decide for the past twenty years whether Hrastov is guilty or not ,“ while on the other hand, innocent people are serving time for war crimes in Croatia.
Prior to this verdict, Hrastov has been convicted twice and released three times.
The first time he was released in September 1992 by the County Court in Karlovac. In March 2007, the court in Karlovac released him for the third time after the Supreme Court quashed two earlier convictions.
Following his acquittal in 2007, the Supreme Court took on the case and in May 2009, Hrastov was jailed for eight years.
The appeal court reduced the sentence to seven years last January, and Hrastov started to serve his prison term.
The Constitutional Court quashed the sentence, however, saying that the failure to publish the decision had breached Hrastov’s human rights
The Supreme Court re-ran the trial, convicting Hrastov to four years in prison for killing 13 reservists of the Yugoslav People's Army, JNA, and for wounding two others on September 21, 1991, in the town of Karlovac in central Croatia.
Because there is a possibility that Hrastov may lodge an appeal, however, he remains at liberty for the present.
Veselinka Kastratovic from the Osijek- based Center for Peace, Non-violence and Human Rights pointed out that the Supreme Court had failed to properly examine testimonies that indicate that there were other perpatrators, in addition to Hrastov, who were involved in shooting the prisoners.
Krastanovic added that it was disrespectful to the victims that their names were never mentioned during the trial.
The names of the 13 killed were not given the dignity of being pronounced even once during the entire trial, Kastratovic said.