Croatia will not act on Serbia's request to serve summonses on four Croatian Air Force pilots to appear before a Belgrade court, the Justice Ministry said on Friday, adding that the pilots need not worry.
The Croatian government will use every mechanism at its disposal to protect the pilots and the dignity of the 1991-95 war, the ministry said in a press release.
The ministry said it had received the Serbian Justice Ministry’s request for international legal aid to serve the summonses for the pilots to appear for a hearing before the Belgrade High Court’s war crimes department on 14 October.
The Croatian ministry said it did not receive the indictment filed against the pilots nor other information about the actions taken in the criminal procedure, except that the War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office indicted them on 31 March this year for war crimes against civilians.
The ministry reiterated that judicial cooperation must be based on mutual trust, on one state’s confidence that another’s legal order is good enough to ensure an unbiased, equitable and effective trial in that state.
The course of the procedure in Serbia so far points to gross disrespect of the right to a fair trial as established by international law, the ministry said.
Croatia cannot recognize such a procedure or such an indictment, given that it is not based on international criminal law but on distorted universal jurisdiction which Serbia incorporated into its law based on which it launched this procedure, the ministry added.
Therefore Croatia will not act on Serbia’s request, in line with the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, the Law on International Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, and the 1997 agreement between Croatia and the then Yugoslavia on legal assistance in civil and criminal matters, the ministry said.
Croatia expects Serbia to honor international standards and show genuine will to resolve outstanding issues as part of interstate commissions, primarily the issue of the war missing, as without that a dialogue cannot be established, the ministry said.
It added that Serbia must deal with its past and the part it played in the aggression on Croatia in the early 1990s.
The Belgrade court indicted Croatian Air Force pilots Vladimir Mikac, Zdenko Radulj, Zeljko Jelenic and Danijel Borovic for alleged war crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina during Croatia’s 1995 Operation Storm. Croatia’s top officials have called this a provocation and the indictment politically motivated.