Accused War Criminal Dragan Vasiljkovic – Callous Manipulator

Dragan Vasiljkovic November 2016 On trial for war crimes in Croatia Photo: Miranda Cikotic/Pixsell

Dragan Vasiljkovic
November 2016
On trial for war crimes in Croatia
Photo: Miranda Cikotic/Pixsell

 

Cold, callous, focused and well-prepared was Dragan Vasiljkovic, the notorious Serbian Captain Dragan, on Monday 5 December 2016 as he entered the County court in Split Croatia where the criminal trial for charges of war crimes committed in the Croatian areas of Knin, Benkovac and Glina 25 years ago is taking place, writes Slavica Vukovic of Vecernji List. Fighting the Croatian extradition application to Australia for 11 years he was no doubt in a position to prepare his defence to some detail and studied every word in the witness statements presented to Croatia’s public prosecution with frantic fervour. He knows every comma in those statements, and even more than that as he tends to examine the witnesses about matters they had stated to the police or the prosecution but which are not contained in filed versions of their recorded statements. This is the reason why chief judge Damir Romac frequently warns Vasiljkovic to keep to the point or matter being addressed.

 

Besides being well prepared Vasiljkovic leaves the impression of an intelligent man, a cynic, a manipulator who invests quite a bit of effort in belittling and confusing the witnesses as well as a showman who, despite standing accused of war crimes, enjoys being at the centre of attention. As soon as he appeared before the Croatian court he used the opportunity for an emotional exposé of his beloved homeland Yugoslavia, which, he said, he was only defending.
The Adriatic Sea was my sea, the same as it is yours today, and some fiends took it away from me. The aggression against Yugoslavia was carried out by domestic traitors and foreign mercenaries such as Jean Michel and thousands of others who came from the white world to carry out an aggression against my Yugoslavia,” Vasiljkovic said, insisting that he was a defender and not an aggressor. When asked to plea he said:
I absolutely do not feel guilty!”

 

He shows no emotions as he listens to witness testimonies that describe the horrors they went through. He asks questions to each of them, insisting on details and attempts to devalue their testimonies. He tries to abuse his rights by offering his personal views of the events and so he tried to convince Darko Kruljac, the policeman that gave testimony on the attack on Glina police station, that the Croatian policemen were elite, hit squad, well armed and equipped.

I’m convinced that I have before me an honourable police colleague. I’ve studied your unit. Do you agree that it was the most elitist one?” Vasiljkovic asked Kruljac and judge Romac promptly warned him to steer away from suggestive questions.

I just want to relax the atmosphere a little, we don’t all need to be as bitter as Maria. I see the man before me for the first time,” replied Vasiljkovic to the judge, alluding to judge Maria Majic, a member of the panel of judges sitting before him.

Vasiljkovic attempted to devalue policeman Robert Hajdic’s testimony when Hajdic said that he saw three soldiers from 30 meters distance, a detail he omitted to state in his original witness statement fifteen years ago. Hajdic attributed the discrepancy in his statements to stress and then Vasiljkovic asked: “14 years have passed. Are you still under stress even after 14 years?” Vasijkovic received a reply from Hajdic he did not expect: “Because of your deeds and crimes some people suffer stress to this day.” Vasiljkovic found himself speechless.

County Court Split in Croatia Photo: HINA/ Mario Strmotic/ ua

County Court Split in Croatia
Photo: HINA/ Mario Strmotic/ ua

Osman Vikic is a Croatian policeman. Rebel Serbs captured him in June 1991 in Udbina. During the investigations he said that Vasiljkovic tortured and abused him several times but there, before the court, he said that he saw Vasiljkovic only once, as he arrived in the prison at Knin fortress and when Vasiljkovic asked him to whom he gave reports about the Serbian police in the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina (Croatian territory occupied by Serbs). Vikic said that Vasiljkovic hit him.
Vikic said that later on members of the Knindza group, of which Vasiljkovic is exceptionally proud, had beaten him. Vikic said that he especially remembers the Serbian St Vitus Day holiday when the Serb paramilitary units arrived to the Knin prison drunk. “We were bludgeoned so hard that we no longer knew our own names,” said Vikic, explaining that soon after that he was released from prison. He said that two of his ribs and chest bone were broken from the beatings and that he suffered numerous hematoma and pneumonia.   “I have a witness statement that says that you betrayed Croatia because you went over to the Serbian Krajina side and so I’m interested to know who is lying: the witness or you?” Vasiljkovic attempted to provoke Vikic but judge Romac swiftly put a stop to that:

As the accused you may put questions but you cannot interpret witness statements to suit your cause,” said judge Romac to Vasiljkovic.

