Croatia and The Relentless Serbian Aggression Against It

Planned and organised exodus of Serbs who never wanted an independent Croatia from Croatia in August 1995

Serbia’s aggression against Croatia in the past three decades wears a political and morally corrupt cloak, chipping away at the glorious Croatian victory over the brutal and genocidal Serb aggression in the early 1990’s.  

The fact that Croatia’s government, despite its loud rhetoric in challenging Serbia’s new indictments for alleged war crimes of four Croatian 1995 Operation Storm pilots fails to stop, or even reprimand, its Serb coalition partners for their barracking for Serbia in this matter is a rude reminder that this Croatian government is hypocritical and dishonest, especially towards the suffering and sacrifices Croatians endured because of Serb aggression. A truly just response would be to cease government coalition with minority Serbs who were associated with Serb aggressor and who degrade Croatian war veterans and who have consistently been trampling over the glory of Croatian victory in defending Croatia from the genocidal Serb aggression.

The Zagreb based N1 TV has Monday 20 August 2022 published parts of the Serbian indictment against Croatian pilots engaged in battles during Operation Storm in August of 1995 that was successful in swiftly liberating a part of Croatia from brutal Serb occupation that held ground since 1991 and had ethnically cleansed the area from all Croats and other non-Serbs. Then, following orders from Serbia and rebel Serb leadership in Croatia some 200,000 Serbs, who never wanted an independent Croatia and mostly sided with rebel Serbs and Serb aggressors (those Croatian Serbs who fought with Croatia defending it from Serb aggression never fled or exited) left Croatia for Serbia, which happening Serbia has called ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Croatia. Make no mistake, Serbia and Slobodan Milosevic regime planned and staged this exodus for Serbia’s political agenda. There is no doubt in the mind of many professional war analysts as well as Psychologists that, once Croats were successful in liberating their land the Serbs, including so-called civilians, feeling guilty and being guilty of crimes against Croats, fled in fear of retribution for their crimes and brutal aggression and ethnic cleansing and murders and rapes… The indictment for alleged war crimes against the four pilots, Vladimir Mikac, Zdenko Radulj, Zeljko Jelenic i Danijel Borovic, is reportedly a 26-page document issued in Belgrade on 31 March 2022 and upheld by the Belgrade Appeals Court in mid-August 2022, and reeks of Serbia’s desperate and consistent attempts to deny its own genocidal aggression against Croatia in the 1990’s and to whitewash its heinous war crimes there.

While the Croatian government headed by the Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ and Andrej Plenkovic as Prime Minister keeps as his deputies in government coalition Croatian Serbs (such as Boris Milosevic and Anja Simprega and holds Milorad Pupovac close) the same persons are conducting Serbia’s political and other interests rather than Croatian ones in Croatia. They do not accept nor condemn Serbia’s brutal aggression against Croatia! They do not embrace the truth that Croatia was placed in the position of self-preservation, defending the lives of its people, in the face of Serb aggression that was brutal, indiscriminate, wanton and genocidal, worse than what we see these days in Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic assessed Thursday 25 August that the indictment against four Croatian pilots for alleged war crimes against civilians during the Operation Storm was “politically staged” and said that Serbia must face its past. Prime Minister Plenkovic recalled that a few months ago they met with the accused pilots and told them that they would protect them in this context. “We believe that this entire indictment is a politically staged indictment, and we look at it that way. (…) Serbia needs to face its past, with the effects of the Greater Serbian aggression of the Slobodan Milosevic regime on Croatia,” said Plenkovic.

Croatia was a victim of aggression, the Homeland War had a liberating character and our defenders, our pilots will be under the special care of the Croatian state in this context, and we will find an appropriate way to react to this whole situation, he added.

Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlic Radman also asserted that the indictments from Serbia against Croatian pilots and the announced indictments against two Croatian generals were politicised. “All the indictments from Serbia have been politicized, The Hague has had its say,” he told reporters at the two-day annual conference of Croatian diplomats at the Westin Hotel in Zagreb Thursday 25 August.

