|04ZAGREB1675||2004-09-20 16:00:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Zagreb|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L ZAGREB 001675
1. (U) SUMMARY AND COMMENT: Croatian government officials and
political leaders expressed surprise and disappointment at
the ICTY trial chamber's September 14 decision against
provisional release of Generals Mladen Markac and Ivan
Cermak, particularly in the wake of their voluntary surrender
to the Court and the recent release of six Bosnian Croat
indictees who were permitted to return to Croatia while
awaiting their trial. The court used the GOC's failure to
deliver fugitive general Ante Gotovina to support its lack of
confidence in state guarantees for the Markac/Cermak release.
2. (C) The GOC undoubtedly hoped that the tightly controlled
Zagreb arrival of the six Bosnian Croats a week earlier had
demonstrated the seriousness of government guarantees related
to provisional releases. The conspicuous lack of press
statements and absence of nationalist crowds at the airport
for the six contrasted sharply with previous "homecomings"
from the ICTY; the GOC made an effort to show it can manage
public aspects of indictee releases. Anti-ICTY public
sentiment gained a temporary boost, but the GOC will support
the decision. END SUMMARY AND COMMENT.
SUPPORTING THE DECISION AND THE APPEAL
3. (C) Despite political rumblings on the continued detention
of Cermak and Markac, accused of war crimes in southern
Croatia in 1995, Assistant Minister of Justice for ICTY
Cooperation Jaksa Muljacic assured the Embassy September 15
that MOJ Vesna Skare-Ozbolt will publicly stand by the
ruling. "A court decision is a court decision," Muljacic
stressed, quietly adding that Skare-Ozbolt will also support
the generals, appeal expected September 20.
4. (C) The ruling against release will confuse Croatian
public opinion, he said, considering that ICTY's Chief
Prosecutor opposed the release of the Bosnian Croats but did
not oppose the release of the two Croatian generals.
According to Muljacic, this decision will stall the steady
growth in public acceptance of the ICTY - important in
setting the stage for the eventual capture of Gotovina,
former commander of both Markac and Cermak.
ALL QUIET AT PLESO AIRPORT
4. (U) Jadranko Prlic, Berislav Pusic, Bruno Stojic,
Valentin Coric and Generals Slobodan Praljak and Milivoj
Petkovic, all former political and military leaders of the so
called Croatian Republic of Herceg-Bosna, made no public
statements upon arrival in Croatia September 9, where they
will await their trial in The Hague. Whisking indictees and
their families past the press, it appears the GOC is making a
concerted effort to control public events likely to stir
lingering anti-ICTY sentiments. The ICTY indicted the six in
April 2004 for war crimes related to the persecution of
Bosnian Muslims in areas controlled by the Croatian Defense
Council (HVO) from 1991 to 1994.
5. (U) The almost unnoticed arrival of the six was in stark
contrast to the early August homecoming of General Tihomir
Blaskic, which attracted several hundred supporters and
created a minor media frenzy. Unlike Blaskic, who was
released after the ICTY reduced his sentence, the six Bosnian
Croats are still awaiting trial and will remain under a gag
order during their house arrest. In addition, Blaskic was
widely viewed by the Croatian public as a martyr paying for
the crimes of others after receiving a 45-year sentence in
2000, the longest handed down by ICTY judges at the time.
Prlic and company are still somewhat undefined in Croatian
THE TRANSFER TEMPEST
6. (C) Thomas Osorio, head of the ICTY office in Zagreb,
immediately dismissed comments appearing in the national
press from Croat member of the Bosnian Presidency Dragan
Covic claiming that this case would be transferred to Croatia
or Bosnia. While ICTY Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte is
watching how Croatians react to release of the six Bosnian
Croats to gauge the country's readiness for case transfers in
terms of "atmospherics," according to Osorio, she has no
intention of requesting the transfer of this case.