Wednesday, April 23, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Joy in Croatia as UN overturns 2 key convictions

APTOPIX Croatia War Crimes

War veterans celebrate during the live broadcast from the International War Crimes Tribunal, on Zagreb's main square, Friday, Nov. 16, 2012. Appeals judges at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal have overturned the convictions of two Croat generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed against Serb civilians in a 1995 military blitz. Gotovina and Markac, were sentenced to 24 and 18 years respectively in 2011 for crimes, including murder and deportation. Judges ruled both men were part of a criminal conspiracy led by former Croat President Franjo Tudjman to expel Serbs. (AP Photo/Nikola Solic)

ZAGREB, Croatia — Chanting “Victory! Victory!,” waving red-and-white checkered flags and dancing in the streets, tens of thousands of jubilant supporters gave two Croatian generals a hero’s welcome Friday after a U.N. war crimes tribunal overturned their convictions for murdering and expelling Serb civilians during a 1995 military blitz.

Croatians viewed the decision to release Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac as vindication that they were the victims in the Balkan wars in the 1990s, but neighboring Serbia denounced the ruling as a scandalous injustice toward tens of thousands of its compatriots who were expelled from Croatia after an offensive led by the two.

The deep division over the generals could set back efforts to reconcile the two wartime enemies – the most bitter rivals in the Balkans.

A red carpet was laid out as a Croatian government plane carrying Gotovina and Markac from the Hague, Netherlands, touched down in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, and the two were welcomed by Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic and other top officials.

“This is our joint victory,” Gotovina told a cheering crowd singing patriotic songs at Zagreb’s main Bana Jelacica square. “We have won, the war is over and let’s turn to the future.”

The generals later attended a packed Mass held in Zagreb’s large gothic cathedral “to thank God” for their release.

The 3-2 majority decision in the U.N. court’s five-judge appeals chamber is one of the most significant reversals in the court’s 18-year history. It overturns a verdict that dealt a blow to Croatia’s self-image as a victim of atrocities, rather than a perpetrator, during the war.

Yet the ruling produced fury in Serbia, where it was seen as further evidence of anti-Serb bias at the U.N. tribunal. Even liberal Serbs warned the ruling created a sense of injustice and could stir nationalist sentiments.

Serbia’s nationalist President Tomislav Nikolic declared that the “scandalous” decision by the Hague court was clearly “political and not legal” and “will not contribute to stabilization of the situation in the region but will reopen all wounds.”

Tens of thousands of people, including Croatian war veterans, celebrated in Zagreb’s main square. Some sobbed with joy while others ignited flares, sipping beer and drinking wine from bottles.

“Finally, we can say to our children that we are not war criminals,” said veteran Djuro Vec. “We fought for justice, and that our fight was righteous and just.”

In The Hague, neither Gotovina nor Markac showed any emotion as Presiding Judge Theodor Meron told them they were free, but their supporters in the court’s public gallery cheered and clapped.

Gotovina and Markac had been sentenced to 24 and 18 years respectively in 2011 for crimes, including the murder and the deportation of Serbs, during the 1995 Croatian offensive dubbed “Operation Storm.” Judges ruled that both men were part of a criminal conspiracy led by former Croat President Franjo Tudjman to expel Serbs.

The fighting in Croatia was part of the wars that erupted across the Balkans with the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. The most deadly was in Bosnia, where Serbs battled Muslims and Croats in a four-year struggle that claimed some 100,000 lives.

Serbia claims that over 1,000 Serbs were killed and more than 200,000 driven from their homes during the Croatian operation. Tribunal prosecutors put the death toll lower, at 324, but told the court the victims included elderly and disabled villagers – many of whom had been shot in the head.

But the appeals judges said prosecutors failed to prove the existence of such a conspiracy, effectively clearing Croatia’s entire wartime leadership of war crimes in the operation. It occurred at the end of Croatia’s battle to secede from the crumbling Yugoslavia and involved grabbing back land along its border with Bosnia that had earlier been occupied by rebel Serbs.

