Croatia: Remains Of Mass Murdered Buried As Vukovar’s Croats Stand Aghast From Government’s Aloofness

Sotin, Vukovar - October 2013 burial of remains of 11 Croats  murdered by Serb aggressor December 1991 Photo: Davor Javorovic/Pixsell

Sotin, Vukovar – October 2013 burial of remains of 11 Croats
murdered by Serb aggressor December 1991
Photo: Davor Javorovic/Pixsell

A joint funeral was held Monday 14 October in Sotin for 11 Croatian victims (4 Croatian soldiers and 7 civilians) of Serb aggression exhumed from a mass grave in April this year and only recently forensically identified in Zagreb.  The youngest victim was 25 and the oldest 72 years old at the time of their brutal murder in December 1991.  Yugoslav-Serb forces brutally occupied Sotin on 14 October 1991 and mass murders of Croats occurred soon after.

Present at the funeral were family members of the victims supported by numerous Homeland war veterans and other Croats from Sotin, Vukovar and from across Croatia. Present were also Vinko Kovacic, representing the president of Croatia, Zeljko Sabo, mayor of Vukovar who also represented the Croatian Parliament, Bozo Galic, representative councillor for Vukovar-Srijem region and Croatian government representative Predrad Matic, minister for the veterans.

Archbishop Djuro Hranic reminded that in Sotin, on the outskirts of Vukovar, 64 villagers were killed or murdered during the Homeland war against Serb aggression and there are still 18 of them on the missing list.

Archbishop Hranic emphasised that people of Sotin had been searching for their loved ones for years, in a peaceful and non-aggressive manner and said that “simply nothing less than that can be expected”, nor can they give up looking for those who are still missing.

The unpleasant twist to this funeral was that minister Matic was whistled at, albeit with some constraint one usually finds in such circumstances blended at funerals with respect for the dead. Minister Matic, whose stubborn and cold approach regarding the heavily weighing issue of bilingual signage, is particularly unpopular among veterans’ associations who are fighting to achieve the status of special piety for Vukovar and, hence, exclude the city from having bilingual signage (Croatian Latin and Serbian Cyrillic) on public buildings.  Many Veteran organisations simply do not accept him as their representative.

As reported by Dnevno.hr, Matic commenced his funeral speech with “Dear guests and invitees!” What happened to say: “I have come here to pay respects…” – the funeral was certainly not an event where guests come as per invitation. Bad taste, awful mind-set.

It is to be noted that all individual Serb nationals charged in Croatia with the mass murders in Sotin live in Serbia and Croatia cannot prosecute; Serbia it is said is still investigating these murders! So much for Serbia’s efforts in expediting reconciliation!

Croatian veterans pursue their rejection of bilingual signage in Vukovar as written in my previous post on the matter,however all their actions and protests have been put on temporary hold in honour of the funeral for the victims of Sotin.  Croatian veterans’ website further says:

While many citizens of Vukovar prepared for attending the Sunday Holy Mass they were greeted with a ‘greeting card from the Croatian government’ in the form of ‘strong police forces and the mounting of new bilingual signs in the city of Vukovar”.

The tearing down of signs by the people, by family members of those murdered during the war, by veterans and their supporters, the government had responded by replacing them with new ones in Vukovar. No dialogue still between the government and the veterans regarding the veterans’ pleas for Vukovar to be declared a place of special piety. To pour more oil on this nationally distressing issue there had been activities in support of Vukovar’s Croats in other towns across Croatia. That is, bilingual signs were taken down by unknown persons in Vojnic and Krnjak – places where these signs have existed for years without any problems. Again, the government swiftly replaced those signs.

So, instead of dialogue we have the situation where bilingual signs get torn down by the people and the government swiftly replacing them.  The government has expressed a slight inclination to hold talks BUT only with the veterans and place of its choice; calling the shots instead of negotiating with the people at the front of discontent and moves to declare Vukovar as special place of piety. Hm, someone should ensure reason prevails here and it looks as though it won’t be the President of Croatia for he said a couple of days ago that his calls for dialogue have failed and that the situation is most serious.

