Croatia’s sovereignty and self-determination threatened as President Ivo Josipovic questions the law adopted by former HDZ government that renders certain laws of Former Yugoslavia and its army null and void

A freak event occurred in September 2011.

Indictments by a Belgrade court for war crimes landed in Croatia against some 40 individuals, copied indictments issued by Serbia’s military prosecutor’s office in 1992. Among the accused were 2011 Croatian Deputy Parliament Speaker Vladimir Seks and war veterans from Vukovar.

The Croatian HDZ government proceeded immediately to draw up a bill that would make Null and Void on the territory of the Republic of Croatia all legal acts of Former Yugoslavian People’s Army, its judicial bodies, judicial bodies of the Former Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia and the judicial bodies of the Republic of Serbia that relate to the Homeland Defence War(1991-1995), on basis of which, allegations and charges against citizens of the Republic of Croatia are laid contrary to the values protected by the international law contained in Chapter XIII of Criminal Law.

The Croatian parliament had difficulties achieving a quorum for the initial sessions when the proposed bill was to be voted on. The opposition (Kukuriku/ cock-a-doodle-doo alliance/in government since December 2011) boycotted the sessions as did some minor party representatives. Quorum attendance was finally achieved 21 October 2011 (without Kukuriku) and the bill adopted.

The law invalidates the above indictments from Serbia.

The legislation says that Croatia will not act upon requests from Serbia for legal aid when it concludes that requests are in contravention of Croatia’s legal order and harm its sovereignty and security. It is the justice minister who will make the pertaining decisions.

Croatia’s chief prosecutor, Mladen Bajic, had opposed the bill, warning that adoption of such a law would undermine cooperation between Croatia and Serbia in prosecuting war crimes committed in former Yugoslavia.

Concerns about the bill and its possible effects on cooperation between Croatia and Serbia also came from the Croatian President Ivo Josipovic, Serbia’s special prosecutor for war crimes, Vladimir Vukcevic. The European Union said it would analyse the law.

Croatia’s President Josipovic said at the time that “the interests of Croatia, primarily of our war veterans, should be ensured through a mutual agreement with Serbia”.

His memory seems to have faded or he is struck by wishful thinking!

The Serbs never wanted to live in Croatia, did not want to negotiate before and they are not likely to negotiate now as their goal seems to be equating the aggressor with the victim; issuing as many indictments as they can against Croatians even if they are not based on true evidence (e.g. 2011 indictment of Tihomir Purda that was later withdrawn), using laws of extinct Yugoslavia.

Croatia’s war veterans must not be at the mercy of Serbia.

Croatia must protect them and insist on its own laws when it comes to processing alleged war criminals.

Historical facts point to 8 October 1991, when negotiations (with regards to preparation of Croatian legislation to offer home rule to the rebel Serbs and remnants of Former Yugoslavia (Serbia) broke down. Croatia’s President dr Franjo Tudjman then severed relations with Yugoslavia and declared the Yugoslav army an invading force. He then declared Yugoslav laws null and void on Croatian territory.

This was a natural progression in the process of Croatian independence and sovereignty, for which 94% of Croatian citizens voted some months earlier.

Slovenia declared Yugoslav laws void in February 1991.

On 27 December 2011 Croatia’s President Ivo Josipovic announced that he has asked the Constitutional court for an assessment as to whether the bill adopted in October complies with the Croatian Constitution. Josipovic suggested that the law was not passed in accordance with the Constitutional rules for quorums in the parliament.

Article 82 of the Constitution: “Unless otherwise specified by the Constitution, the House of Representatives and the House of Counties shall make decisions by a majority vote, provided that a majority of representatives are present at the session. Representatives shall vote personally.

When the law passed in Croatian parliament in October it was passed when there was a quorum. Quorum usually means majority. In legal terms a quorum translates into: enough members present to conduct business legally.

Perhaps Josipovic meant that the opposition was not present in parliament when the bill was voted on? The Constitution refers to “members” of parliament (quorum of members) and does not seem to distinguish between their actual and individual political affiliations.

Perhaps he is going to argue that out of 77 members present at the voting session of parliament 72 voted “For” and 5 “abstained” from voting. If the quorum allows the parliament to conduct business legally then on that day the business was legal. Majority attending voted “Yes”.

Perhaps he has in mind to align the vote of this law with Article 83:

The Croatian Parliament shall adopt laws (organic laws) regulating the rights of national minorities by a two-thirds majority vote of all deputies.
The Croatian Parliament shall adopt laws (organic laws) elaborating constitutionally established human rights and fundamental freedoms, the electoral system, the organisation, remit and operation of governmental agencies and the civil service, and the organisation and purview of local and regional self-government by a majority vote of all deputies.
The Croatian Parliament shall adopt the decision specified in Article 8 of the Constitution by a two-thirds majority vote of all deputies.

But why would he push to Article 83 when Croatia already declared laws of Former Yugoslavia null and void in 1991?

President Josipovic entered politics as a member of the League of Communists of Croatia which became Social Democratic Party (SDP). Although now an Independent, he won presidential elections in 2009/2010 as SDP’s candidate.

SDP within Kukuriku alliance holds power in Croatian Parliament now.

It’s clear to me that the mainstream centre-left and left, the Serbian minority and others in Croatia who opposed the bill at the time of its proposition, and boycotted the sitting, seem to have been more concerned about the relations with Serbia than about Croatian sovereignty. And, of course, development of cooperation between Croatia and Serbia has been on the pressure-agenda of European Union for quite some time.

Vladimir Seks said, “this law (of Null and Void) is also a way of exerting pressure on the EU because Serbia’s current practice of issuing indictments against Croatian veterans is outside all European legal standards,“,

If Croatia will enter a European Union where its sovereignty is to be diced and chopped into pieces (as in the case of this law) on political rather than sovereignty grounds then who needs the EU!

Who needs Serbia trying to act as some sort of the world court policeman for the Former Yugoslavia that has been null and void for 20 years.

Cooperation with an another state cannot and should not take precedence over Croatia’s sovereignty and its right to pass laws that declare null and void the laws of Former Yugoslavia, making further and essential tracks in its sovereignty and self-determination. Ina Vukic, Prof.(Zgb), B.A.,M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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