Serbs who fled “Operation Storm” were furious.

“As far as I understand this ruling, it is perfectly normal and legal to kill Serbs since nobody is being held responsible for it,” said Stana Pajic, who fled the offensive in 1995. “I’m terribly shaken by this unjust verdict.”

She used to live in the western Croatian town of Knin but had to flee the 1995 offensive in a truck carrying her family’s few belongings.

Croatia’s liberal president, Ivo Josipovic, said Friday’s ruling was “proof that the Croatian army did not take part in a criminal enterprise” and “a symbolic satisfaction for all victims of the war.”

Vesna Skare Ozbolt, former legal adviser for the late President Tudjman, said the verdict “corrects all wrongs about our just war,” and “proves that there was no ethnic cleansing in Croatia and that it was all lies.”

Tudjman died in 1999 while under investigation by the tribunal.

Across the border, the acquittals enraged hardline opponents of the U.N. court.

Vladimir Vukcevic, Serbia’s war crimes prosecutor, branded the ruling “scandalous,” saying it endangered the general principle that war crimes must be punished.

“This was one of the biggest war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, murder, expulsion and endangering of several hundred thousand people, and no one was held responsible,” Vukcevic told The Associated Press.

Serbian government officials said later Friday they would be scaling down cooperation with the tribunal to “only technical levels” because of the ruling. They did not elaborate. The tribunal announced late Friday that a conference scheduled for next Thursday in Belgrade to discuss the tribunal’s legacy when it finally closes its doors had been postponed.

Gotovina’s and Markac’s convictions were one of the few at the tribunal to punish perpetrators of atrocities against Serb civilians. The majority of criminals convicted have been Serbs. The Bosnian Serb wartime leader and military chief, Radovan Karadzic, and Gen. Ratko Mladic are currently on trial for allegedly masterminding Serb atrocities.

Gotovina, 55, is especially popular among Croatian nationalists. The charismatic former soldier fought in the French Foreign Legion in the 1980s and spent four years on the run from justice before being captured in the Canary Islands in December 2005.

The earlier verdicts against the two generals had triggered anti-Western sentiment among nationalist Croatians even as the country itself looked forward to joining the European Union in 2013.

European Commission spokesman Peter Stano said the EU hoped that “Croatia will continue to look to the future in the spirit of tolerance and reconciliation which brought this country where it stands today, on the threshold of EU membership.”

The original convictions were based on a finding that Croat forces deliberately used illegal artillery attacks on four towns to drive Serb civilians from their homes. But appeals judges overturned that key finding and said therefore no criminal conspiracy could be proven.

The majority said there was insufficient evidence to prove a campaign of illegal shelling, rejecting the trial judges’ view that any shell which hit further than 200 meters (yards) from a legitimate military target was evidence of indiscriminate shelling. Judge Carmel Agius, in a written dissenting opinion Friday, called the appeals court’s reasoning “confusing and extremely problematic.”

There are no other Croat suspects on trial at the tribunal whose cases could be affected by the ruling.

Gotovina’s American lawyer, Greg Kehoe, said the appeals judgment didn’t undermine the tribunal’s credibility, it proved its impartiality.

“Is it a vindication for the rule of law and justice? Yes it is,” he said.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

 
Delta barriers no longer needed

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1

 
Supervisors voice concern on state Delta plans

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Dental clinic coming Friday, Saturday

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3, 5 Comments

 
Rotarians talk about running clinic to help Haitians

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District eyes new auditor

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4

 
County honors Purple Heart recipients

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A6

 
Solano recognizes 1,300-strong volunteer corps

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A6

 
Garamendi to host open house at Fairfield office

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A7

 
Highway 12 night work scheduled in Delta

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A7

 
Kids fishing derby in Fairfield is part of Earth Day

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A7

 
County approves Icon agreements

By Barry Eberling | From Page: B9

Ceremony set to break ground for Suisun City Walmart

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B9, 19 Comments | Gallery

 
Dutch Bros. opening with free drinks

By Barry Eberling | From Page: B9, 8 Comments

 
Museum readies to host Sallie Fox Day in Vacaville

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

Golf tournament to raise funds for children

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

 
Mustangs and More event moved back to October

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A10

Rotary club to host clay shooting derby

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A11

 
Ghost Walk returns to Suisun City

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A11

Penalty decision looms in Winters homicide case

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A11

 
NAMI talk on reducing mental health stigma

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A11

 
.

