Croatian Justice Minister Ante Sprlje said on Friday that certain allegations in war crimes indictments issued by Bosnia and Herzegovina against Croatian citizens were unacceptable to Croatia.
"I conveyed Croatia's concern over the legal qualification of crimes in indictments against Croatian citizens charged with war crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina," Sprlje told the press in Sarajevo after meeting Bosnian Justice Minister Josip Grubesa.
Sprlje said that in prosecuting war crimes Bosnia and Herzegovina applied laws retroactively, which he said was in contradiction to legal practice in Croatia and European legal standards.
The State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina pursues a practice in war crimes trials based on a 2003 law that provides for much tougher sentences than the law of the former Yugoslav federation that was in force in Bosnia and Herzegovina at the time when war crimes were committed.
"There is obviously a lack of uniformity in the legal qualification of crimes when it comes to the application of the law," Sprlje said, adding that Croatia was concerned about proceedings contravening EU law and that in such disputed cases it would not be able to respond to requests from Bosnia and Herzegovina for international legal aid.
Such requests are used in cases when the accused is beyond reach of authorities in the country which has issued the indictment, and in this particular case the accused are Croatian citizens wanted by Bosnian courts.
Responding to questions from the press, Sprlje said that there were "fewer than ten" such disputed cases, noting that Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina annually exchanged hundreds of requests for judicial cooperation in prosecuting various crimes. He added that this showed that the judicial cooperation between the two countries was good and should be improved wherever possible.
Sprlje said that Croatia was closely monitoring the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including developments in the judiciary.
"Croatia will be a strong supporter of Bosnia and Herzegovina on its European path. We will support all efforts by Bosnia and Herzegovina to become a modern democratic state, and the judiciary is one of the important aspects of it," the Croatian minister said.
Grubesa said that his country was prosecuting war crimes based on a strategy that was adopted earlier, stressing that it was the responsibility of judicial authorities.
"We cannot interfere in the work of the judiciary, but we will try to make it easier through legislative provisions for those proceedings to be brought to completion," Grubesa said while commenting on Croatia's objections.
He said that the justice ministries of the two countries would strengthen their cooperation based on the clearly expressed political will. "Croatia has expressed a great interest in strengthening its support, which we need and which is very important to us," Grubesa said.
Grubesa noted that it was necessary to further improve various aspects of legal aid, adding that this would be addressed by teams of experts. He said that the ultimate goal was an effective fight against all forms of crime.