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Rape, Spies, and the Croatian Army

The campaign for Croatia’s January 2005 presidential election could turn out to be much more exciting than initially predicted, what with a sexual harassment scandal plaguing the army and a spying affair involving the president and several journalists.

The president of the republic has few executive powers but is the supreme commander of Croatia’s armed forces. Together with the country’s prime minister, the president appoints heads of security services and oversees their work.

It is exactly the security services and the army that have been in disarray since late November. President Stipe Mesic and Prime Minister Ivo Sanader are locked in a dispute over the dismissal of the head of the Counterintelligence Agency (POA), Josko Podbevsek, while the army has been forced to investigate cases of alleged rapes of recruits.

This comes at the worst possible time for the government, which is trying to make a good impression ahead of a 17 December EU summit, where EU leaders are to decide on a date to begin membership talks with Zagreb.

The country’s position in Brussels had already been damaged after Carla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, reported to the UN Security Council in November that parts of Croatia’s administration were helping fugitive war crime indictee Ante Gotovina evade justice.

General Gotovina is accused of atrocities against Serb civilians committed under his command during the 1995 “Operation Storm” that restored Zagreb’s control over the Serb-majority Krajina region.

The POA has been accused of providing assistance to Gotovina.

(TOL 10.xii.04)

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