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Dear Foreign Minister,

We understand that at the next meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) on February 23-24, Foreign Affairs Ministers will adopt conclusions on the Western Balkans, outlining key issues related to the accession progress of candidate and potential candidate countries towards further integration into the European Union (EU).

In the context of the ongoing debates about the progress of Croatia's EU negotiations, Human Rights Watch is writing to urge you to adopt GAERC conclusions emphasizing the importance of Zagreb's full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).  This is particularly relevant as the EU considers whether to open negotiations with Croatia on the justice chapter, a crucial step in the EU accession process.

The current tribunal's prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, has repeatedly requested the Croatian authorities to hand over all the military documents related to "Operation Storm"-the large scale military operation involving the Croatian Armed Forces to regain control over Serb-held territories in Croatia-and to account for efforts undertaken to obtain the said documents.  It is expected that the handover of the remaining documents would assist the tribunal in the on-going trials of the three former Croatian army generals: Ante Gotovina, Ivan Cermak, and Mladen Markac.

The prosecution raised the issue of Croatia's limited cooperation in providing documents before the tribunals' judges in June 2008.  Since then, the court ordered Croatia to provide a detailed report specifying efforts to obtain the documents.  While the Croatian authorities provided that report and additional papers, key documents remained unaccounted for at the time of the prosecutor's briefing to the Security Council in December 2008.  Following this briefing, Croatia provided some additional documents, but according to the prosecutor, key military documents remained unaccounted for so that the prosecutor requested that further steps be taken to secure them, which was reiterated during his visit to Zagreb on February 6, 2009.

The EU's consistent pressure on countries in the Western Balkans-notably Croatia and Serbia-to cooperate with the Yugoslav tribunal has proved to be very effective.  Indeed, EU pressure has already played a crucial role in persuading the Croatian authorities to cooperate in the capture and surrender of general Ante Gotovina to the tribunal in December 2005.  The recent arrest and transfer of Radovan Karadzic by the Serbian authorities to the ICTY further proves that EU pressure can deliver results.

Croatia is considered the most advanced country in the region in bid for EU membership and aspires to stay on track with its EU negotiations.  Human Rights Watch, therefore, urges the EU to use its valuable leverage afforded by the accession process-including through negotiations of the justice chapter-to press the Croatian authorities to account for and to supply all the key documents to the Yugoslav tribunal as soon as possible.


Lotte Leicht
European Union Advocacy Director

Richard Dicker
International Justice Program Director

Cc: Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy
Olli Rehn, EU Enlargement Commissioner
Political and Security Committee Ambassadors

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