I have a remark to make. I have never spoken a single word to this man before. Everything he has said is not the truth to me and, hence, he should be examined with regards to giving false statements,” Vasiljkovic replied to judge Romac.

Vasiljkovic tried to confuse Adam Mrakovic, as well. Adam Mrakovic was commanding officer at TO Glina in 1991. Mrakovic said that he was stripped of his authority and that Vasiljkovic took over the command and coordinated the second attack against Glina police station. “You arrived in a costume uniform, with a beret on your head and with some pistol. I had heard of you, but frankly I need to say, when I saw you I was disappointed,” said Mrakovic.

 

That agitated Vasiljkovic and he fired questions at Mrakovic: “Did you and I have any contact? Did you have contact with anyone who knew me? When did you discover that there will be an attack against the police station?

Australia’s and Serbia’s governments’ representatives are present in the court, observing the trial – Vasiljkovic is a citizen of both countries. The president of the Society of prisoners of Serb concentration camps in the Split-Dalmatia region, Ivan Turudic, is also often present in the court during the hearing. “I did not expect that he would express remorse, but I did expect that from the human side he would accept responsibility for what had happened. He is trying to twist all the assumptions, events and wash out the memory. His approach, when he insults with perfidy, when he provokes and belittles the witnesses, victims – that is to say, is truly painful to me from time to time,” said Turudic.

 

This episode of hearing before the criminal court in Croatia does not surprise nor does Vasiljkovic’s repugnant behaviour – he is an accused war criminal on trial, after all. It does rub salt into the still fresh wounds inflicted 25 years ago when Serbs like Vasiljkovic decided that genocide and ethnic cleansing of Croats was a way to preserve Yugoslavia; stop Croatia from seceding. By 1991 Serbs like Vasiljkovic have purposefully forgotten that Yugoslavia was concocted and patched together with the help of the Allies after WWI for the benefit of and at behest and plan of the Serbian king; without Croatian parliaments’ ratification or peoples’ will. So, Vasiljkovic, you are wrong – the Adriatic Sea is Croatian, not Yugoslav and it has been so forever bar for the few decades when Serbs tried to control and own it. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatia: War Crimes Trial Against Serb Dragan Vasiljkovic Finally Commences

DRagan Vasiljkovic at court Split, Croatia 20 September 2016 Photo:Hamze Media

Dragan Vasiljkovic at court
Split, Croatia
20 September 2016
Photo:Hanze Media

 

Serb former paramilitary commander Dragan Vasiljkovic (aka Captain Dragan, Daniel Snedden) went on trial in Croatia on Tuesday 20 September 2016 accused of torturing and killing soldiers and civilians during the 1991-95 war of Serb aggression against Croatia. Prosecution alleges that Vasiljkovic, 61, violated the Geneva Conventions while in charge of a Serb paramilitary unit known as the Red Berets by torturing and murdering civilians, prisoner Croatian soldiers and police in the rebel Serb stronghold of Knin in summer 1991 and Bruska near the town of Benkovac in 1993. The charges carry a maximum 20-year prison sentence in Croatia.

 

The 61-year-old was indicted in January 2016 for the detention and torture of Croatian civilians and police in the ethnic Serb rebel stronghold of Knin (the so-called self-proclaimed Serbian Republic of Krajina) at the start of Croatia’s 1990s independence war. As commander of a Serb paramilitary unit, he did “nothing to prevent and punish such crimes” that occurred in 1991, and personally took part in them, according to the prosecutors.

 

Prosecutors claim he orchestrated a deadly attack in 1991 on the central town of Glina and the surrounding region in which a civilian and a German reporter were killed while the local Croat and other non-Serb population were forced to flee their homes.

