Croatia: Discord Between High Places Continues to Undermine Transitioning From Communist To Democratic Mindset

If one concluded from the political events that lead to developments of a cautious, unhappy and angry significantly sized pool of people in Croatia one could easily observe that the thrust of the government’s and the president’s policies include imposition of anarchy and the public’s rolling in discord as well as the continuation of corruption and injustice. Constructive suggestions to various matters are met with antagonism and disapproval as if people and government opposition are incapable o sound decisions and constructive proposals.  

What a terrible, “knee-jerking” week it has been in Croatia again. Confusion, disappointments, anger, sarcasm…disgust! It is difficult to know who is at fault, for what seems to be a perpetual conflict between the Office of the Prime Minister and the Office of the President lasting several years. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic was in constant conflict with the former President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic (and she stemmed from the same political party as he/ HDZ) and is continuing the same with President Zoran Milanovic, who stems originally from SDP/ former League of Communists.

Given that both Plenkovic and Milanovic personally stem from the communist family stock that ruined the country, suffocating it by late 1980’s in astronomical rates and runaway inflation with “Hiroshima”-type of economic devastation largely due to corruption and theft, perhaps this is their way of ensuring that the Croatian people do not enjoy their deserved peace and order and prosperity? These days anything is possible in politics, and neither is clearly steering the country to the common goal of Homeland War values for which rivers of blood were spilled.  

President Zoran Milanovic and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic continued with their vile squabbles, public rows, disagreements, and insults against each other on any theme that ruled the days of recent weeks. On the need for Covid-19 vaccination passes (the President is against them), on matters of defence and its Minister and the government’s purchase of used French Rafale fighter planes, on measures taken to control the spread of Covid-19 and its variants, or the measures or lack of them in the fight against corruption …

The HRT TV main news bulletin of Friday 3 December 2021 actually stated that “the system of the Croatian Public Attorney office is falling apart, which is evident when President Milanovic had said that HDZ will not punish the State Attorney Mrs Zlata Hrvoj-Sipek for her activities in trying to save the HDZ’s former Minister Gabrijela Zalac amidst serious allegations of fraud and misappropriation of EU funds (given to her ministry for purchase of computer software) and alleged bank thefts…”   Suffice to say that the Croatian Parliament experienced this week an angry and loud lot in government opposition vying for the sacking of State Attorney Zlata Hrvoj-Sipek. The ruling party, HDZ, though, will not budge it seems and one of the Party’s Vice-Presidents Branko Bacic, a die-hard perpetual politician with morals and honesty reminiscent of morals of a lizard, whose expiry date has long passed for Croatian politics and progress from communism into democracy, appears as the worst offender in protecting that State Attorney in what seems to be a coverup of deep corruption of gigantic proportions when compared to the general public standard of living.   

To clarify the issue here, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office EPPO has recently set up an office in Zagreb, Croatia – a body that will serve as watchdog over how EU funds granted to Croatia are spent. As I mentioned before in several my articles, in a former communist country where the “art” of thieving and corruption has been perfected such a body is essential and it may not be enough in tracking down and acting upon acts of corruption and fraud in Croatia.  Almost on its first day running on Croatian soil EPPO caused on 11 November 2021 the arrest of Croatia’s former Minister for Regional Development and EU Funds, Gabrijela Zalac, pending investigations into founded suspicions of corruption in the form that includes syphoning off via fraudulently blowing up the cost of computer software needed to more than a million euros, which, it is claimed, went into private pockets. This saga continues and how it will end is anyone’s guess.

Former communists have a knack for dragging their feet when it comes to criminal processing of one of their own or of those that follow them. The government is refusing to even discuss the possibility that the State Attorney breached her duties if she protected the former government minister Zalac amidst solid allegations of fraud and corruption. It is becoming evident that the State Attorney, protected by the government operatives, will attempt any which way to tear down EPPO’s case for criminal proceedings against the former government minister Zalac. It is a pity that the parliamentary opposition has not got a sufficiently loud voice in this matter and a successful fight against corruption in Croatia still appears to be in people’s currently helpless hands rather than governments’. As corruption cases emerge more and more one wonders whether there will be a need in Croatia for “Storming of the Bastille” type of a scenario. Poverty is increasing, unemployment shocking (Covid pandemic not factoring into this equation) and intolerance towards the government grows sharper and louder. Confidence for investments from foreign countries spreads ever so bleak and miserably.      

All this is happening while the United Nations expert publicly calls upon Croatia to clean its act and embark on a harder push for justice and better justice system. With former communists occupying both the Prime Ministership and the Presidentship it is, however, truly doubtful that either will make genuinely corrective steps to shape up Croatia’s justice system into a modern democracy where corruption is dealt with swiftly and mercilessly. The general perception is that all persons in powerful positions in Croatia are in each other’s pockets just as they were during the life of communist Yugoslavia. It would be a huge step in the transition from communism to democracy in Croatia if I were to be proven wrong in this.

