Two Croatian generals acquitted by a United Nations court of atrocities against Serbs in 1995 returned home to a hero’s welcome as tens of thousands turned out in the capital to celebrate their freedom.
General Ante Gotovina and General Mladen Markac were released today after an appeals panel at the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia ruled 3-2 to overturn a conviction for war crimes, Theodor Meron, the president of the panel, said today. The two were found guilty in April 2011 of the murder and persecution of Serbs in the 1995 Operation Storm, which ended the war following Croatia’s 1991 independence from Yugoslavia. Gotovina had been given 24 years in jail and Markac 18 years. Both are 57 years old.
“This is our joint victory,” Gotovina told a crowd, estimated by police at more than 100,000 on Zagreb’s main square, after the government flew him home. “The war belongs in the past, let’s look toward the future.
The case closed as the former Yugoslav republic prepares to join the European Union in July and struggles to recover after three years of recession and economic stagnation. Croatia cooperated with the extradition of the generals to The Hague and supported their defense teams in claiming the generals couldn’t prevent the troops from committing crimes.
The UN court ruled today that there was no excessive shelling of four towns by the Croats and that the mass departure of Serbs couldn’t be described as a “deportation.” The ruling is a “final judgment” and won’t be appealed, court officials said.
“The verdict confirmed what we all believed, that Croatia didn’t commit ethnic cleansing and that Croatia justly liberated its territories,”
Za Dom Spremni
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