Croatia: End Sexual Violence In Conflict – Get Minister Vesna Pusic Out Of Project


William Hague and Angelina Jolie in Srebrenica, March 2014

William Hague and Angelina Jolie in Srebrenica, March 2014

Author of original text in Croatian: Vedrana Milas, Objektiv, 23 April 2014
Translated into English: Ina Vukic

In late March 2014, the International conference “Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict – A Stronger Role of Regional Security Forces on Peace Support Operations” was held in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was organised by the Ministry of Defense of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) with support from the Embassies of the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Norway. The establishment of a centre for education of preventing sexual violence in armed conflicts was announced at the conference and a new model of training soldiers and the police from the region who will be sent on peace missions was also presented.

This is a part of the Global campaign against sexual violence in war initiated in May 2012 by William Hague, chief of British diplomatic services and Angelina Jolie, actress and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. The initiative for the campaign arose from the movie “In the Land of Blood and Honey”, which talks about the rapes in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (during 1990’s war). Shocked by the small number of convictions for rape given the scale of the crime, British Foreign Secretary Hague had on 1st April stated for BBC: “I believe that our plan is to see that new international standards for investigation and prosecution of perpetrators of war crime of rape are brought about and help not only in the prevention of such crimes but also help the judicature with more efficient processing of the already committed crimes.” (Furthermore, Hague stated for BBC: “…I think we can do something, if we succeed and create the right international standards of investigation and prosecution so that people really are punished that justice is done when at least some of these crimes are committed …” ).

The processing of war crimes of rape is a key problem in Croatia, in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in other countries of the world who have been through wars and this initiative should contribute to a more efficient processing of war crimes of rape. Because of the inefficient judicature many victims of rape in Croatia, especially in the city of Vukovar, are forced to watch their rapists move freely, which has convicted the victims to a lifelong trauma. How large the problem is can be evidenced from the Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy at NATO Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic’s statement after the completion of the above conference in Sarajevo: “I am deeply ashamed for the fact that victims of violence on Croatian streets are forced to cross to the other side of the street in order to avoid encounter with their rapist”.

In the meantime, on 24th September 2013, at the sitting of the UN General Assembly a Declaration to End Sexual Violence in Conflict was made and a new international protocol on investigation and documenting of sexual violence in armed conflicts was completed and which will be presented at the “Global Summit To End Sexual Violence In Conflict” in June of this year in London by William Hague.

The road to the first codes against rape in war has been long and torturous, from the 19th century American Civil War (The Leiber Code) through Geneva Convention 1949, Nuremberg trials and Military courts in Japan, which saw the word rape mentioned for the first time in a judgment, although only in the category of crimes against humanity. It was only at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and for Rwanda (ICTR) that rape in conflict had been defined as war crime. The turning point is found in the ICTR Akayesu case where it was said that rape or sexual violence can be treated as genocide, if it is proved that the intention was to physically or psychologically destroy a certain group of people of a part of that group of people. The ICTY judgment in the case of Furundzija from 1998 represents a novum (a new thing) in the international court practice because that was the first judgment passed exclusively for the war crime of rape.

But, what was Croatian Minister for Foreign Affairs and European Affairs, Vesna Pusic doing in Sarajevo? The same woman who two years ago had no time for the raped women of Vukovar but instead invited them to march at the head of Split Gay Pride parade with the following words: “I would, however, expect these women, as victims of violence, to show solidarity with all other victims or potential victims of violence and I expect for them to be in the front rows at Split’s Pride!”  Yes, Vesna Pusic had in the year of 2012 sent a message to the victims of war crime of rape that the war crime is identical to the potential dangers for the members of a different sexual orientation!

The Croatian public was flabbergasted; numerous Homeland War associations, public personalities and ordinary citizens asked for Minister Pusic to step aside, but their voice was hardly heard, press silence covered up this most embarrassing gaff by a Minister since the day of Croatian independence. All these women wanted to ask Minister Pusic was to work on the internationalization of the problem of raped women, to use her bilateral meetings with her colleagues from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the countries in which members of the former Yugoslav Peoples Army and Serb paramilitary formations live or are hiding, and whose victims they themselves were. What mistakes did these women make, then? Perhaps in the timing because Serbia had in the same year received the status of EU candidate. Did Mrs Pusic cold-bloodedly assess that the moment for receiving the victims of rape was not convenient (?) – we will never know for sure.

