Defense counsel for Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac oppose the "substantial changes" the prosecution has proposed to make in the indictment for the Operation Storm

Ivan Cermak i Mladen Markac in the courtroomIvan Cermak i Mladen Markac in the courtroom

The defense counsel for the Croatian generals Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac oppose the proposed amendments to the indictment for the crimes committed in the course of and after Operation Storm. The prosecution moved to amend the indictment early this month.

“So many persons have been included in the ‘joint criminal enterprise’ (designed to expel Serbs from Krajina) that it renders the proper preparation of the defense impossible. All specified persons (with the exception of the three accused, including Gotovina) are deceased, and the others are unknown or indeterminable”, the defense claims in its motion to the judges. The persons named include politicians Tudjman and Susak and generals Bobetko and Cervenko.

The defense further notes that the initial indictment "explicitely stated that Storm was a legitimate operation" while the proposed new indictment shows that the prosecutor "obviously considers the entire operation to have been a criminal endeavor and every participant therein a war criminal". "This approach is unacceptable because it violates the principle of the determination of individual criminal responsibility," the lawyers claim. The defense adds that Croatia’s operation to regain control over its state territory was based on provisions of UN chart and a resolution passed in December 1994.

The defense further claims that the prosecution violated the procedure when it moved to amend the indictment without first obtaining the approval of the judge to make such amendments. The prosecutor had previously (after the defense's objections to the indictment) ordered the prosecution to clarify certain issues, but the prosecutor instead "amended the indictment substantially", in the opinion of the defense.

When the prosecution sought leave to amend the indictment, it noted that it proposed changes to the "format", without changing the facts.