OCTOBER 2 2012 22:29h
ZAGREB, Oct 2 (Hina) - The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has refused to admit new evidence that was proposed by the defence teams for Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac during the appeal proceedings, the Hague-based tribunal announced on Tuesday.
In 2011 and 2012, the two defence teams filed several motions for the admission of about 30 new documents, including the minutes of meetings of the Supreme Defence Council in Belgrade at the time of the Croatian military offensive known as Operation Storm, a US diplomatic dispatch released by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, and expert reports by US Army officers.
The new evidence concerned the causes of the departure of Serb civilians from the Krajina region of Croatia before, during or after Operation Storm, the lawfulness of artillery strikes by the Croatian Army during the offensive, and Gotovina's powers as commander. The defence teams claimed that those documents had not been available to them at trial.
"The Appeals Chamber finds that Gotovina has failed to demonstrate that (the proposed evidence) would have affected the Trial Chamber's verdict if it had been admitted at trial," the Appeals Chamber said in its decision which was made public today. The decision was reached in closed session on June 21.
The decision pertains "strictly to the admissibility of the proposed evidence and must not be interpreted as expressing any views on the merits of the parties' appeals," the Appeals Chamber said.
Following this decision, in August the Gotovina defence team asked the Appeals Chamber to admit five new exhibits which, according to the defence, refute the Trial Chamber's findings that the Serbs fled the Krajina region during Operation Storm as a result of excessive shelling by the Croatian Army and confirm that they were evacuated in an organised fashion on the orders of the Krajina authorities.
Last year the Trial Chamber found the accused guilty of war crimes committed by Croatian forces against Serb civilians during and in the wake of Operation Storm in the summer of 1995, sentencing Gotovina to 24 years in prison and Markac to 18 years. The appeal process is expected to be completed by the end of the year.