Croatian generals convicted of war crimes, crimes against humanity
People watch former Gen. Ante Gotovina's verdict on live TV Friday in the central square of Zagreb, Croatia.
April 15th, 2011
10:07 AM ET

Croatian generals convicted of war crimes, crimes against humanity

The International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia announced Friday that it had convicted two Croatian generals of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Ante Gotovina, who commanded Croatia's Split military district during the mid-1990s war that led to the disintegration of Yugoslavia, was sentenced to 24 years in prison.

Mladen Markac, who headed the Interior Ministry's Special Police, received an 18-year prison term.

A third general, Ivan Cermak, was acquitted of all charges and ordered released as soon as possible.

Gotovina and Markac participated in an ethnic cleansing operation in Croatia's Krajina region between July and September 1995, the court found. Under the leadership of Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, the generals and others attempted to clear the Krajina of ethnic Serbs and repopulate it with Croats, the court said.

Tudjman, who died in 1999, never was officially charged with any crime.

The trial in The Hague, Netherlands, started in March 2008 and involved 145 witnesses and 4,819 evidence exhibits, the court said.

The verdict was greeted by boos and hisses from crowds gathered in the central square of Croatia's capital, Zagreb, the BBC reported. The generals are regarded by some as national heroes.

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Filed under: Courts • Crime • Croatia • Human rights • Justice • Military • Netherlands
soundoff (486 Responses)
  1. Krisi

    Serbs got convictions totally over 700 years, Croats just over 100 and Muslims about 40 years. btw as a last step the West punished the Serbs by giving Kosovo independance. This undoubtedly shows that the Serbs were 100% at fault for starting ALL the wars in all territories, territories which were not their own, commited a great majority of the atrocities. Their own people, Serbs of course, when they finally sobered up, took down their own leader Milosevic furthur shows that everyone else was a victim to their barbaric ideas, actions and aggressions. PS. On a different note...All Hollywood films with Serbian characters in the film are always portrayed as bad guys, terrorists etc, what does that tell you? Well that tells me that the whole world really does know who the aggressor is...serbs!

    April 16, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • ana

      Hi Krisi,
      I know all of that, i am croatian myself, but the statment of ethnic cleasing is confusing and it means that we were the bad guys in the war since that was our one big action that freed us from the serbs.
      Plus everyone knows that US approved "Oluja", so I believe that should have been investigate as well.
      So indirectly and according to the HAAG it means that US was ok with the so called "ethnic cleasing", so i am just wondering if US will raise their voices against this trial.
      Beeing punished for crimes is one thing but beeing punished for ethnical wipe out involves a whole set of other figures.

      April 16, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Shockre

    I wonder how much did the Great Britain (btw Serbia's idol is "Great" Britain) and Netherlands pressured Orie to convict our generals.
    Thanks to the "World" we now know that defending yourself is bad and you shouldn't do it even if someone is trying to kill you.
    Butcher of Vukovar is getting out of the jail soon, but hey, he only razed a town to the ground and dint face a "excessive shelling" charge, he murdered 250 staff member and wounded patients of Vukovar hospital.
    Once again, message is clear, Croatia must suffer for defeating GREAT Britain's lapdog in the Balkans.

    April 16, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Lesson in history

    Serb, Gavrilo Princip started WW1 because of assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

    Serbia, a country working with nazis in WW2 – chethnik movement.

    In 1991 invaded Slovenia, Croatia, later Bosnia and Kosovo and lost all wars.

    Its funny how words like Greater Serbia and chetniks are mentioned back in 1914

    Nowdays, a county with no geographical or economics importance with more than a half of population living in poverty.

    Maybe it`s time for serbs to start working and to stop going to war an plunder everything.

    April 16, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • facts

      Chetniks and their role in World War II. Their contribution to the Allies admitted himself President Roosevelt giving their leader Draza Mihajlovic Legion of Merit award.

      And the Croats on the other hand, and their role in WW2:

      April 17, 2011 at 7:25 am | Report abuse |
    • cipal

      Bare in mind the fact that Draža was also very appreciated in the Third Reich, since serbia was the first Juden frei country in the 2. world war.
      Does this make him a good guy????

