Pursuant to a court order, on Thursday morning Norac was transferred from a prison in Croatia to a Tribunal courtroom in order to hear the indictment and to enter his plea. He has pleaded not guilty on every count of the Medak pocket indictment. The accused was returned to Croatia, where he is currently serving a prison sentence.

Mirko Norac in the courtroomMirko Norac in the courtroom

Mirko Norac, retired HV general charged with the crimes against the Serb population in the Medak pocket, pleaded not guilty on all the counts of the indictment.

Pursuant to an order of the pre-trial chamber, Norac was transferred this morning from a prison in Croatia to a Tribunal courtroom in order to hear the indictment and to enter his plea on its counts before the Chinese judge Liu Daqun.

In the period between 9 and 17 September 1993, in the course of a military operation launched by the HV in the Medak pocket, south of Gospic, "at least 29 Serb civilians were killed and others sustained serious injuries", the indictment alleges. Some victims were mutilated or dragged along the road by a car. One woman was burned alive, it is alleged. "Many of those killed were women and the elderly. The Croatian forces furthermore killed at least five captured Serb soldiers." About 164 houses and 148 barns and outbuildings were destroyed and burned, and Serb property was plundered in the operation.

At the time when the crimes were committed, Norac was commanding the 9th Guards Brigade of the HV, the main unit that participated in the operation whose objective was to capture the pocket. He is charged with the crimes against humanity and violations of laws and customs of war, for which he has individual and command responsibility.

After Norac entered his plea, Judge Liu ordered that the accused be returned to Croatia forthwith, since both the defense and the prosecution supported this move. Norac is currently serving a 12-year sentence in the prison in Rijeka for the crimes committed against Serb civilians in Gospic in 1991. Judge Liu ordered that Norac's conditions of detention in the Croatian prison must be in line with the Tribunal's Rules of Detention.

The Trial Chamber has yet to rule on the motion filed by the prosecution seeking a joinder of indictments against Norac and Rahim Ademi, retired HV general who has been charged with the same crimes. The Chamber would like to make that decision by the end of this month, but that will depend on the rate at which the prosecution is disclosing its evidence to the defense. Following the disclosure, the defense will have 14 days to file its response to the motion for joinder. The prosecution indicated in its motion that it will seek that the Norac and Ademi cases be deferred to the Croatian courts, but has not yet filed such a motion with the pre-trial chamber.