War Crimes Court Acquits Croatian Generals
BELGRADE, November 16 (RIA Novosti) - In a ruling condemned by Serbia, the UN war crimes tribunal on Friday overturned the verdicts against two Croatian generals convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Judges at the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague ordered the immediate release of Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac.
In 2011 the two men were sentenced to 24 years and 18 years respectively over the killing of ethnic Serbs in an offensive to retake Croatia's Krajina region.
About 200,000 ethnic Serbs were driven from their homes in Krajina and at least 150 were killed in an offensive known as Operation Storm.
The ICTY in 2011 ruled that both men were part of a criminal conspiracy led by the late Croatian President Franjo Tudjman to expel Serbs, but appeals judges said no such conspiracy existed.
Thousands of people in Croatia's capital Zagreb cheered the court’s ruling.
But Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor Vladimir Vukčević reacted angrily, saying the verdict seriously jeopardized the principle of punishment in war crimes cases.
“This is one of the greatest war crimes in the territory of the former Yugoslavia, killings, expulsion and endangering several hundreds of thousands of people and nobody has answered for it,” he was quoted by b92.net as saying.
The Hague Tribunal “has lost all credibility,” said Rasim Ljajić, the president of Serbia's National Council for Cooperation with the Hague Tribunal.
“The decision of the Appeals Chamber takes us three steps back and a perception of the Tribunal in our public will be even worse,” Ljajić said.
United Serbia leader Dragan Marković has said that the acquittal "legalizes" the biggest ethnic cleansing in Europe since WWII.
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