Failure To Expose Communism Crimes Gravely Harms Croatia – Robin Harris

British Historian, university lecturer, author, commentator, journalist, former Advisor to UK  Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Vice President of COK (Croatian Centre of Cultural Renewal) based in Zagreb, Croatia, Dr. Robin Harris has 27 September 2022 delivered a lecture on the importance of National Sovereignty at the Centre for the Renewal of Culture – New Direction Young Leaders summer school in Split, Croatia.

It was and is a most relevant lecture because it succinctly and most aptly paints the reality of today’s Croatia whose political and government echelons are poisoned with former communists or their undemocratically indoctrinated offspring who largely disrespect and ignore the reason why Croatia so intensely wanted to secede from former communist Yugoslavia. Rivers of blood and thousands of Croatian lives were lost to achieve the sovereignty of Croatia, independence from communist Yugoslavia and, thirty years on the transition from communist practices has not shifted much, fearmongering, oppression, corruption, nepotism, denial of horrendous communist crimes and mass murders, political prisoners…as if the 1990’s Homeland War had never occurred! What a tragedy for democracy and prosperity and freedom.

Here is what Dr. Robin Harris said in his lecture recently:  

“…Lustration is a word, an idea, that by one means or another one would either break the link between the communist regime and the post-communist democratic regime or at least expose those who had been involved, particularly involved in the nefarious practices under the old regime so that anybody who decided to vote for them or promote them would know what they were doing. In practice it was also intended, and perhaps most importantly intended to change the atmosphere.

But in society collective guilt is a very important things and sense of collective guilt is always being manipulated by the media or manipulated by outsiders in one way or another. I’ll just give a little example: in the Croatian War of Independence, what they call the Homeland War, appalling atrocities were committed by the Serbs. Beyond description. Nothing that had been seen both in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, atrocities that nobody had seen since the Second World War. Now, far from actually apologising for that, what Serbs did and have done with great effectiveness is to refocus attention on real atrocities committed by the Ustasha, the Croatian fascist movement, essentially under the wing of the Nazis during the Second World War. So, in fact we forget the more recent atrocities which are still fresh, there are people walking with only one leg, or in some terrible mental state because of these latest atrocities, we’re meant to focus on things in the past.

This kind of manipulation is very important but of course on the other side this is part of what politics is about. We have to make our enemies, not personal enemies but the enemies of what we believe in, we want them to feel guilty. Or even if they don’t actually feel guilty, this is important, there is a distinction, we have to make them feel ashamed. Because shame is a public thing …

But in fact, because there has been no lustration, no exposure of who was what under the communist regime, cruel communist regime under Tito, here (in Croatia) or any other bits of former Yugoslavia, people are prepared and able to carry on, the elite of this country is able to carry on as if nothing happened.  And as a result, almost all of those who are running the country in one way or another, I’m not just talking about politics but politics, business, and judiciary, these are people who are basically part of the old communist stock. These are communist mentality people who got their education, in many cases by stipendiat (scholarship), stipendiat which were available to those who were the offspring of communism party and were not to those who were not. And we are not talking just about those who were imprisoned.

And as late as 1988, former NDH (WWII Independent State of Croatia) Minister Artukovic was extradited and given a very long-life sentence, I can’t remember, for crimes committed during the Second World War. I’m not going to defend Artukovic, that’s not the point, but the point is this was about things that had been done decades before and not one successful prosecution has ever taken place in this country against anybody who committed any murders or atrocities under communism. Not one! Nor will it be because they do not want to know the truth.

The truth may as Our Lord says set you free, but it can also put you in prison.

And that unfortunately is one of the pillars of modern Croatian state – a denial of the communist past and the atrocities committed under it.

And I can say that to somebody from outside; I don’t care what anybody thinks. And that, the fact is that when the German court in Munich found two former very senior Croat Secret Policemen guilty of murder of a man called Djurekovic, they were finally extradited after a law that the Sabor (Parliament) had passed, stopping the extradition, had to be quashed and they were extradited and finally sentenced and now there is pressure that these people should be freed by the president of Croatia. And so not only is it true that nobody who had committed crimes under communism has been prosecuted here (in Croatia), the general view is that nobody who has committed crimes against Croats overseas should even serve any prison sentence at all. I would say this in fundamentally unjust and till you and others are prepared to face up to this and do something about it there will be problems in the Croatian state.”