“It is important that the Government gives an unequivocal sign to society and the international community, of its commitment towards a comprehensive and holistic transitional justice process aimed at addressing past abuses, preventing their recurrence and establishing the foundations of a peaceful and respectful society for all”, said Fabián Salvioli, a human rights expert, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, said in a 2 December 2021 statement at the end of a six-day official visit to Croatia.

While praising the “progress made after the conflict, and particularly during Croatia’s accession process to the European Union”, in prosecuting war criminals, searching for missing persons, and institutional reforms aimed at ensuring the rule of law, democracy and the promotion and protection of human rights, the UN expert observed however, that “progress appears to have stalled in the last seven years”.

The Special Rapporteur flagged rising concerns over “the prospects of effective social reconciliation, particularly as a result of mounting instances of hate speech, glorification of war crimes, and the relativisation of the decisions of the ICTY and national tribunals”.

While noting legislative measures adopted by the Government to curb the extremely worrying trend, Mr. Salvioli also pointed out that implementation was insufficient.

“I urge the relevant police, judicial, legislative and executive authorities to adopt all necessary measures to adequately respond to the raise in radicalisation and hatred expressed in certain sectors of society, to ensure that the steps taken so far towards reconciliation are not irremediably reverted”, he said.

Well, it would certainly seem that Mr Salvioli has a mind to belittle the actual truth as he criticises those who criticise the judgments delivered by the ICTY. He appears to tell us that whatever that International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague had said is the truth and nothing but the truth. That may be in some cases, but it is not so in all. And there is plenty of literature and writeups on that very issue to be had if one bothered to look.

Justice is certainly not seen as having been done in all cases processed by the ICTY and real justice depends on that “seeing”.  

Mr Salvioli talks of radicalisation and hatred expressed in certain sectors of society! What else would a level-headed person expect from a country that had defended itself from a brutal Serb aggression to be brought to the place where it is today where the pro-aggression Serb minority form a part of the government and voice deplorable threats towards Croats, trying to cover up the crimes and aggression committed in Croatia. He recalled that “for a process of transition and reconciliation to be effective” it is vital to acknowledge the suffering and dignity of all victims.

Mr Salvioli and his peers should know that the Croatian people, victims of Serb aggression requiring defending own life and self-preservation, have not had a day of deserved peaceful existence to enjoy their victory over Serb aggression since the war ended completely in 1998. They have had to live their days poisoned by the politics designed to equate the victim with the aggressor. Mr Salvioli and his peers throughout the world need to assess that process and then come out in their efforts to teach nations lessons. If Mr Salvioli of the UN has not done that, and it seems he has not, then he can go and jump in the lake for all his words are worth. Ina Vukic

If not Josip Boljkovac, who then?

Josip Boljkovac , communist/partisan/antifascist WWII, was arrested on 2 November on allegations of war crimes including mass murders immediately after WWII ended 1945. Since then he had been in custody while the criminal investigative process against him completes, due to ill health the 91 year old was transferred to prison hospital care.

On 16 Nov Boljkovac’s defence attorney filed an application with the Croatian Constitutional court citing that it was wrong of the Croatian Ministry of internal affairs to apply the old criminal investigation procedure law instead of the new one (in force since 1 September 2011). Boljkovac’s application was allowed and he has been released home on 29 November.

County court in Croatia has a few days prior denied Boljkovac’s application that there was no in merit previous order for criminal investigation against him.

The County court held that allegations of war crimes against Boljkovac were based on sound evidentiary foundations and upheld the courts decision to continue custody for Boljkovac.

The Constitutional court had 28 November concluded that criminal investigation against Boljkovac must be carried out in accordance with the new law.  According to the new law it’s much harder to obtain a custodial order during criminal investigation or prior to final criminal charges being made.

Boljkovac has been released from custody and criminal investigation against him stopped.

The situation now stands that, in accordance with the new law, the State attorney commences a criminal investigation and not the Minister for internal affairs. It would seem that a request to the State attorney for an investigation must now be lodged by a County attorney.

Boljkovac’s defence attorney, Anto Nobilo, stated for Croatian TV HRT that he himself has conducted his own investigation into the mass murders in 1945 Boljkovac had been suspected of having committed.

“I guarantee that Boljkovac did not participate in those crimes,” said Nobilo. He further said that he knows who had committed those crimes and that he will hand over his file to the State attorney in the next day.[tt_news]=140932&tx_ttnews[backPid]=38&cHash=d569a18a28

Knowing Nobilo’s pro-communist stand from the past I do hope that the State attorney will start an independent investigation of his own.

If Mr Nobilo knows who committed those heinous crimes Boljkovac was suspected of committing why did he not pass that information to relevant authorities in Croatia before. Surely he didn’t discover the claimed evidence just as he approached the media microphones as Boljkovac came out of custody.

Whether there really was a purposeful procedural error or not still remains debatable despite the Constitutional court’s decision.  Within a short space of time this month a County court continues his incarceration and Constitutional court cancels this decision. Perhaps there was no error made in applying the old criminal procedures law at all, November 2011 may well have been within the transitional period between the old and full force of the new law? Or something entirely different may be afoot.

