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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 April, 2003, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK
Profile: General Janko Bobetko
By Gabriel Partos
BBC South-east Europe analyst

The Croatian army's former chief of staff, General Janko Bobetko, has died aged 84 - just a few weeks after the Hague tribunal suspended its war crimes charges against him on grounds of his poor health.

General Janko Bobetko during a press conference in Zagreb in 2002
General Bobetko was seen as a hero by Croats and a war criminal by Serbs

General Bobetko was widely considered a hero by Croats and a war criminal by Serbs for his role during the war of the first half of the 1990s.

He was the most senior figure from Croatia to have been charged by the Hague tribunal.

The general was accused of responsibility for the killings of more than 100 Serbs who died in central Croatia during an incursion by Croatian forces into Serb-held territory in 1993.

Those killed in the attack on the so-called Medak pocket included civilians as well as captured soldiers.

Popular backlash

General Bobetko was already in his early 70s when he was recalled to military service to help organise the newly-established army of Croatia in its fight against the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army.

As chief of staff, General Bobetko played a major part in preparing the army for the two offensives in 1995 that finally defeated Croatia's Serb separatists.

But it was only seven years later - last September - that the Hague tribunal charged him with war crimes.

The indictment created a huge backlash against the tribunal among the Croatian public who regarded the general as one of the heroes of Croatia's war of independence.

As the Croatian Government tried to challenge the charges, General Bobetko said he would never surrender to the tribunal.

Croatia was threatened with the prospect of international sanctions for its failure to co-operate with the tribunal.

But the octogenarian general's poor health finally helped resolve the crisis.

Earlier this month the tribunal revoked its arrest warrant.

But General Bobetko, who was already gravely ill in hospital, had only a few days left to enjoy his freedom.


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