One would expect a much more decisive action from the President than: “I’ve tried but they won’t come!”

In the meantime, since the government has done nothing in regards to the veterans’ calls for the 2011 census figures to be reviewed – a new count of people living in Vukovar area be done – the veterans’ are not standing idly but are pressing ahead with checking that census data themselves to see whether in fact there are not as many Serbs living there as the census said (about 34 %).  The veterans have forwarded a letter to the President and the Prime Minister in which they claim that the 2011 census figures are wrong, that Vukovar’s population does not consist of one-third Serb ethnic minority (which is the point at which bilingual signage can be erected according to constitutional law/but not if it creates unrest) and in which they sent evidence of more than one thousand of Serb nationals who are according to 2011 census living in Vukovar but in fact are not there but living in Serbia or elsewhere or registered at non-existing addresses!

Corruption comes in many forms and one of those forms is evidently in the fact that the Croatian government at this stage does not want to check the facts regarding the number of people from ethnic minorities actually living there, the number of false registrations. Mind boggles as to why the government keeps its stubborn and chillingly aloof stance in this, pouring thus oil on the unrest, which many in the world would see as ethnic intolerance in Croatia!  Given that the veterans’ association has in a relatively short period pin-pointed to more than a thousand falsely registered Serbs in Vukovar (which is not a small number given the size of population) one has every right to be alarmed and concerned. Veterans have an absolute right to truth especially when that truth has and is hurting their lives, their families, their society. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps.(Syd)

Comments

  1. I’m always impressed by the way you grasp the facts and spread them before us in a way that tugs at our (my) heart.

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    • Thank you Patti Hall on this feedback. I guess when an issue moves us we then listen to our hearts and humanity it deserves; our mind then clears the thoughts that keep the heart pumping on that long voyage that is justice

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      • Good description. I wish this was the kind of writing that came out in the regular media news…

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      • Hence, Patti Hall – we the bloggers exist 😀 Journalists report factual news (which is their job) but one would like them to conclude with “what’s you take on this” … as news touches human lives in one way or another …

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  2. It’s too bad the Croatian government didn’t take a more respectful approach to address the Sotin victims and their families.

    The government must not ignore the bilingual issue – talks must be held ASAP!

    I hope the families of the victims find some comfort in knowing where their loved ones rest – RIP.

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  3. Reblogged this on sachemspeaks and commented:
    My prayers are with you all this day.

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  4. I stand next to you in remembering all those who we have lost so horribly; my thanks for not letting us forget…

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  5. “Truth and justice must charge on,” to use your words, Ms. Vukic–yes–in every situation of inequality or corruption. And hard evidence and facts are the only dependable ways to establish credibility in the eyes of the larger global community. The Croatian veterans are to be applauded for initiating and continuing the research into the census numbers, for it is obvious that the Government has a different agenda (whatever that agenda might be).
    I query a line from your second-to-last paragraph, and that is with respect to bilingual signage :..”at which point bilingual signage can be erected according to constitutional law/but not if it creates unrest.” What then constitutes “unrest”?

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    • Thank you jasna guy – the “unrest” used here refers to that the law provides that in the event of applying the minority rights to bilingualism the government must ensure that such an implementation does NOT cause a disturbance in the relationship of the ethnic minority with the national majority (Croatian), that is that the realisation of those rights must not come at the expense of dialogue, understanding, tolerance … and Article 8 of Ethnic minorities legislation says: this and associated laws (on ethnic minority rights) must be interpreted and applied with the aims of respect towards members of ethnic minorities and Croatian people, development of understanding, solidarity, tolerance and dialogue between them. I would argue that what we are seeing around this in Croatia constitutes unrest – there are rallies, there are press releases, there are Serb reps making inappropriate and at times threatening statements, the country’s president just a couple of days said ït’s signs now, what will be tomorrow – someone will hurt someone…”etc etc So yes if an issue occupies so much time and energy where it’s blatantly visible that unrest exists, it’s unrest as far as interpreting the law is concerned, I truly believe even if I am not a lawyer…and I guess most except the government and Serbs, agree

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  6. What a horrible legacy. Those who perpetrate or acquiesce to the injustices of hate must be condemned.

