News 25 Jan 13

Serb War Victims Address Hague Over ‘Unjust’ Acquittals

Serbs who suffered in the 1990s conflicts sent a letter to the Hague Tribunal saying recent verdicts acquitting Croatian and Kosovo officials of war crimes were politically biased.

Marija Ristic
BIRN
Belgrade

“The verdicts of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia [ICTY] in the cases against Gotovina, Markac and Haradinaj made the idea of justice pointless and undermined the credibility of the United Nations,” said the letter sent by the Association of Serb Victims on Friday.

The UN-backed Tribunal last year delivered two high-profile acquittal verdicts over war crimes committed against ethnic Serbs during the 1990s conflicts - one against Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, the second against three Kosovo Liberation Army commanders including Ramush Haradinaj, Kosovo’s former prime minister.

Dragan Pjevac, coordinator of the Association of Serb Victims, said that the letter was being sent to the ICTY two months after the verdicts in order “to prevent this issue of injustice towards Serbs from being forgotten”.

“Families of victims however can never forget the crimes that were committed against their beloved. The verdicts are unjust and political,” Pjevac added.

Savo Strbac, head of the Belgrade-based war crimes documentation centre Veritas, said that an appeal against the Croatian generals’ acquittal was still a possibility.

According to ICTY procedures, the case could only be reopened if the prosecution finds new evidence that was not presented during the trial.

Strbac claimed that new evidence could be found in the Croatian army’s artillery logs, known as ‘Topnicki dnevnici’, which he said contained exact plans for the military operation codenamed ‘Storm’ that took place in summer 1995.

Gotovina and Markac were cleared of committing war crimes during the operation which saw their forces seize control over Serb-held parts of Croatia.

Serbia’s war crimes prosecutor and some victims’ association believe the logs show that attacks on Serb civilians were pre-planned.

“[The logs] exist and they are hidden. They simply couldn’t be destroyed,” Strbac said.

The ICTY asked Croatia to deliver the logs to the Tribunal several times, but the Zagreb authorities claimed that they had either been destroyed or stolen.

Serbia’s justice minister Nikola Selakovic said during a visit to The Hague this month that Serge Brammertz, the ICTY’s chief prosecutor, had told him that there was a possibility that the Croatian generals' case could be re-opened.

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