Croatian President Zoran Milanovic also publicly addressed the indictments against Croatian pilots on August 24.

“We have another reason for the meeting of the National Security Council. This was done by official Belgrade, not some independent prosecutor’s office…” Milanovic said.

“Prosecutors are otherwise doubtfully independent. In some countries they are, in some countries they are, and they are not. In Belgrade, they are as independent as those ladies who experimented with centrifugal force in Brooklyn and Harlem and the Bronx while twirling a purse around their hand. That’s about the kind of independence we are looking at there. Until the pimp comes. And the pimp is always around. It’s pimping, not an independent prosecution,” Milanovic said.

“Good will is being shown so that the story about the war in which Serbia attacked Croatia finally stabilises, and then poof. Here’s the indictment. The topic is important for the Council to harmonise the position of how we will react. I should now react from the knees, from the hips,” he said and continued:

“Aleksanader Vucic (President of Serbia) and his colleagues have decided that now is the time to indict four wartime commanders. I don’t want to discuss this because Serbia has no jurisdiction. We can indict President Vucic because he ran amok on the territory of Croatia, not on the Petrovac road , as in Branko Copic’s song, on which some children died. I am sorry for that, but the Croatian commanders cannot be responsible for that,” says Milanovic.

Excerpts of the Serbian indictment state, among other things, that the indictees, “by violating rules of international law defined by the Geneva Conventions, ordered – and their orders were carried out – air attacks on civilians not participating in hostilities”, who should be treated humanely in every situation, without any discrimination based on ethnic background, and protected from any form of violence. Ten civilians including four children were killed in the shelling over the column that formed Serb exodus from Croatia between 4 and 7 August 1995.

Croatian renowned historian and author and authority on Homeland War, Dr Ante Nazor, said recently that “first of all, one should express regret for every innocent victim who died, especially when it comes to children, but all the evidence that has been publicly presented so far cannot call into question the key and undoubted fact that military vehicles and weapons of the Serbian Army of Krajina (SVK) were attacked in to the circumstances of combat action during the military operation, which means that for collateral civilian casualties, regardless of whether the column was attacked by a Serbian or Croatian aircraft, those who allowed the military vehicles and equipment of the then self-proclaimed Serbian Republic of Krajina army to withdraw together with the civilians are primarily responsible…”

It is mind boggling how the Serbian authorities have the gall to claim that there were civilians under the alleged attacks who did not participate in hostilities. How would they know if military equipment and members of Serbian army were together with those who appeared to be civilians. The truth on the ground, while the aggression lasted, was that most Serbs who fled in August of 1995 who appeared as civilians after the victorious Operation Storm would most likely not fit the definition of a civilian. Most aided and abetted any which way they could the Serb aggression against Croatia, including political agitation that encouraged many to kill and destroy, not to speak of attacks, intimidation, threats, beatings … of Croatians living in the areas they proclaimed Serbian Republic.

The indictment underlines that the then conflict in Croatia’s territory did not have the character of an international conflict because parties to the conflict were the Croatian Army and the Croatian Ministry of the Interior on one side and units of the army of the so-called Republic of Serb Krajina on the other. Serbia obviously does not even care that the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia had in fact declared the conflict an international conflict and, hence, only on that basis did it have jurisdiction to prosecute Croatian Generals who were acquitted of war crimes indicted with in 2013! Serbia omits the fact that Krajina rebel Serbs in Croatia perpetrated horrors over the Croatian population in service of Serbia’s pursuits in creating a Greater Serbia.

Since neither Serbia nor Croatia allows the extradition of their citizens, the indictment proposes that the indictees Vladimir Mikac, Zdenko Radulj, Zeljko Jelenic and Danijel Borovic be tried in their absence.

