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Croatia: Helsinki Committee contests prosecutor’s data on war crimes

last update: April 28, 13:25

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Zagreb, 28 April (AKI) – A leading Croatian human rights organisation on Thursday disputed the state prosecutor’s claim that thousands of people had been prosecuted for war crimes committed during the military operation to quash a Serb rebellion in the mid-1990s.

The Helsinki Committee said no members of Croatia's security forces had been convicted of war crimes against Serbs during the "Storm” operation of August 1995 to quell a rebellion against Croatia’s secession from the former Yugoslavia.

“According to our data, no members of the Croatian army or police, nor anyone else, has been sentenced for war crimes against Serbs, civilians or soldiers, for crimes committed in “Storm,” said the committee in a statement published by Croatian media on Thursday.

The rights organisation rejected Croatia's state prosecutor's claim on that 3,728 people had been indicted for crimes committed in the “Storm” operation and 2,380 jailed were "deliberately distorted” and aimed to deceive the population.

Most criminal acts were committed against property, but there were also cases of murder and war crimes, the prosecutor said in a statement on Wednesday. Among the perpetrators were 439 members of Croatia's armed forces, the statement said.

The prosecutor’s figures concentrated on minor crimes such as arson and looting, while wartime atrocities had gone unpunished, said the rights group.

In addition, most of those prosecuted for war crimes were Serbs, it said.

According to the Helsinki Committee, 677 Serb civilians were killed in the "Storm" operation and 563 are still listed as missing. In addition, some 200,000 Serbs had fled to Serbia and their property in many cases was looted, burned and destroyed.

The United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on 15 April sentenced two Croatian generals, Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, to 24 and 18 years in jail respectively, for their role in “Storm”.

The Hague tribunal said Gotovina and Markac were part of a “joint criminal enterprise”, headed by late Croatian president Franjo Tudjman, aimed at ethnic cleansing against the country’s Serb minority.

The verdict send shockwaves around Croatia and sparked bitter controversy.

Prime minister Jadranka Kosor has said she will wage a “diplomatic offensive” to change the verdict on appeal.

But HC official Zarko Puhovski told Zagreb daily Vjesnik Kosor should face the reality and concentrate on prosecuting war crimes instead.

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