Final verdict in Gotovina's case to be delivered Nov. 16

THE HAGUE -- A final verdict in a trial of Croat General Ante Gotovina, who was sentenced to 24 years in prison for persecution of Serbs, will be delivered on November 16.

Ante Gotovina, Ivan Čermak and Mladen Markač (Tanjug, file)
Ante Gotovina, Ivan Čermak and Mladen Markač (Tanjug, file)

The Hague Tribunal on April 15, 2011 also sentenced police General Mladen Markač to 18 years in prison for crimes against Serb civilians during and after the Operation Storm in August 1995.

According to the verdict, 55-year-old Gotovina, who was a commanding officer in the Operation Storm, and 55-year-old Markač, who was a special police units commander, were members of a joint criminal enterprise led by then Croat President Franjo Tuđman. The joint criminal enterprise was aimed at expelling the Serbian population from Knin Krajina.

Gotovina and Markač were found guilty of persecution, deportation, pillage, murders, wanton destruction, inhuman acts and cruel treatment of the Serbs in Krajina from the beginning of August until late September 1995. The Hague Tribunal acquitted General Ivan Čermak of all charges.

The Hague Tribunal determined that Gotovina had ordered unlawful shelling of Knin and other towns in Krajina and did nothing to stop the crimes of his subordinates and punish them for the crimes they had committed against the Serbs.

Both Gotovina and Markač filed appeals after the verdict, claiming that the court had misinterpreted the facts during and after the Operation Storm.

Their defense attorneys requested in the appeals that Gotovina and Markač be acquitted, claiming that the Operation Storm was a legitimate operation aimed at reintegrating Knin Krajina into Croatia’s system and that the Serbian population had left the territory as a part of a evacuation organized by their leadership led by Milan Martić.

Gotovina’s defense lawyers based the appeal on a claim that the court had made a mistake in the initial verdict when it determined that the shelling of Knin, Obrovac, Benkovac and Gračac on August 4-5, 1995 had been unlawful and aimed at expelling the Serbs.

At an appeal hearing held in May 2012, Gotovina’s defense attorneys claimed that the shelling was a legitimate, “highly professional” attack on military targets and that 95 percent of 1,200 artillery missiles fired by the Croat forces hit military targets in the four towns.

Gotovina said at the hearing that he was “proud of the results” of the Operation Storm in the summer of 1995 and said he was sorry about the victims who had been killed after the operation but stressed that he was not responsible for them.

Prosecutors called on the Tribunal to reject Gotovina and Markač’s appeals and to confirm the original verdict.

The trial of the three retired Croat generals began on March 11, 2008. The prosecution finished presenting the evidence on June 11, 2010 and the closing arguments were held in the end of August and beginning of September 2010.