Croatia: War Veterans Public Register – a monster in the making

Croatian Veterans' Resister - "Names for Eternity"

Croatian Veterans’ Resister – “Names for Eternity”

Croatian minister for veterans’ affairs Predrag Fred Matic has recently announced that the government’s decision is final: it will publish War Veterans Register (Register of those who defended Croatia in the 1990’s Homeland War) by Christmas. Much controversy and opposition to the publication of the Register have surfaced since the idea for the public register kicked off some two years ago. While some, including the minister, believe that such a register will assist in the veterans’ ease of access to securing their rights and benefits as veterans and “weed out” the false veterans (which are many, it’s claimed), others fear that such a public register will be open to all sorts of abuses and endanger the lives of many veterans – particularly in the region where tempers run hot from past and current efforts by some politicians to equalise the victim with the aggressor.

Indeed, once the names on the Register are let loose into the cyberspace there’s no telling what could happen to whom, by whom. Not a good feel at all, despite the fact that minister Matic is trying to assure everyone that the Register will contain the names of those who defended Croatia with honour and dignity and that there is no danger whatsoever for individuals on the Register.

What an obscenely depraved assurance!

Even with “positive” consultations and assessments received by the ministry from different professional sources no one can say with 100% confidence and surety that absolutely no danger exists. One is, after all, dealing with possible dangers that can occur from criminal minded individuals who carry in them a sense of injustice or some kind of craving for revenge. One cannot guarantee absolute safety in a demographic post-war climate that still carries a lot of unresolved issues and personal grievances regardless of whether those grievances are real or imagined.

Minister Matic’s determination to publish the Register is so strong that all criticisms and arguments against it even in the parliament don’t seem to have made any difference. On the contrary, the minister’s resolve now verges on ridiculous and idiotic. For example, on 30th November 2012, in parliament, while defending the decision to publish the Register, Matic said: “If any veteran gets trapped on any state border only because he is a Croatian veteran I will go to prison instead of him, be sure of that!” (Source Croatian TV/HRT News)

Unlike in most “Western” countries where veterans registers exist and details accessible via Freedom of Information legislation, Croatia seems to be planning publishing the whole Register that will contain information which can relatively easily identify any particular veteran on it: Full name, name of one parent, date and place of birth, number of days active during the war, military unit – other details will not be published, however, could be released with the individual veteran’s written approval.

Threats of lawsuits against the minister or ministry of veterans’ affairs are emerging thick and fast.

Dujomir Marasovic, member of parliament (HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union) who argued fiercely against the publication of the Veterans’ Register finally said 30th November that names of members of the intelligence agency’ UDBA secret police of former Yugoslavia, members of WWII Partisans who are still in receipt of a war pension, 30 thousand members of the Italian Fascist Occupation Army in receipt of pension in Croatia should also be published on a Register. Damir Kajin, IDS/Istrian Democratic Party, supported Marasovic’s motion in parliament (Vecernji List).

Dinko Buric, HDSSB/ Croatian Democratic Alliance of Slavonia and Baranja, repeated in parliament that his party, along with the Register of Croatian veterans wants to see published the names of all participants in the Serbian aggression against Croatia (Vecernji List).

Josip Djakic , president of The Union of Veterans, HVIDRA, expressed similar attitudes in 2010 when he said: “Hypothetically speaking, if this register is public then we have to make others public, as well. Like the one with the names of all the Partisans, people who worked for the secret services in Yugoslavia, JNA officers, soldiers of Serb Krajina…”.

One thing is clear: the public has the right to know about its war veterans, however, information that can easily identify an individual should not be readily available to the public (e.g. place of birth and name of parent). The public at large does not have the right to know personal details that can easily pinpoint the identity of an individual. The fact that Croatian government plans to include this information in the public register is very concerning and to my view (and evidently to the view of many) such information will place individuals in danger. Such information should only be available on application and appropriate scrutiny. Someone should stop the publication of such sensitive information on the Register. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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