For Victims Of Communist Crimes In Croatia

Goli Otok/Barren Island
Political horror prison in
Croatia during communist regime
Photo: Caters News Agency

Last week, 23 August 2017 was a very significant day for the free world; it was the Black Ribbon Day, the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Totalitarian Regimes in Europe. The profoundest of human sufferings caused by totalitarian regimes has for years been remembered on a global scale particularly to do with the persecution and mass murders of Jewish people. The other side of the terrible human suffering caused by the communist regimes has not been exposed to the equal extent and as such, this fact suggests that those associated in any way in protecting the communist totalitarian regime from being exposed for its horrors have “friends” in “high places”. I say this because the communist regime has not been deservedly, justly and absolutely rejected, particularly in Croatia that has so far evaded lustration. The sheer enormity of the number of victims of communist crimes, awaiting justice in the background in Croatia, make the rather frequent celebrations in public of that regime enough to make blood boil.

The horror and terror of the communist totalitarian regime in Croatia over decades can, among multitudes of mass graves and pits, be demonstrated through considering the cruel and fearsome prison island of “Goli Otok” (Barren Island), where according to Amnesty International, 50,000 of political prisoners were held, 600 of which died a horrible death there, often caused by the consequences of prisoners being forced to beat each other “to a pulp”.

Inside Goli Otok prison today
Photo: Caters News Agency

“Goli Otok” has been likened by some to Alkatraz and branded “Croatian Alkatraz” and one wonders why this is so? Is it for the reason of trying to make Goli Otok into what it was not – a maximum security prison for those convicted of having committed real criminal offences. Prisoners of “Goli Otok” were political prisoners, prisoners of conscience. While not being politically inclined towards the communist party was not a real crime it was made so by the communist totalitarian regime. It is in this branding of Goli Otok as Croatian Alcatraz that one can see a yet another malicious attempt to “soften” the horror communist Yugoslavia dished out to people of differing political inclinations.

In the 40 years it was open from 1949, Goli Otok served as example of the ultimate horror of the communist totalitarian regime.

Inside Goli Otok prison today
Photo: Caters News Agency

Prisoner accounts described the place as a ‘living hell’ of torture of innocent people. Despite being abandoned for 28 years now, the haunting history of Goli Otok can still be felt there. The history of the horrible and oppressive communist regime in Croatia makes Goli Otok a chilling place to be in, to remember. Much like the Gulags in Russia only forced hard labour being a minor aspect of Goli Otok compared to tortures and persecutions and horrible deaths. Goli Otok equals in its entirety to crimes against humanity. Goli Otok was the only Gulag-like site in Europe and that in itself demonstrates the horror of the communist regime in Croatia that was not different to Stalin’s Gulags which saw many millions perish in communist purges.

Zelimir Kuzatko at Goli Otok
23 August 2017
Photo: Facebook

Eighty two year old Zelimir Kuzatko, Goli Otok survivor, visits the former communist prison site every year and he was there last week. “We all received the same indictment, acts against the nation and the state, we all received the same accusations and the same sentences, from five years to death,” he said last week while laying down a wreath in remembrance of victims.

Chilling horror runs though the Goli Otok prison survivors as they remember.

The six of us received 33 years of prison in total,” said another survivor, Zeljko Crnogorac.

If you came to Goli Otok and said you were not guilty, that you are innocent, then you could not survive,” said Tadija Zubak, a former political prisoner there.

In remembrance for the victims of the communist totalitarian regime – Ina Vukic.


Human Rights in Serbia don’t mean much, research suggests

Serbian concentration camp Trnopolje Photo: Reuters 1992

According to the Croatian Defenders internet portal more than 70% of Serbian citizens have a negative attitude towards the Hague tribunal (International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia/ICTY) and consider that the Hague trials do not contribute to the reconciliation process.

These are the results from recent research ordered by the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights and OSCE Mission in Serbia (Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe), carried out by Ipsos Strategic Marketing and presented to the public on Tuesday February 28. A representative sample of citizens over 16 years of age was surveyed in this research.

The research showed that 66% of Serbian citizens consider the establishment of the Hague tribunal unnecessary, and that the purpose of the Hague court is to transfer the guilt for the war and war victims onto Serbia.

Half of those surveyed consider that Radovan Karadzic is not responsible for the crimes he is charged with, and 41% consider Ratko Mladic should not have been arrested nor handed over to ICTY.

Croatian news portal Nacional on the subject of the same research writes that 45% of research participants stated that everyone should judge their own people. 12% consider that it’s not important in which country or which institution carry out trials for war crimes.

16% hold that in order to achieve justice, it’s necessary to cooperate with the ICTY. 19% hold that cooperation with the ICTY is only necessary to the extent by which it prevents further pressure. 40% hold that cooperation with the Hague is not welcome because it has not in any way benefitted Serbia. A dozen or so consider cooperation with ICTY necessary as a condition for Serbia’s accession to European Union.

Just over 20% hold that reconciliation is a key factor for future relations between the countries of former Yugoslavia. With this, 34% consider apologies by state leaders beneficial while 57% think apologies are useless.

Given that this research stipulates that those surveyed form a representative sample of citizens of Serbia it seems as clear as a sunny day that Serbs have not accepted, nor do they intend to accept, the fact that it WAS they who started the horrific wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1990’s.

Furthermore the concept of human rights does not, for Serbs, spread beyond Serbia – as if there are no humans outside it. They want the world to leave them alone to judge their own people and if the world is to get involved then Serbs want Serbia to benefit from that.

Indeed, judging by the results of this research it seems that for a whopping slice of Serbian population Srebrenica, Vukovar, Skabrnja, Sibenik, Zadar … million refugees, countless rapes and tortures, numerous concentration camps across Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia – did not happen!

