[JURIST] Former Croatian military commander and senior interior minister Tomislav Mercep [official profile, in Croatian] pleaded not guilty Friday for war crimes committed against Serbians during the 1990s conflict in the Balkans. The Municipal Court in Zagreb charged that he was aware of atrocities against civilians [JURIST report] but prevented other officials from mitigating damages against them. Mercep has also been charged with with ordering detentions, torture and executions of Serbian civilians. Mercep was arrested [JURIST report] in December 2010. His plea and trial are some of the requirements of dealing with past war crimes before Croatia's admittance to the EU, which is expected in 2013 [Reuters report].
Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released a report [text, PDF] calling for the prosecution of individuals responsible for war crimes the day before Mercep's arrest. In November 2010, a Croatian court sentenced [JURIST report] six men to 15 to 40 years in prison for their roles in the 2008 killing of a Croatian journalist. In 2008, AI called on the EU to use Croatia's status as a candidate country to ensure that the Croatian government actively investigates and prosecutes [JURIST report] suspected war criminals. AI criticized the slow pace of war crimes investigations, and noted that Croatian courts have mostly focused on crimes allegedly committed by ethnic Serbs even though Croats have also been accused of ethnic-based war crimes.