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  7. Thank-you, Ina, for another post close to my heart! I remember Sotin in 1993. We (in the UN) were aware of the mass grave and were concerned the bodies would be removed and hidden elsewhere. The local Serbs were all armed (despite most having “civilian” status) and would not allow us to see the evidence of their crimes. The war may be over, but justice and peace of mind remain elusive….

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  8. Reblogged this on Eyes of the Mind.

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  9. Why did government officials even bother showing up at the funeral? They don’t show any respect for the people they lead, for victims of Vukovar and all victims of the Homeland war. Their presence is unnecessary at all funerals and memorials if they will continue to spit in the faces of victims and at history itself. It boggles the mind how any adult can behave like Croatian politicians have been doing for the past few years, without facing repercussions. Croatia truly has a problem with leadership, with people at the top and that extends outside of politics. It’s time to really start addressing this.

    RIP to all victims and I hope their families can find some comfort in knowing there are still many people who are on their side.

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    • Kat, I hear that the Prime Minister has – finally- agreed to go to Vukovar and meet with the veterans who have been protesting bilingual signs and seeking special piety status for Vukovar. But judging from past ways of members of this government it’d take quite a bit to move forward towards achieving that.

      The sad, sad thing about the families of Sotin victims is that they themselves had to mount private investigations in Serbia, where the murderers live, to find out where mass graves are/were because the governments had achieved nothing, neither had the presidents…

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  10. Buna seara !
    Dupa terminarea preliminariilor CM 2014 BRAZILIA,
    atat CROATIA cat si ROMANIA
    s-au clasat pe locul DOI in grupele din care au facut parte !
    Datorita rezultatelor mai bune obtinute,
    CROATIA va fi CAP DE SERIE la tragerea la sorti pentru
    BARAJUL ce se va disputa in 15 si 19 noiembrie 2013
    in timp ce ROMANIA nu este !!!
    In consecinta, SORTII pot scoate din urna
    pentru CROATIA,
    chiar pe ROMANIA !!!
    Cu mult timp in urma, pe blogul dumneavoastra,
    nu stiu la ce articol, afirmat :
    – Mi-ar placea sa vin la ZAGREB cu ocazia BARAJULUI de calificare la CM 2014 BRAZILIA,
    dintre CROATIA-ROMANIA !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Ce spuneti de asta ???
    Forza CROATIA !!!
    Forza ROMANIA !!!
    O seara frumoasa !
    Cu respect,
    Aliosa.

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    • Google translate of Aliosa comment: Good evening!
      After the 2014 Brazil WC,
      and so ROMANIA CROATIA
      were ranked second in the groups that were part!
      Due to the better results obtained
      Croatia will be seeded in the draw for
      DAM which will be held on 15 and 19 November 2013
      While Romania is not!
      Consequently, fate can bring in box
      for Croatia,
      even Roman!
      A long time ago on your blog,
      do not know what article said:
      – I would love to come to Zagreb during qualifying dam CM 2014 Brazil,
      of-ROMANIA CROATIA!!!!!!
      How about this???
      Forza CROATIA!
      Forza ROMANIA!
      A beautiful evening!
      Regards,
      Alyosha.

      REPLY: Thank you Aliosa – Google has probably made mistakes in translating from Romanian but that is not important because I and readers who do not know Romanian language enough can read what you mean. Thank you so much.

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  11. It makes me sad….so sad to see what men can do to one another. I don’t want to imagine it.

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  12. Such an excellent post. What does one say to this other than when will all the madness end? My heart goes out to all who’ve been hurt, wounded, killed, and not helped in any way. Tragic. Thank you for being a very needed voice. Paulette

    Like

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