Now that Serbia has received the status of candidate for EU accession (with unjustifiable ease) let’s wait and see if the EU, International Human Rights watch and Amnesty International will criticise Serbs for their protective stance on war crimes committed by their people and hostility towards internationally administered justice. These three international bodies have always been so quick to react against Croatia and make her path to EU accession an undeserved nightmare. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A.,M.A.Ps.(Syd)

“List of war criminals in Vukovar, Velepromet concentration camp and Ovcara” (Croatia 1991)

Amnesty International – is discrimination against some victims apparent?

Amnesty International (AI) mission statement: “to undertake research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression, and freedom from discrimination–in the context of our work to promote all human rights, as articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights“.

The approach that Amnesty International seems to be taking in its Press Releases and website postings with regards to victims of the war in former Yugoslavia (1991-1995) looks quite biased, against Croatian and non-Serb victims.

When one visits its website and searches the archives one wonders why all victims of that war and why all convicted war criminals are not treated the same, or afforded same/equal attention?

The only common-sense answer is that Amnesty International may be playing political games of equating the victims with the aggressor when it comes to Croatia.

It most likely is aware of the fact that justice needs to be seen to have been done for all victims, regardless of ethnicity?

If one searches the AI website for persons convicted of war crimes in Croatia one would find an odd (to say the least) imbalance. E.g.

Zorana Badic (Serb convicted of Skabrnje massacres of Croatians) – no AI Press Release specifically for the victims/Zero postings on the case on AI website;

Milan Babic (Serb, convicted and sentenced to 13 years by ICTY for ethnic cleansing of Croatians and Non-Serbs in Croatia) – no AI Press Release specifically for the victims/ 1 post on AI website;

Miodrag Jokic (Serb, convicted and sentenced by ICTY for killings and destruction of Dubrovnik, Croatia) – no AI Press Release specifically for the victims/no postings on AI website;

Pavle Strugar (Serb, convicted and sentenced by ICTY for war crimes against Croatians in Croatia) – no AI Press Release specifically for the victims/2 postings on AI website;

Milan Martic (Serb, convicted and sentenced by ICTY for war crimes against Croatians and non-Serbs in Croatia) – no AI Press Release specifically for the victims/3 postings on AI website;

Mile Mrksic (Serb, convicted and sentenced by ICTY for war crimes against Croatians in Croatia/Vukovar) – no AI Press Release specifically for the victims/ 5 postings on AI website;

Veselin Sljivcanin (Serb, convicted and sentenced by ICTY for war crimes against Croatians in Croatia/Vukovar) – no AI Press Release specifically for the victims/no postings on AI website;

Damir Sireta – (convicted and sentenced by ICTY for war crimes against Croatians in Croatia/Vukovar) – no AI Press Release specifically for the victims/ one posting on AI website;

Mirko Norac (Croat – convicted and sentenced for war crimes against Serbs in Croatia) – no AI Press Release specifically for the victims/24 postings on AI website;

Ante Gotovina (Croat – convicted and sentenced [now on Appeal] for war crimes against Serbs in Croatia) – AI posts for the victims  /29 postings on AI website

Mladen Markac (Croat – convicted and sentenced [now on Appeal] for war crimes against Serbs in Croatia) – same as for Ante Gotovina

Only a brief or simple analysis of the AI website postings would suggest that AI does not give equal and deserved attention to all victims. I.e., fails to offer the Croatian and other non-Serb victims the same/equal attention as it offers the Serb victims.

On 23 December 2011 AI issued another Press Release with regards to Croatia and its processing of its alleged war criminals; urging the new government to “deal with its past in order to move forward”,

Now, the Yugoslavia crisis (1991-1995) did not start on its own; there were aggressors i.e. Serbs that devastated both Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Croatian and Non-Serb people in both countries suffered murder, ethnic cleansing, genocide, rape, wanton destruction of property and other almost unimaginable crimes. In August 1995 Croatia set out to liberate its Serb-occupied sovereign territory.

This press release calls upon Croatia to do more in regards to investigating war crimes and that it must deal with its past in order to move forward. Particularly, it talks of Croatia’s responsibilities vis-a-vis joining the EU by 2013.

It is not a good or balanced approach Amnesty International is taking with this Press Release.

Since it refers to the war in former Yugoslavia and atrocities committed one would have expected that Nicola Duckworth (Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme Director) would address the question of Serbia and Serb war crimes as well as those of Bosnia and Hercegovina. After all, both of these have expressed a wish to become members of the EU.

It seems that Amnesty International is sadly taking the path of isolating different parts of the former Yugoslavia conflict and talking of each separately as though they were not associated.

This, in my opinion, among other things makes Amnesty International an organisation that is failing its Mission and becoming a political force. If it were not a political force then I would expect that website postings and press releases about victims from each ethnic group would be balanced and realistic.

Amnesty international should have, in the same breath of its press release dated 23 December 2011, called upon Serbia and Bosnia and Hercegovina to deal with their pasts as well.

Also, since she is talking about “the past”, Nicola Duckworth surely knows that there are other past events which need to be dealt with and which linger in the nations as unjust for the victims? E.g., the Communist crimes of WWII in the region must also be dealt with. Serbia should do more to address its persecution and extermination of its own Jews (94%) by mid-1942 …

Much of the past is intertwined between the countries in this region and one simply cannot ask one country to deal with it and not the others. That’s irresponsible, as far as I can see.

I completely agree that pasts must be dealt with but I do not agree with Nicola Duckworth’s selective and fragmented approach in this matter.

It is wrong in my opinion and it fuels ongoing injustice for all victims. All victims should be afforded the same respect and attention by the very website that purports to hold a candle for the world’s victims. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb), B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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