Croatia: Demands For Serbia’s Accountability For Crimes In Concentration Camps

Members of Croatian  Association Of The Inmates  Of Serb Concentration Camps  In The Split-Dalmatia County File Motion For Damages and Serbia's Accountability Photo: Sime Duvancic

Members of Croatian
Association Of The Inmates
Of Serb Concentration Camps
In The Split-Dalmatia County
File Motion For Damages
and Serbia’s Accountability
Photo: Sime Duvancic


Eighty-eight former inmates of Serb-run concentration camps from Split-Dalmatia County, during the 1990’s Serb-aggression against Croatia, on Tuesday 14 July 2015 filed a motion at the prosecutor’s office in Split for a peaceful settlement of their claims for damages in which they ask that Croatia request on their behalf that Serbia compensate them as a requirement for its accession to the European Union.

Through this motion of peaceful settlement, through the institutions of the Croatian state, we wish to achieve a result that either our own country takes care of us or that it, at least, in a future move towards Serbia implements a condition that Serbia must satisfy our compensation claims before it can become a member of the European Union,” said Ivan Turudic, the Croatian Association Of The Inmates Of Serb Concentration Camps In The Split-Dalmatia County.

The 88 former inmates spent a total of 8,668 days in Serb-run camps, each losing about 99 days of their lives to torture and deprivation in these camps.
In 2006, over 30,000 former inmates, including 500 children and over 2,500 women, filed a class action in Serbia claiming damages from Serbia, but the action involving Croatian veterans’ claims was not even considered and the one involving children, the elderly and women was rejected by the court in Serbia.

Ivan Turudic, President of Croatian Association Of The Inmates  Of Serb Concentration Camps  In The Split-Dalmatia County  Photo: Marko Saric

Ivan Turudic, President of
Croatian Association Of The Inmates
Of Serb Concentration Camps
In The Split-Dalmatia County
Photo: Marko Saric

Turudic said there were few final rulings in the towns of Knin and Sibenik. “Recently, the problem has arisen that when a final ruling is passed, we cannot be compensated because those who were tried for war crimes have no property in Croatia.”

Dragan Vasiljkovic

Dragan Vasiljkovic

Furthermore, Turudic says that it looks like the victims of the Serb-run concentration camps will not be able to extract any money as compensation from Dragan Vasiljkovic (a.k.a. Captain Dragan and Daniel Snedden) who had been extradited to Croatia from Australia last week to face war crimes charges (including torture in the Serb-run concentration camps) as he has been reported to be bankrupt after having to pay out damages for defamation in Australian courts.

Serbia must be held accountable and responsible for any damages suffered under its brutal aggression.

Members of the Croatian Association Of The Inmates Of Serb Concentration Camps In The Split-Dalmatia County say that while believing in the Croatian institutions they have been forced into an insufferable situation of hopelessness and left at the margins even though they comprise one of the groups that suffered most during the 1990’s Homeland War under Serb aggression.


Due to the suffering, many of them, because they were so brutally and violently tortured, will not live to see a final court ruling, let alone compensation – there is a high death rate among them, said Ivan Turudic.

He said damages were paid to “those who destroyed Croatia’s constitutional and legal order, while the victims are still waiting for the right to compensation.”

Victims of Serb Concentration Camps In Croatia Seeking To Make Serbia Responsible For The Suffering Caused Photo: M. Turudic

Victims of Serb Concentration Camps
In Croatia Seeking To
Make Serbia Responsible
For The Suffering Caused
Photo: M. Turudic

We are justified in asking whether we, the veterans who were also incarcerated in concentration camps, have been forgotten in our own country, do we belong to a second order and have no right to justice, while the other side gets any of its cases or claims attended to promptly and we then ask by what right does that minority, which had committed the crimes in the name of Greater Serbia politics, continues to terrorise and impose its will upon the majority,” said Turudic.

Indeed, there is no way that the current government will even try helping the Croatian veterans along the way to justice and dignity through some deserved compensation. The communists and former communists within this government seem to be intentionally walking on egg-shells so as not to “offend” the Serb minority, from whose circles the 1990’s war criminals against Croatia and Croats arise, despite the blatant need for true justice.

