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Croatia court sentences former policemen for torture during war of independence

A Croatian court on Wednesday sentenced five former policemen to between one and three years in prison for their roles in torturing ethnic Serb prisoners during Croatia's 1991-95 war for independence. Judge Marijan Garac of the Zagreb County Court [official website, in Croatian] handed down the sentences [Slobodna Dalmacija report, in Croatian] for the policemen who had been guards at a prisoner camp and were previously found guilty of abusing those detained. Former prisoners testified that they while they were held in the Kerestinec camp they would routinely be brought into what was called the "black room" where they would be beaten, subjected to electrical shocks and sexually abused by the guards. The camp, located just outside of the capital Zagreb, housed dozens of male and female prisoners detained by Croatian independence forces from December 1991 until May 1995.

This case is underscored by the ongoing pressure from the EU for Croatia to sort out corruption and address human rights abuses from its war of independence before it joins the EU in July 2013. The push to join the EU has been a primary focus [JURIST op-eds] of the nation's rulers for years. In January of this year the Croatian people voted in favor of joining the EU a month after the government signed a treaty [JURIST reports] to finalize its EU accession. The EU gave final approval [JURIST report] to Croatian membership in June after six years of negotiations. The EU had previously suspended accession talks [JURIST report] in 2005 when it felt Croatia was not cooperating fully with International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia investigations into war crimes against its former military officers.

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