Hague Appeals Chamber Reverses Trial Conclusion Against Croatia’s Leaders

From left: General Janko Bobetko, Presidentof Croatia Franjo Tudjman, Croatia's Defence Minister Gojko Susak Croatia - early 1990's Photo: Cropix/Goran Sebelic

From left: General Janko Bobetko,
President of Croatia Franjo Tudjman,
Croatia’s Defence Minister Gojko Susak
Croatia – early 1990’s
Photo: Cropix/Goran Sebelic

 

The Hague Tribunal ICTY rejected Monday 18 July 2016 the request of the Republic of Croatian to join the appeal case against the six former Bosnia and Herzegovina Croatian senior officials from the 1990’s Herceg-Bosna part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Jadranko Prlic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petkovic, Valentin Coric and Berislav Pusic. As farcical as the findings were seen by many, the ICTY Trial Chamber did find May 2013 the six men guilty for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1994 and pronounced a total of 111 years imprisonment.

 

Presiding judge last week, Judge Carmel Agius delivered the Appeal Chamber’s decision denying Croatia’s application to appear as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in the above six men’s appeal proceedings to dispute the Trial Chamber’s conclusions that the six accused participated in a Joint Criminal Enterprise (JCE) and that three Croatia’s officials – first Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, former foreign minister Gojko Susak and Croatian army general Janko Bobetko – were members of that JCE (Joint Criminal Enterprise).

 

Croatian’s application claimed that the 2013 Trial Chamber verdict violated the right of presumption of innocence under the European Convention on Human Rights of the three Croatian official’s – Tudjman, Susak and Bobetko, who were all deceased at the time ; that the three Croatian officials were innocent of allegation that they were members of JCE and that the Trial chamber’s conclusion is tantamount to “posthumous conviction”.

Six Croats from Herceg-Bosna at ICTY in The Hague, 2013 Photo: ICTY

Six Croats from
Herceg-Bosna
at ICTY in The Hague, 2013
Photo: ICTY

 

The Appeals Chamber rejected Croatia’s application saying it would not assist the Appeals Chamber in its considerations of questions in issue at the appeal.

However, an unexpected bonus arrived from this application – the Appeal judges articulated their assessment that the original Trial Chamber findings that included conclusion regarding Croatia’s Franjo Tudjman, Gojko Susak and Janko Bobetko do not and cannot amount to a guilty verdict against these three Croatian officials (Full PDF version here):

“…the Appeals Chamber emphasises that findings of criminal responsibility made in a case before the Tribunal are binding only on the accused in a specific case. In this regard, Appeals Chamber observes that the Three Croatian Officials were not indicted or charged in the present case. Furthermore, the Trial Chamber made no explicit findings concerning their participation in the JCE and did not find them guilty of any crimes. Chamber considers that the Trial Chamber’s findings regarding the mere existence and membership of the lCE do not – and cannot – constitute findings of criminal responsibility on the part of any persons who were not charged and convicted in this case. Thus, the Trial Judgment is binding only on the Six Accused, and the presumption of innocence of the Three Croatian Officials is not impacted. The Appeals Chamber further observes that the Tribunal’s jurisdiction is restricted to “natural persons” and the Tribunal does not have the competency to make findings on state responsibility. Accordingly, the Appeals Chamber emphasises that the findings in the Trial Judgment regarding the Three Croatian Officials in no way constitute findings of responsibility on the part of the state of Croatia. The Appeals Chamber therefore finds Croatia’s submissions to be without merit and dismisses them.”

Luka Misetic Photo: Darko Tomas/Cropix

Luka Misetic Photo: Darko Tomas/Cropix

The Appeals Chamber has essentially reversed the findings of the Prlic Trial Chamber about Tudjman, Susak and Bobetko’s alleged participation in a JCE. In a unique procedural maneuver, it did so in the context of a decision to reject an amicus curiae application. Scholars and practitioners of international criminal procedure should take note.

The Appeals Chamber went on to emphasize that “the presumption of innocence of the three Croatian officials is not impacted” by the Prlic Trial Chamber judgment, and furthermore “”the Appeals Chamber emphasizes that the findings in the Trial Judgment regarding the Three Croatian Officials in no way constitute findings of responsibility on the part of the state of Croatia.”

The ICTY Appeals Chamber has thus ruled that President Tudjman, Minister Susak and General Bobetko were not found to be members of a JCE in Bosnia and remain presumed innocent by the ICTY. Prosecutor Ken Scott stated publicly that the Trial Chamber in Prlic was ‘very clear and adamant about the significant role played by Tudjman and Susak’ and that these findings were ‘one of the most historical, remarkable things about the case.’ Those findings are now reversed.
Croatia could not have hoped for a better result from the Appeals Chamber even if the Appeals Chamber had granted Croatia amicus status,” says the US based, well-known attorney Luka Misetic.