No wonder, war veterans have been protesting non-stop in Zagreb for the past 270 days or so! New cases of veteran neglect and disregard arise all the time and this case of those who suffered terribly in the Serb-run concentration camps in Split-Dalmatia country is just another example of hopelessness and sadness that has gripped Croatia. Serbs will always deny guilt for any crimes – we are witnesses to that infuriating fact. Such being the case I would have thought that the Croatian government and its institutions would have put in extra effort to assist its veterans receive justice. The current foreign affairs minister Vesna Pusic would have surely been the one from Croatia who did not lift a finger in trying to keep these Croatian claims in Serbian courts afloat. While she cannot as minister interfere in court cases these though were rejected on political reasons, hence room to give firm diplomacy a go. But no.  She has had a strong role in helping Serbia maintain its war crimes denial and injustice towards victims. So, the positive side is that Croatia has war veterans and victims of Serb aggression, ethnic cleansing, genocide, torture, rape… who will not permit they are forgotten! Any politician who picks up on that fighting for justice energy from the war veterans will, according to many indications of political psyche, be the winner of tomorrow as far as true leadership goes for Croatia. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatian Veterans Vie For Register Of Aggressors

Croatian veterans Djuro Glogoski (in wheelchair) and Josip Klemm (pushing the wheelchair) head to meet with Croatia's Prime Minister for the first time since the veterans' protest commenced more than 200 days ago Photo: Index/Hina June 2015

Croatian veterans Djuro Glogoski (in wheelchair)
and Josip Klemm (pushing the wheelchair)
head to meet with Croatia’s Prime Minister
for the first time since the
veterans’ protest commenced more than 200 days ago
Photo: Index/Hina
June 2015


Last week, the Croatian veterans renewed their request for the government to create and publish a Register of Aggressors (against Croatia in early 1990’s) just as Veterans Register was created and published a couple of years ago. There are mixed feelings about this among Croats and those leaning towards nostalgia for communism and former Yugoslavia, or those who stand against lustration and processing of communist crimes, would have us believe that a Register of Aggressors places people suspected of war crimes (or those who aggressively rebelled against Croatian independence) into lifelong “suffering” linked to their name being on the list etc. Well, I would think that if a court clears a suspect of all charges then his/her name comes off the list. And if a person had been found guilty, then he/she deserve for their name to remain on that list, just like a criminal record of serious crimes remains.


Victims from Serb aggression against Croatia - overwhelmingly too many!

Victims from Serb aggression against Croatia –
overwhelmingly too many!

The Croatian veterans would reportedly have Croatia’s rebel Serbs, including those who have been given amnesty by the late president Franjo Tudjman, on that list. One could safely say that the amnesty could have well prevented many a thorough investigation into criminal behaviour during the rebellion against Croatian independence and that there are those who did commit war crimes on the amnesty list from late 1990’s.
According to the General Forgiveness Act passed in Croatia in 1996, soldiers who participated in the military actions against Croatia cannot be criminally prosecuted, except if they had committed war crimes. In other words, one cannot be prosecuted for the act of taking part in war operations but can for acts of looting, rape, killing of civilians and other war crimes.
It’s rather amusing to watch the opponents to the Register of Aggressors, who have spent more than two decades wrongfully bad-mouthing and rubbishing Croatia’s first president, Franjo Tudjman, and now find themselves spinning accolades of praise for him for showing what they say great statesmanship in extending amnesty to rebel Serbs for their rebellion,

Franjo Tudjman, in late 1990’s, made some political concessions and compromises within the then international political currents, that were in the business of carving “justice” in Croatia and former Yugoslav territory, and extended amnesty from prosecution for rebellion against Croatia to thousands of Serbs who were active in the aggression against Croatia and many among them could have been rapists and killers. Such efforts (amnesty) were made, I understand, to achieve some peace, steps towards reconciliation … But they have not worked apart from adding to the excuses Serbs continue using in denying their aggression against Croatia (and Bosnia and Herzegovina)!
Those who support the Register of Aggressors claim that such a register would assist in information, evidence and fact gathering regarding any war crimes as well as assist with putting in motion court proceedings for them. They claim that it is both absurd and unfair to publish the Veterans’ Register and not the Aggressors’ one! Indeed, I would totally agree! After all Croatia would have no need to have the veterans proposing the Registry of the Aggressors were it not because of the aggressors who placed Croatia in the position to defend itself and its people from aggression.
Those against the register claim that its existence could result in people taking the law into their own hands, especially in smaller places, towns… Some who are against the register fear that the criteria for confirming the names to be included in the register may not be tight or objective enough. E.G., could two neighbours join forces and accuse someone of having been an aggressor just as people used to be accused as “elements against the state” in the former communist Yugoslavia.