Ina Vukic

Day of Remembering the Victims of Croatia War of Independence and Day of Remembering Victims of Vukovar and Skabrnja

Holy Cross at Ovcara Farm, Vukovar, Croatia
Holy Cross at Ovcara Farm, Vukovar, Croatia adorned with rosary beads from pilgrims and mourners

November 18 the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Homeland War and the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Vukovar and Škabrnja.

When Croatia formally declared independence on 25 June 1991, its Serb minority openly renounced the authority of the newly proclaimed state. In August 1990, the rebellion started, and in 1991, backed by the Serb-dominated Yugoslav People’s Army (YPA/Jugoslavenska narodna armija/JNA) and Serbian authorities, the insurgents declared an independent Serbian state covering one-third of Croatia’s territory, intending to carry out systematic ethnic cleansing of Croats and other non-Serbian populations. From mid-1991, almost the entire territory of the Republic of Croatia was affected by heavy fighting, ethnic cleansing of Croats from the Serb-occupied areas, torture, rape, destruction…

The city of Vukovar today, 18 November 2022, marks 31 years since the collapse of the city’s heroic defence and the aggression of the former Yugoslav National Army (JNA) and Serb paramilitaries, in which some 3,000 Croatian veterans and civilians were killed and went missing, and the city was almost razed to the ground.

The city of Vukovar, on the Danube, was under siege for 87 days, and the battle for Vukovar ended on November 18, 1991, with its occupation which lasted until January 15, 1998 and the peaceful reintegration of the Croatian Eastern Slavonia and Western Syrmia and Baranja area ended the Serb occupation in the region. Ethnic cleansing of Croats and non-Serbs from the region meant that many were tortured, killed or turned into refugees and displaced masses. After the Peaceful Reintegration of the region, which regretfully gave hundreds of Serbs who fled to Serbia in fear of retribution for their heinous crimes amnesty against being prosecuted for war crimes, the Vukovar Croats and other people finally began returning to their home city to build life anew among the ruins and devastation.

Although fighting and clashes in and around Vukovar began earlier, e.g. Borovo village on the outskirts of Vukovar that saw a massacre of twelve Croatian policemen by local rebel Serbs, August 25, 1991 is usually cited as the date of the start of the Battle for Vukovar when the JNA and Serb paramilitaries launched a general tank-infantry attack with the intention of capturing the city in a week at most. However, the Croatian defenders, although numerically ten times weaker in terms of weapons, managed to last almost three months. Their defence was weakened and obstructed severely by the UN Arms Embargo and the Yugoslav Army was considered to be the third largest in Europe. Began ethnic cleansing of Croats from Vukovar, hundreds of Croatian civilians and defence volunteer men forcefully taken to concentration camps and prisons within Serbia – such as Begejci, Sremska Mitrovica and Stajicevo –  and later Serbs opening new concentration camps near Vukovar (e.g. Velepromet and Ovcara) where torture, rape and murder were daily horrors endured. The residents that still remained in Vukovar were without electricity and an orderly supply of water and food as a full-blown attack saw hundreds of projectiles fell on the city every day with tank and air attacks.

Hence, the Yugoslav People’s Army, aided by Serb Territorial forces and paramilitaries from Serbia, launched a full-blown attack on Vukovar in eastern Croatia on August 25, 1991, beginning a siege that would last for 87 days and leave thousands of Croat soldiers and civilians dead before the town’s Croatian defenders had to surrender.

The Vukovar hospital suffered extensive damage from Serb shelling despite the International Red Cross visibly painted on its roof, and the treating of the wounded was provided in impossible conditions in the hospital basement. On October 19, 1991, a humanitarian convoy of Doctors Without Borders managed to enter the besieged city of Vukovar, rescuing about a hundred wounded veterans from the hospital.

Vukovar was defended by about 1,800 Croatian defenders, including many volunteers from all over Croatia and from the diaspora as well as foreigners from countries like France, Germany, Ireland and on the opposite side were about 30,000 enemy soldiers, aided by more than 600 tanks, hundreds of mortars and cannons, and the air force.