      April 17, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  4. LOL @ SERBS

    hahaha its so funny looking at some of you serbs comments its all coming from the same gypsy serbia who thought they would destroy croatia in 1991 and they are now one big joke

    April 16, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      I think the joke is on everyone who thinks that he can hate and/or commit the crime without doing the time

      April 16, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Steven Fallon

    This is the huge relief for Serbian victims, that will give some kind of satisfaction or pain relief at least. The world finally realised that about 200,000 ethnic Serbs were driven from Croatia in 1995 and at least thousand were killed in that military offensive known as "Operation Storm".

    April 16, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • American

      It was a huge relief to Croatians too that 200,000 Serbians were moved back to Serbia off Croatian land allowing them to declare independence from atrocities committed to them by Serbian aggressors.

      Thank you for sharing your post.

      April 17, 2011 at 2:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Lesson in history

      Oh, how true – NO. Serbs were instructed by Belgrade to move away days before operation Storm. They settled to RSK, before the war part of Bosnia – a so called country build on Seselj atrocities.

      April 17, 2011 at 5:09 am | Report abuse |
  6. 12345

    It's interesting how Gotovina and Markac have been indicted for crimes committed during a legitimate US-supported operation, that put an end to REBEL Serb's SELF-PROCLAIMED republic of Krajina within Croatia, while Israeli occupation of Palistinian territory, and subsequent crimes committed by Isreali forces, have never been questioned. Interesting.
    For those individuals who are commenting and evidently have no knowledge of what is being discussed, take some time and read about events including the Srebrenica genocide and Vukovar massacre, in which Serbian war criminals recieved sentences of only 5 years, and were not charged with committing crimes against Humanity.

    April 16, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      I applaud for the convictions Serbian criminals got for the atrocities in Vukovar or Srebrenica the same way I applaud for the conviction of Croatian Generals for their own atrocities. Many more of them are yet to be sentenced in the future as the fact is that those ones who didn't manage to leave Croatia in the big convoy on April 5, 1995 were brutally killed, kept in reefers in Sibenik and Zadar area for few years and finally dumped in the mass graves. And we're talking thousands of murdered people here. Croats are naive if they think that those crimes will go unpunished.

      April 17, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • cipal

      You don't have all the info. On April 5th, Krajina was still being occupied. Storm liberated that part of Croatia on August 5th 1995

      April 17, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Sloboda Generalu

    @12345: That is perhaps the finest academic and valuable question someone has yet to pose and draw attention to. Why is it so? Has anyone further investigated Serb Acts, the whereabouts of their generals? The parallel that has been illustrated here in regards to Israel-Palestine and Croatia-Serbia shows that the small guys always suffer – even Israel once said why would Croatian government foolishly ever betray their own general and saviours of their country? WAIT A MINUTE – ISRAEL DID IT TO JESUS.

    April 16, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. JusticeForALL

    Croatians were on the side of the Nazis in the WW2 and have killed over 600,000 Serbs, Jews and other in a span of 4 years. Some of the worst attrocities witnessed by German generals have been comitted by Croatian Ustashe soldiers. All of these claims have been proved and Simon Wisenthal center has numerous testimonies about the crimes comitted by Nazi Croatian government. Croatians Serbs lived through that and when Croats have elected Tudjman as their president in 1991, same guy who denied Holocoust, they had to defend their selves. To make matters even worse they were finally ethnically cleansed out of Croatia in 1995. Over 200,000 Serbs have been forced out of their homes and have become refugees over night. 16 years after the exodus Croatia has done nothing to help these poor people return to their homes. Maybe now Croats will finally come to terms with their ugly past and turn a new page by becoming better people.

    April 16, 2011 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • cipal

      Only part of croatians were on the side of the Nazi.
      First anti-fascist resistance was found in Croatia by the Croatians

      April 17, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Petar from Serbia

    I was here in Novi Sad, Serbia when these long, long columns of refugees came here. The people were told to go and they went, those that didn't probably were killed. That is a fact, just as Srebrenica is a fact. One the biggest mass murder, the other the biggest ethnic cleansing of the Balkan wars in '90s. The difference is that nobody here in Serbia celebrates the anniversary of Srebrenica and if somebody tried, they would be jailed.

