Conflict & Justice

Hague acquits two Croatian generals, Gotovina and Markac, for war crimes


Appeals judges ordered the immediate release of Ante Gotovina (above) and Mladen Markac.

Two Croatian generals who were convicted last year of murder, persecution and plunder against Serbs in the 1990s have been acquitted.

A war crimes court in The Hague overturned the convictions Friday, and ordered the immediate release of Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, The BBC reported

Gotovina, who was commander in the Split district of the Croatian army, had been sentenced to 24 years in prison, and Mladen Markac, a Croatian police commander, sentenced to 18 years for the killing of ethnic Serbs during the Balkan wars of the 1990s, Reuters reported.

Agence France-Press reported that the court’s packed public gallery erupted in cheers following the acquittal, and people cried and hugged Markac's wife, Mirjana, who was in court.

Outside, supporters cheered and cracked open champagne, including supporter, Zvonko Komsic, 53, who said: "It's a great day for us."

Agence France-Press said the court found the convictions last year were based on the false premise that any artillery that landed on Serb-inhabited towns and was more than 200 metres from a military target was an attack on civilians.

Judges also overturned the ruling of “a joint criminal enterprise whose purpose was the permanent and forcible removal of Serb civilians from the Krajina region.”

The men arrived in Zagreb later on Friday to a hero's welcome.