At 16, Ante Gotovina left home to join the French Foreign Legion. Warfare in Africa, Guatemala and Paraguay earned him French citizenship as well as a reputation as a brave soldier with a taste for beautiful women. However it is after returning to Croatia to help its war of independence that Gotovina is alleged to have committed war crimes.
By 1995 he was a general, commanding Operation Storm to expel Serb forces from the rebel Serb region of Krajina. As his troops advanced, more than 150,000 Serbs fled. Dozens of elderly people who stayed behind were summarily executed and scores of homes were torched in the aftermath of the operation.
Later Gotovina would be sent into early retirement after rebelling against Croatia’s pledge to investigate its own war crimes and hand over suspects to the UN tribunal.
Indicted in 2001, Gotovina has denied any responsibility for atrocities and back in his homeland he is considered a national hero by many. Posters of him appearing in the streets of Croatia feature slogans such as “A hero, not a criminal.”