This could happen anywhere – Vukovar, Skabrnje …

20th Anniversary of Croatian Vukovar and Skabrnje massacres

It’s in human nature to choose one or two events that will serve as symbols of a horridly overwhelming period in one’s history that brought about insufferable tragedies, destruction and mass murders. One may say that Vukovar and Skabrnje have become the symbols of national Croatian widespread suffering since 1991.

While Croatia remembers the horrors of Vukovar and Skabrnje this week, it will also remember all the other heinous crimes and wanton destruction suffered from the hand of the Serbian aggression.

The whole democratic world, in fact, would do well in taking a step back this week and remember Vukovar and Skabrnje – remember Croatia in early 1990’s, and take heed of the lesson Serbian aggression upon Croatia has offered to the functioning of the democratic processes and the people’s right to self-determination.

The Western countries investing enormous funds and efforts in keeping terrorism at bay and preventing  it wherever possible, would in my opinion do well to consider the disturbing implications such aggression has for their own democracy and statehood.

It is not ludicrous to imagine that in any multi-ethnic country similar events could occur when a country’s ethnic minority, populating in relatively high numbers a certain area-pockets or regions, disagrees with the results of general elections in that country. A minority population could try and even succeed in dismembering the sovereignty of the country’s borders.

After the referendum upon which 94% of Croatian citizens decided to exercise their right to live in a sovereign state of Croatia and secede from communist Yugoslavia, Croatia declared independence in June 1991. Almost immediately after the elections the Serb minority living in the country began an armed insurrection against the new democratically elected Croatian authorities.

(Chronology of Croatia’s Homeland War (1990 – 1995) ;

Mishka Góra – 20 Years after the fall of Vukovar:

With the help of the well-equipped Yugoslav Army the Serbs hived-off almost one third of Croatian territory and proclaimed it as their own, expelling, murdering, torturing and persecuting the Croatian and other non-Serb people living in those areas at the time.

(Australian News reels  on Croatia’s Homeland War:

The democratic general elections in Croatia and dr Franjo Tudjman (leader of the Croatian Democratic Union movement in Croatia at the time) were branded (by some media and personalities of note abroad) as nationalist. Croatia suffered because of that, as well.

I have asked myself so many times: since when has it become unbecoming and suspicious to pride oneself with the name of the nation one belongs to?

On the one hand the international community affirms the human rights of self-determination – if that is the will of the majority – and on the other hand it has tendencies within it to label such human rights with nationalism that has negative or undesirable connotations.

It seems you’re damned if you’re proud of your country, and you’re damned if you’re not proud of it.

After enduring untold horrors, Croatia finally liberated those Serb-occupied areas (August 1995) and large number of Serbs from those areas decided to leave Croatia. Judging on the basis of television coverage and other released photographs in the media at the  time their departure was voluntary and relatively orderly, unlike the fear-stricken flight of hundreds of thousands of Croatians who were expelled and banished from their homes while the Serbian onslaught lasted.

(UNHCR Report The State of the World’s Refugees 1993 Croatia 1991/1992 316,000 refugees/displaced  1992/1993= 648,000 refugees/displaced:

ABC TV The Coward’s War/Chris Masters/ Serbian atrocities in Bosnia and Croatia:

Exodus from Vukovar 1991: )

In relation to the latter, the ICTY in the Hague convicted (April 2010) Croatian Generals Gotovina and Markac as having participated in a joint criminal enterprise (i.e. that Serbs were expelled from Croatia). While these particular cases are currently on appeal it is difficult to fathom how just can this legal doctrine of joint criminal enterprise, used and tested by the ICTY, can be when it comes to the Croatian defensive fight in preserving their bare lives and the democratic regime.

“In traditional legal orders, the criminal law might be compared to a measuring cup and the facts of a particular case to liquid that can be poured in that container. The measuring cup is marked with a line which, if reached on the evidence, would coincide with the attribution of criminal responsibility to the accused: by putting the facts of the case in the cup you will see if there is enough evidence to render the accused criminally responsible. In the brave new world of the Sesay judgment, the order of thing appears to have been reversed. The measuring cup is the evidence and the liquid the law. If there is not enough law to find the accused guilty, pour some more”. ( Dr. Guénaël Mettraux, 18th November 2009)

Does a similar fate await Generals Gotovina and Markac in their appeal as the politically coloured “push” to equate victims with the aggressor takes further momentum in the Hague?

The 20th Anniversary of the fall of Vukovar will be observed in Croatia on 18 November 2011. So too the Skabrnje massacre will be remembered. There are numerous remembrance events organised throughout Croatia. I trust many people throughout the world will also take a pause on that day and offer a silent prayer, a minute of silent respect for the victims.

The Veterans Club of the 148th Brigade in Zagreb is organising the “And I will tell you one more thing: REMEMBER VUKOVAR” remembrance events between 12th and 18th November 2011, including the calling for the public to light a candle along  the Ulica grada Vukovara (city of Vukovar street in Zagreb) on Thursday 17th November at 6.00 pm. Ina Vukic, Prof.(Zgb), B.A.,M.A.Ps.(Syd)

Lest We Forget

And I will tell you one more thing: REMEMBER VUKOVAR

Related Links:

Former BBC correspondent Martin Bell, who covered the siege 20 years ago, returns to find out how Vukovar and its people are recovering. He finds the city today is a shadow of its former self: haunted by the ghosts of 1991.” (

Twnety Years After the fall of Vukovar “The war may be over, and Vukovar may have started to rebuild, but the battle for the truth about what really happened in Croatia during the war is only just beginning.” Mishka Góra

Related post by Ina Vukic:

Leave a Reply

Disclaimer, Terms and Conditions:

All content on “Croatia, the War, and the Future” blog is for informational purposes only. “Croatia, the War, and the Future” blog is not responsible for and expressly disclaims all liability for the interpretations and subsequent reactions of visitors or commenters either to this site or its associate Twitter account, @IVukic or its Facebook account. Comments on this website are the sole responsibility of their writers and the writer will take full responsibility, liability, and blame for any libel or litigation that results from something written in or as a direct result of something written in a comment. The nature of information provided on this website may be transitional and, therefore, accuracy, completeness, veracity, honesty, exactitude, factuality and politeness of comments are not guaranteed. This blog may contain hypertext links to other websites or webpages. “Croatia, the War, and the Future” does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness or completeness of information on any other website or webpage. We do not endorse or accept any responsibility for any views expressed or products or services offered on outside sites, or the organisations sponsoring those sites, or the safety of linking to those sites. Comment Policy: Everyone is welcome and encouraged to voice their opinion regardless of identity, politics, ideology, religion or agreement with the subject in posts or other commentators. Personal or other criticism is acceptable as long as it is justified by facts, arguments or discussions of key issues. Comments that include profanity, offensive language and insults will be moderated.