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Bosnia, Croatia Asked to Pay Hague Defendant’s €2.8m Debt

23. March 2017.12:51
The Hague Tribunal asked Bosnia and Croatia to help pay the 2.8 million euro defence debt of Bosnian Croat ex-military chief Slobodan Praljak, who is currently appealing against his war crimes conviction.

This post is also available in: Bosnian

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on Wednesday asked Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia to inform the UN court in The Hague if there are measures they can take to reimburse Slobodan Praljak’s 2,800,000 euro debt for his defence costs.

In 2012, the ICTY told Praljak to return the money within 30 days or in monthly instalments within three years, but he refused to do so.

Praljak, a former deputy Croatian defence minister and commander of the Bosnian Croatian militia, the Croatian Defence Council, is one of six former officials from the wartime unrecognised statelet of Herceg-Bosna who are currently appealing against their convictions for war crimes and the ethnic cleansing of Bosniaks during the Croat-Bosniak conflict in Bosnia from 1993-94.

When he surrendered to the ICTY in 2004, Praljak wanted to have his own lawyers to defend him, but he then changed his mind and claimed to be penniless, and asked the UN court to cover his defence costs.

Even though the ICTY has strict rules about checking the financial status of defendants in order to provide them with funding for their defence, and despite the fact that Praljak never provided full documentation, the ICTY’s registry decided to bear his costs.

Later the Tribunal launched an investigation and found out that Praljak owned more than six million euros’ worth of property in Croatia, Bosnia and Germany.

Based on that, the ICTY concluded that Praljak could pay for his own defence and said he must refund the money paid out by the Tribunal.

So far he has not done so.

Praljak was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2013 for war crimes. He set out his appeal against his conviction at the Tribunal on Wednesday.

He told the ICTY that he did not participate in a joint criminal enterprise aimed at forcibly creating an expanded Croatian state on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

His defence team argued that the idea of a joint criminal enterprise led by Croatan President Franjo Tudjman and involving Praljak and other officials from the wartime statelet of Herzeg-Bosna was “fabricated”.

But the Hague Tribunal prosecutors called him “one of the key members in a criminal enterprise” which expelled Bosniaks from the Herzegovina and central Bosnia areas.

Prljak is appealing alongside Jadranko Prlic, Brono Stojic, Milivoje Petkovic, Valentin Coric and Berislav Pusic, who all held senior political or military roles in Herzeg-Bosna from 1992 to 1994.

They were all convicted in May 2013 of crimes against humanity, violations of the laws or customs of war, and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions committed between 1992 and 1994.

Prlic was the Herzeg-Bosna prime minister, Stojic was its defence minister, Petkovic was the deputy commander of the Croatian Defence Council, Coric was former commander of the Croatian Defence Council military police, while Pusic was the president of Herzeg-Bosna’s prisoner exchange commission.

Under the first-instance verdict, Prlic was jailed for 25 years, Stojic, Praljak and Petkovic for 20 years each, Coric for 16 years and Pusic for ten years.

The defence appeals hearings will continue until March 27.

The prosecution will then lay out its appeal on March 28, hoping to persuade judges to almost double the men’s sentences.

Erna Mačkić

This post is also available in: Bosnian