Ante Gotovina had been on the run for four years before he was apprehended on the Spanish island of Tenerife.
Although widely seen as a hero by his compatriots for his military exploits, he fell out of favour with Croatia’s new leaders after refusing to co-operate with war crimes investigators. Gotovina was in charge of Operation Storm, the campaign to recapture the breakaway region of Krajina from rebel Serb forces.
But he denied actively encouraging or being responsible for the widespread destruction of Serb communities and a campaign of so-called ethnic cleansing. At least 150 Serb civilians were killed and more than 200,000 others were forced into exile.
Franjo Tudjman, Croatia’s nationalist leader at the time and subsequent governments argued the exodus was organised by Serb authorities. Atrocities carried out were “isolated” and blamed on “undisciplined individuals.”
What is clear is that Operation Storm changed the course of the wars in the former Yugoslavia. In less than a week it ended more than four years of Serb control in a large section of Croatian territory and sealed Gotovina’s status as a national hero.