Former Croatian president: leadership knew of war atrocities
Apr 22, 2011, 10:06 GMT
Zagreb/Belgrade - Croatia needs an international war crimes tribunal because there is no political will in the country to deal with suspected war criminals, former president Stejpan Mesic, said in an article published Friday.
'I was and am today firmly convinced that we need The Hague tribunal. Why? Well, because in Croatia there was no political will to process war crimes that doubtlessly happened on our side,' Mesic wrote in an article for the Rijeka newspaper Novi List.
Mesic spoke out after furious reactions in Croatia over long prison terms imposed last week by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) against two Croatian generals for their role in a campaign of terror targeting Serbs in the summer of 1995.
The ICTY verdict effectively implicated then-Croatian president Franjo Tudjman of heading a criminal enterprise formed to drive Serbs from Croatia.
While Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor and other officials voiced outrage about the court decision and pledged to use all means to overturn the verdict on appeal, Mesic said that Tudjman was aware of the atrocities.
'There is no doubt that the state leadership knew about these crimes,' Mesic wrote in his article.
'I doubted whether I should say it, but here it is: I was present when a minister ... reported to Tudjman that Serb villages were being torched in three shifts. Literally, like that - in three shifts,' he said, refusing to name the minister.
Tudjman led Croatia to independence from former Yugoslavia and served as its autocratic president for two terms between 1990 and his death in late 1999. He was the founder of the conservative Croatian Dmeocratic Union (HDZ), now headed by Kosor.
Mesic served in several high-ranking political positions as a member of the HDZ until he fell out with Tudjman in 1994 and founded his own party. He was president for two terms between 200 and 2010.
He has often been attacked by Croatian nationalists and the influential Catholic Church over his outspoken criticism of war crimes on all sides in the Yugoslav wars.
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