Prosecution of Croatian war crimes lacking

Dec. 9, 2010 at 12:01 AM
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LONDON, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Croatian officials should make prosecution of war crimes a higher priority in light of barriers keeping case closures low, a human rights organization says.

The Croatian justice system is failing victims of the 1991-1995 war because of delays, concerns about standards and threats against witnesses, a report released Thursday by Amnesty International says.

Only 18 war crimes cases are concluded a year and with 700 cases yet to be heard, many alleged criminals may never see the inside of a courtroom.

"The authorities have the support of the international community; however, despite the often-declared commitment by officials to deal with impunity for war crimes and despite progress in some areas justice has been slow in coming and very selective," said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia program director.

Vital definitions of command responsibility, war crimes of sexual violence and crimes against humanity aren't outlined in national law in accordance with international standards resulting too often in impunity for many alleged criminals, Amnesty International says.

Croatian war crimes proceedings are often held in county courts in front of officials lacking expertise in international law and standards, the group said. They also lack facilities to protect witnesses from intimidation.

"Croatia must deal with its past in order to move forward. Impunity for war crimes is a stumbling block towards membership in the European Union. By removing it, the authorities will prove that the country is unequivocally on a path that closes the gaps in delivering justice. The victims expect, and deserve, no less," Duckworth said.

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