Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
“November 23 is an important deadline for the Croatian government,” she told journalists, following a meeting with EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on October 11. That is the date that Del Ponte will report to the UN Security Council on Croatia’s cooperation with the tribunal.
EU members have made it clear that cooperation with Hague prosecutors is an essential criterion for Croatia joining the union. But Del Ponte refused to say whether she would seek to exercise influence over the matter.
Gotovina has been in hiding since he was indicted for crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war in 2001.
The charges against him relate to the role he played in “Operation Storm”, the 1995 campaign to regain territory captured by Serb forces. Hague prosecutors allege that Gotovina – who commanded troops in the Krajina region during the campaign – is responsible for a campaign of persecution which included plundering and burning Serb homes and murdering some 150 people.
Prosecutors have made public an indictment against former Croat militiaman Miroslav Bralo. He is charged him with grave breaches of the Geneva conventions and violations of the laws or customs of war.
The document refers to a period in 1993 when Bralo, also known as “Cicko”, was allegedly a member of the “Jokers” – a special forces wing of the Croatian Defence Council, HVO, which was engaged in fighting the Bosnian government army.
The indictment accuses Bralo of forcing Bosnian Muslim civilians to dig trenches at gunpoint to protect HVO soldiers from Bosnian army sniper fire. It says he made Muslim prisoners carry out Catholic rituals under threat of death, and ordered others to be tortured by having salt and water forced down their throats before he took part in killing them.
It also outlines in horrific detail his alleged sexual assault of a Muslim woman over a period of two days.
A sealed indictment was first issued against Bralo in 1995. The Washington Post reported in December 1997 that he had approached a checkpoint manned by NATO troops earlier that year and had tried to surrender himself. But NATO hadn’t been informed of his indictment and the soldiers sent him away. The same article reported tribunal sources as saying that US generals had later blocked pleas for him to be arrested.
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