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The UN war crimes court in The Hague on Tuesday rejected Croatia’s request to be given the status of ‘friend of the court’ (amicus curiae) in the appeals hearing in the case against six Bosnian Croat officials, which would have allowed Zagreb to provide evidence to clear Tudjman and two of his top officials.
Former Bosnian Croat leaders Jadranko Prlic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petkovic, Valentin Coric and Berislav Pusic are appealing against war crimes convictions for the expulsions of Bosniaks in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1990s.
Croatia wanted ‘friend of the court’ status in the case because the first-instance verdict mentions ex-president Tudjman, his defence minister Gojko Susak and chief of the general staff of the Croatian Army, Janko Bobetko, as being part of “joint criminal enterprise”.
Croatia insisted that the first instance verdict pronounced in May 2013 violated the right to the presumption of innocence of Tudjman, Susak and Bobetko, who are all deceased, and made incorrect conclusions about the alleged involvement of Croatia in crimes against Bosniaks.
But Hague Tribunal president Carmel Agius said in his decision that the three Croatan officials were not on trial in the case.
“The conclusions on criminal responsibility in a certain case before the Tribunal refer to the defendants in that case only. In relation to that, we would like to mention that Tudjman, Susak and Bobetko are not accused in this case,” Agius said.
“The first instance chamber did not make separate conclusions in regard to their participation in the joint criminal enterprise nor did it specifically pronounce them guilty of any crimes,” he added.
Agius also said in his decision that the mentioning of Tudjman, Susak and Bobetko in the verdict did not mean that the court had accused Croatia of having any responsibility for the crimes.
“The appellate chamber reminds that the Tribunal has jurisdiction over individuals only and that it does not have jurisdiction to render conclusions on responsibilities of a state,” he said.
The first-instance verdict found Prlic, Stojic, Praljak, Petkovic, Coric and Pusic guilty of participating in a joint criminal enterprise aimed at persecuting and ethnically cleansing Bosniaks from the unrecognised wartime Bosnian Croat-led statelet Herceg-Bosna, which they wanted to join up with a ‘Greater Croatia’.
The Hague court sentenced Prlic to 25 years in prison, Stojic, Praljak and Petkovic to 20, Coric to 16 and Pusic to ten years.