Annual Report: Croatia 2010

May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Croatia 2010

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  • In May, Branimir Glavaš and five others were convicted by the Zagreb County Court. Branimir Glavaš, who was convicted for having failed to prevent his subordinates from detaining, ill-treating and killing civilians and of having directly participated in some of the crimes in his capacity as local military leader in 1991, was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment. The other five were found guilty of the unlawful arrest, torture and killing of Croatian Serb civilians in Osijek in 1991 and sentenced to between five and eight years' imprisonment. Shortly after the judgement, Branimir Glavaš, who held a Bosnian passport, fled to Bosnia and Herzegovina and remained there. The Croatian authorities failed to secure his extradition as the two countries did not have an extradition agreement between them.
  • An appeal trial started in November before the Supreme Court against the verdict in the case against two Croatian Army generals, Mirko Norac and Rahim Ademi. In 2008, the Zagreb County Court acquitted Rahim Ademi of all charges, although Mirko Norac was found guilty of some of the charges and sentenced to seven years' imprisonment. The accused were both indicted for war crimes, including murders, inhumane treatment, plunder and wanton destruction of property, against Croatian Serb civilians and prisoners of war during military operations in 1993.

The action plan on prosecution of war crimes cases failed to address ethnic bias in the judiciary. The action plan envisaged that priority cases would be selected by local prosecutors. Following this plan, in the Sisak area, where approximately 100 Croatian Serbs were killed or disappeared at the beginning of the war, none of the cases selected for prioritization involved Croatian Serbs as victims; in all seven priority cases, the victims were ethnic Croats. This only increased ethnic bias and widened the impunity for crimes committed by members of the Croatian Army and police forces.

In March, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) expressed its concerns at reports of ethnic discrimination in the prosecution of war crimes cases and recommended that Croatia effectively investigate and prosecute all war crimes irrespective of the ethnicity of the victims and the perpetrators.

In October, the HRC expressed concerns over impunity for war crimes, including the fact that many potential cases of war crimes remain unresolved and that the selection of cases was disproportionately directed against Croatian Serbs. The Croatian authorities were given a deadline of one year to implement these, and other, recommendations.

In October, the European Commission in its progress report on Croatia also observed that impunity for war crimes remained a problem, especially where victims were ethnic Serbs or perpetrators were members of the Croatian Army. The report stated that many crimes still had not been prosecuted due to a combination of factors, including intimidation of witnesses and reluctance of the police and prosecutors to prosecute such cases.

Freedom of expression – journalists

The authorities continued to fail to protect journalists reporting on war crimes cases and organized crime from intimidation and attacks. The slow progress in the prosecution of some of these cases created an atmosphere of impunity for the attackers.