|(Exclusively for the use of the media. Not an official document)
The Hague, 3 October 2005
Please find below the ICTY Prosecutor's assessment of the co-operation provided by Croatia to the ICTY.
This assessment reviews the progress made and the remaining difficulties in the areas highlighted in my assessment to the EU Task Force on 26 April 2005.
Croatia is usually responding in a timely and comprehensive manner to the Prosecutor's Requests for Assistance regarding documents and witnesses. Documents, even when they are of a sensitive nature, are delivered within the deadlines and no particular conditions are attached. Croatia's co-operation in the transmission of requested documents is indeed currently the best of all the
countries in the region.
The judicial co-operation continues to run smoothly. My Office has regular exchanges with the Croatian State Attorney on other war crimes cases. The ICTY decision of 14 September to transfer under Rule 11 bis one case involving two mid-level perpetrators, Norac and Ademi, to Croatia, shows the confidence of the ICTY in the ability for Croatia to conduct a fair trial.
The Croatian authorities have played an important role in the operation that led to the arrest of Milan Lukic in Argentina. Milan Lukic is a Bosnian-Serb who has been at large since 1998. Due to the excellent co-operation between the Serbian, Croatian and Argentinean authorities, this fugitive was arrested in Buenos Aires on 8 August 2005.
At this juncture, the only remaining issue in the co-operation provided by Croatia to the ICTY is the transfer to The Hague of Ante Gotovina, who was indicted on 8 June 2001 and has been at large ever since. The question to be examined is whether Croatia is doing everything it can to locate, arrest and transfer this fugitive. This assessment is based on over 130 reports that my
Office received this year from the Croatian agencies involved in the tracking of Ante Gotovina, on the nearly daily communications between my Office and the Croatian State Attorney Mladen Bajic and on other contacts with Croatian and international sources.
In the first half of this year, serious weaknesses were found in the functioning of Croatian intelligence services. There were leaks of sensitive information to the media, key intelligence was retained and the operational work was neither focused, nor pro-active, nor even properly co-ordinated. Since May, the performance of the relevant services has significantly improved. There
have been no more leaks of confidential ICTY documents that could be attributed to Croatian Government agencies. There is no evidence that information has been deliberately hidden from us or from other relevant Croatian agencies. The reports received from the intelligence services show that the activities are better focused and co-ordinated with the other involved services in the
Ministries of Interior and Finance, and with the State Prosecutor.
The commitments made in the Action Plan presented by Croatia to the Task Force on 26 April 2005 were only partly implemented. For instance, thus far no far-reaching measures were taken to address the structural problems that were previously identified. Laws on the reorganization of the intelligence services and on data protection have not yet been adopted, and the serious problems
highlighted in previous assessments were not fully investigated and prosecuted. However, these shortcomings have had no direct impact on the operation carried out by Croatia to locate and arrest Ante Gotovina.
The efforts being made against the network have shown progress. The persons and companies who may be providing financial and other types of support to Ante Gotovina are being thoroughly monitored and investigated. Enough resources have been allocated to this operation, and the various Ministries and agencies involved appear to co-ordinate their actions in a satisfactory manner,
thanks in particular to the professionalism and personal commitment of State Prosecutor Bajic.
The arrest of Hrvoje Petrac on 31 August in Greece is a positive development. The Croatian authorities played a part in this operation, although not the lead role. Petrac was sentenced by a Croatian court after being convicted on abduction charges, and he is suspected of being a key player in the financing of Gotovina's escape. He could possibly provide useful leads. However, there
are other key players, unrelated to Petrac, who are supporting this fugitive inside and outside of Croatia.
According to sources outside of the Croatian Government, Gotovina is in Croatia or in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and there are indications that he may hide in a Franciscan monastery. My visit to the Vatican on 1st July only confirmed the lack of willingness by the Holy See to co-operate with the ICTY.
The key question is whether the Croatian Government could do more to locate and arrest Ante Gotovina. Judging by the statements of Croatia's most senior officials, by the considerable resources engaged in the operation, and by the orders given to the various services, Croatia's Government appears to possess the political will to locate, arrest and transfer the fugitive. Translating
this determination into tangible results, meaning to have Gotovina in The Hague, remains the key challenge.
To conclude, I can confirm that Croatia is responding in a satisfactory manner to all my requests. Intense exchanges are taking place on a daily basis to locate and arrest Ante Gotovina. There is no evidence that Croatia is not doing everything it can to locate and arrest Ante Gotovina. It is essential that Croatia continues to work with the same intensity, independently of any
political development, internal or external.
During my trip to Zagreb on 30 September, both President Mesic and Prime Minister Sanader assured me that the Croatian authorities are determined to do everything that is necessary to locate and arrest Gotovina. Past experience has shown that the international support, in particular the EU strong interest in this matter, has been a strong incentive for Croatia to co-operate with
the ICTY. It is my hope that the ICTY will be able to further rely on this support, which remains as important as ever.
In the light of the above, I can say that, for a few weeks now, Croatia has been cooperating fully with us and is doing everything it can to locate and arrest Ante Gotovina. If Croatia continues to work with the same resolve and intensity, I am confident that he can be transferred to The Hague soon.