Serbia’s War Crimes Department further insists that it has jurisdiction over the case as to the substance of the matter, in line with Article 3 of its Act on Organisation and Jurisdiction of Organs of State, which says, among other things, that Serbian state organs defined by that law have jurisdiction over crimes committed in the territory of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, regardless of the nationality of the perpetrator or the victim.

Croatia rejects that, rightfully and correctly so.

The Croatian government and senior state officials have, in the meantime, stressed on several occasions that Croatia does not recognise Serbia’s jurisdiction in the case. Again, one wonders why Croatian government bothers with having Diplomatic relations with Serbia. Serbia will never accept its guilt or Croatia’s victory over Serb aggression. I, for one, will be keeping an eye on this case if the indictments against the pilots go to court in Serbia. Ina Vukic   

Croatia – Leadership Antagonism Feeding Non-Assertion of Hard-Won Independence From Yugoslavia

Zoran Milanovic, President of Croatia (L), Andrej Plekovic, Prime Minister of Croatia (R)

It is an incredible and angering preposterousness that Serbia is still acting towards Croatia as if Croatia had never become an independent state, as if it never seceded from Yugoslavia, as if the Homeland War of Serbian aggression against Croatia had never occurred (and if it did both sides were equally aggressors and equally victims!). What is equally absurd and preposterous is that Croatia is allowing this with no sanctions except cheap words and rhetoric! In persecuting Croats Serbia is using its own laws and sometimes the laws of former Yugoslavia to keep a perpetual train of indictments for alleged war crimes against Croats, allegedly committed on Croatian soil, while the brutal Serb aggression and onslaught ensued on Croatian soil, for perhaps no other reason than to press on with the obscene idea of equating the aggressor with the victim and Serbia denying its own aggression.  In 2020, the Zagreb County State’s Attorney’s Office filed an indictment against six former members of the former Serb-controlled Yugoslav People’s Army JNA Air Force for rocketing the Banski Dvori (Croatia’s Government Building at the time its President Franjo Tudjman was inside) in October 1991 and so Serbia is now filing indictments against Croats for the same period of war of aggression event.

Croatia is not responding in a manner other independent states, whose independence arose from successful defence from brutal aggression, would respond. Countries that cherish their hard-won independence would at least make strong steps in diplomatic relations terms. It is utterly unacceptable that, in the least, Serbia’s Ambassador to Croatia has not been sent packing back to Serbia as Croatia’s first-hand response to the Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor Office having on 19 May 2022 indicted four retired Croatian Air Force officers: Vladimir Mikac from Ptuj, Zdenko Radulj from Osijek, Zeljko Jelenic from Pula and Danijel Borovic from Varazdin on suspicion of committing war crimes against civilians. prosecutors, ordered the rocketing of a column of refugees on Petrovacka cesta near Bosanski Petrovac and in Svodna near Novi Grad on August 7 and 8, 1995. The indictment was filed on March 31 but was returned to prosecutors on May 6 for further processing. In the mentioned event, 13 people were killed, six of them children, and 24 people were injured. According to the indictment, the prosecution proposes that the accused be tried in absentia.

According to Croatian media sources, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic stated on 20 May 2022 that at a short meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Davos, he expressed dissatisfaction with the Serbian indictment against Croatian pilots.

“We pointed out that the law, by which Serbia has been expanding its jurisdiction to the territories of other countries for years, is unacceptable to us and that such a move for Croatia is certainly a signal of a step back in our relations, not a step forward,” Plenkovic told reporters in Davos. Well, Plenkovic does rather good lip service but when it comes down to what is convincing and what Croatian people deserve, he fails miserably. He as Prime Minister must demonstrate that Serbia’s actions regarding these indictments are not acceptable by imposing strict diplomatic measures, at least. Most commonly used in free and democratic countries are official protests with Ambassadors or sending Ambassadors back to their countries until matters resolved. 

