Croatia’s Government is still influencing war crimes trials, and it has blocked a large and growing number of cases against former members of the Croatian and Bosnian Croat armies, the chief prosecutor at the Hague-based international court wrote in his Monday report to the UN.
Croatia’s Government has not withdrawn its 2015 conclusion which ordered the country’s Justice Ministry to refuse to provide judicial cooperation in certain war crimes cases, said the report which was written by Serge Brammertz, the chief prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT).
IRMCT is the court tasked with finishing the work of the now-closed International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
Brammertz wrote that, despite efforts by his office to cooperate with Croatia’s Government, very little progress was achieved throughout the past three years because of Croatia’s politics and negative influence, the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) in Bosnia reported.
“Such a policy has an influence on promoting impunity to the detriment of victims throughout the region who deserve justice,” BIRN quoted Brammertz’s report, which also said that Croatia never gave a satisfactory clarification for its behaviour.
Croatia should revoke its 2015 decision and “allow the process of justice to continue without further interference,” it said.
Croatia’s lack of cooperation resulted in the stagnation of war crimes investigations and trials in neighbouring countries as well, Brammertz wrote.
But the prosecutor also wrote that, at the same time, Croatian courts keep seeking justice for Croatian victims.
Brammertz also criticised the behaviour of Croatia’s judiciary regarding the case of convicted war criminal Marko Radic, a former Bosnian Croat commander whom a Bosnian court sentenced to 21 years behind bars for crimes against humanity.
The Bosnian verdict against Radic states that his wartime actions were part of a joint criminal enterprise for which Croatia’s wartime leadership provided support, the ICTY concluded.
Croatia dismissed the qualification and its legal system does not recognise the concept of ‘joint criminal enterprise’.
That is why, when Radic was granted to serve his sentence in Croatia per an agreement between the two countries, a Zagreb court reduced his sentence to 12 years. Since Radic has served most of those 12 years already, he is to be released by the end of the year.
“Victims and the public find it very hard to understand how the sentence for such grave crimes could be reduced to such an extent only on the basis of the takeover by Croatia,” BIRN quoted the Report.
Although the transfer of war criminals helps their social rehabilitation and is in line with the implementation of justice, it is unclear how such a goal could be achieved if Radic is released little after he is transferred, Brammertz reportedly argued.
The President of IRMCT, Theodor Meron, also presented his report to the UN Security Council, which said that the court would hand down the final verdict against former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic within the first three months of 2019.
Karadzic was the wartime president of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated part, Republika Srpska. He appealed his 40-year jail sentence handed down to him by the ICTY for genocide and other war crimes committed during Bosnia's 1992-95 war.