UN judge censures Croatia’s disrespect for victims of Bosnia war

December 3, 2017 12:38 am
People light candles in tribute to General Slobodan Praljak in Zagreb on November 30, 2017, after the Bosnian Croat war criminal took his own life in front of war crimes judges, apparently drinking poison just after they upheld his 20-year jail term for atrocities committed during the Balkans conflicts. (AFP photo)
The chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has lambasted Croatian officials and the media for their refusal to come to terms with the court’s final rulings on war of the 1990s, saying the posture clearly disrespects the victims of the war.
“It would have been hoped that Croatian officials and media would act more responsibly and promote acceptance of the facts, but that unfortunately is not what we are seeing,” ICTY chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz said Sunday.
“Instead, among many there is again a refusal to respect the judicial process and the facts proved, and claims that convicted war criminals are in fact heroes,” he said, adding, “This denial disrespects the victims.”
Brammertz’s statement comes days after an appeals court of the United Nations-backed ICTY upheld 2013 convictions for six leading former Bosnian Croat commanders for crimes they committed against the Bosnian Muslims during the Balkans conflicts.
The rulings issued in The Hague on Wednesday, however, were overshadowed by the suicide inside the court of one of the convicts who swallowed poison in protest to a 20-year jail sentence given to him. The 72-year-old Slobodan Praljak , who later died in a Dutch hospital, has been hailed by some Croatian authorities as a hero despite his proven role in killing of many Bosnian Muslims.
Brammertz said he regretted Praljak’s death, but insisted that it should not come at the expense of the suffering of thousands who were affected by his orders during the war.  
“It is unfortunate that Mr. Praljak made the choice to end his life,” he said, adding, “But you will understand that my thoughts are with the victims and survivors of the crimes for which he was convicted.”
The judge defended ICTY for the job it has done over the past 24 years to prosecute those behind the worst atrocities in since World War II.
“Our job as prosecutors was to establish the facts and hold senior officials accountable, and that is what we did,” he said, adding, “The final judgment in this case remains fully valid.”
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