The ICTY Chief Prosecutor says he is disappointed with the acquittal of two Croatian generals, while Serbia announces prosecution of crimes committed during the Croatian military operation Storm.In his first reaction after the Hague Tribunal, ICTY, acquitted the Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, Serge Brammertz, the ICTY Chief Prosecutor, says he is disappointed with the ruling.
“We are aware that those affected by crimes committed in connection with Operation Storm are not satisfied by the outcome and feel their suffering has not been acknowledged,” said Brammertz in his statement.
He added that all the documents and evidence that the ICTY prosecution gathered in Gotovina and Markac case will be forwarded to national courts in Serbia and Croatia, if requested.
“We will also make sure that evidence collected by my office will remain available to judicial authorities in the former Yugoslavia to facilitate national prosecutions for the crimes committed in connection with Operation Storm. We trust that the judicial authorities in Croatia will live up to their obligations,” he added.
Brammertz’s reaction comes after Vladimir Vukcevic, the Serbian Chief Prosecutor for War Crimes, announced that in the upcoming months, Serbia will file charges in six war crimes cases allegedly committed in Croatia during the 1995 Operation Storm.
“These cases will be now processed by us [Serbian prosecution] as The Hague Tribunal passed the final verdict and according to international law they no longer have primacy over national courts,” Vukcevic said to the local media.
Last Friday, the Hague Tribunal quashed the 2011 first-instance verdict that jailed Gotovina and Markac, for 24 and 18 years, respectively, for crimes against Serb civilians in Operation “Oluja” [“Storm”] in the summer of 1995.
During the operation the Croatian army recaptured more than 10 thousand square kilometres held by the Serb forces since 1991, from which most of the Croats had been expelled over four years.
It is estimated that more than 200,000 Serbs fled Croatia immediately after operation Storm.
At least several dozen Serb civilians were killed in the weeks and months after the fighting stopped.
Commenting the acquittal of Gotovian and Markac, Vukcevic said that the ICTY prosecution made an omission by not entering into evidence the Croatian military diaries which list all army targets.
Vukcevic added that the Serbian prosecution is currently questioning the potential witnesses.
The investigations are conducted in the village of Kijani, were allegedly 14 civilians were killed, in the villages of Mali Alan and Petrinja, in the town of Dvor na Uni and in the area of Vrgin bridge, where civilians who were escaping towards Serbia were shelled by the Croatian army.
Vukcvevic said that so far cooperation with the Croatian prosecution regarding war crimes was excellent and that he expects the same level of cooperation when it comes to cases related to Operation Storm.
Responding to the announcement that Serbia is to file charges for crimes committed during Operation Storm, the Croatian Foreign Affairs Minister, Vesna Pusic, said that everything that needed to be said had been said by the ICTY verdict.
“The ICTY’s decision is final and there is no need to go further into this matter,” said Pusic, adding that “Serbia is free to take any decision it wants”.
The Croatian Minister of War Veterans, Predrag Matic, said that “some things that Croatia was not proud of occurred after the Storm”.
“We want to trial those things, as well…But Gotovina and Markac cannot be held responsible for something they have not done,” Matic said to the Croatian daily newspaper Jutarnji List.