    For those of you that may have fallen for the line of 'expelling squatters' which I heard somewhere, those guys were living there since the Turkish invasion of Balkans stalled in late 1600s and a stable border with Austria was formed (they moved there to live under Christian rule and fight the Turks). The -squatters'- ancestors came to live in Krajina over 300 years ago, not in 1990s. Now almost none are left, all the Serbs living in Croatia are in the Slavonija region closest to common border.

    And this does not make what happened in, say, Vukovar right. It is just the fact of life – you can't erase one evil with a bigger evil.

    April 16, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • American

      A country under repression and aggression has a right to celebrate its freedom and liberators.

      Croatians do not celebrate the murders that were caused in this region.

      April 17, 2011 at 2:08 am | Report abuse |
  10. Dan

    I don't see why Serbs keep complaining about the fact that they have suffered so much by getting kicked out of their homes... What do you expect ? You try invading our Home Land and that once we manage to push your military out of OUR country that we will just be happy to live side by side Serbs living in our lands? We never stepped foot in Serbia all we did was defend our country. As for the sentence against Gotovina, the U.N is simply trying to change history by making it as a "conflict between two countries" as opposed to a war of aggression and genocide by the Serbs against Croats and Bosnia. They just want to save face from the fact that they stood by as Vukovar fell and did nothing about it. They imposed and arms embargo when Croats were fighting with almost no guns against the Serbian army who had tanks and was well armed! Don't you DARE say that Serbia suffered during this war when it was YOU who attacked US! All we did was do what we could to defend our country from an aggressor and last time I checked that did not mean that our generals are war criminals! Especially when it was Croats returning to their burned down homes that caused most of the killings against Serb civilians that did not leave when the army told them to.

    April 16, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Petar from Serbia

      You were there to see who did the killing, were you? Like the shelling of the refugee columns – pity your government can't find the artillery diaries for the ICTY in the Hague, they'd prove that all the artillery men who did that just a minute before saw their burned out homes. No, the refugees shelled themselves to make Croats look bad.

      It is like the argument some Srebrenica apologists use saying that it was just an oversight to put folks who had family killed by Srebrenica Muslims in charge of guarding the Muslim prisoners from Srebrenica (all the males of military age, btw). Oops. Or the argument that Markale apologists use that Muslims shelled themselves to make Serbs look bad.

      Sarcasm aside, it is hard to deal with the truth when you have been brainwashed by your media for many years.

      April 16, 2011 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • American

      Croatians asked for freedom and independence, Croatia did not ask for war.

      Throughout the whole War for Croatian Independence, Serbia was the aggressor. Most Serbians would like to think they were victims.

      If there wasnt a movement from the Serbian government to ethnically cleanse and genocide Croatians from their land, then Krajina, serbians and croatians would be living in peace.

      April 17, 2011 at 1:59 am | Report abuse |
    • ana

      @ Peter- I was there and saw, you wanna ask me some questions go ahead. My village was burned down by serbs and my croatian fmaily was evacuated in early 90's. So please reply me on why were croatians evacuated by serbs then!
      And trust me i have croatian and serb blood in my family ( mixed marriage) to be able to tell you what went on in so called Krajina. If you wanna discuss go ahead, but prepare yourself with some great infos

      April 17, 2011 at 3:54 am | Report abuse |
  11. Dan

    It is not brainwashing when you are fighting to survive against a better equipped Serbian army. Do I think that atrocities were committed against Serbians that were in Croatia when we managed to finally push back the Serbian army? Yes of course. Human nature makes us violent beings during times of war and when you have just finished fighting a long war from an occupier and have seen most of your homeland destroyed by bombs and seen the acts committed by Serb forces when entering places such as Vukovar then it is understandable that some people will want to have revenge and target the wrong people. Do we celebrate the day that operation Storm was conducted? Yes since it is the day we regained our freedom, did acts against serbian civilians happen? Yes. Did Serbian forces do even worse things and get lesser sentences? YES! Ante Gotovina is and ALWAYS will be a war hero and if he had not come back to Cro to fight off the Serbs we would not even be talking about this right now since Serbia would be occupying most of the Balkans

    April 17, 2011 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Petar from Serbia

      You like using caps, but Ante Gotovina is still a major (not the main, that 'honor' goes to Franjo Tudjman) perpetrator of the greatest single act of ethnic cleansing in Europe after World War 2. If you call him a hero, that is your business. I just think you should choose your heroes more care.

