Croatia charges former official with war crimes

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 09, 2011 10:14 AM
Croatia charges former official with war crimes

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatia indicted a former senior interior ministry official on Thursday, charging him with war crimes against Serb civilians at the beginning of the country's independence war in the early 1990s.

The Zagreb county state prosecution confirmed the indictment on its website with initials, as is the usual legal practice, while local media identified the suspect as Tomislav Mercep, 58.

The impartial handling of war crimes is an important condition for Croatia's European Union accession. Zagreb is in the final stage of the entry talks and the European Commission is expected on Friday to recommend to member states to wrap up membership talks with Croatia in the coming weeks.

Croatia expects to join the bloc in mid-2013.

The indictment says that Mercep is charged with war crimes against civilians in the last months of 1991 in Zagreb and Pakracka Poljana in eastern Croatia.

At the time he was an adviser to the interior minister and a commander of a police reserve unit. Croatia fought a four-year war against rebel Serbs backed and armed by Belgrade.

Also, the Croatian government said on Thursday it wanted the Hague international war crimes tribunal to include in the indictment against recently arrested Serbian war crimes suspect, Ratko Mladic, his actions in Croatia in 1991.

It asked state prosecutors to deliver evidence against Mladic to the U.N. tribunal.

Mladic, who was arrested in Serbia after 15 years at large, is accused in Croatia of crimes against civilians in the southern Croatian towns and villages in late 1991 when he served there as a senior Yugoslav army officer.

(Reporting by Igor Ilic, edited by Philippa Fletcher)