ZAGREB, August 5, 2018 – Croatian President and Supreme Commander of the Croatian Armed Forces Kolinda Grabar Kitarović at a ceremony held at the Knin fortress on Saturday evening bestowed high state decorations on retired generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač.
Generals Gotovina and Markač are decorated for their exceptional contribution to Croatia’s independence and integrity, the creation of a war strategy and a military doctrine during the Homeland War and their successful efforts in building and commanding the Croatian Armed Forces, the president said at the ceremony held on the occasion of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and the Day of Croatian Veterans and the 23rd anniversary of Operation Storm.
They are decorated also for the sacrifice they made by defending and fighting for the truth about the Homeland War before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, the president said.
Operation Storm is not only a military successful operation but also an honourably achieved victory and irrefutable evidence of a just character of the operation and the entire Homeland War, Grabar Kitarović said, adding that Operation Storm was also evidence of the character of the Croatian people who did not want war or victims, but they wanted peace and cooperation between countries and nations.
Today we continue calling on all countries which took part in the 1990s war to embrace the prospects of unity offered by the EU, Grabar Kitarović said adding that Croatia would continue to build and promote all components of the homeland security, notably the Croatian Army.
The ceremony was also attended by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković who thanked the two generals for their contribution during the Homeland War. He reiterated that Operation Storm was not only a liberating and just operation but also a legitimate operation without a single stain.
Accepting the decorations, Generals Gotovina and Markač said they were honoured to receive this high state recognition, remembering with sadness and pride all their fellow soldiers who were no longer with us.
The ceremony was attended by numerous ministers, MPs, members of the Armed Forces and representatives of veteran associations.
Operation Storm was a joint military and police operation that ended a Serb armed rebellion in August 1995 and restored Croatian sovereignty over occupied central and southern parts of the country, enabling peaceful reintegration of eastern Croatia in January 1998.
Operation Storm was launched at 5am on August 4, 1995, and within the next 84 hours 10,400 square kilometres or 18.4 percent of Croatia’s territory was liberated. A 20-metre-long Croatian flag was displayed on the fortress in Knin, the heart of the Serb rebellion, at noon on August 5.
About 200,000 soldiers and police took part in the biggest operation of the Homeland War, of whom 174 were killed and over 1,400 wounded. Operation Storm marked the end of the war in Croatia, created conditions for the peaceful reintegration of the eastern Danube River region, spared the northwestern Bosnian town of Bihać from the fate of Srebrenica, and enabled the return of refugees and displaced persons.
The legitimacy of Operation Storm has been proved before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. On November 16, 2012, the Appeals Chamber reversed the Trial Chamber’s convictions of General Gotovina, commander of the Split Military District, and General Markač, special police commander, and ordered their immediate release. The generals were in the ICTY’s custody on charges of involvement in a joint criminal enterprise and excessive shelling of Knin, Gračac, Obrovac and Benkovac.