No Verdicts in Croatia Over Operation Storm

Croatia has prosecuted 27 war crimes perpetrated during and after Operation Storm in 1995, but none has yet ended in a verdict.According to the Croatian state prosecutor, published in the media on Tuesday, November 27, war-crimes cases linked to Operation Storm are in different phases of prosecution.

Two are in the trial phase, concerning the killing of six Serb civilians in Grubori village near Knin in late August 1995 and the murder of an elderly couple in the village of Prokljan in the Sibenik hinterland.

For the crime in Grubori, a trial is ongoing against two former special police, Frano Drlje and Bozo Krajina.

The trial was stopped against Igor Beneta, who comitted suicide, and against Berislav Garic, because of lack of evidence.

Former special police deputy commander Zeljko Sacic is still under investigation for allegedly covering up the Grubori crime.

For the murder of the couple in Prokljan on August 11, 1995, a trial continues against Croatian army officer Bozo Bacelic and three ex-soldiers Ante Mamic, Luka Vuko and Jurica Ravlic.

Bacelic was tried in 2002 for the same crime but acquitted. He escaped in 2007 before a retrial and was arrested in Germany in February this year.

Mate Sindija was investigated for the murder of three Serb civilians in the villages of Laskovci and Dobropoljci in 2001, but that case closed because of lack of evidence.

Prosecutors have been additionally investigating 24 war crimes concerning 159 victims connected with Storm.

The cases include killing of 20 civilians in Plavno, the killing of eight civilians in Kovacic, Golubic and Zagrovac, and another four civilians in Mokro polje and Ocestovo.

The investigation is ongoing over the murder of 17 civilians in Varivode and Gosici in September 1995.

Several Croatian soldiers have faced trial for some of these killings but all were acquitted.

The killing of four civilians and prisoners of war in Drnis is still under investigation, as is the killing of 11 civilians in Vrbnik and six people in Donji Skrad.

Croatian Army attacks on refugee columns are also under investigation, prosecutors told the media.

The investigation is ongoing into 27 victims exhumed in a mass grave at Gradina in Korenica.

Croatian NGOs have noted several times that no one has yet been convicted in Croatia for war crimes connected to Operation Storm.

It is widely accepted that there was a policy of impunity concerning war crimes committed during Operation Storm.

It was one of the reasons why the International criminal court for former Yugoslavia, ICTY, indicted Ante Gotovina, Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac, who were later acquitted.

Mladen Stojanovic, from an NGO, the Center for Peace, Nonviolence and Human Rights, told the daily Vecernji list that the judiciary had the capacity to prosecute war crimes, but more political will is needed.

Both Croatia’s President and Prime Minister have emphasised since Gotovina and Markac were acquitted that Croatia still has an obligation to prosecute all war crimes.

The Croatian judiciary has so far filed 6,390 criminal charges for various kinds of criminal offences perpetrated during and after Operation Storm, including killings, burning of property and robbery.

Among those accused were 439 Croatian soldiers. A total of 2,380 persons were convicted so far, Croatian prosecutors said.

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