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Croatia arrests former interior minister for WWII war crimes

The first Croatian Minister of Internal Affairs Josip Boljkovac was arrested Wednesday for war crimes committed from 1945-1946. Boljkovac, 89, was arrested near his home in Karlovac in connection with the deaths of fascist soldiers and sympathizers post World War II. The investigation against Boljkovac involves alleged executions [B92 report, in Croatian] of at least 30,000 Utasha (fascist) troops at camp Dubovac, where he was commander. Zagreb County Court judge ordered him taken into custody [Croatian Times report] due to the particularly grave circumstances of the charge, which was announced in August. Boljkovac denies committing any crime, and no hearing date has been set. Boljkovac was a secret police official under the Communist party, who became Croatia's first interior minister under Josip Broz Tito in 1991 following Croatia's independence. During the time of the alleged crimes, Boljkovac was helping to form the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) [party website, in Croatian], and many claim the charges are politically motivated. Croatia is close to becoming an official member [JURIST report] of the European Union (EU) [official website] in 2013, and a former government official stated that the country must be strong, mature and without exception bring justice to anyone who has ever committed a war crime.

In June, Croatian authorities charged Tomislav Mercep [JURIST report], another former military commander and interior minister, for war crimes committed during the conflict in the Balkans during the 1990s. The day before Mercep's arrest [JURIST report], Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released a report [text, PDF] calling for the prosecution of individuals responsible for war crimes. Last November, six men were sentenced [JURIST report] to prison terms 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, noting that the courts have mostly focused on crimes allegedly committed by ethnic Serbs even though Croats have also been accused. 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 (ITCY) [official website; JURIST news archive] investigating war crimes in the area. The entry talks resumed in October 2005 after the ICTY declared Croatia was fully cooperating [JURIST report].

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