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Ante Gotovina (born October 12, 1955. in Zadarmarker, Croatiamarker) is a former Lieutenant General (general pukovnik) of the Croatian Army who served in the 1991-1995 war in Croatiamarker. He was indicted in 2001 by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslaviamarker. The indictment accuses him of a "joint criminal enterprise" in an effort to expel Krajina Serbs from Croatia in 1995 during Operation Storm at the end of the Croatian War. After spending four years in hiding, he was captured in Tenerifemarker on December 7, 2005. Ante Gotovina is still regarded by a significant portion of Croatians as a hero, especially in areas affected by the war.

French Foreign Legion and after

At the age of sixteen, Gotovina left home to become a sailor. In 1973, before turning eighteen, he joined the French Foreign Legion under the pseudonym of Andrija Grabovac and became a member of the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment (2e REP) after qualifying at the Training School in Paumarker before joining the elite Commandos de Recherche et d'Action en Profondeur (CRAP). It was there he met Dominique Erulin, brother of Colonel Philippe Erulin, known for torturing during the Algerian War (1954-62). He participated in Foreign Legion operations in Djiboutimarker, the Battle of Kolwezi in Zairemarker, and missions in the Ivory Coastmarker, becoming Colonel Erulin's driver. After five years of service, he left the Legion with the rank of caporal-chef; he obtained French citizenship in 1979.

He subsequently worked for a variety of French private security companies during the 1980s, among them KO International Company, a filial of VHP Security, known as a cover for the Service d'Action Civique (SAC), specialists of shady actions for the gaullist movement. KO International Company was also charged at this time of far-right Front National's leader Jean-Marie Le Pen's security . In 1981, with his comrade Dominique Erulin, he helped editor Jean-Pierre Mouchard, a close friend of Jean-Marie Le Pen, organizing a commando to free his press in La Seyne sur Mer, occupied by CGT trade-union strikers .

According to French police records, he became involved in criminal activities, which led to arrest warrants being issued for robbery and extortion; it has been reported that he served at least one two-year prison sentence, though this has been denied by his attorneys Towards the end of the decade he moved to South America, where he provided training to a number of right-wing paramilitary organizations, notably in Argentinamarker and Guatemalamarker. He met his future wife, Ximena, in Colombiamarker.

Arrested during a travel to France (Paris), he was sentenced in 1986 to five years of prison by Paris' Cour d'assise. He was freed the next year, "in circumstances showing that he was beneficing from very particular protections" . However, Gotovina's lawyers have submitted a brief to the International War Crimes Tribunal alleging that Gotovina was in fact framed by a criminal police group loyal to President Mitterrand, a group which was convicted for official misconduct by French courts in 2005.[48817]

Gotovina's return to Croatia

In 1991, Croatia declared independence from Yugoslaviamarker. The Serbian government, led by its President Slobodan Milošević then launched various paramilitary militias to take control of various parts of Croatia, eventually followed by a conventional military assault from the Yugoslav National Army which had come under the de facto control of the Serbian President. The new Croatian army, formed in haste, managed to stop the advance of Belgrade's troops, and Croatia was internationally recognised on 15 January 1992. The Belgrade army then withdrew but left the third of Croatia in which there lived the significant Serb population in the hands of the local Serbs. The rebels had first formed "Autonomous Serb Districts" (Srpske autonomne oblasti or SAOs) which merged into a self-proclaimed "Republic of the Serb Krajina" (Republika Srpske Krajine or RSK) in 1991. Half of the Croatian Serbs who, according to the 1991 census, represented 12.16 percent of the country's population, lived there, mostly concentrated in Northern Dalmatia, the Likamarker, the Banijamarker, the Kordunmarker along the Bosniamarker border, Western Slavoniamarker around Pakracmarker and in Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Syrmiamarker near the border with Serbiamarker.

