Nine former HVO members are accused of committing war crimes during the 1990s war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Nine former officers and members of the Croatian Defence Council (HVO), Bosnian Croat forces during the 1990s war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, who have been indicted for war crimes committed in the Bosnian Posavina region, appeared before the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina and pleaded not guilty to charges submitted by the Bosnian State Prosecutor’s Office, reports Večernji List on March 18, 2017.
They submitted their pleas during a preliminary court hearing. Following their submissions, the Court will determine the date when the trial will begin and when the prosecution and defence will present their evidence. The accused are: General Đuro Matuzović, who was the commander of the Orašje Military District during the war; Ivo Oršolić; Tado Oršolić; Marko Dominković; Joso Nedić; Marko Blažanović; Mate Živković; Ante Živković; and Stjepo Đurić.
The indictment alleges that, from the second half of April 1992 to July 1993, during an international armed conflict that was at the time taking place in the broader area of Orašje, as members of the HVO structures, military police and regular police, as well as guards in the prisoner of war camps and detention centres, they committed crimes against a larger number of victims of Serbian nationality from Orašje and surrounding areas. They have been charged to have participated in the persecution of Serbs from the Orašje area on national, ethnic and religious grounds, and committing serious violations of international humanitarian law, and committing the criminal offense of crimes against humanity.
The arrest of the former HVO members in November 2016 caused tensions in the relations between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Croatian Foreign Minister Davor Ivo Stier said at the time that Croatia had expressed its concern through the embassy in Sarajevo. “We have expressed our concern and we have contacted competent institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), and I have personally instructed our Ambassador to demand access to the arrested Croatian nationals, who are citizens of both Croatia and BiH”, said the Minister.
Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Damir Krstičević reiterated at the time that the government wanted to provide maximum assistance to the EU integration process for Bosnia and Herzegovina despite the arrests, emphasizing that Croatian national interest needed to be protected. “We have expressed our concern, we have contacted them”, he said.
According to media reports, there is speculation that Bosnia and Herzegovina could indict other high-ranking members of both HVO and the Croatian Army for alleged war crimes committed during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.