Published in Nacional number 503, 2005-07-04

Autor: Berislav Jelinić


Ivan Jarnjak to face ICTY indictment?

After Hague investigators questioned former special police commander Zeljko Sačić last week on the massacre of Serbian civilians in Grubori in 1995, it appears that an indictment may be raised against Ivan Jarnjak, who was Police Minister at the time

Ivan Jarnjak, president of the parliamentary Board for internal policy and national security, could soon be facing serious problems with the prosecution of the International Criminal Tribunal (ICTY) in the Hague. Nacional has learned from sources close to the Tribunal that the prosecution is again considering indicting Jarnjak for war crimes committed by members of the special police in the village Grubori several weeks after the liberation operation Storm in August 1995. Sources close to the ICTY prosecution claim that if an indictment is raised against Jarnjak, the case would be tried by the Croatian judiciary. In as much, Jarnjak would not have to spend time in the Hague detention centre and Croatia would not have to face new extradition requests for a high ranking official.
Last week’s meeting between the Hague investigators and Zeljko Sačić, former commander of the special police in the Police Ministry suggest the possibility of an indictment against Jarnjak. Last week, Sačić was again called in for questioning to the office of Thomas Osorio, head of the investigators in Croatia. Sačić was questioned as a suspect concerning the war crimes in Grubori.
It would appear that this was their final discussion on this topic. Sources close to the Hague prosecution claim that Sačić can now breathe much easier. This conversation was in a much different atmosphere than the earlier one, when Sačić was uncertain as to whether he would have to face an indictment or not.
Last week’s questioning lasted three hours, less than the earlier meeting, and the ICTY investigators tried to learn whether then Police Minister Jarnjak knew about the crimes at Grubori, as he was also the head of the special police, whose members are responsible for the crime. Jarnjak also spoke with ICTY investigators in March 2004 as a suspect in the crimes in Grubori. Then, after the two-day talks, he expressed his satisfaction and optimism. It is possible that the circumstances since giving his statement have since changed.
Several months ago, the Hague Prosecution caused a revolt of the domestic public with the supplemented version of the indictment against Ivan Čermak and Mladen Markač, in which they tried to explain why they believed that Storm was a criminal operation. In explaining this claim, the Hague Prosecution stated that this criminal operation was the work of virtually one thousand people, from all the relevant state administrators to the local HDZ politicians.
Such an interpretation suggest that in prosecuting the crimes at Grubori, the Hague prosecution could also indict the highest ranked official under whose command responsibility the crimes were committed. That official at that time was none other than Jarnjak.
Such an unfolding of events has somewhat eased the position of Čermak and Markač, who have also been accused of that crime. A further problem for Jarnjak could be his statement of 8 August 1995 at a press conference on the police activities to establish legal order in the liberated areas and to secure the newly liberated areas. “All the people living in the liberated areas, who have remained and who will return, are guaranteed their personal and property security and legal and public order.” Jarnjak also added that the civil police, accompanying the HV units and MUP special police units, was establishing the basic and border police in the liberated areas.
This however did not help at least six residents of the village Grubori to survive the massacre which took place 17 days later and which had nothing to do with the armed conflict or the Storm liberation action. The UN members played an important role in bringing the massacre in Grubori to light, when on 25 August 1995 the organized a list of residents remaining in the area following Storm to see who wanted to go to BiH and Serbia. All those who wanted to leave Croatia gathered together at the local school, while those who intended to remain in Croatia did not show up at the meeting. A portion of the residents from Grubori were also present at the meeting.
Literally before them, a column of MUP vehicles with police officers in green camouflage uniforms drove by them in the direction of Grubori. The police vehicles had the registration plates 010 027, 010 319, 00 352, ZG 720 GJ, ZG 721 GJ.