“These indictments have occurred despite our years-long attempts to convince them not to play with fire and that it will cost them. I cannot be more polite; I hope they are listening to me. Leave that alone. Otherwise, they should not be surprised by reactions by right-wing lawmakers in the Parliament. The problem is that the majority of people in Croatia think like that,” President Zoran Milanovic told reporters on Tuesday 24 May 2022. President Zoran Milanovic repeated on Wednesday 26 May 2022 that Serbia should watch its actions and that he was only asking for “a fair relationship” between the two countries, adding that Croatia could have indicted Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic but made a political decision not to do it.

Fierce lip-service from both the Prime Minister and President of Croatia! No decisive actions on diplomatic levels, at least, to demonstrate they mean what they say!

Croatia has been in a political quagmire for quite a while and to make decisive steps against Serbia in this case, to protect the dignity and righteousness of Croatia’s victory against Serb aggressor, for freedom and independence, both the Prime Minister and the President must be at least on professional talking terms if such terms do not come naturally. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and President Zoran Milanovic have not seen eye to eye on anything for quite some time and have publicly displayed intolerance towards each other as well as disturbing antagonism. But, unlike Milanovic, Plenkovic appears more interested in serving Croatia’s Serb minority than national Croatian interests even though majority of that Serb minority formed a significant part of Serb aggression against Croatian secession from communist Yugoslavia in the 1990’s! This fact would appear to be a major factor in the current political impasse and crisis Croatia is suffering currently.

It is unbelievable and cruel to the victims of Serb aggression that Croatian state policy without notable and decisive protest and action evidently permits Serbia, the aggressor, and the defeated side of the Homeland War to prosecute members of the victorious side of the war in which Serbia was the aggressor. This, of course, is not the first time this has happened with the announced indictments against four Croatian pilots who are allegedly responsible for the attack on Serb civilians after the “Storm” military operation that liberated significant parts of Croatian territory from Serb occupation in August 1995. Many would rightly so say that official Croatia permits such odious aberrations because its official heads and politicians in power since year 2000 have remained mental communists, are nostalgic of communist Yugoslavia. They are not wrong as Croatia has yet to put its official foot down at Serbia’s depraved attempts to deny its responsibilities for aggression, ethnic cleansing on non-Serbs, mass murders, genocide, destruction across Croatia.   

Not only Serbia’s laws that have extended their legal jurisdiction beyond the borders of the Serbian state are of grave concern, but also the treacherousness for Croatia of the behaviour of leading Croatian politicians, which was especially evident during the persecution of Croatian generals directed by The Hague tribunal. The former President Stjepan Mesic, who testified against his country (Croatia) at The Hague tribunal, led the evil pack that attempted to criminalise Croatia’s defence against Serb aggression and yet suffered no consequences for it in Croatia! All the Prime Ministers of Croatia including the current Andrej Plenkovic have made no positive moves to turn this tragedy around and putting Croatia’s victory over Serbia’s aggression first.

The excuse of allowing the process of reconciliation with the aggressor (Serbs) has given way the emergence of many insufferable injustices against Croatians and Croatian war veterans.

Perhaps giving amnesty against indictments for war crimes to many Serbs who committed war crimes in Croatia during the Homeland War as part of negotiations for peaceful reintegration of occupied areas of Croatia’s Danube region in 1998 has given Serbs the courage to act upon their pathological idea that they had a right to commit crimes in Croatia? 

On 15th January 1998 Croatia achieved, without a single shot fired, the liberation from Serb occupation of its Danube region which two-year process is known as the Peaceful Reintegration of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem.

It was the Erdut Agreement, which was signed on 12 November 1995, that enabled the peaceful restoration of Croatian sovereignty over the Croatian Danube region which was under the control of Serb paramilitaries and rebels since the launch of the Great Serbian aggression against that part of Croatia in 1991.