US / World

In Internet TV case, justices show concern

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Michigan affirmative ban is OK, Supreme Court says

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

GOP candidate releases education policy overview

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
‘Piles and piles’ of bodies in S. Sudan slaughter

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

FedEx sued over deadly California bus crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14, 1 Comment

 
Obama views mudslide scene, mourns with survivors

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Analysis: Putin likely to ignore West on Ukraine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Biden: Russia must ‘stop talking and start acting’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Most Sherpas decide to leave Everest for season

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Grieving borrowers told to repay student loan

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Jet stowaway at hospital; security issues linger

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
SKorea ferry toll hits 146 as search gets tougher

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Ukraine orders new ‘anti-terror’ operation

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
In Ukraine’s east, mayor held hostage by insurgent

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Acts of bravery emerge from pilloried ship crew

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
IRS awards bonuses to 1,100 who owe back taxes

By The Associated Press | From Page: A15, 4 Comments

.

Opinion

 
Editorial cartoons for April 23, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A13

 

Groundwater becomes next big California fight

By Thomas Elias | From Page: A13

 
Fairfield’s main problem is the mayor

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A13, 6 Comments

.

Living

Solving and resolving life’s problems

By Barton Goldsmith | From Page: A2

 
Today in History for April 23, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Community Calendar: April 23, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
 
A healthy take on the very not healthy Scotch egg

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Horoscopes for April 23, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B7

 
How can I get my 12-year-old grandson to sleep in his own bed?

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B7

.

Entertainment

DeGeneres making design series for HGTV

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Discovery to chronicle Everest avalanche

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Bieber seeks delay in Fla. DUI trial

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Bon Jovi helps open low-income housing in Philly

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9, 1 Comment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
.

Sports

5 Fairfield runners finish Boston Marathon

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

 
Sharks beat Kings 4-3 in OT, take 3-0 series lead

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Prep swimming update: Postseason looms on horizon

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
SCC softball ends regular season with 29 straight wins

By Brian Arnold | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Warriors’ Curry eager to erase Game 2 nightmare

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Spurs’ Popovich wins NBA Coach of the Year

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Raiders begin offseason workouts

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
David Moyes out as Manchester United manager

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Seahawks acquire QB Terrelle Pryor

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
NFL playoff game to air on ESPN for 1st time

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

MLB suspends 4 after Brewers-Pirates brawl

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Djokovic: Wrist better, will try to play in Madrid

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Armstrong coach Bruyneel banned for 10 years

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Pujols’ 500th HR helps Angels beat Nationals 7-2

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Rangers rally for two runs in ninth to beat A’s

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Beverly Hanson, forgotten pioneer in women’s golf

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Tech boom presents new wrinkles for Wrigley Field

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Warriors announce new plans for SF arena

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Kentucky freshman Julius Randle to enter NBA draft

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
AP Source: N.Y. Giants’ Hill facing 3rd suspension

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

NBA Playoffs: Raptors even series with Nets

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
.

Business

Novartis reshapes business with GSK, Lilly deals

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

 
McDonald’s 1Q profit slips as US sales decline

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

AT&T had strong 1Q on wireless installment plans

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

 
Valeant, Ackman make $45.6B Allergan bid

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

.

Obituaries

Richard P. Horn

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Kyong Hee Maxwell

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Norma O’Regan

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Anne Irene Elizabeth Fulgoni

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 3 Comments

.

Comics

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Wizard Of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7