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Operation Storm Trial Postponed

By Merdijana Sadovic in Sarajevo (TU No 496, 9-Apr-07)
The tribunal has announced that the trial of three Croatian generals indicted for crimes committed in the 1995 Operation Storm will be postponed, due to a number of unresolved issues.

The trial of Ante Gotovina, Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac was due to start on May 7.

However, at a status conference held last week in The Hague, Judge Bakone Justice Moloto said it was "virtually impossible" to begin the trial at that date, adding that the delay should not be “substantial”.

As a reason for the delay, Judge Moloto mentioned a number of unresolved questions concerning the trial.

One of them was possible conflict of interest on the part of Cermak's lawyers Cedo Prodanovic and Jadranka Slokovic due to the fact that their other client, Croatian army general Rahim Ademi, could be summoned to testify as a witness in this case.

Soon after the delay to the Operation Storm trial was announced, the judges decided to remove Prodanovic and Slokovic from Cermak’s case, citing conflict of interest. The two lawyers said they would appeal the ruling.

They had proposed hiring a third lawyer for the purpose of cross-examining General Ademi - in case he was summoned to appear in The Hague - but the judges did not accept this.

Explaining their decision to remove Prodanovic and Slokovic, the judges said their continued involvement in the case would prevent Cermak from building his defence on shifting responsibility to two of his superiors - General Ante Gotovina and his deputy, General Ademi - because of the lawyers’ duty to be loyal to Ademi, whom they represent before a Croatian court.

The judges urged the appointment of new defence lawyers for Cermak, ordering Prodanovic and Slokovic to assist them in preparations for the trial.

Markac's lawyer Miroslav Separovic had already been removed from the Operation Storm case, also due to conflict of interest, but he has appealed the judges’ decision. Separovic was Croatian justice minister at the time relevant to the indictment.

Merdijana Sadovic is IWPR Hague programme manager.

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