Croat army shelled civilians, report says
War crimes panel reportedly recommends indicting generals
March 21, 1999
NEW YORK (CNN) -- International war crimes tribunal investigators have reportedly concluded that the Croatian army carried out "ethnic cleansing" of Serbs during a 1995 assault.
Sunday's New York Times, quoting unpublished tribunal documents, said investigators accuse Croatia of summary executions and indiscriminate shelling of civilian populations and have recommended that three Croatian generals be indicted.
A U.S. official said the indictments could come within a few weeks, according to the paper.
The indictments would be the first against Croatian army officers for actions in the Balkan wars of 1991 to 1995, which first pitted an independence-seeking Croatia against rebel Serbs and Serbia proper, and then moved to Bosnia.
The Times said a spokesman for the Croatian Ministry of Defense denied that any war crimes or other illegal acts were committed during the offensive, which the Croatians dubbed Operation Storm.
In just four days of Operation Storm the Croatian army regained territory held by rebel Serbs for four years. The Croatian army then linked up with Bosnian Croat forces and began to roll over Serbian units in neighboring Bosnia. Those defeats, along with NATO bombing, helped bring the Serbs to the negotiating table in Dayton, Ohio.
The Croatian army drove more than 100,000 Serbs from their ancestral homelands.
A section of the tribunal's 150-page report quoted by the Times says: "During the course of the military offensive, the Croatian armed forces and special police committed numerous violations of international humanitarian law, including, but not limited to, shelling of Knin and other cities.
"During, and in the 100 days following the military offensive, at least 150 Serb civilians were summarily executed, and many hundreds disappeared."
The report says investigators gathered "sufficient material to establish that the three generals who commanded the military operation" could be held accountable under international law.
These officers, the report charges, were responsible for driving the Serbs out of the area, a process that became known as "ethnic cleansing".
The tribunal has begun an internal investigation to determine who provided The New York Times with a copy of the report on Operation Storm, two former tribunal officials told the paper last week.
To date, the war crimes tribunal, set up by the United Nations in 1993, has indicted 83 people, most of them Serbs, the paper said.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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