This decision at the ICTY Appeals Chamber blows right out of the water the wild and evil claims that Croatia’s plan at the time was to create a Greater Croatia by joining to it the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina known as Herceg-Bosna and, hence, concluded that Croatia’s leaders were members of the JCE that was to achieve this goal. The Hague Prosecution did accuse the Six Croats of participating in a joint criminal enterprise that was intended to “permanently remove and ethnically cleanse Bosnian Muslims and other non-Croats” from the territory of the newly-established Herceg-Bosna, which they wanted to attach to a planned “Greater Croatia”. Now that the Appeal Chambers have found last week that Croatian leaders were not members of that JCE as Trial Chamber maintained it would stand to reason and truth that any Greater Croatia could not be created without Croatia. Appeal Chamber’s decision with regard to the Herceg-Bosna Six Croats is expected around November 2017. Given that many have considered the 2013 Trial Chamber verdict against them a farce and an utterly unfair and unjust, one awaits the outcome of the appeal with intense interest as it could turn the tides towards actual justice and truth and point to a different picture of the conflict between the Croats and Muslims in 1990’s in Bosnia and Herzegovina than the one painted by the ICTY Trial Chamber verdict. We can only pray for now. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Comments

  1. Great! Will you be publishing a picture of the Croatian president soon? She’s a hottie! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wilkinsson says:

    This is great news even if we knew it to be so before Trial Chamber passed its false conclusions. So good to peel off the burden of Trial Chamber findings or conclusions regarding Croatian leaders. Mr Luka Misetic is such a great asset

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Detroit_Croat says:

    So in the end, the ICTY seems to be geared more towards punishing those seeking independence from tyranny than punishing those who committed mass murder and war crimes. This was made very clear when they allowed Seselj to go free. I still can’t believe they would even think about putting Tudman, Susak, and Bobetko on trial. What were they supposed to do? Lay down and be slaughtered? Pure incompetence within the EU and we are seeing more and more today.

    One of things I’ve noticed is a scheme to first convict and then overturn rulings. The legitimacy of this court system should be in review and mandate questioned.

    The one fact the ICTY lose sight of is that Croatia and Croatians have a claim to Bosnia all the way back to the 7th century. Croatian monarchs rule until the Turkish occupation. Even then they still called it “Turska Hrvatska”. So why wouldn’t Croats in BiH want to seek help from an established Croatia? Through the years and centuries, Europe has turned a blind eye when Croats were expelled from BiH, Boka and Srijem. Now they are on trial to at least have a link back to Croatia. Seems like there is a lot of pandering and theorists that drive the agenda versus true order and justice.

    Free the Croatian 6!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well said Detroit Croat. There’s nothing more natural and just than “brother” calling a brother to help defend against aggression and brutal attacks. Had Herceg-Bosna not been created as an entity at the time when Karadzic represented Bosnia Serbs and Izetbegovic represented Bosnian Muslims in European “talks” no one would represent Croats from Bosnia and Herzegovina…and they would have suffered even more…

      Like

  4. Patricia N says:

    That’s good to know. I wasn’t aware this was happening even. Thanks for keeping us up to date on so many developments

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Did the ICTY also clear Milosevic of JCE in the Karazdic trial?

    Like

    • Sunman, if Milosevic was mentioned as member of that JCE then ICTY indictment must have removed it – to protect Serbia? – the I am still wading through the 2600+ pages of the March verdict slowly but have reached a good speed lately although don’t know that I’ll read it all…soon will write on that one I think…to answer your question: no – because Milosevic/Serbia do not seem to be in that indictment which is quite appalling given Serbia’s role.

      Like

  6. Good reporting, Ms. Vukic! /s/ Peter Brock

    Like

  7. With Serbia’s inflammatory and hateful statement recently,which is just continuation of the their provocation since the 90’s, do you think that either the EU or Croatia will finally see that Serbia has not changed and in fact has become more Chetnik in nature. Will Croatia finally withdraw its ambassador? And if Donald Trump can build a wall with Mexico, why can’t we build a wall with Serbia. They are only trouble and only mean us harm. Their ‘friendship’ which always claim they want is false and a guise for de-stabilizing Croatia and neutralizing it on the world stage to finally achieve it’s Greater Serbia ambitions. Why can’t ordinary Croats and our leaders see this?

    Like

    • Perhaps they see it, or many do but when you have similar Idiots, to put it mildly, Sunman, doing to Croatia within what Serbia does from outside then things can get nasty and I hope it all builds up to a climax at which Croatia must turn its back to Serbia. I can’t understand why Croatian politicians are not louder towards Serbia’s attacks and aggression that is now verbal

      Like

  8. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    “BOO-HISS!”

    Like

  9. therealamericro says:

    The trial of Prlic et. al. was a complete farce.

