News 27 Nov 17

Croatian President Criticised for Backing War Crimes Defendants

A Zagreb rights NGO urged parliament to censure Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic for speaking in support of six former Bosnian Croat officials who are awaiting their verdict at the Hague Tribunal.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Stipe Majic.

The Youth Initiative for Human Rights on Sunday called on the Croatian parliament to examine whether President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic contravened regulations by saying she hoped that six former Bosnian Croat officials will be acquitted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia this week.

The NGO wrote to the parliament chair Gordan Jandrokovic and all the parliamentary clubs within the legislature, arguing that Grabar Kitarovic had put “unacceptable public pressure” on the ICTY ahead of the verdict on Wednesday.

According to article 5, section 2 of the constitution, two-thirds of MPs can initiate a procedure to determine whether the president contravened regulations, which theoretically could result in her removal.

Grabar Kitarovic’s written statement was sent to the organisers of a launch last Tuesday in Zagreb of a book about 1990s Bosnian Croat general Slobodan Praljak, one of the six defendants awaiting his final verdict at the ICTY.

In the statement, she praised Praljak’s role and achievements in the war and issued said she hoped that he and the other five former Bosnian Croat officials will be released.

“The contribution of general Slobodan Praljak to the defence of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina from Greater Serbian aggression and the defence of the Croat people’s survival in its historic locations during the Homeland War [Croatia’s 1990s war] is of great importance,” Grabar Kitarovic wrote.

“These days, when we are hoping for a just court ruling and his [Praljak’s] release, as well as the release of the other Croatian prisoners, this book comes out as a contribution to the truth about him [Praljak] and the historical period of the struggle of the Croatian people for freedom; the truth which he [Praljak] in many ways persistently defended with his own words after the war,” Grabar Kitarovic added.

In May 2013, the ICTY found Praljak guilty of large-scale crimes against Bosniaks and sentenced him to 20 years in prison.

The Youth Initiative for Human Rights noted how ICTY verdicts have mentioned Croatia’s role in the 1990s war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and accused Grabar Kitarovic of “continuing the policy of aggression against Bosnia and Herzegovina, standing in defence of the perpetrators and completely neglecting the victim’s perspective”.

“The Youth Initiative… advocates the process of dealing with the past based on facts and in accordance with the principle of justice, and calls on representatives of the authorities not to further increase the historical and moral debt by acting - not to ignore it [the debt], and not to leave an even greater responsibility for future generations, with which we will… have to face,” it said.

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