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UN Prosecutors Charge Croatian General With Persecution, Murder of Serbs

United Nations prosecutors say Croatian General Ante Gotovina led a campaign of persecution and murder of ethnic Serbs in Croatia during a 1995 military operation.

Prosecutor Alan Tieger told the U.N. war crimes tribunal that Croatian troops under Gotovina's command left a "scarred wasteland of destroyed homes and villages" as they swept through a Serb-held region. He said panic-stricken Serb civilians fled and those who remained faced terror. Tieger spoke Tuesday, as the trial opened in The Hague.

Gotovina and two other generals - Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac - face charges of failing to stop their soldiers from murdering at least 37 ethnic Serbs in the area. Prosecutors say the generals also failed to stop the troops from burning and plundering the villages.

All three have pleaded innocent.

Gotovina was indicted in 2001 but evaded arrest for four years before his capture in the Canary Islands.

Many Croatians consider Gotovina as a national hero for recapturing parts of Croatia seized earlier by Serb forces.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.