Croatia: Howling For Rape War Crimes Justice

Marija Sliskovic  Photo: Goran Stanzl/Pixsell Film "Sunny" about Croatian rape victims from days of Serb aggression against Croatia

Marija Sliskovic Photo: Goran Stanzl/Pixsell
Film “Sunny” about Croatian rape victims from
days of Serb aggression against Croatia

Croatian politics, authorities and institutions (including media) have failed miserably at addressing the war crimes of rape perpetrated by Serbs against Croatian (and non-Serb women) during their war of aggression against Croatia. The same could be said for Bosnia and Herzegovina. There has been no significant will to prosecute rapists, war criminals – the political and judiciary neglect of these awful, beastly crimes against Croatian people – women, mothers – has resulted in the fact that still, after more than 20 years the rape victims do not receive their deserved attention and respect among the public.

One can only conclude from this that the rape victims of Croatia’s Homeland War have remained under the radar of social sensitivity and humanity.

Croatian women, rape victims from Serb concentration camps in Croatia have not received that which every humane society owes to its sufferers: pursuit of justice and punishment of perpetrators, support and protection.  A humane society must build into its social milieu a consistent and persistent policy and procedures to address such beastly crimes and neither Croatian nor Bosnia and Herzegovinian authorities have done that. The only explanation for such appalling approach towards these war crimes could perhaps be found in the political madness and pressure towards ethnic reconciliation (the return to a semblance of the former brotherhood and unity, which failed miserably after decades of its forceful nurturing by Communist Yugoslavia) at the cost of human dignity and justice.  In this mosaic of political machinations beastly rape of women becomes, it seems, a tolerated crime; a crime that can be swept under the carpet and victims of rape are faced to having to live side by side, in same towns, with war criminals.

If we scan over democratic societies of the western world we see that the crime of rape is not tolerated. Indeed, it’s not tolerated in the young democracy such as Croatia. So why tolerate the rapes perpetrated during the Homeland War?! One may come across many a condemning word against these crimes but the condemnation overwhelmingly stops at that. Most perpetrators of these crimes have not been prosecuted and the reason for that is that there is no will or determination from the authorities to pursue these criminals. Just awful!

As things go in modern times media has a powerful role in attracting attention to issues and the spinoff of that attention can often result in actions undertaken to correct the wrongs.

Actress Angelina Jolie had certainly made a lot of right noise across the world about rape during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina with her 2011 movie “In the land of blood and honey”.

Last month, the filming of the film “Sunny” has commenced at locations in Croatia (Vukovar, Sisak and Petrinja). It’s a co-production by Croatian “Women in Homeland War” association and the U.S./Texas iFilms. The making of this film is partly supported by Croatian ministry of Veterans’ affairs, City of Zagreb and ifilms-Texas. The film addresses the suffering of Croatian people, particularly the women, at the hands of Serb aggression against Croatia during the early 1990’s.

The aggression, devastation and war crimes were perpetrated by the regular Belgrade based Yugoslav Army, various Serb extreme militant formations (Chetniks) as well as by Serbs who lived in Croatia.  This film will clearly show the extent of Serb crimes over the helpless Croatian civilian population and present testimonies of living witnesses about the inhumane conditions of captivity, torture, rape and killing. The dramatized part of the film will be filmed in Texas, USA and the completion of filming is expected by the end of this year.

The aim of this film is to show the world the extent of Serb crimes against Croatian people that have not yet been prosecuted, spark public debates throughout the world on this issue, spark international human rights organisations into debate and into delivering adequate sanctions against Republic of Serbia and its citizens who had participated in the perpetration of these crimes, compensate the victims and offer them and their families adequate assistance towards their re-integration into normal life.

The editor of the book “Sunny”, Marija Sliskovic (President of Women in Homeland War Association, Croatia), on which the film is based, has for years been collecting rape victim statements and testimonies about the horrors of the war.

In the meanwhile, the rapes perpetrated by Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war are receiving a second major revelation through performing arts. This time it’s not Angelina Jolie that’s doing it, it’s Yasmine Beverly Rana, an American writer, drama therapist and pedagogue who is presenting her drama piece “The Fallen” at the “T. Schreiber” theatre in New York – reports Vecernji List journalist Jadranka Juresko-Kero.

Juresko-Kero reports that Rana was surprised to hear that Croatian women, victims of rapes, are still fighting for their rights and punishment of perpetrators via “Women in Homeland War Association”.  Rana was reportedly especially shocked by the information that at least 240 children in Croatia were born as products of the rapes – most mothers of these children came from Vukovar.

Wounds from the past will not heal until such time when they are brought into “the light of day”, said Rana. She confirmed her belief that the truth heals everything and that all the children born from war rapes deserve to know how profoundly their mothers had suffered.

