Croatian Generals’ ICTY Appeal: zooming into the nitty-gritty

Ante Gotovina (L) Mladen Markac (R)

Croatian Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac Appeal hearing is set for 14th May. Many wait in intense anticipation. While the charges for war crimes against the generals were and are directed at the Generals as individual people the Trial Chamber’s findings in April 2011 was felt by the nation. The latter in particular because the Trial Chamber judgment decided that there was a Joint Criminal Enterprise through which Croatian leadership planned and executed mass expulsion of Serbs from Croatia as part of Operation Storm (1995, military operation that liberated the Serb occupied areas). Main argument for this finding was that there was excessive – indiscriminate – shelling by the Croatian army at the time. The Trial Chamber had decided that only 200 metre error must apply to shelling, and that there were instances during Operation Storm, albeit relatively small in number, where this was considered not to have been the case. This standard in artillery shelling was one that the Trial Chamber came up with and since then many world leading experts have stated that this was unreasonable and impossible to achieve in any military operation of the same kind.

On Tuesday 24 April 2012 the ICTY Appeal Chamber has issued an Addendum to the Scheduling of Appeal Hearing in which it now wants to ensure that, among any other matters, the essential substance of the Appeal – the nitty-gritty – is addressed at the hearing.

In the Addendum the Appeal Chamber “invites the parties, without prejudice to any other matter which they or the Appeals Chamber may wish to address, to discuss, with references to the record:

  1.   Whether the Trial Chamber erred in applying a 200 metre range of error in analyzing the lawfulness of artillery shelling;
  2. Whether the Trial Chamber’s conclusions regarding impact sites should be upheld if its application of the 200 metre range of error is deemed erroneous;
  3. Whether the Trial Chamber’s finding that illegal artillery attacks took place should be upheld if its conclusions with respect to impact sites are deemed erroneous; and
  4. Whether the Trial Chamber’s finding that a Joint Criminal Enterprise existed should be upheld if its finding that legal artillery attacks took place is deemed erroneous”. 

These issues are not only important to the cases of the Croatian Generals but the outcome of the Appeal on them will, undoubtedly, shape and influence the future of military engagement everywhere. Setting impossible standards of acceptable error in shelling, requiring precision in target hitting that is humanly impossible in similar military operations is a matter that will affect all armies. This has been widely put in the media during the past months (including this website) and to the point where internationally acceptable standards of combat must not be such that they create war criminals where there are none. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps.(Syd)


  1. Obrana generala Gotovine zatražila je da se u žalbenom dijelu postupka uvede 25 novih dokaza, među kojima su i zapisnici sjednica Vrhovnog savjeta obrane koje su se održavale u Beogradu u vrijeme »Oluje«, američka diplomatska bilješka objavljena putem WikiLeaksa te ekspertna izvješća američkih časnika. Ti se dokazi tiču okolnosti odlaska srpskih civila prije »Oluje«, u tijeku nje i nakon nje, karaktera topničkih napada HV-a tijekom »Oluje« i Gotovininih ovlasti u vezi s javnim nastupima.Prema rasporedu rada na ročištu će u prijepodnevnom terminu žalbu obrazložiti obrana generala Ante Gotovine a u poslijepodnevnom dijelu ročišta obrana generala Mladena Markača. Obje će obrane imati po sat i pol za svoje izlaganje a isto vrijeme dodijeljeno je i tužiteljima za odgovor na žalbe. Nakon tužitelja, obrane dvojice generala će, ukoliko žele odgovoriti na izlaganje tužitelja i svaka je dobila po pola sata.
    Žalbeno vijeće predvidjelo je i mogućnost da se generali Gotovina i Markač osobno obrate sucima na kraju ročišta i za to su odvojili po 10 minuta.
    Generali ,Hrvatska je uz Vas !

    • Translation of comment by Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources: General Gotovina’s defence has asked tha, in the Appeal, 25 new evidences be introduced, among which are the Minutes from the meetings of the Supreme council of defence that were held in Belgrade at the time of “Storm”, American diplomatic note published by Wikileaks and expert reports from American officers. Those pieces of evidence are related to the circumstances of the departure of Sebs before “Storm”, during it and after it, the character of artillery attacks of the Croatian Amrmy during “Storm” and Gotovina’s authority in relation to public appearances. According to the hearing time table, General Ante Gotovina’s defence is to be presented in the morning and General Mladen Markac’s in the afternoon. Both defences are to have one and a half hour each for presentation and the same length of time is given to the prosecution to reply to the defence. After the prosecutor, the two generals will, if they wish, reply to the prosecutor’s presentation and will each half half an hour for that.
      The Appeal Chamber has allowed the possibility for generals Gotovina and Markac to personally address the court at the end of the hearing and will be allowed 10 minutes each for that.
      Generals, Croatia is with you!

  2. Michael Silovic says:

    I pray everyday that they are set free. When they are I will certainly pray that Ante Gotovina runs for president.

    • Justice will prevail sooner or later – as Croatian generals Gotovina and Markac are not guilty of any joint criminal enterprise. They did their job of defending and liberating Croatian territory in extremely hard circumstances, after all the Serbian aggression and murders and ethnic cleansing of Croats and non-Serbs from areas Serbs occupied it’s a wonder that Croatia had energy by 1995 Operation Storm to liberate its territory from the brutal aggressor.

      • Michael Silovic says:

        Matt, I agree with your comments. What I am angry about is that they were convicted for nothing more then political reasons and are pawns in a nasty game. Everyone knew that if Ante was not convicted he would be President of Croatia today. Markac was thrown in so that hey could prove a criminal enterprise. This whole thing is a sham. Look at the direction Croatia is heading in now with the puppets we have leading us to a new future. One of saying we are sorry for everything we have done and forgetting we ARE the victims. Look at the loss of life of Croatians that no one is accounting for in our history. If I had to accept today’s way of being a sheep I’d rather live with the U before I denigrate my country and my people.

  3. Michael Silovic says:

    Every Croat that has an Embassy of the Netherlands close by should go there and show support for the release of both Gotovina And Markac on May 14th.

  4. Know what you mean Michael. One cannot avoid but think that the dills leading Croatia are only doing it for personal reasons and for for true national strength and Croatia. There is the feeling of temporary with them especially the Social democrats who just keep on pushing the communist yesterday and the word Croatia comes out of their mouth unconvincingly, They just want to be liked by foreigners and forget that foreigners like themselves first. It’s truly sad watching the way ICTY spins out stuff that more often than not is pure politics.

  5. We won the war,but are losing the peace…wtf! Wake up Croatia.

    • Time to set the alarm clock!

      • Michael Silovic says:

        On May 14th all Croatians should stop and pause for one moment in prayer for their release. If everyone did this at 12 o’clock noon especially throughout Croatia our prayers will be answered and we will send a strong message to our government. I have no faith in anyone in the Hague or the Croatian Government at this time.

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