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Croatia Gets Second Amicus Curiae Knock Back

(TU No 473, 20-Oct-06)
On October 18, the trial chamber denied Croatia's appeal to be given amicus curiae status in the trial of Croatian generals Ante Gotovina, Mladen Markac and Ivan Cermak, which should start next year.

The generals - whose cases were joined in July this year - are charged with crimes which occurred during and after Operation Storm, a Croatian military offensive launched in August 1995 to reclaim the Serb-occupied Krajina region of southern Croatia.

They stand accused of taking part in a joint criminal enterprise, along with former Croatian president Franjo Tudjman and former defence minister Gojko Susak, whose objective was “the permanent removal of the Serb population from the Krajina region” by force and persecution.

Croatia applied to the tribunal in September to be granted amicus curiae status in the trial of the three accused, as well as in the case against six Bosnian Croat officials.

In its requests, the Croatian authorities asked to be allowed to “assist in the determination of the truth regarding the allegation of the prosecution that the then state and military leadership of the Republic of Croatia participated in the joint criminal enterprise”.

Gotovina’s defence counsel, Luka Misetic, supported Croatia’s request, saying, "Croatia has a clear interest in ensuring the accuracy of the historical record."

But the prosecution opposed these applications on October 2, saying the Croatian authorities did not meet the necessary criteria and could not be impartial.

Now the tribunal judges have turned down Croatia’s requests, saying that “the trial chamber is not satisfied that granting leave to the Government of Croatia to appear as amicus …would assist the chamber in the proper determination of the case”.

The status of amicus curiae, explained the decision, is generally granted to help the tribunal clarify “questions of law”.

Croatia’s request, it went on to explain, appeared to deal with “questions of fact, such as the existence and scope of the joint criminal enterprise and the broader historical and political context” in which events in the indictment took place.

It also added that “the government of Croatia, if in possession of any information that could be relevant to the case, could provide such material to any of the parties in these proceedings”.

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