The heroic Croatian resistance was broken on November 18, 1991. Part of the Croatian defenders tried to get out of the city in breakthroughs. Those who remained were taken to Serb concentration camps, and many were killed. On November 19, the Yugoslav army evacuated the wounded, veterans, and civilians from the Vukovar hospital, who were killed on the night of November 20-21 at the nearby Ovčara farm. 200 victims were exhumed from the mass grave in Ovčara, the youngest of whom was 16 years old, and the oldest 84 years old. Subsequent forensic investigation of a mass grave at Ovčara farm of victims killed by the Serbian army in 1991 showed that 198 male and 2 female bodies (one of a pregnant woman) in civilian clothes were exhumated from the site. The determined manner of death for all 200 exhumed bodies was homicide, and the cause of death for 95% of the victims was a gunshot wound to a vital part of the body, in 67% of cases to the head. Traces of medical treatment and hospital workwear were found on 53% of the victims.

About 22,000 Croats and other non-Serbs were expelled, ethnically cleansed, from the city.

On October 29, 1999, the Croatian Parliament passed a decision to proclaim the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Vukovar in 1991 in order to pay tribute with dignity and appropriateness to all participants in the defence of that city – the symbol of Croatian freedom. By the decision of the Government from 2019, November 18 was declared a holiday and a non-working day and is marked as the Day of Remembrance for the victims of the Homeland War and the Day of Remembrance for the victims of Vukovar and Skabrnja.

The Škabrnja massacre (Škabrnja), also known as Skabrnja and Nadin massacre, was a war crime perpetrated by Serb Army forces during the Croatian War of Independence. On November 18, 1991, Serb paramilitaries, supported by the Yugoslav People’s Army/JNA, captured the village of Skabrnja, some 25 kilometres east of the coastal city of Zadar, and murdered, massacred, 62 civilians and 5 prisoners of war. The massacre occurred shortly after an agreement to evacuate Zadar’s YPA/JNA garrison following an increase in fighting between the Croatian National Guard and the Yugoslav People’s Army. Most of the killings were committed by the Self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina troops which followed the leading armoured Yugoslav Army units fighting their way into Skabrnja on 18 November. During the initial attack, the attacking force employed a human shield of captured Croatian civilians forced to walk in front of armoured vehicles. Most of the civilian population fled the village and about 120–130 were captured by the Yugoslav Army and detained in the village school and kindergarten. However, others who took shelter in basements were killed in or just outside their homes. A portion of those killed in the massacre were buried in a mass grave in Skabrnja, while dozens of bodies were turned over to Croatian authorities.

Afterwards several Croatians also died there when stepping on landmines left by Serbs. In total, 86 people were killed, mostly the women, or the elderly during the war in Skabrnja village. Skabrnja and Nadin were ethnically cleansed of its Croatian and other non-Serb population and annexed to the Self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina, remaining there until the Croatian forces reintegrated them back in 1995 with the swift, heroic, and determined military operation “Storm”.

To recapture, thirty-one years ago, on 18 November 1991, after three months of siege, the almost completely destroyed Vukovar was occupied by attacking Yugoslav People’s Army and Serbian rebels. On the same day, about 300 kilometres south-west of Vukovar, 62 civilians and 5 prisoners of war, mostly of Croatian nationality, were killed in a massacre in the small villages of Skabrnja and nearby Nadin. These two tragic events marked November 18 as the saddest moment of recent Croatian history that captures the horror and terror that Croats endured just because they wanted to secede from communist Yugoslavia and become an independent democratic state. The tragedies in Vukovar and Skabrnja have become symbols of suffering and will forever remind future generations of the victims who gave their lives for a free and independent Croatia. Lest Te Forget! Ina Vukic

Croatia: Communism Camouflaging as Liberalism and/or Conservatism?

Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic seems increasingly irritated by the fact that the Anti-corruption Parliamentary Council, intended for monitoring progress of fight against corruption, is largely comprised of parliamentary opposition members who have wowed to investigate further the biggest heist, theft, of the century associated with the national INA petroleum company. In the past several days he has threatened to come down against anyone trying to bring down his government, even those seeking the truths about national affairs affecting all citizens, with all repressive measures available to him and accused the opposition in the past week, without any proof or evidence, of being puppets of some external forces that are trying to topple his democratically elected government! His loudest partner in attacking the opposition is the repulsive, allegedly perpetually corrupt Branko Bacic, former communist operative, current President of HDZ Party parliamentary club whose time in government and parliament would have ceased a long time ago were it not for corrupt elections and corrupt-like pressures that had surely swayed many voters in his electorate to vote for him. Both Plenkovic and Bacic in their public outbursts fail to appreciate, most likely purposefully, that toppling an inefficient or allegedly inefficient government, particularly the one whose ministers have been brought down from their position due to corruption or associations with it, is the most holy duty a democracy has!