      You were free and independent since 1992 but your leadership preferred not negotiating with the ethnic minority in rebellion. Running them all out of the country is much simpler.

      April 17, 2011 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
  12. Blessed to be Croatian

    srbovi vi ste obicna lazljiva gamad ciganska cetnicka . hrvatska se branila golih ruka i u manjem broju a opet ste popusili kukavice jedne obicne picke kurvanjske. stvarno ste nesposobni. krivo vam je sto niste pograbili hrvatsku i bijedno izgubili i to vas nikad nece prestat grist. BOG I HRVATI

    April 17, 2011 at 1:24 am | Report abuse |
  13. Blessed to be Croatian

    HI CNN, I am amazed that my two previous posts were not allowed to post because they were excellent, highly civilized and loaded with content and hard to argue back against . my first post was much longer and very intelligent and it just goes to show there is a selective process that bans substantive intellectual argument against inferior people that are anti-Croiatian. Please explain yourself as to why my post was not posted when so many others that are greatly offensive to us croatians are allowed. Is it too deep for those imbecile liars. you only allow lies against croatians to be posted but ifI present o strong argument that can't be challenged then it is disallowed. Hmmm interesting

    April 17, 2011 at 1:37 am | Report abuse |
  14. Dan

    How were we free and independent since 1992 when we were still fighting to get back land that the Serbs had taken? why would we negotiate when you had taken parts of our land? and not only that but we also had to help Bosnia get back its land that you had taken as well! How did Ante Gotovina and Franjo perpetrate the greatest act of ethnic cleansing when Serbian forces had been doing it since the beginning of the war to Croats and Bosians? Get your facts straight since it is Milosevic that is the perpetrator to the single greatest act of ethnic cleansing since WW2 ... What do you say to all the Muslims that were cleansed by Serb forces in Bosnia murdering and kicking them out of their homes? What do you say to the people of Srebrenica?

    April 17, 2011 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Petar from Serbia

      You were free and internationally recognized country since 1992. A part of this country was in rebellion, but not under control of Serbian Army (which pulled out of Croatia way before 1995). I am not saying that Operation Storm was the biggest mass murder in Europe since WW2 (that would be Srebrenica), just the biggest ethnic cleansing. Tell me, which area was populated by 200-300k people that are not here after a week of 'liberation'.

      UN guaranteed a ceasefire between the country of Croatia and SAO Krajina as the rebels called the region under their control (and yes, it was in parts the territory which was mixed or majority Croatian, and in control of these rebels because of the help of Yugoslav Army in 1991/92 – that is also true – but large majority of Krajina was the territory where the ethnic Serbs lived in for centuries as the only major ethnicity).

      In violation of this ceasefire, Croatian army attacked the rebels it was in negotiations with and wiped out the entire ethnic minority. Shelling the refugee columns was a particularly nasty bit there. You will never convince anybody that some vigilantes took control of several artillery batteries and started shooting, or that the Serbs shot at themselves to make Croats look bad.

      April 17, 2011 at 2:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      He is what I have noticed, Serbs talk about how Croats have been brainwashed by the media etc. I would like to know how it is that all you seem to be able to hold against Croats is the fact we kick you out of Krajina ...? Did some civilians die in the process? Yes but find the the evidence and proof that orders were sent from our Generals to send artillery against those columns of civilians. @ Petar you talk about how hundreds of thousands were displaced within a week. I ask you about the hundreds of thousands that were displaced in Bosnia and Croatia by Serbian troops. The outside world wants to know why Croats are Ultra Nationalists? How could we not be?! We are proud of being a part of a country that was able to fend off a much stronger enemy. You want to know why Croats don't want to be part of EU? Where were they when our country was almost completely destroyed? Only the U.S stepped in and helped us with weapons and aircraft! Are Croatians blind to the fact that we kicked out Serbs from Krajina? No, but I doubt many of us regret that it was done. Just think! If it had not been done, and they had stayed in their homes, what do you think the entire Croatian civilian population living in that region would do to those Serbs? Better yet! How do you think a government could explain to its people that it let Serbs live in Croatian land after that same country tried invading Croatia?

