Skip to main content

2 Croatians acquitted of Balkan war crimes

By the CNN Wire Staff
November 16, 2012 -- Updated 1431 GMT (2231 HKT)
Crowds celebrate after the UN Yugoslav war crimes court acquitted Croatian former generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac of charges ordered them free on November 16, 2012.
Crowds celebrate after the UN Yugoslav war crimes court acquitted Croatian former generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac of charges ordered them free on November 16, 2012.
  • The case stems from the fighting in Croatia's Krajina region
  • Ante Gotovina commanded a military district; Mladen Markac headed a police unit
  • Serbia's president calls the action "a political decision and not a legal ruling"

(CNN) -- Two top Croatian commanders previously convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Balkan wars were acquitted Friday.

The International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia ordered the release of Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac and reversed all of their convictions.

Read more: Genocide count dropped in Karadzic trial

Gotovina and Markac participated in an ethnic cleansing operation in Croatia's Krajina region between July and September 1995, the court ruled last year..

Gotovina, a general who commanded Croatia's Split military district during the mid-1990s war that led to the disintegration of Yugoslavia, had been sentenced to 24 years in prison. Markac, who headed the Interior Ministry's Special Police, received an 18-year prison term.

Read more: Ratko Mladic: Brutal villain to many, hero to others

But the court's Appeals Chamber found errors in the ruling, including the failure to find "the existence of a joint criminal enterprise" intent on permanently and forcibly removing Serb civilians from the Krajina region.

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic's office issued a statement criticizing the development.

"The tribunal has made a political decision and not a legal ruling. This will continue to destabilize the situation in the region and it will open old wounds," the statement said.

CNN's Per Nyberg and Joe Sterling contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1526 GMT (2326 HKT)
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0009 GMT (0809 HKT)
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1801 GMT (0201 HKT)
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1548 GMT (2348 HKT)
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0507 GMT (1307 HKT)
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1215 GMT (2015 HKT)
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0006 GMT (0806 HKT)
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.