It is certainly deeply vexing that a government would invest so much energy in attacking members of its parliamentary Anti-corruption Council and those invited to give testimony etc. Andrej Plenkovic’s government has been doing just that and one must ask why.

The right thing to do in anyone’s books, except in those of the corrupt, is that matters of corruption should be freely examined by anyone who wishes to do so without fear of insults or reprisals. Evidently, not in Croatia!

The Parliamentary Anti-Corruption Council is convening a new round of public hearings “in order to shed light on the management issues of the trading company INA”. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, former Economy Minister Tomislav Coric, recently dismissed Croatian members of the INA board Niko Dalic, Barbara Doric and Darko Markotic, and their predecessors Ivan Kresic and Davor Mayer have been invited to give evidence at the hearings. The goal of the new round of hearings is to “improve management and prevent corruption in companies and legal entities owned by the Republic of Croatia, especially those that are of special importance to the Republic of Croatia.”

It will be interesting to see if any of these invitees appear at the hearings. It would seem that governing HDZ party’s labelling the Council via Branko Bacic illegal may be another way of making the fight against corruption even more difficult or simply a symptom of underlying fear of the truth?

The Anti-corruption Council is the only working body of the Croatian Parliament in which the majority members are from the opposition, and it is indicative of deep corruption and/or dishonesty that attempts are made to ban public hearings only when Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic is called to answer before parliament about one of the biggest corruption scandals in the country’s history (INA affair). Referring to illegality of the Council is wrong, and Branko Bacic is acting abominably and deceitfully if for nothing else then because the Rules of Parliamentary Procedure are not a law of the country, but a parliament by-law, and therefore, there should be no question of the illegality of the work of that working body by anyone.

In a country riddled with corruption, such as Croatia, the obstruction of the work of the Anti-corruption Council is a horrific blow to democracy and it shows well that the Government’s fight against corruption is more about stopping the full truth and the processing of such crimes than about healing Croatia from that crippling disease Croatia was infected with during its life within communist Yugoslavia. Obstruction and cover-up of the Government’s and HDZ’s responsibility in the INA affair has, in effect, been the current and past anti-corruption strategy of all ruling political parties since year 2000 – and that in essence is communism as Croatia knew it under the totalitarian regime of Yugoslavia.

Lo and behold, on 13 October Plenkovic said he would not attend the Anti-corruption Council’s hearings as invited. Journalists asked him why he would not respond to the Anti-Corruption Council received the following reply from him: “To whom? Who should I respond. You have a team there that is inviting a guy who is accused of mega-scale corruption. What are we going to learn about his skills there, how to throw a cell phone in a river, carry huge sums of money in bags? What are we talking about? You also must look at it realistically what is the credibility of these people. On the other hand, you have MOST (Coalition of Independent Parties), who, since I kicked them out of the government, have a fixed idea of ​​overthrowing the government, that is their main sport. I don’t care who they will call and who will respond to them. I will not respond.”

My question to the Prime Minister of Croatia would be: What kind of a person, what kind of a Prime Minister characterises a citizen accused of a crime as a criminal before that citizen is found guilty by the courts!? In a true democracy the answer is clear!

Independent Member of Croatian Parliament Karolina Vidovic Kristo has October  13, 2022, emphasised the following in her speech in parliament: “Plenkovic and leading politicians in Croatia, starting with self-proclaimed analysts, insult anyone who asks for informed and evidence-based explanations or presents facts… Public opinion agencies have found that about 70% of citizens believe that Croatia is going in the wrong direction… Examples are the case of INA in which the facts are indisputable because Andrej Plenkovic’s and his government’s corruption in the case of the Sisak refinery has been proven, and treason has also been proven…Croatian citizens feel the dysfunctionality of all important state segments…In 2022 the current German Chancellor Olaf Scholz properly responds to the invitation of the investigative committee of the Hamburg city senate, the federal level outside his formal responsibility, regarding the so-called CumEx affair. This is exactly an example of a functional rule of law and European values. Croatian Prime Minister Plenkovic does not come to the Croatian Parliament to answer for his actions, he does not respect the laws, he does not respect Croatian citizens, he does not respect the Croatian state. He keeps Croatia in lawlessness and the Balkan mire. But know, you arrogant powerful people, the time of reckoning is coming very soon, and we will organise Croatia as a fair and just country.