This was not the first time that Minister Vesna Pusic was instrumental to war crime of rape: in 2006, in the Croatian parliament she accused the then president of the Constitutional court, Vice Vukojevic, for the raping of a Muslim woman in a camp in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Even though she found out about that “case” back in the late 1990’s when the former President, Stjepan Mesic, pulled a book out of somewhere, authored by the alleged victim, Pusic suddenly became interested in the case only in 2006, immediately after Judge Vukojevic’s testimony at a German court in the case of Krunoslav Prates for the murder of the Croatian emigrant Stjepan Djurekovic. After the 2011 investigation by the Swedish, American and Bosnian authorities confirmed that the woman does not exist, that the book was clearly a product of the Bosnian secret service AID, Pusic went all quiet. She had not even apologised for the five-year hell the Vukojevic family went through. While the manipulation with the crime of rape has in this case had the aim of compromising the credibility of Judge Vukojevic as a witness, the invitation to the women victims of rape to place themselves at the front of the Gay parade had its function in building her own popularity in the EU bodies and in collecting political points with the gay population. Does one really need to explain that not a single politician who has even a little of political intelligence – and a seed of humanity – would ever enter into manipulation with victims of any crime, and especially not with crime of rape.

Many praiseworthy initiatives would find it difficult to achieve success were it not for the efforts and promotion by public personalities from political and arts circles, because these people are the ones who ensure global visibility of projects and eventually – the finances. Sadly, the importance of living the values one preaches is sometimes lost in people involved with a certain project, i.e., that their moral integrity is at least – solid. Of course, this is especially important for campaigns associated with human rights.

The initiator of this project, Foreign Secretary William Hague, is a man of a flawless political biography and some initiatives such as his book about the life of the philanthropist William Wilberforce (the leader of the movement to abolish slavery in most countries of the British Empire in the 19th century who needs to be thanked for the Laws passed to abolish slavery) and his 2010 – when he was appointed a Secretary in David Cameron’s government – statement in which he said that he would seriously engage himself with the area of human rights – speak enough of his integrity.

The nomination of Angelina Jolie as UNHCR special envoy is a good choice because besides being a well-liked actress she has shown a characteristic of humanity by adopting several children from different countries. But, a person like Vesna Pusic, who has profoundly compromised herself on the issue of war crime of rape, does not represent a good choice – for sure! Is the British Foreign Secretary Hague aware of the fact that by nominating Vesna Pusic as one of the global promoters of the project the whole project is compromised? His duty as an initiator is to ensure that the people involved with the project are persons in whom the victims of war crime of rape must have trust. Minister Vesna Pusic is not that person – for sure!

It is a terrible realisation that we will not be able to punish some criminals because many who had suffered rape – especially men – do not want to speak, do not want to go through the trauma of court testimony,” said Marija Sliskovic, the president of the Croatian “Women in Homeland War Association”, for Objektiv. “That is why I think that the initiative started by the British Foreign Secretary Hague is something truly very important and big. We, in Croatia, have already contributed to this initiative by uncovering most of the criminals through our collection and published testimonies. All those who engage with the issue of rape as war crime must not stop until the very last accessible criminal is not processed. We need to look up to the Jews who, even though decades have passed since the Holocaust, are not stopping until the last living criminal against Jews is found. They know best what true suffering is.”


  1. Yes, even war needs rules. I am wondering how it can be enforced.

  2. I saw something somewhere about Croatia being or possibly being used as a strategic place in the Russian/Ukraine conflict…is this true?

    • Haven’t come across it yet, Kev, but given Croatia’s geographic position and NATO membership it wouldn’t surprise me logistics wise…I have though heard and read about comparisons of what Russia is doing in Ukraine to what Serbia did in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina during 1990’s – attempts at land-grabbing through force… it must NOT be permitted!

