War crimes victims in Croatia have been "forgotten and marginalised", Croatian human rights NGOs claimed today.
"Although victims should be in the focus when talking about war crimes trials, they are still forgotten and marginalised", said Marko Sjekavica, jurist of Citizen committee for human rights (GOLJP), at the press conference in Zagreb, where NGOs presented their 2011 report on monitoring war crimes trials in Croatia.
Sjekavica criticised the government's attitude towards sentences of International Criminal Court for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) against Croatian army generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac.
They were sentenced in April last year to 24 and 18 years in prison respectively, for war crimes occurred during and after Croatian military operation Storm in August 1995.
"Even the new centre-left government has a worrying attitude towards that verdict", said Sjekavica. “Although the sentence is about individual responsibility, government officials interpret it as it was a verdict against the highest state officials", he explained.
At the same time, he added, "it has frequently been forgotten that the victims of the crimes were also Croatian citizens, and that they should have proper attention from the state and public".
Vesna Terselic, president of NGO Documenta, asked the state to reveal how much money it has spent for the defence of indicted Croatian army officers at the ICTY.
"The public has the right to know how much money has been spent. Estimates are that only for the defence of Tihomir Blaskić about 150 million kuna (20 million euros) were spent. At the same time, civilian victims of war still do not have a proper compensation," said Terselic.
Croatia pays for the defence of its citizens indicted by the ICTY, on request, but there is no information about whose defence has been paid and how much money was spent.
Six Croatian officers were indicted by ICTY for war crimes in Croatia, and about twenty more Croatian nationals were indicted for war crimes in Bosnia and Hercegovina.
"The state is callous towards the war crimes victims", claimed Zoran Pusic, president of the Citizen committee for human rights (GOLJP). "If the state pays the defense of those indicted at ICTY, it is legitimate to ask if it supports war crimes" he said.
"On the other hand, we see no political will to compensate the victims", said Pusic.
Croatia state prosecutor Mladen Bajic revealed in his annual report for 2010 that 109 out of a total of 490 war crimes in Croatia have been entirely prosecuted, calling that number "worryingly low".
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