Five former senior Bosnian Croat figures facing trial over their actions during the Balkan wars of the 1990s have been granted temporary release by the United Nations war crimes tribunal set up to deal with the worst crimes of that era.
Judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which sits in The Hague, ordered today that the five men be released from tomorrow until 4 May, a day before the defence case in their collective trial – known as the Prlic and others case – is scheduled to begin.
Under the conditions of the release, the accused will reside in Croatia and the authorities in that country will provide all necessary security measures and ensure the return of the men to the ICTY’s custody. All five are also expected to appear before the Tribunal for hearings on 17 and 26 March and a pre-defence conference on 21 April.
The men being released are Jadranko Prlic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petkovic and Valentin Coric, while the other man facing trial in the case is Berislav Pušic. All six have previously been granted temporarily release from ICTY detention during earlier court recesses.
The accused, former high-level leaders in the Bosnian Croat wartime entity known as Herceg-Bosna, stand accused of war crimes committed in 1992 and 1993 against Bosnian Muslims and other non-Croats in south-western and central Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially the municipalities of Prozor, Gornji Vakuf, Jablanica, Mostar, Ljubuški, Stolac, Capljina and Vareš.
The many charges include murder, rape, unlawful deportation, imprisonment, cruel treatment, unlawful labour, the wanton destruction of cities, towns and villages, and persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds.