The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, on Wednesday is set to deliver the final verdict in the case of former Macedonian Interior Minister Ljube Boskoski and police officer Johan Tarculovski.
Boskoski and Tarculovski are the only people from Macedonia to be indicted by the UN war crimes tribunal in the Hague for war crimes allegedly committed during the 2001 armed conflict in Macedonia between the state security forces and ethnic Albanian insurgents.
“The Hague Appeals Chamber is set to pronounce its final verdict on both Tarculovski and Boskoski,” ICTY spokesperson Nerma Jelacic told Balkan Insight. The case has been widely covered by local media, and some 30 Macedonian journalists have indicated that they will attend today’s hearing.
In 2008 the court sentenced Tarculovski to 12 years in prison for his involvement in atrocities committed by the police in the ethnic Albanian village of Ljuboten near Skopje during the conflict. He was convicted on charges of murder, wanton destruction and cruel treatment.
According to the first instance verdict, Tarculovski personally led the police attack on the village where seven ethnic Albanians died and at least 14 houses were set alight, while more than one hundred men were detained and later tortured.
His defense argues that the charges against Tarculovski are not based on evidence, claiming that the action in Ljuboten was a legitimate police action taken against terrorists.
At the same trial the ICTY in 2008 acquitted Boskoski on all charges but the prosecution filed an appeal in his case, calling again for his conviction.
The Prosecution claimed Boskoski was guilty for his failure to investigate and punish crimes committed by his subordinates during the conflict.
Local media say that the courtroom in the Hague might prove too small to accommodate all who are interested in attending the session. More than 130 family members, friends and supporters of Tarculovski are expected to attend.
Aleksandar Kolevski, the head of the Citizens Association for Support of Tarculovski told local media that they had hired a charter plane to carry all who wish to attend to the Netherlands.
“The fight for Tarculovski’s freedom is a just one and that’s why we expect that the court will acquit him. I hope to see him in Skopje in two weeks,” he said.
So far it is unclear whether any Macedonian state officials will attend the hearing.
The 2001 armed conflict in Macedonia ended with the signing of the Ohrid Peace Accord, which envisaged greater rights for the ethnic Albanian community that makes up one quarter of Macedonia’s population.
Many of the insurgents later became politicians and the accord became the basis for the building of a multiethnic society in the country.