      April 17, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • ana

      @ Peter, sorry that i reply mostly to you, its only cuz u give the best arguments from serb side.
      We didnt wipe out the minority, the exact nr. is know which is not a big one, and keep in mind there are lot of serbs from that aread that always stood on part of croatia and still live there. I know them personlly cuz someone of them are also my family. Many of the returned ones are granted pensions and social security. And with many we have good contacts.
      But how can you call it ethnic cleasing when that was done to croatians from that area?
      It is well known fact that serbs fled that regoin before the army came in, its was also shown on TV that whole Knin was empty.
      Now what was done after the Oluja, burning of the serb homes, robery, and killing some civilians is completly different thing. And the reposnible ones should pay for it. Unfortuinetly those animlas will walk freely amongs ppl, an only generals will take the blame. Also a scary fact for normal population, as well as for serbs as for croats.
      The thing is its on TV and was told by witnesses, also witnesses from serb side

      April 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  15. American

    Serbians on this chat defaming Croatians need to realize that Croatia did not ask for war, Croatia asked for freedom and independence.

    Michael and other members of this post, it is obvious that you are angry Serbians and needs to stop causing problems. Your very comments are the cause of hatred amongst Croatians and Serbians. Do you not understand that Croatia would like to be in peace. Your comments are full of hatred and because of this, there will never be peace between the two groups. Yes it is horrible that people fled from Krajina region. That homes were burned and civilians killed. However, this was not under the commands of Gotovina and Markac. Serbians were moved to Serbia.... Where were Croatians to move? Why were Croatians not allowed to enter their own land that was occupied by Serbians? How does this all make sense. When you can answer these questions I will have respect for you.

    How do you explain the Srebrenica genocide where there was cleansing of 8,000 innocent Bosnians that stood in the way of Serbia's aggression?

    How do you explain Vukovar which was from serbian aggression?

    This hatred needs to stop.

    There are Serbian military aggressors that are at large that are living in Serbia as we speak. Would you say it would be fair to turn them over? or are they innocent for trying to ethnically cleanse a whole country?

    April 17, 2011 at 1:54 am | Report abuse |
    • ana

      @American – it seems that serbs on this blog only comment with how poor they are, but none of them reply back what happened in first place or do they recognize what they did.
      I think its useless to to discuss with them since they only use as a defence the stories from second world war.
      And we are all aware that in any war there is no side that didnt commit some kind of crime and that certainly someone should pay for it.
      But what worries me the most is the fact that HAAG calls Oluja as ethnical cleasing. How can you call it ethnical cleasing when serbs did it first in 1990's. Where there then 2 ethnical cleasings, first serbs us then we serbs?
      Thats why we wont have peace till we settle this matter. I think HAAG just prolonged the heatred amonst us, which probably goes to someone's interest

      April 17, 2011 at 4:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Matea

      @ana- You said everything. Thanks. well, tommorow i am going with my school to Vukovar.
      I can shoot some pictures for you people ... serbs, you are only talking about the WW2 (im not saying that its not important) im just talking about the croatian war in th 90's. Gotovina and Marcak are innocent. Peopel it was war! what should the croatian army do when the serbs came to our land?? should we say: "Heloooo fine that u are here .. here take our land, kill us and there is a cookie with chocolate for you??" no.. we defended us. so sorry if my family is a criminal too and sorry that croatia was made on ethnical cleaning -.- but its not.. sorry that we just didnt wanted to be in the "Great Serbia", so sorry for the croatian wish for be independet that always be there,
      ps. do u really think the croatian people would cry for a criminal ? no we wouldnt. So Ante Gotovina always in the <3

      April 17, 2011 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
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