Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Briefly Noted

By IWPR staff in The Hague (TU No 426, 21-Oct-05)
By IWPR

In the meantime, Haradinaj has already made two public statements with the consent of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, which the tribunal has asked to authorise any plans by Haradinaj to make a public appearance or engage in political activity.


Haradinaj is charged with 37 counts of crimes against humanity for his alleged involvement in the abduction, brutal treatment and murder of Serbs, Roma and suspected Albanian collaborators in 1998, during his time in the Kosovo Liberation Army.


In the original agreement granting Haradinaj provisional release in June, the accused was not permitted to “make any public appearance or in any way get involved in any public activity”. Last week, judges ruled that the conditions should change to allow the accused to take part in political activity to the extent that UNMIK considered this important to the “positive development of the political and security situation in Kosovo”.


Prosecutors argue that this gives the accused “almost a carte blanche ability to re-engage in the political scene in Kosovo”. They say further that public appearances by him “will have a very intimidating effect on victims and witnesses”.


The prosecutors say they support a dissenting opinion by Presiding Judge Carmel Agius, attached to the majority decision, in which he said he strongly disagreed with the delegation of responsibility to UNMIK, believing that such control should remain exclusively with the tribunal.


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Judges have agreed to allow an amended indictment against two retired Croatian generals who are charged with atrocities against Serbs during the 1995 war in Croatia. Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac face charges relating to crimes committed during and after Operation Storm – a military offensive by Croatian forces against Serb-occupied towns and villages in the Knin Krajina region in 1995.


Cermak was commander of the Knin garrison and Markac was commander of the Special Police of the Ministry of the Interior.


They are accused – either alone or with the others named on the indictment – of planning, ordering, committing and aiding and abetting the persecution of the Krajina Serbs. They have each been charged with crimes against humanity – persecution, deportation and forcible transfer, and violations of the laws and customs of war – and plunder, murder and wanton destruction in relation to the actions of forces allegedly under their control. They deny all the charges.


Prosecutors were ordered to clarify a number of ambiguities in the original indictment, including which subordinates were allegedly under the generals’ control, and what evidence they had to show that generals were aware of the criminal acts that had been committed.


The amended indictment also names the members of what it terms the joint criminal enterprise to cleanse ethnic Serbs from parts of Croatia. The names now include former Croatian president Franjo Tudjman and Ante Gotovina, a Croatian general still on the run from the tribunal, alongside other unnamed Croatian government and security officials.


But defence lawyers had objected strongly to the amendments, saying they made the issue more unclear.


The amended indictment also contains two new counts against the generals, and provides a wealth of background information, including details of the personal relationship between Tudjman and Cermak. The general allegedly acted as a representative of the Croatian government in dealing with the international community and media in relation to Operation Storm. Prosecutors describe the propaganda methods used to intimidate the Krajina Serbs.


In Croatia itself, Operation Storm is still seen as an important operation which liberated parts of the country. There was shock and anger across the political and social spectrum in Zagreb when it was first suggested that top government and military leaders could be held criminally responsible for it.


In their decision to allow all the amendments, the judges described their task as “unusually laborious” because of the prosecution’s poor organisation of its material. Even though they granted the request, they called for further clarification of two paragraphs before the indictment can be made final.


The accused will be given an opportunity to enter pleas against the new charges.


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