Share This Page

Hague prosecutor critical of war-crimes acquittals

| Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 9:04 p.m.

THE HAGUE — The chief prosecutor of the Yugoslav war-crimes tribunal expressed disappointment on Wednesday that appeals judges of the United Nations court overturned the convictions of two Croat generals for involvement in violence that drove thousands of Serbs from their homes and left hundreds dead.

Gens. Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac were released Friday after the appeals judges, by a 3-2 majority, reversed convictions for war crimes, including murders and illegal deportations during a 1995 military campaign known as Operation Storm.

In an unusual step, the Hague tribunal's chief prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, issued a statement saying his office is “disappointed by the outcome.”

Brammertz said he is aware that Serb victims “are not satisfied by the outcome and feel their suffering has not been acknowledged.”

That was putting it mildly.

The acquittals sparked fury in Serbia, where many see the U.N. court as biased against them because the majority of the war criminals convicted have been Serbs. The country's nationalist President Tomislav Nikolic called the appeals ruling “scandalous” and warned it would “not contribute to the stabilization of the situation in the region, but will reopen all wounds.”

Serbia's own war-crimes prosecutor, Vladimir Vukcevic, said Wednesday that his office has opened six investigations of alleged war crimes committed against Serbs during Operation Storm. He said Serbian authorities had previously deferred to U.N. prosecutors, but the release of Gotovina and Markac has forced them to investigate.

The news of Serbia's investigation triggered outrage in Croatia, with opposition leader and former Interior Minister Tomislav Karamarko saying “there will be no reconciliation” between the two bitter Balkan rivals before Serbia recognizes that it was the aggressor during the war.

Croatians viewed Gotovina and Markac's acquittals as vindication of their position that their nation was a victim in the 1990s Balkan wars. Thousands of cheering revelers, including veterans of Croatia's war of independence, packed the capital Zagreb's main square on Friday to give Gotovina and Markac a hero's welcome.

In The Hague, Brammertz said his office must respect the appellate panel's decision. Under the tribunal's rules, such a review can only be begun if new facts emerge that were not known at the time of the original conviction or appeals process. He pressed Croat prosecutors to investigate crimes committed during Operation Storm, when Croat forces began a lightning offensive to drive Serbs from land they had seized early in the wars that erupted across the Balkans.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.