Those against the Register may also argue that the very inclusion of a person’s name on the Register of Aggressors automatically labels him/her as “guilty until proven innocent”, which, of course, if that were the case, would be contrary to the Constitution. Those supporting the Register may argue that the inclusion of a person’s name in the Register of Aggressors does not and must not signify any guilt of any crime but is a list that compliments the records of Homeland War army, military or paramilitary operatives, i.e. the Aggressors were also military, paramilitary or army operatives just as those whose names are on the Veterans’ Register are.



A question should also be asked: should the amnesty given in 1996 now be revoked?


Sound reason would say – yes! It’s causing grief and unrest incessantly – there is a difference between forgiveness and justice. Justice must come and forgiveness may or may not – it is the prerogative of the victim to forgive or not! Absolutely! We can urge and encourage a victim to forgive his/her aggressor, killer, rapist… but we cannot force the victim to forgive against his/her will. It is human to forgive but it is also human not to! The aggressor, killer, rapist…should ask for forgiveness if forgiveness is to be given but Croatian rebel Serbs have not asked for it and continue denying their rebellion as wrong even if it did cost almost insurmountable devastation.
Some journalists and politicians in Croatia think that an Aggressors Register is an absurdity because the rebel Serbs from 1990’s cannot pose any threat to Croatia any longer!
Croatian Serbs have still, after hundreds of years, not accepted Croatia as their home but in many ways gravitate toward Belgrade. But let’s say such observations may be seen biased so, let’s look at the Public Report for 2015 (PDF version here) issued a couple of days ago by the Croatian Security & Intelligence Agency (SOA): according to this report Croatia still has serious security issues with the Serbian Chetnik movement that commits its activities towards achieving a Greater Serbia. These ideals were the ones that murdered and ethnically cleansed non-Serbs frantically in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina during the 1990’s war of Serb aggression. Every single follower or supporter of such a movement must stay on a “watch list” and Aggressors’ Register is one of those, as far as I’m concerned.

Croatian Security Intelligence Agency Report 2014_Page_01

The SOA Public Report 2015 in Chapter 11 on Extremism says: “ Organisations and followers of Chetnik movements continue to be active in the states around us but also wider. In this, there are contacts maintained with the like-minded people in the Republic of Croatia as well as with other organisations and individuals with Greater Serbia ideological platforms.”
Here, one could say, is a very credible, valid and legitimate foundation for the creation of the Register of Aggressors!


“…You have no right to forget your past, because the nation that forgets has no future. However, you should not remember it for revenge, but for peace…”, is one of the strong messages given by Pope Francis in Sarajevo on June 6.
Funny thing about this is that some Croatian journalists wrongly think that Aggressors’ Register should not be created because it suggests revenge and lingering of urges for revenge.


Well, no – even Pope Francis knows that to achieve complete peace the wrongdoers must be held to account, justice has due process and that indeed often involves punishment, which is not the same as revenge.
So next time, someone writes that rebel Serbs of 1990’s no longer pose a threat to Croatia, turn a deaf  ear and a blind eye to that – and support the Register of Aggressors! Support the Croatian veterans in this! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatia: Derelict Democracy – War Veterans Need Sheltering From Harm

Croatian war veterans seek refuge inside church from police brutality Photo: Zeljko Lukunic/Pixsell

Croatian war veterans
seek refuge inside church
from police brutality
Photo: Zeljko Lukunic/Pixsell


Horrified, my heart skipped beats when I saw on TV news Thursday 28 May 2015 armed Croatian police, in a frenzy, chasing after protesting 100% war invalid veterans into the church of St Marks (where the war veterans sought refuge) pushing and shoving through the narrow doorway, threatening the physically weaker and defenceless veterans harm! The last time such utterly depraved aggression by authorities against citizens caught my eyes was way back in 1971, during the so-called Croatian Spring protests that sought more autonomy for Croatia within the communist Yugoslavia – when in a frenzy armed police beat with batons and pistol handles old women and men going about their private business, anyone found in the main city square in Zagreb.

This incident on Thursday at the door of St Mark’s church and in front of the church caused a great deal of distress and tension within Croatia.

For over 200 days now the war veterans have held continuous protests against the government, seeking the removal of Predrag Matic, the minister for veterans affairs and his two assistants, protesting against the removal of some veterans’ entitlements/rights and seeking government protection of the same.

On Thursday 28 May 2015, the disabled war veterans’ protest moved away from their protest tent, erected several months ago in front of the veterans’ affairs ministry at 66 Savska street in Zagreb, to St Mark’s square in front of the parliament house and government house. The dramatic two-day protest by Croatian war veterans ended Friday after Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic promised he would meet with them and hear their demands for more rights on Monday 1 June 2015.

