Janko Bobetko

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Janko Bobetko
Born (1919-01-10)10 January 1919
Crnac (part of Sisak), Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes
Died 29 April 2003(2003-04-29) (aged 84)
Zagreb, Republic of Croatia
Allegiance Croatian Army
Rank Lieutenant General (YPA)
General of the Army (HV)
Commands held Chief of General Staff HV
Commander of Southern Front HV
Chief of Staff of 5th Army District YPA
Political Commissar of 32nd Division
Political Commissar of Brigade
Battles/wars World War II
Croatian War of Independence
Deblockade of Dubrovnik (Op. Tigar)
Operation Maslenica
Operation Jackal (June Dawns)
Operation Medak Pocket
Operation Flash

Janko Bobetko (10 January 1919 – 29 April 2003) was a Croatian Army general and Chief of the General Staff during the Croatian War of Independence from 1992 until his retirement in 1995. Bobetko had been charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia but died before he could be tried.[1] He was one of the founding members of 1st Sisak Partisan Detachment, armed anti-fascist military unit in Yugoslavia.

In May 2013, the ICTY, in a first-instance verdict against Jadranko Prlić, found that Bobetko took part in the joint criminal enterprise against the non-Croat population of Bosnia and Herzegovina.[2]


Bobetko was born in the village of Crnac, Sisak in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.[3] He studied at the veterinary faculty in the University of Zagreb, but Croatian pro-Nazi authorities expelled him from university at the start of World War II for his anti-fascist views.[citation needed]

Yugoslav army career[edit]

His father and three brothers were killed by the Nazi-affiliated Ustaše,[1][4] and he joined an antifascist unit, the 1st Sisak Partisan Detachment in the Brezovica Forest near Sisak. Bobetko fought for the Yugoslav Partisans from 1941-45. He was heavily wounded at Dravograd in Slovenia, but survived to become a Yugoslav People's Army (YPA) officer. In the post-war period, he graduated from the Military Academy of the Yugoslav People's Army and rose to the rank of lieutenant-general.

During the "Croatian Spring" of the 1970s, he supported greater autonomy for Croatia in Yugoslavia, and was demoted and expelled from the YPA after Tito's crackdown on perceived separatists and nationalists in the constituent parts of the former Yugoslavia.[5]

Service in independent Croatia[edit]

After the 1990 Croatian parliamentary elections, Bobetko refused to accept the position of defense minister.[why?] His involvement in the Croatian War of Independence began in Banovina and continued on the Southern Front, where he took command on 10 April 1992. On 20 November 1992, Bobetko was named the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Croatia.[6]

In 1993, during Operation Medak pocket against Serb Krajina strongholds that controlled the town of Gospić, the Croatian soldiers were accused of committing crimes against humanity and violating the laws or customs of war, which Bobetko denied, describing casualties were "minimal". In his 1996 memoir, All My Battles, which contained many military maps and commands, he wrote that the action -- aimed at ending the Serbian bombardment of Gospić -- was brilliant.[1]

Bobetko had the status of a fully disabled person, caused both by his leg injury he sustained during World War II, and later by an onset of cardiac decompensation in 1994. Because of this he was hospitalized in 1995 during Operation Flash. The extent of his disability was at one point disputed by the Ministry of Defense, but it was later fully reinstated by a court order.[7]

On 15 July 1995 President Franjo Tuđman formally replaced Bobetko as the Chief of General Staff with Zvonimir Červenko. Later that year, he was elected in the Croatian parliamentary election, 1995 on the electoral list of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).[8]

In 2000, Bobetko was the most prominent signatory to the Twelve Generals' Letter. In September 2002, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia indicted Bobetko. He was the most senior Croatian officer sought at the tribunal.[9] Bobetko refused to accept the indictment or surrender to the court, claiming the indictment questioned the legitimacy of the entire military operation. The crisis stretched out as popular opinion agreed with Bobetko, and the Croatian government would not assert an unambiguous position over his extradition.[1]

By that time, Bobetko was already gravely ill, as well. In 2002, the United Kingdom halted its ratification process for the Stabilisation and Association Agreement of Croatia with the European Union due to the Croatian government's handling of the Bobetko case.[citation needed]

Bobetko died in 2003, aged 84, before any final decision was reached regarding his extradition. The treaty ratification problem was subsequently rectified in 2004. He was survived by his widow, Magdalena, and three sons.[1]



  1. ^ a b c d e "Janko Bobetko, 84, Is Dead; Fought to Free Croatians". The New York Times (30 April 2003). Accessed 6 August 2008.
  2. ^ "International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia". Icty.org. 29 May 2013. Retrieved 13 September 2016. 
  3. ^ "Janko Bobetko (Croatian military)". Britannica Online Encyclopedia (2009); accessed 6 September 2009.
  4. ^ General Janko Bobetko obituary, The Daily Telegraph (30 April 2003); accessed 6 September 2009.
  5. ^ "European Union". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 1 July 2009. international organisation comprising 27 European countries and governing common economic, social, and security policies.... 
  6. ^ "Janko Bobetko (1919 - 2003)". Vojska.net. Retrieved 2016-09-10. 
  7. ^ Robert Bajruši (8 May 2002). "25 hrvatskih generala su prevaranti; Svjesno su prevarili državu kako bi dobili invalidski status i povlastice" [25 Croatian generals are cheaters; They knowingly deceived the state to receive disability status and benefits]. Nacional (in Croatian). Archived from the original on 1 July 2012. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ "Case Information Sheet - "MEDAK POCKET" (IT-02-62) - Janko Bobetko" (PDF). ICTY. Retrieved 19 December 2010. 
  10. ^ "46 07.07.1995 Odluka kojom se odlikuju VeleRedom kralja Petra Krešimira IV. s lentom i Danicom". Nn.hr. Retrieved 8 October 2016. 

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