      • It’s always someone or other isn’t it? Why can’t countries just leaves others be? Power, greed and avarice is all it boils down to.

      • Too right, Kev – I often imagine a giant figure with a stick, chasing away from my midst those with power, greed and avarice … and the more “giants” there are the greater the likelihood for eventual success. Cheers

  3. I am awarding you The Butterfly Light award if you don’t accept awards, sorry about that, it’s just my way of saying thank you for coming by. For more details, please view this post Take care, Sage –I had a glance at some of my comments, and haven’t yet replied yet, but I believe you may have seen the award and thanked me. Here’s the link anyway, and if you did, you’re welcome, and I’ll be getting to the comments once I’m finished with notifications 🙂

  4. That day in 2012. when the minister of Foreign and European Affairs Mrs. Vesna Pusic called women victims of rape (most of them from Vukovar!) to join gay pride in Split in order to give support to gay population was one of the most awful events since the new coalition came into power. I personally “witnessed” how the admin staff on the Croatian Government Facebook profile frantically erased comments in which citizens were asking minister Pusic to step down immediately. Comments were coming and coming all day long…eventually, at the end of that day there were only 24 (or 26) left, only those in which people had asked that the minister at least apologized to these women. But she never had.
    That was one of the biggest humiliations of the Croatian victims of the war ever, aside the regular humiliation, in one way or another, of the Croatian war veterans. What was also shocking is that not a single gay association, not even one public person who declares him/her being gay solidarized with the victims, no one dared to say to Mrs Pusic, well, this was really not appropriate or something like that. The government made a quick damage control: they organized a meeting in the Committee for Gender Equality with only a few persons present (Minister of Justice, Minister Pusic and a few other) and TV crew was called to film a short, cold speech of minister Pusic to the effect that rape is one of the gravest crimes, etc. and that was broadcasted that same evening.

    • Vesna Pusic has shown no understanding, no empathy – nothing positive – for Croatian victims of war crimes of rape because if she had their plight would be at a better standing in Croatia now and they would not need to depend on international community to try and achieve justice … I had heard nothing from Vesna Pusic, for example, when about two years ago one convicted rapist in Vukovar, fled Vukovar to Serbia on the day of his sentencing… well Pusic hasn’t said much about that…

  5. wow. so disheartening.

    • A true shame that it has to come to this – that humanity need special projects to pursue justice for what should be a priority for judicature of any country.

  6. I have nominated you for the ‘Seed of Light Award’. Please accept this as my appreciation of your creativity and inspiration you’ve continued to be. Thank you! Regards,

  7. US author Kurt Vonnegut says in his book, “Slaughterhouse Five” that he saw a man shot for stealing a teapot. “S F” is about a great war crime committed by the Allies: the bombing of Dresden where 50,000 women, children, and old people were burned alive in one night.

    Noam Chomsky refers to the Nuremberg Trials as a litmus test for what a war crime is. But he seems to be overlooking the fact that the trial hadn’t ended when the US dropped the first atomic bomb and it was over when they dropped the second one.

    I think we simply need clear rules that state — ahead of time — if you steal a tea pot, you will be shot.

    • Yep, some “good old, no BS” rules need a comeback!

      • I was searching for something on one of my other blogs and I came across that story I mentioned to you a while back, “A cold day in May,” where Noam Chomsky took the time to come by my site, read it, and commented. 😀

        Here’s the link–

      • Thanks Donald, I do visit that site and read with great interest and agreement, often little time to comment to leave my footprint there and no like button 🙂 Cheers and thank you – I did leave a comment this time, though – and wasn’t it just too fantastic to get Noam Chomsky to comment 😀

      • I just don’t like the like button. I rarely ever use it myself.

