Croatian Operation Storm War Crimes Probe

A Zagreb county court began hearing on Tuesday an investigation about war crimes committed in the village Grubori, near Knin, in August 1995 during the military operation code named Oluja (Storm).

The court heard the first five of about 70 witnesses that will be called, according the media.

Zeljko Sacic, wartime special police deputy commander and four other former members of the special police – Frano Drlje, Berislav Garic, Igor Beneti and Bozidar Krajina, who are currently in custody, are being investigated for crimes committed against Serb civilians. They were arrested in mid December 2009.

The witnesses were questioned in a closed session and details of their statements were not made public.

The court said earlier that witness hearings would continue on 18 January, when the next hearing is scheduled. The highest sentence for war crimes in Croatia is 20 years imprisonment.

Followng the arrest of the five suspects, a group of former special police force members went out on the streets of Zagreb to protest.

According to the indictement prepared by the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, five elderly people – Djuro Karanovic, Milos Grubor, Jovo Grubor, Marija Grubor i Milka Grubor aged 45 to 90 – were killed in Grubori on 25 August, 1995 and more than 20 houses were burned down. The bodies were found by UN forces in the region the same day.

The International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, ICTY, in The Hague indicted for the same crime generals Ante Gotovina, Mladen Markac and Ivan Cermak, who are currently on trial. Zeljko Sacic was Markac’s deputy during Operation Storm. The ICTY trial started in March 2008.

Operation Storm was conducted by Croatina armed forces together with the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The goal was to overtake parts of Croatia and Bosnia that were under Serb control since 1991. It began on 4 August, 1995. In Croatia, 5 August is celebrated as a national holiday.

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