    Evidence was openly repressed – see Lt. Col. Dr. Charles R. Schrader’s book for instance – or was simply ignored – October 1992 US State Department cable on Prozor, for instance – to bring about the desired guilty ruling based on outright lies, half truths, quarter truths, one eighth truths and discredited testimony (see Praljak vs. every, literally every, prosecution witness).

    The Great Game continues and Croatia thwarted a lot of Eurotrash powers’ plans for the region.

    Ina I think an interview with Lt. Col. Dr. Charles Reginald Schrader would be a great insight into the workings of the ICTY. Remember, he was commissioned by the ICTY to do a neutral study on the Muslim-Croat civil war in Central Bosnia for the Blaskic trial – he did – and it was dismissed and not submitted into evidence into the trial.

    Like

  10. therealamericro says:

    I’m going to C/P a post I made on transconflict regarding the pornographic ruling against Prlic et. al. (http://www.transconflict.com/2013/05/tales-from-herzeg-bosna-the-trial-of-the-prlic-defendants-315/ – see therealamericro comments).

    The entire case against Prlic et. al. hangs on hearsay and conjecture (the Ashdown napkin in which Tudman drew the borders of what is now the Federation of B&H and the Karadjordjevo myth that is debunked by the war in Croatia itself and the HVO’s March 1992-Nov 1995 fight against the JNA-VRS), as well as willfull ignorance.

    Namely, the judgement ruled that the first clash between Croats and Bosniaks took place on Oct. 23 in Prozor, when “the HVO attacked the town of Prozor and its surroundings.”

    What is missing is the fact that:

    a) The HVO “attack” was actually a counter-attack after the ABiH murdered four HVO members during what was supposed to be a relief in place on post in the village of Dobrasin, but was actually an ambush that was to set the stage for the larger TO/ABiH attack to push Croatian civilians and soldiers alike out of Prozor;
    b) The first act of violence took place on Radusa mountain where four HVO soldiers were killed by their Army of B&H “allies” while doing a leaders reconnaissance on JNA-VRS forward positions in an ambush from behind, on June 13, 1992;
    c) On Oct. 1-5 1992 skirmishes break between Croatians and Muslims and foreign Islamist militants in the municipality of Novi Travnik, in the villages of Senkovci, Sinokos and Donje Pecine, Opara, as well as in the city of Novi Travnik. The Army of B&H escalated its use of force and engaged in excessive and indiscriminate artillery against the villages, injuring several civilians, and launched an artillery and mortar assault that was followed by infantry assault against the HVO command post and the HVO Field Hospital in Travnik, the latter destroyed. Two nearby apartment buildings inhabited by Croats were set on fire by Army of B&H and foreign Islamists and frenzied local civilians after they kicked out the residents at gunpoint.
    d) The fighting on Oct. 23 in Prozor was planned on Oct. 21, at the meeting of the “Headquarters of territorial defense forces of Prozor municipality,” where commanders of Muslim forces from neighboring municipalities met at the house of Zibo Korman in the village of Blace (municipality Rama-Prozor). The chairperson Mustafa Hero, the commander of Muslim forces in Prozor said, and this is according to the meeting minutes taken by Alija Emric, that on Friday, October 23rd 1992 “the fight will start” and that at the end of it “The Muslims will call the shots in the city”, and that in “the fight” they would be helped by Bosniak Muslim reinforcements from Gornji Vakuf (around 1000 fighters) and Konjic (around 500 men).

    This means that contrary to the Prosecution claims and judgement allegations, Bosniak fighters attacked the Croats in Dobrasin and in Prozor town itself, which they did, expelling the Croat civilans briefly, and the Croats were forced to counter-attack, which they did.

    The reason Hero and his cohorts planned the attack was because they and the ABiH in general rejected the signed agreement between Tudman and Izetbegovic that subordinated ABiH units in Croatian majority areas to the command structure of the HVO and HVO units in Bosniak majority areas to the command structure of the ABiH.

    The second most glaring factually innacurate premise is what the judgement ruled as the actual start of open conflict. It claims the “first clashes between the HVO and the ABiH took place on 11 and 12 January 1993 in the Municipality of Gornji Vakuf. On 16 January 1993, pursuant to an order issued the previous day, the Main Staff of the HVO demanded that the ABiH in Gornji Vakuf subordinate its troops to the HVO. The ABiH rejected this demand.”

    What was ignored by the Prosecution, and the Judges (well, the Judge and the two “judges”) is that between January 8-10, 1993, one hundred Croats were ethnically cleansed from Muslim-majority sections of Gornji Vakuf by ABiH members and civilians alike.

    To summarize – the entire premise of the case is based on a false premise, namely, the “convenient” ommission of very relevant preceding events that demolish the entire premise of Prosecution indictment and the subsequent judgement.

    Like

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