Open letter addressed to President of the Republic of Croatia Ivo Josipović, to Speaker of the Croatian Parliament Josip Leko, to the Croatian Parliament, to Prime Minister of the
Government of the Republic of Croatia Zoran Milanović and to the Government of the Republic of Croatia.
Zagreb, Osijek, 07 August 2013
Another anniversary of the military-police operation “Storm“, which was completed 18 years ago
today, went by without an actual analysis of that action, as well as without any mention of the crimes committed during the action and immediately afterwards, without any mention of the victims.
Counting the years since the military-police operation “Storm“, everybody in their occasional
speeches have been avoiding to publicly talk about the victims. Thus, not even this year victims’
families received moral satisfaction through the mention of victims, in spite of indefinite words uttered by the Speaker of the Croatian Parliament Josip Leko: “all civilian sufferers, all displaced persons…“.
This year, the biggest step forward was made by President Josipović who said that “it was necessary to also reach out to those who were on the other side“, but he only generally mentioned members of national minorities. He as well hesitated to mention Serbs specifically. Therefore, the following question becomes relevant for top state officials and for all citizens of Croatia: Why has it become so difficult to mention Serbs?
Prime Minister Milanović emphasized the following: “A lot of people, Croatian citizens, fled this area after the war. However, today when we look at this region which was destroyed by the war and
distrust, it is only here in Croatia, only in Knin, only in Vukovar, only in the villages in this area that
people return to actually live here. Nowhere else. Neither to Bosnia, nor to Serbia, nor to Kosovo. Those who had fled, they do not return there. People return only to Croatia because, after all, they are confident that this is a country of common normal, honest people who just want to live of their work. And this is a country we are going to build”. This is not correct. Unfortunately, not a single post- Yugoslav country, Croatia included, can boast of good results achieved in the area of sustainable return, of desirable dynamics in the process of reintegration of refugees, nor did they resolve the refugee situation in a satisfactory manner. The fact that few refugees returned to Bosnia and Herzegovina and to Kosovo does not mean that more than modest results achieved in Croatia, after 18 years, can be considered satisfactory at all, let alone that Croatia in that sense may be emphasized as an example, which can be confirmed by any serious analysis.
The responsible task of prosecuting war crimes committed during the military-police operation
“Storm“ rests with the judiciary. Therefore, the messages from Knin may serve as an important
incentive to the judiciary to be more efficient in prosecuting crimes for which not a single final court
verdict has been rendered so far. In this year’s speeches, none of the speakers spoke about the crimes and the need to investigate and prosecute their perpetrators.
We expect from the Government of the Republic of Croatia, as well as from the other two branches of authority, to assume responsibility for the exercise of rights of ALL civilian sufferers within the
boundaries of their powers. We expect that the judiciary will receive support to investigate and
prosecute all war crimes committed against all victims, and particularly those committed against ALL
We call upon the Government of the Republic of Croatia to design a manner of marking the
anniversary of the military-police operation “Storm“ which would be acceptable for everybody, along
the words uttered by the Prime Minister in his greetings on the occasion of the Homeland Gratitude
Day that “we have the strength and we can condemn each committed evil, mourn for each innocent
victim, for each life lost in this war that was imposed upon us“. Likewise, we call upon the
Government to initiate the procedure of adopting an act for marking the sites of suffering of ALL
civilian victims which would also include killed persons of all ethnicities.
It is important for Croatia that its current political leaders demonstrate strength and wisdom that
Croatian political leaders after the “Storm” operation lacked, and to mark a war victory, which united
the country but also left painful scars, truly as a Homeland Gratitude Day.
For all citizens who consider Croatia their homeland, the Homeland Gratitude Day should be a
dignified marking with reminiscence of all sufferers, with an emphasis on “never again”, instead of a
gathering where politicians “eavesdrop” what would be an opportune thing to say before the crowd
whose mood is directed by a group of chauvinistic noisemakers; something that would begin to
connect people who ended up on different sides due to circumstances, not something that would
cement the divisions.
In order for the marking of the anniversary of the military-police operation “Storm“ to become widely accepted, it is necessary to change the approach. The title itself, Homeland Gratitude Day, provides an opportunity to do so. Therefore, we suggest a timely preparation through initiation of a dialogue concerning appropriate manner of future markings on such forums as the Social Justice Council of the President of the Republic of Croatia and the Human Rights Commission of the Government of the Republic of Croatia.
Vesna Teršelič, Documenta
Mladen Stojanović, Centre for Peace, Nonviolence and Human Rights-Osijek
Zoran Pusić, Civic Committee for Human Rights
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