Eyewitnesses claim that just afterwards, shots were heard from Grubori, and soon it could be seen that the houses there were in flames. Soon afterwards, the Croatian Helsinki Committee revealed that innocent civilians were killed in the attack. Killed were Đuro Karanović, born in 1950 and Miloš Grubor, born in 1915, who was shot twice in the head. He lied in the bedroom in a pool of blood next to the bed. He was wearing pajamas. Jovo Grubor, born in 1930, had his throat slit in the field where he was with his cattle. Marija Grubor, born in 1905, burned to death in her home, while Milka Grubor, born in 1944 was killed near her home.
Soon after the massacre, Zeljko Sačić called then commander of the Lucko special forces Josip Čelić and demanded a report on the massacre. Čelić’s report state that in order to secure the passage of the ‘Freedom Train’, his men were instructed to “clear the terrain” in order to secure the area from any possible threats of a terrorist attack on the train and the Croatian political leaders who would be driving in it.
Four groups of 10 to 15 special police officers were sent into the field to carry out this action. The group commanders were Branko Balunović, Stjepan Zinić, Božo Krajina and Frano Drlje. In the police vehicles which were seen driving towards Grubori was the group commanded by Franji Drlje. From the report, it was seen that there had been no warning that there were any enemy formations in the area of Grubori, even though that terrain had not been checked prior to that. According to Čelić’s report, Drlje’s group was the only one to enter into Grubori.
Čelić’s report claimed that shots were heard from Grubori, but that it would not be concluded that this was an armed conflict with terrorists. The three group commanders who were not in Grubori were also requested to submit a report. No crimes were listed in any of the reports. Only Drlje failed to submit a report, however, due to his violent nature, no one even dared request he submit a report. Frano Drlje was questioned by Hague investigators in March 2004, as the lowest ranked suspect to date.
The government kept quiet about the case for years. After mentioning the Grubori case in November 1995 in her report on human rights in the former Yugoslavia, Elizabeth Rehn, UN Special Commissioner for Human Rights, requested in writing on 27 February 1996 that the Foreign Affairs Ministry issue a statement on the war crimes committed in Grubori. The Foreign Ministry passed this request onto the Police Ministry, which was then headed up by Ivan Penić. He responded that in Grubori an armed conflict erupted between the special police and members of Serbian paramilitary units, which is a notorious lie.
Only six years later in the County Prosecutor’s Office in Šibenik, then run by Željko Žganjer, today head of USKOK, was an investigation on that massacre initiated. Those responsible have still not been prosecuted. Due to this attitude of the Croatian authorities for this case, as well as numerous others, the Hague prosecution raised an indictment against Čermak and Markač and accused them for the crimes in Grubori by the principle of command authority.
Both men will have a difficult time proving they knew nothing of the crime. If Željko Sačić was fully informed of the event, then his superior Markač also had to know about the massacre. Čermak claims that he did not know about the massacre of civilians, as he was informed of events through police reports and these reports made no mention of the crime. In their reports, the three commanders wrote that they had no knowledge, and the fourth who likely did know wrote nothing. Čermak can likely be believed that he likely knew nothing for he brought in television crews and allowed them to film at will. If he had something to hide, he certainly would not have sent three different television crews to Grubori. Čermak at first publicly claimed that Grubori had been liberated from Chetnik terrorists, and later he stated that not all the circumstances were known to him.
Sources close to the Hague investigators claim that they would certainly not have continued their questioning about the case if they did not have the intention of raising new indictments. After last week’s meeting, Zeljko Sačić has no reason to worry – the only person with something to worry about is Ivan Jarnjak. Nacional tried to reach both men regarding the case, but both were indisposed.
Regardless of the epilogue of the Hague investigation into this case, the Croatian authorities will have to prosecute those directly responsible before the domestic courts. Any further delays or avoidance of prosecuting those truly responsible will only make the position of the Hague indictees more difficult, and will permanently remind us of why the formation of the Hague Tribunal was more than necessary, due to the unwillingness of the Croatian authorities to fully face the dark episodes from the Patriotic War.

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