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On the occasion of rendering a
first-instance judgment by the International Criminal
Tribunal for
the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Gotovina, Čermak and Markač
case,
we would like to warn about the difficult legacy of
non-prosecuted crimes committed
during and immediately after the
military operation „Storm“.

The „Storm“ operation definitely
crushed the rebellion of a part of Serb population in Croatia
and,
thereby, shattered the self-proclaimed Republic of Srpska Krajina
(„the RSK“). Through
that operation, the constitutional order of
the Republic of Croatia was restored in that area.
Likewise,
continental traffic routes between the South and the North of Croatia
were restored.
Thus, security preconditions were established for
life in the areas bordering with „the RSK“,
as well as for the
exercise of the right of displaced persons, expelled from that area,
to return
to their homes.

At the same time, one also has to bear
in mind those consequences of this action personified
by arsons and
lootings and numerous non-punished, even systematically covert
killings of
civilians. Researches conducted by the Croatian Helsinki
Committee indicated that in August
and September of 1995, during and
after the completion of military activities, more than 600
civilians
were killed and more than 22,000 houses were burned down on the
territory that was
re-integrated through this action. Out of fear
for their personal safety, as well as at the urging
of Krajina
authorities, more than 150,000 former Croatian inhabitants, mostly
Serbs,
abandoned Croatia at that time. Their return was rendered
difficult due to lack of security
measures and law-based state on
that part of Croatian territory, belated prosecution of war
crimes,
inefficient return programmes and slow economic measures by the state
related to
reconstruction incentives. The synergy of the
above-mentioned elements resulted in
permanent displacement of the
Serb population from one fifth of the Croatian territory, to the
extent, the effects of which border on ethnic cleansing.

We would like to remind on some of
non-prosecuted crimes well-known to the public:

  • At least 10 civilians were killed on
    6 August 1995 during the military and police
    action „Storm“ in
    the village of Golubić near Knin. The crimes were not prosecuted.
  • The killings of at least five
    civilians in Mokro Polje (Knin) began on 6 August
    during the „Storm“
    action and continued after the completion of military activities. The
    crimes were not prosecuted.- Between 7 and 8 August 1995, in the
    attacks on a refugee column between Glina
    and Dvor, several dozens
    of civilians from the municipalities of Glina, Topusko,
    Gvozd and
    Vojnić were killed. The crimes were not prosecuted.

  • Nine civilians were killed on 12
    August 1995 in the village of Komić (Korenica).
    The crimes were not
    prosecuted. 
     
  • On 25 August 1995, six civilians were
    killed in the village of Grubori (Knin). After the systematic covert
    of crimes, of which several persons testified before the
    ICTY, on 15
    December 2010 the Zagreb County State Attorney’s Office (the
    ŽDO)
    issued the indictment against three Croatian citizens, F. D. (1963),
    B. K.
    (1957) and I. B. (1973), charging them with commission of a
    war crime against
    civilians under Article 120, paragraph 1 of the
    Basic Criminal Law of the Republic Of Croatia.
     
  • On 27 August 1995, around 16,00
    hours, seven civilians were killed in the village
    of Gošić
    (Kistanje). The Zadar ŽDO issued the indictment No. KT-83/96 of 13
    February 1996 but, due to lack of hard evidence, the proceedings were
    reversed
    to the investigation stage against unknown perpetrators.
     
  • According to the HHO Report, during
    the military and police action „Storm“ up
    until the end of 1995,
    a total of 14 civilians were registered as killed in the village
    of
    Kijani (Gračac), among them there were nine women. The crimes were
    not
    prosecuted
     
  • On 28 September 1995, around 17,00 –
    17,30 hours, nine civilians were killed in
    the village of Varivode
    (Kistanje). Six members of Croatian police forces were
    accused of
    committing this crime, but after the proceedings conducted before
    the
    Zadar County Court and the repeated trial at the Šibenik County
    Court, the
    defendants were acquitted of charges, whereby the
    investigation was reversed at 
    the beginning, against unknown
    perpetrators. Even eight years after the
    proceedings before the
    Šibenik Court were completed, there is no new
    information
    available, nor have the perpetrators of this crime been prosecuted.

By providing these examples, we would
like to remind the public and relevant
governmental institutions of
the fact that those crimes were committed and that no-one
was held
responsible for them. We also want to draw attention to the
non-fulfilled
obligation to identify and prosecute perpetrators of
war crime against civilians.
Prosecution of war crimes must be
carried out in a consistent manner, regardless of who
the
perpetrator and who the victim is, because a crime, irrespective of
its motivation, 
has neither a nation nor a religion,
but only the characteristics of evil and, therefore,
cannot be
justified, just as its non-prosecution cannot be justified, either.

Likewise, bearing in mind the fact that
families of killed persons, who filed a lawsuit
against the RC
seeking compensation of damages, live under threat of distraint due
to
possible payment of litigation expenses (in 29 proceedings that
we are familiar with, they
are threatened with the obligation to pay
expenses amounting to HRK 5,000 up to
90,900), we would also like to
remind competent institutions on their obligation to
provide just
redress to all sufferers and all victims’ families.

With regard to the forthcoming judgment
of the ICTY in Gotovina, Čermak and
Markač case, we would like to
remind that the indictment IT 06/90, depicting the
defendants as
participants in a joint criminal enterprise who are individually
criminallyresponsible (omission by a superior officer), charges them
with persecutions,
deportations and forcible removals, plundering of
public or private property, wanton
destruction, inhumane and cruel
actions, as well as failure to react to the crimes
committed at
lower levels: that includes killing of civilians
in the
municipalities of Knin
(the villages of Kovačić, Đurići,
Žagrović, Grubori), Orlić (the villages of Orlić, Šarena
Jezera/Vrbnik, Uzdolje), Kistanje (the village of Kakanj), Ervenik
(the village of Oton)
and Donji Lapac (the village of Oraovac).

The Republic of Croatia gave strong
support
to the Court’s establishment and incorporated the Court’s
Statute in its domestic
legislation, so that the Court’s decisions
constitute an integral part of Croatia’s 
legislation and therefore must be
respected. Regardless of the contents of the firstinstance judgment,
we would like to call upon peaceful and dignified acceptance of the
ICTY trial chamber’s decision.

 

Vesna Teršelič, Documenta, Zagreb
Katarina Kruhonja, Centar za mir, nenasilje i ljudska prava Osijek
Zoran Pusić, Građanski odbor za ljudska prava, Zagreb
Gordan Bosanac, Centar za mirovne studije, Zagreb
Nela Pamuković, Centar za žene žrtve rata, Zagreb
Mirjana Bilopavović, Delfin, Pakrac
Mirjana Kučer, Domine, Split
Sanja Sarnavka, B.a.B.e., Zagreb
Mario Mažić, Inicijativa mladih za ljudska prava, Hrvatska
Sanja Sarnavka, Kuća ljudskih prava Zagreb
Biserka Momčinović, Centar za građanske inicijative, Poreč
Ivo Škorić, Mreža za kulturnu suradnju i pomirenje – Rakun
Zdeka Pantić, Rehabilitacijski centar za stres i traumu, Zagreb
Emina Bužinkić, Mreža mladih Hrvatske, Zagreb
Marica Šeatović, Udruženje porodica “Protiv zaborava”, Zagreb
Srđan Antić, Nansen Dijalog Centar, Osijek
Semina Lončar, CERD, Split
Mirjana Galo, HOMO, Pula
Vesna Kesić, GONG
Drago Pilsel, Zagreb
Ljiljana Gherecke, Vukovar
Ana Kvesić, Vukovar