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Croatia indicts former interior minister for war crimes

Croatian authorities on Thursday charged [Novilist report, in Croatian] former military commander and senior interior minister Tomislav Mercep [official profile, in Croatian] for war crimes committed against Serbians during the 1990s conflict in the Balkans. The Municipal Court in Zagreb charged that he was aware of atrocities against civilians [B92 report], but prevented other officials from mitigating damages against them. The indictment goes on to charge that he ordered detentions, torture and executions of Serbian civilians. Mercep was arrested [JURIST report] in December, and Croatian officials were nearing a deadline to release him without a formal indictment. No date has been set for a hearing, nor is it clear that Mercep will be tried in Croatia. Coinciding with Mercep's indictment is the announcement that Croatia is slated for European Union (EU) [official website] acceptance in 2013 [Reuters report].

Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released a report [text, PDF; press release] calling for the prosecution of individuals responsible for war crimes the day before Mercep's arrest. In November, a Croatian court sentenced [JURIST report] six men to 15 to 40 years in prison for their roles in the 2008 killing of a Croatian journalist. In 2008, AI called on the EU to use Croatia's status as a candidate country to ensure that the Croatian government actively investigates and prosecutes [JURIST report] suspected war criminals. AI criticized the slow pace of war crimes investigations, and noted that Croatian courts have mostly focused on crimes allegedly committed by ethnic Serbs even though Croats have also been accused of ethnic-based war crimes. In March 2005, the EU suspended entry talks [JURIST report] on the grounds that Croatia was failing to fully cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia [official website; JURIST news archive] investigating war crimes in the area. The entry talks were resumed in October of that year after the ICTY declared that Croatia was fully cooperating [JURIST report].

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