The Erdut Agreement on Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Srijem was signed on 12 November 1995 in Erdut and Zagreb by the then-presidential chief-of-staff, Hrvoje Sarinic, the head of the Serb negotiating team, Milan Milanovic, and by the then US Ambassador to Croatia, Peter Galbraith, and UN mediator Thorvald Stoltenberg as witnesses. The treaty marked the beginning of the UN’s two-year transitional administration in the area during which Croatia restored its sovereignty over the temporarily occupied parts of Osijek-Baranja and Vukovar-Srijem counties, which enabled reconstruction in the area ravaged in the Great Serbian aggression on Croatia and the return of refugees.

The Erdut agreement was reached by Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic at a peace conference in Dayton, Ohio. The 14-point document provided for a two-year transitional period under UN supervision, a transitional administration, formation of a multi-national police force, local elections, and demilitarisation 30 days after the deployment of international peacekeepers. Seven provisions of the agreement dealt with human rights, refugee return, and property restitution or compensation…

Reintegration of Croatia’s Danube region was achieved without a single bullet being fired but, more than two decades on, it is evident that not all bullets are of fire but that there are many made of political obscenities. Croatia has still to assert the values of its own War of Independence and it is unlikely to do that any time soon with the current make up of government and leadership. Without decisive actions to that effect the political climate may, hopefully, develop into a strong push to change the current oblivion among its leaders towards what Serb aggression did to Croatian people. A great deal of work is still needed to achieve the democracy in Croatia that its first President, Franjo Tudjman, announced in his speech on 30 May 1990 at the inaugural session of the Croatian Parliament. Perhaps with all his strengths and courage even he may have never imagined that ridding Croatia of communist Yugoslavia would be so very harsh and difficult despite the fact that 94% of Croatia’s voters voted to secede! Ina Vukic

Croatia: Hague Judgement Against Serb Vojislav Seselj Brings No Liberation From Fear Of Violence And Hatred

Vojislav Seselj
Photo: AFP/Getty

Paragraph 175 of the Appeals Chamber, The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), judgment dated 11 April 2018 (PDF judgement) found the Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj guilty of crimes against humanity in relation to his public speeches actions targeting persecution and forcible deportation of Croatians living in Vojvodina province in Serbia. Seselj did not attend the hearing but remained in Serbia where he was in 2014 released to from The Hague on grounds of a terminal illness.

The judgement states:

The Appeals Chamber has found that, on the basis of his 6 May 1992 speech in Hrtkovci, Vojvodina, Seselj is criminally responsible and therefore guilty, pursuant to Article 1 of the Mechanism’s Statute and Articles 5(d), 5(h), 5(i) and 7(1) of the ICTY Statute for instigating. deportation, persecution (forcible displacement), and other inhumane acts (forcible transfer) as crimes against humanity and for committing persecution (violation of the right to security) as a crime against humanity. Accordingly, the Appeals Chamber must consider an appropriate sentence.

All other grounds of Prosecution’s Appeal against Seselj, which include indictments for alleged criminal acts on the territory of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina were overturned. Seselj was accused of committing the crimes against non-Serbs in Croatia, Serbia’s Vojvodina region, and Bosnia-Herzegovina during the Balkan wars that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s and killed some 130,000 people. The alleged crimes included persecution on political, racial, or religious grounds, deportation, murder, and torture.

Regardless of details in findings entailed in the said judgement and given the Serbian aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina – where Serb’s sought to claim territory via ethnic cleansing of non-Serbs and other crimes against humanity – the clearing of Seselj’s speeches of guilt for crimes in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina one needs to express disbelief and shock in the apparent MICT Appeals Chamber’s failure to assess the real, the general and cross-border impact of Seselj’s inciting and hateful speeches against non-Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Certainly, the MICT Appeal Chamber judgement leads to the conclusion that there is no doubt that Seselj’s speeches encouraged and led other Serbs to commit crimes against non-Serbs and the reality of the times was that wherever Serbs lived, Serbs considered that land to be Serbia and Serbs taking part in the brutal aggression across former Yugoslavia heard and heeded his speeches, acting violently accordingly! No doubt about that in my or any other reasonable mind.

