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Gotovina et al. (IT-06-90) “Operation Storm

Trial Judgment: 15 April 2011; Appeal Judgment: 16 November 2012

Ante Gotovina, the Commander of the Split Military District of the HV, Ivan Čermak, the Assistant Minister of Defence in the Croatian government and Commander of the Knin Garrison, and Mladen Markač, Commander of Special Police of the Ministry of the Interior of Croatia, stood trial for allegedly having planned instigated, ordered, committed or aided and abetted the planning, preparation an execution of crimes against the Serb population in the Krajina region, including the deportation and forcible transfer of Krajina Serbs; the plunder and looting of Serb property including homes, barns, and livestock; shelling of civilians and other unlawful attacks on civilians and civilian objects, including large scale damage and burning of homes and outbuildings, killing of livestock, and spoiling of wells; the imposition of discriminatory laws on Krajina Serbs; unlawful detentions; discriminatory expropriation of property; and disappearances. The prosecution accused them of individual and superior criminal responsibility for crimes against humanity for persecution, deportation, inhumane acts including forcible transfer, and murder; and for violations of the laws or customs of war for plunder of private or public property, wanton destruction not justified by military necessity, murder, and cruel treatment.

In 2011, the Trial Chamber acquitted Čermak and convicted Gotovina and Markač as members of a joint criminal enterprise and on the basis of individual criminal responsibility of crimes against humanity for persecution, deportation, murder, and inhumane acts; and of violations of the laws or customs of war for plunder, wanton destruction, murder, and cruel treatment.

In 2012, the Appeals Chamber found that the Trial Chamber erred when it determined that the HV’s attacks on the “Four Towns” was unlawful based on the premise of impact analysis with an improperly derived margin of error from legitimate military sites, including moving military vehicles; the Appeals Chamber reversed the Trial Chamber’s finding that the artillery attacks on the Four Towns were unlawful and then considered that no reasonable trial chamber could finds the existence of a joint criminal enterprise to remove the Serb population from Krajina by threat or use of force and reversed all of the defendants’ convictions. The Trial Chamber sentenced Gotovina to 24 years’ imprisonment and Markač to 18 years’ imprisonment; both were subsequently acquitted by the Appeals Chamber.