Gotovina returned to Croatia in June 1991 and enlisted in the Croatian National Guard (ZNG), the first organized military body of what would become the Croatian Army. He was an efficient commander and had the advantage – shared by relatively few other Croatian soldiers – of combat experience. He fought in western Slavoniamarker: in Novskamarker and Nova Gradiškamarker. He soon caught the attention of his superiors. When the Croatian Army was established as such in 1992, Gotovina was promoted to Colonel. As a colonel he was, along with Janko Bobetko and Anto Roso one of the main organizers of Operation Maslenica, which restored Croatia's territorial continuity in Dalmatia. By 1994 he had risen to the rank of major-general and, as a general-pukovnik and commanding officer of the Splitmarker military district he organized key military operations : the defense of Livnomarker and Tomislavgradmarker from the troops of Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladić, and the ten-month war of attrition which broke the Serb defenses in the Plain of Livno, the Dinaramarker Ridge and the Šatormarker mountain. He led the conquest of Glamočmarker and Bosansko Grahovomarker (Operation Summer '95), which enabled him to close from the east the encirclement of Kninmarker, the "capital" of the self-proclaimed "Republic of the Serb Krajina" (RSK).This ensured the conditions for the rapid success of Operation Oluja ("Storm") of August 4-6 1995, in the course of which forces under his command captured Kninmarker, which the Croats called the "Royal City of Croatia" since it had been the capital of the Croatian Kingdom in the Middle Ages.Gotovina was then immediately put in charge of the combined forces of the Croatian Army (Hrvatska Vojska or HV) and the Croatian Defense Council in Bosnia (Hrvatsko Vijeće Obrane or HVO ) in Operation Mistral, which defeated the army of the Bosnian Serbs and led the Croatian army, together with the Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina, within 23 kilometres of Banja Lukamarker and was only stopped under American pressure. That is why he has been lionized as a hero by many Croats.

The following year, he became the chief of the Army Inspectorate, but was dismissed from active service in 2000, after accusations by the Croatian newspaper Nacional that he was plotting a military coup. The newspaper's chief reporter, Ivo Pukanić, also accused Army Inspectorate officials of supplying arms to foreign terrorist groups such as the Provisional IRA and ETA. The accusations remain unproved, and the Croatian government never charged him.

War crimes accusation

In July 2001, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslaviamarker (ICTY) issued sealed indictments to the Croatian government seeking the arrest of Ante Gotovina and Rahim Ademi for war crimes. According to one indictment, Gotovina had both personal responsibility and command responsibility for crimes allegedly carried out against Croatian Serbs. He was indicted for crimes against humanity and violations of laws and customs of war said to have been committed by his troops. During Operation Storm, an estimated 200,000-250,000 Serbs were expelled from the Krajina region, and at least 150 were said to have been murdered. The indictment charges Gotovina's troops with shooting, arson and stabbing Serb civilians to death and with destroying countless buildings in an effort to make it impossible for the Krajina's Serb inhabitants to return home. By the indictment Ante Gotovina acting individually and/or in concert with others, including President Franjo Tudjman, planned, instigated, ordered, committed or otherwise aided and abetted in the planning, preparation or execution of the deportation and forced displacement of the Krajina Serb population.

The indictments were immediately controversial – four government ministers resigned in protest against the government's decision to cooperate with the ICTY [48818] –, and they attracted strong support from the Croatian public. Prominent figures, such as the tennis star Goran Ivanišević, joined the campaign to prevent the two men from being extradited. Although Ademi decided to surrender voluntarily to the tribunal, Gotovina rejected its legitimacy and went into hiding.

For the next four years, Gotovina remained at large despite intense pressure from the United Statesmarker and the European Union for his surrender. Rumors abounded as to his whereabouts. In September 2005, the BBC reported he was hiding out in a Franciscan monastery in Croatia or Bosnian Croat territory. It was widely speculated that he was being assisted by elements in the Croatian government and military, and even by the Roman Catholic Church. In the same month ICTY's chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte publicly accused the Vatican of protecting Gotovina, though the Church denied this.

