The Trial Chamber with Judge Theodor Meron presiding has scheduled an appellate hearing for 14 May 2012. The defense of the two convicted generals will present their arguments against the Trial Chamber’s judgment, sentencing Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac to 24 and 18 years in prison respectively. The prosecution will then respond to the arguments. The two generals may address the court if they wish

Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac in the courtroomAnte Gotovina and Mladen Markac in the courtroom

Thirteen months after the Trial Chamber handed down its judgment to Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, an appellate hearing has been scheduled following the appeals of the two generals. The judgment, delivered on 15 April 2011, sentenced Gotovina to 24 and Markac to 18 years in prison for crimes against Serbs in Operation Storm. The appellate hearing has been scheduled for 14 May 2012. The prosecution has not appealed, apparently satisfied with the sentences.

The scheduling order signed by the presiding judge of the Appeals Chamber Theodor Meron indicates that Gotovina’s defense will be the first to address the judges on 14 May 2012, after brief introductory remarks by the judges, which should not take longer than ten minutes. Gotovina’s defense will have an hour and a half for its presentation. The prosecution will then have the same amount of time to respond. The defense will have half an hour for its rejoinder. Markac’s defense will then present its arguments, following by the prosecution’s response and the defense’s rejoinder. At the end of the hearing, the two accused will have ten minutes each to address the judges. The hearing will begin at 9 a.m. and is expected to be end by 6:30 p.m.

The Appeals Chamber will present a detailed schedule and any instructions to the parties to address specific issues that may interest the judges in court in a forthcoming decision.

Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac were convicted of persecution, deportation, looting and destruction of property, murder, inhumane acts and cruel treatment of Krajina Serbs during and after Operation Storm, in the summer of 1995. The judgment found that the crimes were committed as part of a joint criminal enterprise whose aim was to expel Serb civilians from Krajina. Gotovina, who commanded the Split Military District at the time, was in charge of the operation, while Markac commanded the special police who participated in Operation Storm. The Trial Chamber found that the Croatian president Franjo Tudjman headed the joint criminal enterprise, while the accused, defense minister Gojko Susak, chief of the Croatian Army Main Staff Zvonimir Cervenko and other high-ranking officials were its participants.

In their appellate briefs, the defense of the two convicted generals asked the Appeals Chamber to reverse the finding about the existence of a joint criminal enterprise, mainly by contesting one of its elements, the artillery attack on Knin and other Krajina towns. The defense contends that the whole judgment is based on ‘arbitrary conclusions’ of the Trial Chamber; there is no evidence that the shelling constituted an ‘unlawful attack on civilians’. The Trial Chamber’s judgment acquitted the Knin Garrison commander Ivan Cermak on all counts in the indictment. As the prosecution did not appeal against Cermak’s acquittal, he is now a free man.