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Intimidation and Harassment of Trial Victims in Croatia

Reports of continuing intimidation and harassment of victims and witnesses at the trial of eight former military police officers accused of war crimes raises serious concerns about Croatia’s ability to fulfill its obligations under international law to bring to justice those responsible for war crimes. The failure of the authorities to protect witnesses and victims could not only seriously compromise this prosecution, but ultimately deny the victims of these violations their right to justice. This is remarkable contrast to the victims and witness protection program of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Out of fear, most of the 14 prosecution witnesses heard by the court have retracted their detailed statements made during the criminal investigation into human rights violations in Lora prison. Some witnesses have stated publicly that they retracted their statements after receiving continuous threats since investigative proceedings opened in September 2001. Yet, many of them are themselves former detainees who suffered human rights violations, or former prison guards.

The issue of victims and witness protection needs to be urgently addressed in the broader context of a comprehensive review of the Croatian criminal justice system. Although such a review has been announced for several years, few concrete measures have been taken to ensure that the Croatian judiciary is capable of investigating and trying such complex and sensitive cases.

AI INDEX: EUR 64/002/2002 20 June 2002


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