Foreign countries sought to track down Gotovina, and an Interpolmarker warrant was issued for his arrest. The United States announced a $5 million (€4.2 million) reward for his capture. It was reported that the British Secret Intelligence Servicemarker (MI6) had sought to find Gotovina but that it had been thwarted after its intelligence officers were exposed in the Croatian media, allegedly at the behest of Gotovina's allies in one of Croatia' many intelligence services, the POA (Protivobaveštajna agencija or "Counter-Intelligence Agency") The resulting scandal led to the sacking and replacement of POA head Franjo Turek.

The United Kingdommarker, the Netherlandsmarker, and some Scandinavian states made the surrender of Gotovina a precondition for Croatia's accession to the European Union. This stance was criticised by the Croatian government, which claimed that it did not know where Gotovina was, that he was probably outside the country and that it was doing all it could to bring him to justice. Accession negotiations with the EU, scheduled to start on March 17, 2005, were postponed pending a resolution of the issue. Croatia's bid for accession was finally accepted in October 2005 as part of a deal with Austriamarker, which gained Croatia's admission in exchange for dropping its opposition to Turkeymarker's candidacy. . The ICTY announced at the same time that Croatia was then "cooperating fully" with the tribunal, but did not provide further details.

Public attitudes towards Gotovina

Pro-Gotovina posters in Croatia
Pro-Gotovina Croatians demonstrating their support for him
Within Croatia, attitudes towards Gotovina remain divided. Many Croatians continue to regard Gotovina as a war hero and reject the assertion that crimes were committed during the country's war of independence. But others say that Croatia's prospects depend far more on the country's accession to the EU than on the fate of one man, and General Ademi's voluntary surrender to the ICTY raised the question of why Gotovina did not follow suit. Hardline nationalist elements in Croatia have used opposition to the ICTY as a means of drumming up political support.

During his flight, Gotovina became a prominent icon of Croatian popular culture. Marko Perković (performing under his stage name "Thompson") and Miroslav Škoro, two popular Croatian musicians known for their right-wing views, recorded songs with lyrics implicitly praising the general and his flight. Both songs became huge hits, especially among younger fans.

In 2001 the Croatian writer Nenad Ivanković wrote a book Ratnik - pustolov i general (jedna biografija) (Warrior - adventurer and general (a biography)), a biography of Ante Gotovina. The Croatian filmmaker Dejan Šorak wrote and directed Dva igrača s klupe, a black comedy released in 2005 whose plot is inspired by the events surrounding the ICTY indictment against Ante Gotovina.

Gotovina owes his popularity in his homeland to a number of factors. Most obvious, the former general is regarded by many as a war hero. His flight fits the ancient stereotype of an outlaw - a person who defies distant and tyrannical authorities, this time embodied in The Hague, Brussels and other Western capitals whose governments demanded his arrest. This kind of outlaw-celebrating culture is especially strong in Dinaric regions like Dalmatian hinterland and neighbouring Croat-inhabited Western Herzegovina and, in general, in all of the Balkans . Other Croats, regardless of their regional background, political persuasion or even attitude to wartime atrocities, praised Gotovina's flight as an act of defiance towards the Croatian political establishment.

After Gotovina's arrest in Spain, several rallies and protests took place in Croatian cities. On December 11, 2005 (the first Sunday after his arrest), a rally organised by war veterans attracted between 40,000 (Reuters estimate) and 70,000 (Croatian media estimate) Croatians in the city of Splitmarker to protest against the arrest which is significantly smaller number than 2001 Split protest, when 100,000 people gathered in Split in support of General Mirko Norac. Several retired generals attended the rally and expressed their support for Gotovina. On the same day, rallies were held in several other cities in Croatia, but with smaller attendance (in Zagrebmarker some 500 people gathered).

According to an opinion poll published by the left leaning newspaper Jutarnji list on December 11, 60% of those surveyed believed that Gotovina was not guilty of the criminal acts with which he had been charged, 17% believed that he was mostly not responsible, and only one respondent believed that he was completely responsible. 53.4% said that the arrest was bad for Croatia, while only 23.3% said that it was good for the country. 44.6% believed that Gotovina's capture would make it easier for Croatia to join the European Union, though 36.2% believed it would not.

