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Zagreb-based NGO Documenta – Centre for Dealing with the Past filed a criminal complaint to the Croatian state attorney’s office on Friday over war crimes committed during and after the victorious military Operation Storm in August 1995.

Documenta filed the complaint against unknown direct perpetrators who shot and killed ten mostly elderly Serb civilians in the village of Uzdolje and the surrounding hamlets, near the Croatian town of Knin.

While researching human losses during Croatia’s 1990s war, Documenta’s researchers talked to witnesses who told them about the killings there on August 6, 1995. On August 5 and 8, soldiers also burned houses in these villages, Documenta was told.

According to witnesses who gave statements to Documenta, one Croatian soldier opened fire in Uzdolje, killing Milica Sare, Stevo Beric, Janja Beric, Djudjija Beric, Krsto Sare, Milos Cosic and Jandrija Sara, who were all between 62 and 79 years of age.

Soldiers also killed 73-year-old Sava Sare on her porch afterwards.

In the nearby hamlet of Vrbnik, unknown Croatian soldiers also killed 61- or 62-year-old Lazo Damjanic and 28-year-old Predrag Zaric.

Before this, Zaric was allegedly imprisoned by rebel Serbs in Knin for a while after he refused to serve in their armed forces. He is said to have had a certificate proving he that refused to fight for the rebel Serb authorities, but he was killed anyway.

“We’re filing this against unknown perpetrators, although witnesses detected some things in their statements. Three [perpetrators] have been identified who were wearing uniforms and were in direct contact with their superiors from certain units of the Croatian Army,” Eugen Jakovcic from Documenta told BIRN.

Jakovcic explained that Documenta’s aim was to show that “facts [about crimes] exist” that only need to be processed by the legal authorities.

Responding to questions from media about Documenta’s criminal complaint, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Friday: “Croatia is a democratic state, a state in which freedom of speech for all NGOs exists.”

The prosecution at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia included seven Serb civilians who were shot in Uzdolje in its case against Croatian generals Ante Gotovina, Mladen Markac and Ivan Cermak. The trial chamber acquitted Cermak in April 2011 and the appeals chamber acquitted Gotovina and Markac in November 2012.

Sven Milekic BIRN Zagreb