Tribunal & Croatia: 'Blewitt Case' Triggers Angry Response From Zagreb

Tribunal Update 154: Last Week in The Hague (November 29-December 4, 1999)

Tribunal & Croatia: 'Blewitt Case' Triggers Angry Response From Zagreb

Tribunal Update 154: Last Week in The Hague (November 29-December 4, 1999)

Saturday, 4 December, 1999

The question was: "In the current situation in Croatia, with the president in hospital, if he dies and he's probably going to die - do you think there are going to be changes in the attitude of Croatia towards the Tribunal if one day the government is changed and the president is changed?"

Graham Blewitt replied: "As far as President Tudjman's health is concerned, I guess I can sit down with you and speculate as much as anybody. If and when he does die, it's obviously going to result in some change. I would certainly hope that, in terms of Croatia's cooperation with the Tribunal, it would herald a change for the better and that Croatia would fully cooperate with the Tribunal and comply with its legal obligations."

According to Croatian Justice Minister Zvonimir Separovic, Blewitt's statement was "aggressive, morbid and necrophilic," typical, he said, "of a man who has been persecuting Croats and Croatia in an obsessive manner for years". He also called for Blewitt's resignation.

By the end of the week the Office of the Prosecutor had not replied. "We have received no letter from minister Separovic nor any indication of displeasure by Croatian government or its ministers with regard to Mr Blewitt's remarks", said OTP spokesman Paul Risley on Friday afternoon.

He said that "as a matter of policy, the OTP does not want to comment on press reports". However Blewitt's remarks were made as a response to a question and that a review of what was actually said would show a "careful choice of words and tone," he noted. "In no way those remarks could have been interpreted as having been disrespectful or in any way desiring the death (of Tudjman)."

During the same briefing, Blewitt was also asked about the condition of Bosnian Croat war crimes suspect Mladen 'Tuta' Naletilic, whose surrender by Croatia to the Tribunal has been postponed due to his heart condition.

Blewitt said that the OTP received on Tuesday the latest medical report, which indicated that Tuta would undergo surgery within days. "I understand this treatment to be one identified some weeks ago as being necessary for him to be fit to travel to the Hague", said Blewitt. "The OTP sees this as a positive development, leading to a situation where Tuta is likely to be surrendered to the Tribunal in the near future".

Blewitt said the OTP was satisfied with the report and that a Tribunal medical team from the Netherlands had already confirmed that the surgery proposed would be necessary before Tuta could be ruled fit to travel.

"We will wait until this procedure is completed and allow sufficient time for his recovery," said Blewitt. "Tuta's health would then be assessed and if the Tribunal is not satisfied with the opinion of Croatian doctors, the OTP would recommend that the (Tribunal) Registrar send another medical team to Croatia. But it is not necessary to deploy that strategy as yet."

Naletilic was indicted by the tribunal in late 1998. He allegedly commanded a paramilitary unit called the `Convicts Battalion', accused of some of the most brutal massacres of Muslims in south-west Bosnia in 1993-94.

Regarding the status of the OTP's Kosovo investigations, Blewitt said that though forensic investigations had been called off for the rest of this year, the OTP was already making plans to restart them in 2000.

Two of the countries that provided forensic support to the Tribunal have already delivered the collected evidence, and other 'packages' from other countries are being prepared for deliver to the OTP.

"We expect to receive the remaining reports in the coming weeks," Blewitt said. ""When we've got that or a sufficient volume of it, then we would start to assess it in connection with an amended (Milosevic and the 'gang of four') indictment or additional indictments for Kosovo."

Regarding the OTP's possible interest in the five individuals arrested in Belgrade and named by the Serbian authorities as alleged French spies, Blewitt said that some of the detained "are, of course, known to us". But he said, at this stage the OTP was not taking any immediate steps to intervene in the case.

"We'll keep assessing the situation", he added.

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