Supporters of Croatian war veterans guard the entry to St Mark's church Zagreb from armed riot police Photo: Darko Bandic/ AP Photo

Supporters of Croatian war veterans
guard the entry to
St Mark’s church Zagreb
from armed riot police
Photo: Darko Bandic/ AP Photo

The protest became heated when large groups of veteran supporters broke through police cordons, joining the protest at St Mark’s square. Veterans from other cities and towns across Croatia organised impromptu protest gatherings in support of the protest being held in the capital. The police insisted the gathering was illegal and moved to disperse the group late Thursday. The veterans — many in wheelchairs — barricaded themselves inside St. Mark’s church where they spent the night. The police that chased after them were stopped at the church’s doorway.
This incident and tensions around it triggered a political crisis and it seems Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic had no choice but to agree to a meeting with the war veterans; he has been refusing to meet with the protesting war veterans ever since their protest began months ago.

What kind of government sends police against those who have fought for independence of our homeland?” asked Djuro Glogoski, one of the war veterans’ protest leaders.

It is indeed sad and sickening the way the Croatian Social Democrat-led government treats its war veterans. All that the war veterans have wanted was a dialogue with the Prime Minister and the government but have had to resort to such protests to achieve it! Months ago the same government, or its parliament, declined to permit the war veterans to speak in the parliament on issues behind their protest.

The Social Democrat led government had through its minister for veterans’ affairs and other government representatives of the issue of war veterans’ protest at all times tried to make the protest a political agenda led by the opposition, Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ instead of truly addressing the legitimacy of the war veterans’ demands or rights. To these former communists and communist Yugoslavia sympathisers that lead the current government of Croatia the thought of democratic rights to protest has not even entered into their public rhetoric.

Tomislav Karamarko, president of HDZ, had said to HRT news this weekend that he has and always will “support the citizens in their legal and legitimate pursuits for their legitimate rights,” hence, his party supports the protesting war veterans. But of course, the government representatives are blind to this, they try and pass it off as political “agitation” rather than pursuit of democratic right to protest and seek realisation of legitimate rights!

Furthermore, the governing reds accused the Catholic Church in Croatia that it protects and shields the war veterans whose protests were illegal! As to the legality or illegality of the protest that has yet to be determined but in no case can a desperate call for dialogue with the government in itself be illegal – and certainly no one as yet has said that the war veterans have broken any law by organising the protest.

Mons. Zelimir Puljic, archbishop of Zadar and president of Croatian Bishops’ Conference has stated for HRT news on Saturday 30 May 2015 that “the church supports those who cry and who seek legitimate rights.

Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic and veterans’ affairs minister Predrag Matic remain hostile and intolerant towards the protesting war veterans and that is evident in every public statement they make. There is evident animosity and hatred towards the war veterans coming from the government quarters that is deeply painful to watch and one cannot but wonder whether the former communists actually still loath the idea of an independent and democratic Croatia even though they govern it and espouse democracy – rhetorically at least.

We often hear from the government, including the veterans’ affairs minister, how they respect the war veterans, that the protesting veterans are only a small part of all veteran population. We often have seen the government officials or supporters bring our attention to the war veterans who are not protesting or seeking any rights. What is this but a denial of democracy and democratic rights by communist-mentality stealth? The government has been busy in creating divisions among war veterans; creating the perception that there are “good” and there are “bad” war veterans!

All war veterans were and are good! Those who actually lost their life and limbs on the frontlines and battlefields do deserve our highest regard and respectful attention. They placed their life and limb at the frontlines for the defence of the Croatian people’s right to democracy and freedom from communist Yugoslavia. Those who did not want an independent Croatia then (in 1990’s) govern Croatia at present and still do not seem comfortable with the idea of Croatian identity! Ending their protest, the war veterans said on Friday 29 May 2015 they hoped the Prime Minister will live up to his promise. To live up to that promise there would need to be a turnaround or a shift in Zoran Milanovic’s reasoning – it would truly need to become democratic and fair; move well away and convincingly from the spiteful intolerance it has so far been. It’s election year and Milanovic is likely to attend the meeting with the war veterans on Monday but the outcome of that meeting will be something that will interest all Croatians. Should there be no outcome that seems fair there is likely to be more tension and more incidents that will increasingly take the shape of toppling the government with citizen power, hopefully without violence. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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