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

Joining of Croatian Generals Cases Confirmed

By Katherine Boyle in The Hague (TU No 474, 27-Oct-06)
All three defendants had filed appeals in August asking that the Gotovina, Cermak and Markac cases not be joined.

Gotovina, Cermak and Markac are accused of participating in a joint criminal enterprise alleged to have taken place during and after Operation Storm – a Croatian military operation launched in August 1995 to reclaim the Serb-held Krajina region.

In the July decision to join the proceedings, the trial chamber also amended the indictments against the defendants.

The changed indictment formed the basis of Gotovina’s appeal. His defence team argued that the prosecution’s new charges were irreconcilable with the theory advanced in the case of Slobodan Milosevic regarding the “alleged expulsion” of Krajina Serbs.

Gotovina claimed he could not have been responsible for atrocities committed against the Serbs in the area as, according to the Milosevic prosecution, Milosevic had already evacuated them.

The appeals chamber dismissed this claim, saying he was misrepresenting the prosecution’s theory and taking witnesses’ testimony out of context.

Cermak and Markac both argued that their and Gotovina’s alleged crimes were not related and therefore the cases should not be joined.

But the appeals chamber rejected their claim, saying that the alleged crimes of the accused were “inherently connected” because they all took place in the same area, during the same time period and in the course of the same military operation.

When making its decision, the appeals chamber also considered possible conflicts of interest for Cermak’s attorneys Cedo Prodanovic and Jadranka Slokovic and Markac’s lawyer Miroslav Separovic.

Gotovina’s lawyers may call Separovic, whom they describe as a “crucial witness”, to testify about his role as former justice minister in Croatia, according to Gotovina’s appeal.

The appeals chamber acknowledged that Separovic’s testimony regarding governmental influence on the military courts would be important for Gotovina’s defence and that his role as Markac’s lawyer could lead to a conflict of interest.

In its decision, the appeals chamber said that Separovic should withdraw from Markac’s defence team now that his client is to be tried with Gotovina.

The tribunal’s lawyers’ code mandates withdrawal in order to prevent conflict of interest, and Separovic could face professional consequences if he does not do so.

Gotovina’s lawyers are also considering calling General Rahim Ademi, another Operation Storm participant, who will be defended by Prodanovic and Slokovic at his pending trial in Croatia.

In their appeal, Gotovina’s lawyers claim that a conflict of interest could arise in calling Ademi as a defence witness for Gotovina, as Ademi and Cermak have the same lawyers.

But the appeals chamber rejected this argument, noting a conflict of interest was unlikely as Ademi is not charged with anything related to events described in the indictments of the three Croatian generals.

The chamber did state, however, that Cermak’s lawyers Prodanovic and Slokovic must inform Cermak and Ademi of the potential conflict of interest that comes with representing each client at different trial.

According to the Croatian News Agency, HINA, Prodanovic and Slokovic have already obtained consent from both Cermak and Ademi.

The appeals chamber has stated that joining Cermak, Markac and Gotovina cases will promote judicial economy and miminise hardship to witnesses.

Katherine Boyle is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

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