NOVEMBER 16 2012 18:52h

Appeals Chamber acquits Croatian generals and orders their release

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The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, composed of Judges Theodor Meron, presiding, Carmel Agius, Patrick Robinson, Mehmet Guney, and Fausto Pocar, on Friday reversed by majority, Judges Agius and Pocar dissenting, Ante Gotovina’s and Mladen Markac’s convictions for crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war and entered verdicts of acquittal, the ICTY court reported on its web site.

"On 15 April 2011, Trial Chamber I found Mr. Gotovina and Mr. Markac guilty of committing crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war from July to September 1995 by participating in a joint criminal enterprise to permanently and forcibly remove the Serb civilian population from the Krajina region of Croatia. Mr. Gotovina was sentenced to 24 years of imprisonment, and Mr. Markač was sentenced to 18 years of imprisonment," reads the release on the web site of the UN tribunal in The Hague.

"The Appeals Chamber unanimously found that the Trial Chamber erred in concluding that all artillery impact sites located more than 200 metres from a target deemed legitimate served as evidence of unlawful attacks against towns in the Krajina region of Croatia. A majority of the Appeals Chamber further concluded that the Trial Chamber erred in finding that artillery attacks ordered by Mr. Gotovina and Mr. Markac were unlawful. The majority also held that the Trial Chamber erred in finding the existence of a joint criminal enterprise whose purpose was the permanent and forcible removal of Serb civilians from the Krajina region."

"Accordingly, the majority reversed all of Mr. Gotovina’s and Mr. Markac’s convictions. The majority also declined to enter convictions against Mr. Gotovina and Mr. Markac on the basis of alternate modes of liability," reads the press release adding that "the Appeals Chamber ordered the immediate release of Mr. Gotovina and Mr. Markac".

Mr. Gotovina was a Colonel General of the Croatian Army (HV). In 1995, he served as the commander of the HV’s Split Military District and as the overall operational commander of a military offensive known as 'Operation Storm' in the southern portion of the Krajina region. Mr. Gotovina was arrested in Spain on 7 December 2005 and transferred to the Tribunal on 10 December 2005.

Mr. Markac was the Assistant Minister of the Interior and Operation Commander of the Special Police in Croatia in 1995. Mr. Markac surrendered to the Tribunal on 11 March 2004, according to the ICTY. (Hina)