Viewing cable 07ZAGREB853
Title: CROATIAN GENERALS' WAR CRIMES TRIAL CONTINUES

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
07ZAGREB8532007-09-17 08:40:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Zagreb
VZCZCXRO9024
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHVB #0853/01 2600840
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 170840Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8132
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ZAGREB 000853 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
S/WCI FOR WILLIAMSON 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: HR CROATIA ICTY KAWC KJUS
SUBJECT: CROATIAN GENERALS' WAR CRIMES TRIAL CONTINUES 
 
¶1. (SBU) Summary and Comment.  The case of Croatian Army 
Generals Rahim Ademi and Mirko Norac, whose trial began in 
the summer, continued this week.  It is the first, and likely 
only, case to be transferred to Croatia by the ICTY (a 
so-called 11 bis case).  As such, it is seen as a test of 
Croatia's judicial system and its ability to try Croatian war 
heros in an unbiased manner.  Ademi and Norac are the 
highest-ranking Croatian officers to be tried for war crimes 
in Croatian courts.  The combined case charges the officers 
with both individual and command responsibility during the 
1993 Medak Pocket operation.  According to the indictment, 
originally brought by the ICTY, the officers are responsible 
for the deaths of 28 ethnic Serb civilians and the 
destruction of about 300 buildings after Croatian forces took 
control of the area.  Testimony to date has dredged up issues 
of political interference into military operations, parallel 
chains of command, and the split military culture of the 
time.  The trial is open to the public.  Regional and local 
NGOs, the OSCE, and others, including Embassy staff, have 
attended testimony and praised the proceedings.  While the 
media has been constantly present, the public reaction is 
muted - a strong contrast to previous trials of Croatians for 
war crimes.  The lack of commentary from politicians and 
local officials, combined with the capabilities of the judge 
- an Embassy contact who has received USG-funded training and 
is well-regarded among judicial circles - has ensured the 
process is controlled and as de-politicized as possible.  End 
Summary and Comment. 
 
Indictment: Command and Individual Responsibility 
 
¶2. (U) The Medak Pocket operation, executed between 9-17 
September, 1993, was aimed at regaining control over a 
Serb-held area near the town of Gospic in central Croatia. 
The Croatian indictment (which differs slightly from the ICTY 
indictment) alleges that during the operation 28 civilians, 
mostly women and elderly were killed, as were five POWs. 
Others were seriously injured, and extensive property was 
destroyed in an organized manner.  During the time of the 
events in question, Norac was Colonel and commander of the 
9th Guards Motorized Brigade - the main unit involved in the 
Medak Pocket operation along with the military police. 
(Note: Norac is currently serving a 12-year sentence for a 
separate incident in which 50 ethnic Serb civilians were 
killed in the Gospic area.  End Note.)  Ademi was Brigadier 
and acting commander of the Gospic Military Unit and 
allegedly central in planning, ordering, and executing the 
operation.  Both are accused of individual criminal 
responsibility for the attacks as well as for command 
responsibility.  The ICTY referred the case to Croatia in 
September 2005 at the request of Croatian prosecutors, and 
transferred most documents the same year.  The trial began in 
June of this year and will likely continue into 2008. 
 
Non-Controversial Proceedings 
 
¶3. (SBU) Although the testimony has captured the attention of 
the public, OSCE and other observers note the lack of 
controversy on the proceedings and praise the process to 
date.  OSCE trial monitors are present at all hearings, as 
per its agreement with the ICTY.  Judge Marin Mrcela is 
widely respected for his competence as a criminal judge and 
control over his court.  He is a close contact of Post; with 
past USG support he designed judicial training programs and 
drafted an ethic code for judges and publications on various 
judicial issues.  He gained some notoriety in 1996 when, as a 
young judge in his mid-30s, he rejected then-president Franjo 
Tudjmann's charges against a local satirical newspaper for 
slander.  Since then Mrcela has developed a reputation of 
being fair, unbiased, and efficient, and has quashed any 
outbursts, protests, or improper behavior.  The proceedings 
have been a contrast to trials of Croats for war crimes in 
past years, such as the Lora trial (at which protesters 
regularly disrupted the court and city officials spoke about 
assisting in prisoners' release) or the Glavas trial which 
sparked reactions from politicians and pockets of public 
support for the defendant.  The cumbersome trial process, 
however, highlights some deficiencies in the court system. 
For example, not all witnesses can be located and contacted, 
and the judge must repeat the full testimony of each witness 
in order for it to be entered into the official record, 
effectively doubling court time.  As a result, the case will 
probably be drawn out until early 2008. 
 
Parallel Lines of Command 
 
¶4. (SBU) The key issue in question is who was in command of 
military forces that committed crimes during Medak Pocket. 
Ademi's defense claims Norac was in command of Sector One, 
established to carry out the operation.  Norac's defense 
rests on the stated command structure, which places Norac 
 
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subordinate to Ademi.  However, the question raises a more 
sensitive point of conflict within the Army at the time: 
Witness testimony has painted a picture of parallel lines of 
command at the time of the operation, alluding to a split of 
"old guard" and "new guard" in the army at the time.  Some 
witnesses and commentators have placed Ademi in the "old 
guard" camp - former JNA officers (led by Generals Antun Tus 
and Petar Stipetic), while Norac was part of the "new guard", 
led by Defense Minister Gojko Susak and supported in part by 
the diaspora.  Susak allegedly favored the new, non-JNA 
officers and quickly promoted and protected new, young 
officers such as Norac, who was in his early 20s at the time. 
 Brigadier Isidor Cesnjaj, Ademi's former superior officer, 
testified that Norac had direct contact with then-Defense 
Minister Gojko Susak and was connected to Generals Ante 
Gotovina, Janko Bobetko and Mladen Markac, Admiral Davor 
Domazet (a.k.a. Loso), and others. 
 
¶5. (SBU) Ademi, an ethnic Albanian, was allegedly never 
accepted by the "new guard."  One commentator called him "the 
loneliest of all Croatian officers accused of war crimes," 
referring to the lack of support from so-called hard-line 
veterans and his refusal to use his case for political 
purposes or rallying cries.  Cesnjaj recalled that various 
politicians and officers would visit the region and call the 
former JNA officers "reds" and "Commies".  Former infantry 
officer Rudolf Brlecic concurred, and also characterized 
Norac as young, inexperienced, brave, and arrogant, and 
ultimately in control of the Lika region, where the operation 
was located.  He recalled that Norac was recommended both for 
reassignment and for training in the U.S., but the moves were 
blocked by Susak. 
 
¶6. (SBU) Domazet testified against this parallel chain of 
command, denying any confusion in the structure and implying 
Ademi was responsible for command of the operation.  At the 
same time, he justified the operation as necessary to prevent 
further Serb attacks on the town of Gospic, and denied 
Croatian forces had killed any civilians, outrageously 
suggesting that Canadian UNPROFOR troops, at that time 
deployed in the Gospic area, might have been the killers of 
the Serb civilians in question.  In addition, the issue of 
command of the special police in the area remains important 
to the investigation and to ICTY's original case, which 
indicated that then-Interior Minister Ivan Jarnjak and 
special police force commander Mladen Markac were responsible 
for some events.  (Markac is currently awaiting trial at the 
ICTY on charges related to Operation Storm).  Markac and 
Jarnjak, however, have both supported Loso's testimony that 
Ademi was in command. 
BRADTKE