The arrest of the two mean has opened up deep wounds from Croatia's recent past.

Although there were no demonstrations outside the courthouse on Monday, thousands of veterans took to the streets of the capital recently to protest against the arrest of Norac for another alleged war crime in 2001.

Massacre

The two men are charged with allowing their troops to massacre Serb civilians and prisoners of war during a military incursion into the so-called Medak pocket in the south of Croatia in 1993.

The government troops, helped by heavy artillery, drove out the Serbs and retreated, leaving behind scorched earth and dead bodies found by UN peacekeepers.

 

The trial will hold nine hearings before the summer break, with witness testimonies scheduled only from September. Prosecutors plan to call 137 witnesses, including 34 witnesses whose identity will be protected. That might take almost a year.

 

Norac is already serving a 12-year
prison sentence [AFP]

Norac is already serving a 12-year sentence over the deaths in 1991 of 50 Serb civilians in the frontline town of Gospic, where he was in charge of defences.

In the specially built courtroom, the wife and daughter of Ademi watched with members of an organisation of ex-Croatian servicemen of the 1991-1995 Serbo-Croatian war.

Croatia's proclamation of independence sparked the four-year war with rebel Serbs who opposed the move.

The rebels, who were politically and militarily backed by the government of Slobodan Milosevic, the former Serbian president, occupied a third of the country and expelled almost all of the non-Serb population.

In 2005, the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague decided the two generals' case would be the first transferred to Croatia as part of a process of moving cases to national justice systems as it plans to complete its mission before closing in 2010.