Hague judge says justice has not been served

THE HAGUE -- Member of the Hague Tribunal’s Appeals Chamber Fausto Pocar has assessed that the acquittal of two Croat generals is “contrary to any sense of justice”.

Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač are seen after the verdict (Beta/AP)
Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač are seen after the verdict (Beta/AP)

The Italian judge did not vote for the acquittal of Croat Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač on Friday.

“I do not believe that justice has been served when you overturn the guilty verdict, which the initial trial chamber did not make lightly which shows a 1,300-page analysis, with only several paragraphs, without a careful consideration of the documents and an appropriate explanation,” Pocar said.

The Appeals Chamber acquitted Gotovina and Markač with a majority of three votes to two of almost all charges for the expulsion of Serbs from Knin Krajina and other crimes during and after the Operation Storm in the summer of 1995.

The Appeals Chamber therefore overturned the initial verdict which sentenced Gotovina to 24 and Markač to 18 years in prison for crimes against Serb civilians.

“I am fundamentally opposed to the entire verdict in the appeal process which is contrary to any sense of justice,” Pocar stressed.

Another member of the Appeals Chamber, Carmel Agius of Malta, also strongly opposed the acquittal.

The decision to acquit the two Croat generals was made by Judges Theodor Meron of the U.S., Patrick Robinson of Jamaica and Mehmet Guney of Turkey.

Pocar pointed to “numerous mistakes and wrong constructions in the decision-making of the majority of the judges” and added that the verdict was based on a misinterpretation of conclusions made by the initial trial chamber and on the violation of the court practice and standards in the appeal process.

According to Pocar and Agius, most of the judges were quick to neglect and reject a large part of the extensive evidence material that the initial verdict was based on.

Pocar stressed that the court had determined at the original trial that transcripts of former Croatian President Franjo Tuđman's Brioni meeting with the top military and police officials showed that the Croat officials did not have the protection of the Serb civilians in mind.

He added that it had been confirmed several weeks after the Operation Storm, when Tuđman compared the Serbs with “cancer that is spreading” and said that “they (Serbs) did not even have time to take their dirty money and dirty laundry”.

“Most of them (judges) failed to show where the first trial chamber made a mistake in determining that the joint criminal enterprise did exist,” the Italian judge said.

Agius said that the verdict was based on a “narrow, artificial, deficient, confucing and problematic” approach which led to “incorrect results”.