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Cablegate: Court Rejects Notorious Lora Prison Acquittal,

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS ZAGREB 001483

SIPDIS


DEPT FOR S/WCI:PROSPER, EUR/SCE:KABUMOTO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KAWC PREL KJUS HR
SUBJECT: COURT REJECTS NOTORIOUS LORA PRISON ACQUITTAL,
CALLS FOR RETRIAL IN WAR CRIMES CASE

SUMMARY AND COMMENT
-------------------

1. Overturning a 2002 acquittal, the Croatian Supreme Court
has called for a retrial of eight Croatian military police
accused of the torture and murder of ethnic Serb civilians
and soldiers at Lora Prison. The international community
praised the ruling as Croatian recognition of the original
trial,s judicial bias.

2. Reversal of the high profile Lora acquittal demonstrates
Croatia,s readiness to address the judicial shortcomings
apparent in lower courts during earlier domestic war crimes
trials -- a critical task before the GOC accepts the transfer
of cases from the ICTY. The Lora case also highlights the
need for development of witness protection measures within
Croatian courts, as much of the testimony rejected during the
trial was in the form of depositions taken in Serbia from
former Lora inmates who refused to appear in court due to
death threats. Post has placed a high priority on witness
protection in its project to strengthen the Croatian
judiciary,s war crimes trial capacity. END SUMMARY and
COMMENT.

REACTION TO RETRIAL, READY FOR REFORM
-------------------------------------

3. The Croatian Supreme Court on August 19 overturned the
November 2002 acquittal of eight Croatian military police
accused of torturing and murdering ethnic Serb prisoners in
Lora Prison near Split in 1992. The county court had
acquitted the eight guards after a six-month trial that was
universally criticized within the international community as
a gross miscarriage of justice. According to the Supreme
Court ruling, presiding judge Slavko Lozina incompletely
established facts and failed to admit crucial evidence,
including testimony from former inmates. The ruling returned
the case to the county court for retrial before a new panel
of judges.

4. Reacting to the Supreme Court,s announcement, Lozina
claimed the justices quashed his verdict due to criticism
from Minister of Justice Vesna Skare Ozbolt, who Lozina
claims is kowtowing to the OSCE and State Department.
Meanwhile, OSCE Ambassador Peter Semneby told the press the
decision recognizes international concerns voiced during the
original trial and indicates the need to improve the capacity
of the Croatian judiciary.

FRANK


NNNN

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