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

Croatian generals; Brcko forensic enquiry / missing persons

By IWPR staff in The Hague (TU No 480, 8-Dec-06)
By IWPR
Attorneys for generals Ante Gotovina, Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac entered the pleas on their clients’ behalves, the first time this has occurred at the tribunal.



The defence teams also strongly objected to the trial Chamber’s suggestion that the trial be moved to May 2007, stating that they could not possibly be ready before the autumn. Previously, the trial was expected to start in May 2008.



Gregory Keohoe, the defence lawyer for Gotovina, noted that the trial could “significantly affect the rest of the life” of all three men, and said he would not be adequately prepared for the case by spring. Lawyers for Cermak and Markac concurred.



Prosecutor Alan Tieger said that allowing more time to prepare would result in a more efficient trial, and estimated that the trial will take between 12 and 14 months.



But Judge Bakone Moloto said the trial should start before next autumn, and asked the prosecution and defence to either explain why the case must begin later or to find a way to speed up their preparations.



He noted that the prosecution could cut down the scope of the indictment in order to facilitate an earlier start date.



***



Forensic experts have exhumed the remains of about 180 victims of an ethnic cleansing campaign by Serb forces in northeastern Bosnia during the 1990s.



The bodies, identified as former residents of Brcko, were found near the town in a secondary mass grave.



The victims were likely moved from a prior grave in order to hide the killings from the international community.



“[They] were killed either in the concentration camp Luka or just picked up from home and executed,” Murat Hurtic, the head of the forensic team, told the Associated Press.



DNA analysis will be used to identify the remains of the victims, which will then be returned to their families - but more than 500 people from the area remain missing.



Thousands of families of missing people in Bosnia gathered in Brcko to launch an appeal to authorities in the region.



It followed a three-day conference led by the International Commission on Missing Persons, ICMP.



“The government authorities have an obligation to provide answers about the fate of their missing citizens,” stated the ICMP.



Families, governmental institutions and NGOs from Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia and Kosovo attended the conference.



The ICMP asked that they not be admitted into the European Union until the fate of all of the missing persons had been determined.

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