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

Courtside: Bobetko Loses Appeal

By Vjera Bogati in The Hague (TU No. 291, 25-29 November, 2002)

Hague judges ruled that the appeal had no grounds, and said the 83-year-old must journey to The Hague to answer the indictment.

Bobetko is charged with killings and destruction of villages in the Medak Pocket, in September 1993. Croatia had appealed on several grounds.

First, it said norms of international law had been ignored because the arrest warrant was issued without giving the general a chance to turn up in person.

But appeals judges said Croatia, as a nation state, had no right within law to contest The Hague’s decision to issue an arrest order. "A state which is ordered to arrest or detain an individual has no standing to challenge the merits of that order."

In other words, attendance is a matter for the prosecutor and the defendant, not a state. The judges said that the time to contest an indictment is in court, when the evidence will be presented.

Croatia’s other complaint was that the assumptions behind the indictment - which was that its forces were engaged in systematic war crimes - could have serious consequences for the country.

Zagreb is unhappy that the indictment describes portions of the Medak operation as potentially illegal. Croatia claims the operation was a legitimate attempt to liberate a section of its territory.

But the appeals chamber ruled that such judgements would have to wait until the start of the trial.

The tribunal also said it will not allow submissions made by an indictee before they show up for their trial – apparently closing the door to any last minute appeal in person by Bobetko.

The judges said that nation states can only seek a review if they are directly involved in a case - such as being required to hand over documents or records from archives.

Vjera Bogati is an IWPR correspondent in The Hague and a journalist with SENSE news agency.

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