The defense claims that in its response to Gotovina’s appellate brief the prosecution didn’t offer any arguments that might convince the Appeals chamber not to invalidate the judgment sentencing the Croatian general to 24 years in prison

Ante Gotovina in the courtroomAnte Gotovina in the courtroom

General Ante Gotovina’s defense believes their Appeal should be adopted. They claim the prosecution didn’t offer any arguments in its reply which could contest the claims in Defense Appeals Brief. General Gotovina was sentenced to 24 years in prison in April this year, as a participant in the joint criminal enterprise (JCE) aimed at expelling Serbs from Krajina during and after Operation „Storm“ in 1995. Defense urges the Appeals Chamber to invalidate the findings in the judgment and „acquit“ former commander of Split Military District „of all charges“.

Defense contends that the prosecution’s argument on the existence of a joint criminal enterprise „rests on the bootstrapping of four individually unproven arguments, each used to prove the existence of the other“. These are the Brioni meeting, indiscriminate shelling, crimes of Croatian Army and Police and measures implemented by the Croatian government to prevent the Serb refugees from returning to Krajina after Operation „Storm“.

In its reply, Gotovina’s defense states that the prosecution „never cites“ the transcript of Brioni meeting from 31 July 1995 in support of its claims. According to the prosecution, participants of that meeting „explicitly refer[ed] to forcing the flight of the Serb civilian population out of the Krajina through the unlawful attack”. The defense contends that the prosecution „concedes“ there was no “formal decision” taken at Brioni to expel Serbs, and no “single statement” at the Brioni meeting would indicate that there was intent to target Serb civilians with artillery.

The defense also contests the prosecution’s argument that the judgment properly concluded that Gotovina’s aim was „to treat entire towns as targets“. According to judgment, this was done through the order issued on 2 August 1995 in which Gotovina demands that ‘Knin, Benkovac, Obrovac and Gracac be put under artillery fire’. Defense states that the Tribunal’s Conference and Languages Services Section (CLSS ) erred when they translated word „udari“ as „fire“, instead of translating it as “strikes”. That mistake in the translation drastically changed the situation, because the word „udari“ indicates that artillery attacks were aimed at military targets.According to the defense, it is clear from the later orders issued by Gotovina and Commander of the HV artillery during Operation Storm Marko Rajcic. The defense claims that those orders clearly mark military targets which should be attacked in the above-mentioned towns. Finally, the defense believes there is “no finding or evidence of direct targeting of civilians and no basis to infer an indiscriminate attack“. As a result „the entire Judgment collapses“, the defense claims.

The Chamber, the defense notes, specifically found that the common objective of JCE „did not amount to, or involve, the commission of the natural and foreseeable crimes“. The prosecution at the same time claims that crimes were planned. If these crimes were intended they would have formed part of the common JCE objective. The Chamber „found they did not“, defense claims.

The prosecution claims that Serb refugees were prevented from returning to Krajina. “Prosecution does not dispute that if the Krajina Serbs were not deported from the four towns, then the demographic policy post-Storm was not unlawful”, defense claims.

Gotovina „was not a member of, and did not significantly contribute to, a JCE“, the defense states. That is, according to them, clearly confirmed in the parts of their Appeals Brief, allegedly unchallenged by the prosecution. The Appeals brief states:numerous times Gotovina exclusively „ordered to target military objectives“; “the Chamber made no finding of any civilian deaths or injuries from shelling“; „every subsequent investigation by impartial observers and human rights organizations failed to uncover any evidence of unlawful shelling“. Finally, the defense also stated that general Gotovina took „all steps“ before and after Operation Storm „to prevent/punish crime“ against civilians and their property.