Croatian defence minister reportedly among Bosnian prosecutors’ war crimes suspects

Croatian defence minister reportedly among Bosnian prosecutors’ war crimes suspects
By Akin Nazli in Belgrade November 23, 2016

Croatian Defence Minister Damir Krsticevic is among the suspects in a war crimes case being investigated in Bosnia & Herzegovina. 

Prosecutions for crimes committed during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war is always a point of conflict among the former Yugoslavian republics of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia. The symbol of Yugoslavia’s end became civil war, millions of refugees, war crimes and the worst horrors Europe has seen since WWII, and its legacy continues. This is the second recent case to divide Bosnia and Croatia. 

Krsticevic has been accused of committing war crimes in Bosnia’s Jajce municipality during the Croatia's military-police Operation Storm in the 1990s, Serbian broadcaster B92 reported. Krsticevic was the commander of the 4th Guards Brigade of the Croatian Army from Split. However, he claims that his unit was not in Jajce at that time, according to B92.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic also defended his defence minister on November 22, according to Total Croatia News. Plenkovic told reporters he would not accept “any manipulation aiming to destabilise [the] country.” 

Tihomir Blaskic, Stanko Sopota, and Mario Petrovic were among the suspects in the same case as Krsticevic. Blaskic, a former Bosnian Croat general who was previously sentenced to 45 years in prison for crimes against humanity committed in the1992-1994 period by the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), returned to Zagreb in 2004 after the appeals chamber of the Hague tribunal reduced his sentence to nine years.

On October 31, ten former members of the Croatian Defense Council (HVO) from Bosnia's Bosanska Posavina region were arrested on suspicion of committing war crimes against Serbs between April 1992 and July 1993. Djuro Matuzovic, a retired general and organiser of defence forces in Orasje, was also among those arrested.

The Croatian government stood firm against the arrests. The Croatian ambassador to Sarajevo, Ivan Del Vechio, visited the ten former Croatian war veterans. The Croatian foreign ministry officially expressed concern about the arrests on October 31. Foreign Minister Davor Ivo Stier said that the arrested HVO members had dual citizenship (for both Croatia and Bosnia) and that the Bosnian authorities consider them as their nationals.

However, Krsticevic later cancelled a planned trip to Sarajevo. Local media speculated that he was afraid of being arrested in Bosnia. Later, the Croatian defence minister paid a visit to Medjugorje, a Bosnian town very close to the Croatian border.