MICT sentenced Seselj to 10 years in prison but ruling that he has already served that time because of the time he had spent in custody in The Hague. Seselj, who was extradited in 2003 and served nearly 12 years in pre-trial detention in The Hague but returned to Serbia in 2014 on medical grounds.

During the period of his detention in The Hague, Seselj was found guilty of contempt of court on three separate occasions and was sentenced to 15 months, 18 months, and 2 years of imprisonment, respectively, and the ICTY Appeals Chamber recognized this as time served. In paragraph 177 of the said judgement says “Nothing in ICTY/MICT provision or the jurisprudence suggests that the contempt sentences should be subtracted from the time that Seselj spent in pre-trial detention. The fact remains that, whether Seselj was convicted of contempt or not, he was still subject to detention by virtue of the charges against him in his main trial. There is nothing in the contempt judgements to suggest that the contempt sentences should not be served concurrently to any main sentence.

This would suggest that while omitting to state it explicitly (as is usually the case with sentencing) in the sentencing part of the judgement, the MICT Appeal Chamber has decided to lumber Seselj’s sentences amounting to 12 years 9 months into one lot of 10 years i.e. granting Seselj concurrent serving of all four sentences (three for contempt of court and one for crimes against humanity). It would seem that a consideration of consecutive serving of sentences was not a leading element in the courts deliberations; hence Seselj was not required to return to The Hague. It stares one in the eye that MICT has left a loose end in this and that clarification for public interest and for justice to be seen to have been done regarding the concurrent versus consecutive serving of sentences is needed.

Croatia’s Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs has issued a statement regarding the MICT Appeal Chamber judgement against Seselj, which includes:

The Ministry also welcomes the important finding of the Mechanism regarding the existence of a systematic and widespread attack against the non-Serbian civilian population, in which Vojislav Šešelj also participated, as a confirmation of planned criminal activity aimed at creating ‘Greater Serbia’. At the same time, the Ministry considers the pronounced sentence to be far too mild with respect to the acts committed and their consequences.

The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, however, expresses its regret that the Appeals Chamber failed to find Vojislav Šešelj responsible for committing and being involved in committing the gravest crimes against humanity and war crimes during the aggression against the Republic of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina through his criminal activity in their territory (especially Vukovar). The Ministry also expresses its regrets that the Appeals Chamber failed to find Vojislav Šešelj responsible for participating in the joint criminal enterprise aimed at permanently removing the non-Serbian population, primarily Croats and Bosniaks, from the areas that the then Serbian political and military leadership considered to be Serbian.

As one of the main advocates of the idea of ‘Greater Serbia’, with the western border Virovitica-Karlovac-Karlobag, Vojislav Šešelj, through his inflammatory and barbaric rhetoric, motivated and instigated his volunteers, as well as other Serbian troops to the persecution and killing of Croats and Bosniaks.”

The reasoning and sentiments flowing from this statement appear widespread across the globe particularly in those who lived and suffered the ugly truth of the fatal and brutal effects Seselj’s (and other Serb leaders’ at the time) had on inciting vicious crimes against Croats and other non-Serbs in Croatia and Croats and Bosniaks in Bosnia and Herzegovina – throwing those victims into the absolute need for defence and self-preservation.

The unrepentant Serbian Radical Party leader, Seselj, has stuck to his Serb nationalist line, telling news agency AFP last week he will never give up the idea of a “Greater Serbia”, uniting all parts of Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia where Serbs live.

In comments made to the AP news agency after the ruling, Seselj said he was “proud of all the war crimes and crimes against humanity that were attributed to me, and I am ready to repeat them in the future.”

Seselj’s disturbing statements do clearly demonstrate the abhorrent determination in the Serb aggression to destroy the Croatian and non-Serb population domiciled in the areas of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia over which Serbs pursued forceful control. As can be concluded from Seselj’s reactions to the MICT judgement the frightening fact persists in today’s times, and that in itself has implications that leave Croats at constant guard for their safety and independence on their own territory. Ina Vukic

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