Appeals all round in Medak Pocket case

BELGRADE -- The defense and prosecution have both announced that they will be appealing against the verdicts in the Medak Pocket war crimes trial.

At the Zagreb District Court yesterday, first-accused General Rahim Ademi was acquitted on all counts of command responsibility for charges including murder, looting, and destruction of property, while second-accused General Mirko Norac was found guilty and sentenced to seven years imprisonment.

Croatian Prosecution spokesman Mihail Mihordin announced that the prosecution would be appealing against the verdicts, as was its right to do. Norac's legal counsel Željko Olujić also believes that his client has good grounds on which to seek an appeal.

He said that this particularly referred to the fact that the crime Norac was accused of did not exist in Croatian jurisprudence at the time.

Meanwhile, President of the Veritas documentation center Savo Štrbac said the verdict was disgraceful, as copious incriminating evidence existed in this case.

Earlier, the president of the Association of Croatian Serbs said he was unhappy with the verdicts in the Medak Pocket case, calling Operation Storm a “horrifying crime.”

“It is unbelievable that the first-accused, General Rahim Ademi, could have been acquitted, and that certain direct perpetrators of these crimes were not even brought to face justice,” said Miljoko Budimir, after Ademi was acquitted on all counts, while second-accused Mirko Norac was found guilty and sentenced to seven years behind bars.

“We’re unhappy with the verdict. We thought that the Croatian judiciary, having been delegated the case by the Hague Tribunal, would be more responsible,” he told Radio-Television Serbia.

Budimir reiterated that the final death toll in the Medak Pocket had not just been 23 civilians, as stated in the indictment, but 88, according to the association’s data, adding that everything in the region had been razed to the ground during operation “scorched earth.”

The association president said that the Croatian Army’s Operation Storm had been a “horrifying crime,” echoing Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremić’s comments at the recent conference of the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative where he called the operation “ethnic cleansing.”

At the meeting on May 27, Jeremić said that Serbia and Croatia should spearhead the region’s path to EU membership, and put behind them tragedies such as the destruction of Vukovar and the ethnic cleansing of a quarter of a million Croatian Serbs during Operation Storm.