Ex-chief prosecutor denounces Hague ruling

BERLIN -- Former Chief Hague Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte has said that the acquittal of Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač "is not justice".

Carla Del Ponte (FoNet, file)
Carla Del Ponte (FoNet, file)

The Hague released Gotovina and Markač on appeal on Friday. They were originally sentenced to 24 and 18 years in prison for crimes against Croatia's ethnic Serbs during and after Operation Storm in 1995.

In an interview for the Belgrade-based tabloid Blic, Del Ponte said that she was "shocked" by the trial's outcome:

"I was very surprised and stupefied. It is completely incredible what happened after the sentence of 24 years in prison for Gotovina. Unbelievable. I cannot accept it. I feel full solidarity with the Serb victims of the crime. The crime, that we backed up with hard evidence."

She added that she "guessed that the facts were probably interpreted in a different manner".

Del Ponte stated she had not read the argumentation behind the decision, but that she opposed it completely, and "could not see how it could be accepted".

"The Serbian government and Serbs cannot accept such a verdict, and I agree fully with what I heard them say on televisoin. It is clear a crime was committed - and the question now is, who committed it".

"We will see what will happen next, but this certainly is not justice," the former Swiss and Hague prosecutor said.

The crime was proven and the verdict shows it, she said. The evidence is there, but it was perhaps interpreted differently, Del Ponte continued, adding that it was unacceptable either way. The decision is, however, final and nothing further can be done, she said, and added that the tribunal's credibility was undermined by the ruling.

She added that she expected the verdict regarding former KLA leader and ethnic Albanian politician from Kosovo Ramush Haradinaj to be delivered in 15 days, and expressed her fear that "the same thing could happen in that case as well".

Suspicion is emerging that the verdict was not influenced by evidence, but by politics, lobbying money, or something else not related to the court, Del Ponte concluded.

Reacting to her interview on Tuesday, Gotovina's defense lawyer Luka Mištić announced that he would "report the former chief prosecutor to the Swiss Bar Association". According to the lawyer, this complaint against her would be based on "ethical grounds".