        Just a few words is nice. Some people you just like. I could tell you were getting a bit steamed up at me over my comments on the Bob Dylan thread. So we dropped it, and we’re still good online friends. I think that’s what friends do. 😀

      • All good, Donald – still friends 😀

  8. Michael Silovic says:

    This article touches my heart in many ways for the victims and angers me even more when I read it. Many of you know from my past posts on this blog of how I feel about vesna Pusic and I could only hope that she gets hit by a car and suffers a fools death. I surely wouldn’t shed a tear.As to those walking the streets they deserve to meet the assassination squad for their terrible crimes on women , men and children. Sometimes street justice needs to prevail when the judicial system fails. I hope my thoughts weren’t to violent for this blog because in the end there are many walking the streets that shouldn’t be and since they are they should be looking over their shoulder with fear and shame.

    • Thank you for your comment, Michael – it is indeed not a good thing to wish ill unto people however your phrase belongs to sayings we often hear regarding wishes that someone ceases to perform their job, which they perform appallingly, causing suffering to others because of it. Vesna Pusic has had ample opportunities to ease the suffering of victims of war crime of rape as a minister in government and in communications with Serbia where many criminals have fled to etc. So wanting her out of her position is a thing hundreds of thousands of Croats want, I am sure, a you are one. This article of mine and issues in it will reach places where important. Cheers

  9. Yes.. Unfortunately in some cases rape is used as a terror tool in war. In such cases to investigate the crime you come up with the real culprits, rather the hierarchy that not only condones rape but uses it as a tool.
    Rape, gruesome and grotesque massacres have been and are still being used as tools of war.
    My personal opinion is that it is a waste of time “teaching” soldiers about rules, it simply will not work.. The only solution is to prosecute the perpetrator, prosecute the hierarchy and force the hierarchy to pay damages. Till this is done I dare say that such things will not change.
    As far as Vesna Pusic is concerned, she is well aware that rape was a tool of war especially amongst the Chetnik forces in order to traumatise and inflict fear in the civilian population. Vesna Pusic and the like do not wish to bring justice against the Chetnik hierarchy.

  10. Reblogged this on idealisticrebel and commented:
    War time rape is a crime against humanity. Perpetrators must be punished severely.

  11. This post is of great importance.

  12. This is distressing on all points. Rape is the ultimate victimization for any human being.

  13. Very informative! It’s a great work that you do. Such topics I don’t see much at all about in the news. Thanks for sharing this story. Yes, rape in times of war is horrific and country leaders need to take swift and effective means to protect their people against such terrors. I think it is in the African nations, where rape is a very huge threat in the daily lives during their civil wars. Very, very sad to have such fears to go even to the market to get food and necessities.

    • Thank you, sf, the way things are with this crime is a sad indictment of human race – hopefully with a strong international push it will not be for future generations

  14. Powerful last paragraph. Sad that it takes so long to right these wrongs.

  15. Antonija Oresko says:

    I’m so happy I found this blog and that we can vent our feelings, indignation and condemn the traitors of the country they should represent, like Vesna Pusic and the President , who are the worst enemies of Croatia, we feel they must have reached this position “with a little help from their friends” , that is the British establishment, which never gave up the idea of recreating the “Region” instead of ex-Jugoslavia, with Serbia ruling under the protection of GB- That is exactly the task Pusic and Josipovic have been assigned to and which they have been incessantly working on, with the cover up of the Croatian media, so that the masses in Croatia cannot see their aims. I can say I’m particularly sensitive about the war rape issue because I have known well some of the Young victims from around Vukovar, taken to various camps in Serbia and raped, starved, brutalized for months there until, released, they had to undergo another torture , the Birth of a child of horror, give it into adoption etc Imagine girls aged 12, 13 ,15 shocked, infected with all the possible infection the monsters could leave them, giving Birth ! A bear couldn’t survive it, after repeated rapes by 15.16 bearded , stinking, drunk monsters, trained to carry out mass rapes in Croatia and then in Bosnia ! They have all lived as free man in Croatia, Bosnia and mostly in their homeland, Serbia ! Vesna Pusic will never admit that, she is still carrying on with Milosevic’ ideas !

    • Thank you on your comment, Antonija Oresko – many still have a great deal to answer for but let’s hope Vesna Pusic will not bug us from government for too long… she’s an atrocious politician with no sensitive to the needs of victims

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