Ante Gotovina, a retired Croatian military official acquitted of war crimes charges in 2012, is suing the U.S. Department of Treasury to lift economic sanctions against him in place for more than a decade.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia convicted Gotovina of war crimes in connection with a military operation in Croatia in 1995. In 2012, the Appeals Chamber of the tribunal reversed his conviction and set him free.
The U.S. government listed Gotovina as a Specially Designated National in 2003, subjecting him to economic sanctions. After his acquittal, Gotovina asked the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control to remove the designation, to no avail, according to the complaint he filed yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
According to the complaint, Treasury officials did not respond to his repeated requests and have yet to remove him from the list. As a Specially Designated National, Gotovina's assets were frozen and he was blocked from carrying out any transactions.
Patton Boggs is representing Gotovina. Partner Stephen Diaz Gavin today declined to discuss how the firm connected with Gotovina as a client. The firm represented the Republic of Croatia (not Gotovina) during the appellate proceedings before the tribunal.
A Treasury spokeswoman declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.
Gotovina was accused of participating in a military effort to remove the Serb civilian population from a region of Croatia. He was indicted on war crimes charges in 2001. The tribunal's Trial Chamber found him guilty in 2011. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
A divided Appeals Chamber reversed his convictions in November 2012. Prosecutors did not challenge the acquittal.
According to the complaint, Gotovina's lawyers sent written requests in April and August 2013 to the Office of Foreign Assets Control asking that he be removed from the Specially Designated Nationals List. They said he never received a reply.
Gotovina's lawyers argued there was no legal basis for keeping him on the sanctions list. "OFAC has provided no explanation for the delay and failure to undertake an action or issue a decision reaching that result," they said in the complaint.
Gotovina was released from prison in 2012 and today lives in Croatia. His lawyers said in court documents that the sanctions had caused "enormous economic harm."
"Even following his release from prison following his acquittal," they said, "Gotovina is consequently unable to make a livelihood for himself as he still cannot reach his assets or the international banking system."
The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle. No hearings have been scheduled.