The other side of that suffering is love, said Rana. The women carried the children in their bodies and gave them birth. The love for the child had suppressed the hate towards the criminals, but that in no way means that the rapists should go unpunished.

Peace and reconciliation require a firm and consistent process to ascertain the truth, something which is particularly dramatic when rapes are used as a tool of war or in post-conflict phases against women as well as children and men.

Remembering is a very painful effort when it comes to victims of war crimes. And where rapes are concerned not all the victims are able to remember into testimonies and statements the horrors suffered. It is for that reason that societies and communities must make efforts in bringing the truth about these crimes to light and justice. For, peace and reconciliation can only return in the truth is told and the criminals dealt with – decisively, without mercy. I trust that the film “Sunny” will leave no stone of these horrid crimes unturned and that the world will stand still, take in the horror these Croatian women have had to endure and – finally help turn winds of justice against the rape war criminals. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


  1. There is obviously enough evidence and first hand testimony about these crimes. There is now a book and soon a film about it. What else needs to be done for RH to take it seriously and do something about it?

    What can we do about it as individuals?

    • Anna, I guess the best individuals can do is to lobby and make noise about the injustice. It seems that the making of film “Sunny” also falls into this category and it’s so sad and angering at the same time that we need to do that in the face of beastly war crimes when – normally – such crimes would long have been prosecuted. So to my view also covering up and not pursuing justice for rape war crimes contributes to an obviously politically organised way of equating the aggressor with the victim.

  2. The rape of SERBIAN women

    (In Bosnia and Herzegovina)

  3. Ina…Thanks to gradually follow me and like…!

  4. Croatia is not a woman friendly country, one day I hope.

    • When it comes to processing rape war crimes it would seem so Pavao, however this has to do with politics of the political elite more than the society at large

    • Pavao, I’m sorry, but that’s a very misinformed comment. Like Ina said, when it comes to the politics of the elite and their methods of processing war crimes, that’s where the problems lie. It’s not a societal problem at large. The way you say it makes it seem like women in Croatia have absolutely no rights or personal freedom and agency and that is NOT true, not one bit. In fact, I find areas of Croatia moving towards a very Western outlook on womanhood and if that’s the ideal, as we’re so often told it is, then it is unfair to label Croatia as a whole unfriendly towards women. In fact, even in more traditional households, woman are practically worshipped for everything they contribute towards the family and some very strong, capable women have come from such households.

    • Sure it’s not. I mean it’s no Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, India…

  5. “Man’s inhumanity to man” (and women) – when will it stop? You, personally, Ina, have done so very much to make certain that it stops with you; my gratitude for your ceaseless efforts. Rana’s comments about the other side of suffering being love touched a chord – such humanity in the midst of torture.

  6. What you point out, that “240 children in Croatia were born as products of the rapes,” is such a damaging effect of the rape camps and systematic rapes during the Yugo war. What will happen to these children is, I hope, easy to say: that they will be loved.
    And I can hope that a generation from now, there will be such new stories from them that may add significantly to the voices of those victims who have kept silent for fear. I have always thought it extremely difficult for victims of physical attacks to retell, and thereby relive, their horrors, that the hope of retelling that story may lie with the proceeding generation. Although this may not suffice man’s earthly justice, it is the survival of memory through atrocity, which is so important (as you continually make clear through your posts and essays).

    • Thank you on your comment eatingthepages – indeed, history of our yesteryear is what brings us to today, it’s part of who we are and how we take on today and tomorrow. “Lest we forget” is the phrase that makes us stronger, I believe.

  7. This topic is so difficult to read about, but important. I have recently discovered the extent to which this is brushed over and am mortified. I also did not realize the extent to which Serbians deny and victim-blame regarding it. I hope this film will make the world a little better for a lot of women.

    • Thank you Semweni, sadly these days one needs movies to make stronger points, it shouldn’t be that way, justice should come naturally but we live in a crazy world and need to keep tabs and pursue justice. Hopefully it will come in the end

  8. Salim Kumar Das says:

    The Modern society cannot any sexual abuse against women and children. But fortunately or unfortunately, the women and children are the major victims of all kind of war and violence in the society. It is not conducive to the society. Such practice should be curtail at any cost. As such the modern society shall initiate stringent actions against such rapists to maximum so as to mark as a symbol of upholding justice and peace irrespective of cast creed,religion etc. Rewinding the past of Balkan war- that happened in Croatia and other Yugoslavian part is an horrifying example of crime and cruelty towards women and children. Let’s pray that such things won’t happen in any where in future and football be the ambassador and godess of peace and respect in the world.


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