Capture and extradition

On December 7, 2005, Gotovina was captured by Spanishmarker police and special forces in the resort of Playa de las Americasmarker on Tenerifemarker in the Canary Islandsmarker. He was said to have been traveling on a fake Croatian passport using the name, Kristijan Horvat. His passport contained border stamps of several countries, including Argentinamarker, Chilemarker, Russiamarker, Chinamarker, Czech Republicmarker and Tahitimarker. A sum of money amounting to 12,000 was discovered in his room. He was immediately flown to Madridmarker, where he was imprisoned in advance of a court hearing to extradite him to the ICTY prison at The Haguemarker. Spanish police were later reported to have been tracking him for several days, apparently following a lead supplied by the Croatian intelligence service. The involvement of Croatian authorities has been backed up by the Carla's List documentary, a part of which is available on Youtube [48819]

On December 10, 2005, Gotovina was flown to The Hague, where he appeared before the ICTY on December 12. He pleaded not guilty to the seven charges brought against him, which were all preceded with "acting individually and/or through [his] participation in the joint criminal enterprise, planned, instigated, ordered, committed, and/or aided and abetted the planning, preparation, and/or execution of":

  • Persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds, deportation and other inhumane acts (forced displacement) - three counts of crimes against humanity
  • Other inhumane acts - one count of a crime against humanity
  • Murder - one count of a violation of the laws or customs of war
  • Plunder of public or private property and wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages - two counts of violations of the laws or customs of war.

According to his lawyer, Gotovina has declared that he is "not the man described in each and every count." [48820] The Croatian media have reported that the Croatian government is to contribute to Gotovina's defence fund and that it has also unfrozen the former general's financial assets.

Following the death of Slobodan Milošević (who was imprisoned in ICTY prison cell just next to that of Gotovina), Ante Gotovina signed a condolence note to his family (together with Mladen Naletilić Tuta, Paško Ljubičić, Ivica Rajić and other Croat and Serb detainees, making the list 34 signatures long). This condolence note was published in Belgrademarker's Politika and Večernje novosti newspapers. The condolence note sparked great controversy in Croatiamarker as Croatian president Stjepan Mesić heavily criticised Serbianmarker president Boris Tadić for sending condolences to the Milošević family.[48821][48822]


At the end of 2006 Gotovina's case was joined with cases against Ivan Čermak and Mladen Markač as it relates to the same events (Operation Storm).[48823] The trial was expected to begin in May 2007 but was postponed indefinitely due to conflicts between lawyers on the defence bench.[48824]Gotovina's lawyers are Greg Kehoe and Luka Misetic, both American, with the latter of Croatian background..

The trial began on March 11, 2008.

Personal life

Gotovina is married to Croatian Army colonel Dunja Zloić with whom he has a son Ante, born in 1997. Before his second marriage, he also had a romantic relationship with Croatian Radiotelevisionmarker reporter Vesna Karuza, with whom he had a daughter Ana, born in 1994. Gotovina also has another daughter from his first marriage with Colombian journalist Ximena before the war.


  1. Le général croate Gotovina arrêté en Espagne, RFI, 8 December 2005
  2. Le chauffeur de l’homme de la Question, L'Humanité, 10 December 2005
  3. War Crimes Case Revives Passions in a Divided Croatia, The New York Times, December 12, 2005
  4. Axis Information and Anaylsis - Ante Gotovina: Gangster, General, National Hero... War Criminal?
  5. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
  6. Vatican accused of shielding 'war criminal', The Telegraph, 20 September 2005
  7. MI6 spies exposed by Balkan rivals, The Telegraph, 27 September 2004
  8. Country profile: Croatia, BBC
  9. Eric Hobsbawm, Bandits (1969, revised ed. 2000, New Press ISBN 978-1565846197)
  10. Massive rally for Croatia suspect, BBC, 11 December 2005
  11. Milosevic et al. - Second Amended Indictment
  12. Trial of Croatian Generals Begins
  13. Croatian general's war crimes trial begins at The Hague


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