At a hearing before the Trial Chamber trying three Croatian generals, Ante Gotovina’s defense argued their motion to suspend the proceedings against Marin Ivanovic, Gotovina’s defense team investigator, before a Croatian court. Ivanovic is suspected of concealing documents from military archives. Representatives of the Croatian judiciary oppose the motion, noting that Ivanovic enjoys no immunity from prosecution before domestic courts. Some of the documents the prosecution has been seeking for years from the Croatian authorities were found in possession of people working for Gotovina’s defense team

Ante Gotovina in the courtroomAnte Gotovina in the courtroom

General Ante Gotovina's defense case at the trial of three Croatian generals for crimes against Serbs during and after Operation Storm was suspended briefly for a hearing on the motion filed by Gotovina’s defense. The motion asks the Trial Chamber to order the Republic of Croatia to suspend criminal proceedings against Marin Ivanovic, a defense team investigator. Ivanovic has been charged with concealing military documents similar to those the prosecution has been seeking for years from the Croatian authorities to no avail. Representatives of both the Croatian justice ministry and the public prosecutor’s office were present at the hearing today.

Explaining the defense position, lead counsel Luka Misetic said that the accused Ivanovic should have immunity from criminal prosecution in Croatia; Tribunal’s judges and prosecutors enjoy this immunity. The relevant article in the Tribunal’s Statute, copied into the Croatian law on cooperation with ICTY, does not envisage immunity for defense team members. The defense counsel invoked the right of the accused to a fair trial and guaranteed equality of arms. This, the defense counsel argued, is the reason why all defense representatives should be granted ‘functional immunity’ in the territory of Croatia, in order to have equal rights as the prosecution. Misetic complained that the police had frequently interrogated Ivanovic and at least four other people who work for the defense in Croatia. It has been obstructing the work of Gotovina’s team, Misetic said.

Josip Cule, Croatian deputy state prosecutor, said that under Croatian laws, defense counsel representing the accused before the ICTY did not have immunity from criminal prosecution, reminding the court that the three people charged with concealing documents, including Ivanovic, did not invoke immunity. Explaining the circumstances in which the ‘preliminary interviews’ were held with five members of Gotovina’s team, Gordan Markotic, from the Croatian justice ministry, said that the interviews had been part of an investigation undertaken by Croatia once the Tribunal issued its order to ‘extend and intensify the search’ for lost documents in September 2008. Some 240 persons were questioned, Markotic said, and the transcripts of the interviews were delivered to both the Trial Chamber and the Croatian investigative bodies. The Croatian investigative bodies decided to file criminal reports against a number of persons.

The Croatian representatives noted that some of the missing military documents had been received from the people who worked with Gotovina’s defense team. They had been questioned in the course of the investigation. Some documents were obtained on the basis of the information they imparted in the course of the interviews.

As the hearing today drew to a close, presiding judge Orie said that the Trial Chamber would ‘consider carefully’ all the aspects of domestic and international law, with the caveat that this need not mean that the Tribunal had authority and power to react in this case. The trial of generals Gotovina, Markac and Cermak continues on Tuesday.