Certainly the two separate courts decided differently within the same month and it’s not as if both of these courts weren’t aware of the new law. At the end of the day the Constitutional court’s ruling and interpretation of procedural matters must prevail, that’s democracy at work, court hierarchy.

Minister for internal affairs Tomislav Karamarko denies that old criminal procedures act was applied in Boljkovac case.

Boljkovac and his antifascist followers are on a vicious ride against the Minister of internal affairs (police) Karamarko again, using the criminal procedures mix-up as grounds for political persecution of those who dared to throw criminal allegations of war crimes and mass murders against former communists. Indeed Boljkovac says that the truth conquered, that he is innocent and that he believed in justice.

But, wait a minute!

There was no hearing of evidence against him in the court, it was only a procedural matter that was before the court.  Karamarko has been called a liar, a falsifier of history …( , just because he had commenced , based on evidence before him, criminal proceedings against a person (Boljkovac).

A justified concern arises from the fact that Croatian State attorney Mladen Bajic has been seen by the Croatian public in recent  weeks as being biased, as treating different criminal matters before him differently and selectively, as being politically biased etc .

This week an impressively large and educated group of 750 people (over 100 of scientists and university professors) in Croatia signed an Appeal to the Croatian public and handed it to the Prime Minister and various media outlets.

Whether the public at large for whom the Appeal was intended will ever see the contents of that appeal is, frankly, on shaky grounds.

The signatories concluded their appeal by stating several opinions and demands including that they stand for free and critical journalism, based on general human values which will open up horizons of democracy and not create conditions for self-interest and political party victories.

The appeal’s title is: “Let’s oppose the media manipulation” and some of the content is translated into English as follows:

Media are forces above the Croatian society. They’re not accountable to anyone except to profit and to the invisible centres of political power. To that end everything is allowed them, from treading over human dignity to various forms of manipulation and undermining of the Croatian state. There is practically no space in the media for arguments. The public is fed on half-information and misinformation without any responsibility for the written word. All sectors of society are being infected by cunning manipulation. While there are official avenues that deal with some infections but there are neither repercussions nor sanctions for the attacks against personal integrity…Initially they attacked the values of the Homeland war, then they distanced the émigrés, who were prepared to return to Croatia, then Croatian national institutions, who had been torn apart by carefully assembled affairs, what wasn’t torn apart was “blackened”, then the family, and to top it all up they want to compromise the Catholic church with lies, that is, Christianity which has held the Croatian people together in these regions for thirteen centuries.

 State attorney in the media. The State attorney, who selectively lets certain cases slip through his fingers, eroding the democratic achievements of our country and turning into a power to whom one must bow, has entered into the brace with the media. Constant stigmatisation and criminalisation that appears every day in the media space creates a picture that there is nothing good in the Croatian society. But it’s not going to be like that, because if it was like that the Croatian society would have perished a long time ago. There are positive events in Croatia, scientific successes and achievements, economic breakthroughs, but they have no space in the media given that the media has given itself the task to show to both the domestic and the international public how impossible Croatia is.  There are those in this trail who are already saying that “we’re not in the position to hold, create, shape and lead the country”. What is the message – we need to be returned to the Balkan dungeon or melt within the European Union.

 There is no free press in Croatia. Newspapers are a strictly closed and controlled space which has the task of creating a certain type of thinking and behaving, greedy for consumption and ideologically coloured, to always hate their own, prefer and admire the foreign. German scientist K. Buecher, asserted in the last century that “from being organisations that report news, newspapers have turned into carriers and leaders of public opinion, into battle instrument for party politics”. Croatian newspapers had never stopped being that – they are today the most obvious instrument for party politics, national values and national interests are strangers to them.

 Appeal regarding Croatian media November 2011 in Croatian language

Having considered all of the above I wonder: is apprehended bias something we are witnessing in Boljkovac’s case?  Are such thoughts justified in the face of overwhelming and often vicious attempts by antifascists to cut at its knees the process of justice for victims of communist crimes?

With above descriptions of State attorney’s behaviour and procedural favouritism when it comes to criminal cases is one not justified to live in apprehension, fear injustice, until such a day when the war crimes of Boljkovac/not Boljkovac are actually addressed with due process?

Will the ghost of Tito conquer, yet again, and victims of communist mass murders remain without justice?

When communism fell in Eastern Europe in 1989 it did so at the consternation of the leftists. That is, the leftists who still thought socialism could work given the right leaders.

Indeed communism would not have survived 70 years were it not for the facilitating academia, blind faith in communism, religion and journalism. Lloyd Billingsley, 1985 in “The Generation That Knew Not Josef: A Critique of Marxism and the Religious Left” talks about these.

The current situation in Croatian media as put in the above Appeal to the Croatian public supports the apprehension that processing communist crimes is a political matter and not a matter for justice and justice only.

I look forward to discovering who, if not Boljkovac, had murdered the innocent Croatians in 1945 Boljkovac was arrested for at beginning of November and walks free for at the end of it, due to a procedural matter allegedly bungled in the criminal investigation against him.

I wait in uneasy anticipation to see what bag of “goodies” the defence attorney Ante Nobilo has come up with this time! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb), B.A., M.A. Ps. (Syd)

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