I have written several articles in the past several years on the issue of lack of government will and skill to rid Croatia of corruption and nepotism even though a few high-level personalities have been found guilty of corruption while others remain in courts after more than a decade of indictments being served upon them. Even in these cases one has always been left cheated, as if something was missing, someone being protected. Justice has certainly not been seen as having been done and for justice to be seen to have been done is a very important ingredient of true democracy and well-functioning state. Whatever the government’s reasons to trash the Anti-corruption Council composition and its work at this time when INA grand theft of public money affair weighs heavily upon the Croatian people and their future no reasonable person could agree with such government behaviour. One would think that the government that boasts of its efforts to fight corruption would never try and stop or stifle anyone trying to do the same! After all, the more people included or involved, the better the chance of capturing most corrupt activities!

To transition fully from communist Yugoslavia and its legacy of corruption, to cleanse a country of communism after five decades of communist totalitarian rule is only achievable with a strong, dedicated, unwavering national strategic plan, which no government in Croatia in past three decades, SDP/Social Democratic Party or HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union, has maintained or fully enforced. That was the first task of the democratic government after the Homeland War had ended and all Croatia’s territory returned to it from Serb occupation. No doubt, too many “skeletons” in the cupboard.

I guess Croatia is just one country in the modern world purporting to nurture pure democracy but if one digs under the surface, voila – pure communism wrapped up in liberalism or conservatism, depending on which political party holds the government.  The biggest lie in modern politics is that there is a genuine spectrum of political thought tolerated under a liberal democracy including its conservative variant.

While Croatian government and even leading opposition political parties such as SDP may portray themselves as subscribing to liberalism and the so-called progressive lot, and HDZ may often see itself wrapped up in liberalised conservatism, the reality is that in Croatia all these political ideologies and platforms are a pure camouflage for communism and its heritage. All governments in Croatia since year 2000 have been inflexible, oppressive, repressive in that they belittle and insult all views and opinions and efforts that are attempted in the name of democracy and against those in authority and power. There is, thanks be to the Lord, much opposition to this political charade that is impoverishing people’s lives and pushing multitudes to leave Croatia and seek a decent livelihood elsewhere.

The reality in Croatia is that every political idea that is presented to the public must not in any way criticise the government or suggest that it is not doing a good job, or it will be smothered and stifled and insulted by those in government authorities. It will be lost and pushed behind the life scenes to be forgotten.

It is through a kind of political kabuki theatre that the tropes are perpetuated for three decades now in Croatia, thus keeping the totalitarian communist Yugoslavia regime on life-supports!

The camouflaged communism in Croatia is seeing the increasing intrusion of authoritarian powers in democratic public discourse and one must pray it will crumble from within if not from external forces in Croatia. Not only does the Croatian Prime Minister and his government use authoritarian powers to pursue the government’s agenda, but they insist conceitedly he and his political partners are superior human beings who know best.

This translates into the frame of a democracy within which HDZ considers itself supreme, better, and more skilful at leading the country than any other political party or movement. With the control of mainstream media this is easy to install into the society but then again it is easy to see that such pursuits are far removed from democracy. In reality,  they are, communism camouflaged as liberalism and/or conservatism.   

When it comes to futile struggles in Croatia for the weaving into its Constitution, laws, and life the values of the 1990’s Homeland War, one cannot but confirm the correctness of widespread perceptions that Croatia is ruled by the former communist Yugoslavia mindset and immediate families of its operatives. The well-known slogan ‘Dare to fight, dare to win’ that originated from communist Mao Tse Tung seems to be and to have been the unspoken slogan adhered to by Croatia’s former communist operatives or their children or grandchildren holding any position of power or authority. It is because of this that Croats have come to know that victory against Serb and Yugoslav aggression in the 1990’s war of independence from communist Yugoslavia only prepared for repetition of what was hateful to the people, restoration of communist Yugoslavia values. But hopefully all that will change through general elections in the near future as the multitudes who have stayed away from casting their votes because of disappointment in politicians head to the polls. Ina Vukic

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