THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A UN court convicted six Bosnian Croat political and military leaders Wednesday of persecuting, expelling, and murdering Muslims during Bosnia’s war and said leaders in Croatia helped hatch and execute their plan to carve out a Croat state in Bosnia.
It was the war crimes tribunal’s most unequivocal statement of Zagreb’s involvement in Bosnia’s 1992-95 conflict. It followed the acquittals late last year of two Croat generals accused of atrocities against Serbs, a ruling that reinforced many Croats’ view that their country was a victim in the Balkan wars.
A majority of the three-judge panel said the late Croat President Franjo Tudjman was a key member of a plan to create a Croat ministate in Bosnia and possibly later uniting it with his country.
Past rulings by the court have labeled fighting between Muslims and Croats in Bosnia an international armed conflict because of Zagreb’s involvement, but Wednesday’s ruling explicitly named Tudjman and his former defense minister, Gojko Susak.
The court handed down sentences ranging from 10 to 25 years’ imprisonment for the six suspects. The longest sentence was handed down to Jadranko Prlic, former leader of the self-proclaimed Croatian community.