Croat generals acquitted of war crimes named in national security body
Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic has named two former generals acquitted of war crimes by a UN court to an advisory security body, her office said Friday, a move that could infuriate former foe Serbia.
Retired generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac were chosen to sit on the newly-founded body tasked with engaging in “expert discussions on national security issues” in order to provide advice to the president, a statement from the presidency said.
Most members of the 23-member Homeland Security Council, that also includes security experts and politicians, are retired generals.
The move could further affect the sensitive ties between Croatia and Serbia as Belgrade was outraged in 2012 when Gotovina and Markac were acquitted on appeal before the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
Gotovina and Markac were initially sentenced to 24 and 18 years in jail respectively when they were found guilty of the murder of 324 ethnic Serbs and the forced displacement of some 90,000 others at the end of the 1990s war here, during an operation led by Gotovina.
The Operation Storm practically ended the 1991-1995 war sparked by Croatia’s proclamation of independence from the former Yugoslavia that was opposed by rebel Serbs.
During the war that claimed some 20,000 lives the rebels were militarily and politically backed by the Belgrade regime.
Relations between Zagreb and Belgrade gradually improved since the end of the conflict, but have become tense again during the past few years after inflammatory statements from both sides.
Gotovina and other generals who fought during the 1991-1995 war are seen as national heroes by most Croatians.
According to UN refugee agency figures, some 280,000 ethnic Serbs fled Croatia during and after the war. Around 50 percent have returned so far.