Josip Manolic, a former official of the Yugoslav state security service, UDBA, who was Croatia’s prime minister from 1990 to 1991, told Zagreb County Court on Wednesday that he never received any reports that defendant Branimir Glavas was involved in crimes against Serb civilians in the eastern city of Osijek in 1991.
Manolic, who is now 99 years old, testified that he had no knowledge of the incidents in Osijek during the period in which the crimes were committed, adding that he was sent reports from all over Croatia but never received reports of Glavas’s involvement in any of the killings.
The indictment says that Glavas’s unit arrested six Serb civilians in November and December 1991 in Osijek and then tortured them in a basement in the city.
They were then brought to the Drava riverbank, where the unit’s members executed them with their hands tied behind their backs using sellotape.
Glavas was first convicted as long ago as 2009, and sentenced to ten years in prison.
But on the day his verdict was read out at Zagreb County Court, he fled to neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina.
After the Croatian Supreme Court confirmed the verdict – lowering the sentence to eight years – the Bosnian state court sent him to prison in Zenica and then Mostar.
In 2016, Croatia’s Supreme Court quashed Glavas’s first-degree verdict, so the following year, his trial started again before Zagreb County Court. In 2018, a retrial was again ordered for Glavas, and his case was separated from the case against his subordinates.
The Supreme Court then annulled the 2018 decision, paving the way for him to be retried yet again alongside his subordinates.
In June this year, Glavas pleaded not guilty at the opening of his latest retrial.
Glavas remains active in Croatian political life and leads the right-wing Croatian Democratic Alliance of Slavonia and Baranja party, which he founded. He is the party’s only MP in the national parliament.
The decade-long legal process in the Glavas case could be further prolonged because the presiding judge, Tanja Pavelin, was recently named as a judge on the newly-established High Criminal Court, which starts operating from January.
This means that the Glavas trial would have to restart yet again, although it is possible that the witnesses will not have to testify again.
Zagreb-based NGO Documenta, which follows war crimes trials, said on November 14 that the judge should finish the first-instance trial before switching jobs.
“We propose to the Ministry of Justice [to adopt] a special regulation to oblige [judges] to complete first-instance proceedings,” Documenta said in a press release, adding that it would be a step towards resolving the “heavy burden of unresolved and unsanctioned war crimes”.