 

The trial in the city of Split will be held under heavy security measures and so far the prosecution has put forward 55 of its witnesses and defence is still to put forward its list of witnesses. Hence, its likely that the trial will last quite a while.

Dragan Vasiljkovic at war crimes trial Split, Croatia 20 SEptember 2016 Photo: Hamze Media

Dragan Vasiljkovic
at war crimes trial
Split, Croatia
20 SEptember 2016
Photo: Hanze Media

Vasiljkovic was extradited last year (2015) after Croatian authorities sought an arrest warrant for the fugitive. Extradition process from Australia took ten years, much of which period Vasiljkovic spent in custody awaiting outcomes from and exhaustion of all his rights under the Australian laws. Vasiljkovic has dual Serbian and Australian citizenship, told the court in the Adriatic city of Split that he “feels absolutely no guilt”. He is also accused of drawing up plans to attack police stations.

 

It’s believed to be the first time an Australian citizen has faced court for war crimes and this had ignited a bitter debate about whether he is a national hero (in Serbia) or depraved criminal. Vasiljkovic was born in Belgrade, Serbia and moved to Melbourne aged 14 with his family and was granted Australian citizenship in 1975 according to court documents. He returned to Serbia during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. When Croatia declared independence in 1991 Vasiljkovic trained Serbs to lead operations against the Croats. A Bosnian woman, Jamila Subasic, has accused him of rape and claims he abused her in front of other men. He denies being present at the hotel where it is alleged to have taken place.

Velibor Bracic Photo: NIKSA STIPANICEV / CROPIX

Velibor Bracic
Photo: NIKSA STIPANICEV / CROPIX

A former Croatian prisoner of war, Velibor Bracic, 41, travelled 2009 from Croatia to testify in the NSW Supreme Court in a defamation case brought by Dragan Vasiljkovic against Nationwide News, publisher of The Australian newspaper, had told the court that an Australian citizen accused by Croatia of war crimes (Dragan Vasiljkovic) kicked him in the head in a fortress prison in the early 1990s. recalled how Vasiljkovic personally beat him while showing his subordinates how to do it properly.”He said: ‘If you beat him then you should do it like this’ and then he kicked me in face,” Bracic told Nova TV upon the suspect’s extradition. He described his detention as “24 hours of mistreatment each day… beatings with rifle butts, hands.”
On one occasion, the guards allegedly brought in a baby bear and the inmates were forced to kiss the bear’s backside.
Other times, guns were put in their mouths, while a guard, with his hand on the trigger, would ask: “Do you want us to kill you?” Mr Bracic said. The inmates were also taken outside for mock executions.
The inmates were later transferred to the abandoned Knin hospital. In addition to beatings, the prisoners were allegedly given electric shocks and sexually assaulted.

Anne McElvoy Photo: Twitter

Anne McElvoy
Photo: Twitter

British newspaper executive Anne McElvoy, who was a war correspondent for The Times in 1991, told the Sydney court in 2009 via videolink she had asked a Serb paramilitary commander in Knin, who had said he was Captain Dragan, about his views on targeting civilian buildings.
“He said: ‘Nobody needs to be armed since I got here. I’m not here to kill people, just neutralise the enemy. When the Croatian side uses hospitals or police stations in their villages as fortified positions, I’m sorry, I just have to massacre them.’ ”

 

Slobodna Dalmacija news portal from Split reports that entering the court in the city of Split in Croatia 20th September 2016 Vasiljkovic said that he was defending Yugoslavia, that he had the feeling it was pulling away from him and that he is not an aggressor. In that context he mentioned that he feels the Adriatic Sea is his.
Well, nothing new there – Serbia and Serbs who attacked Croatia all thought the same and many still do. Hence, Croatia needs vigilance for its own safety for the Serb hunger for Croatian lands is quite vicious.

 

 

There is still no limit as to how far Vasiljkovic will go to insult Croatians. At the entry to the court in Split on Tuesday he reportedly also said that many Australian Croats keep the picture of General Ante Gotovina (Croatian General who led the military operation Storm in August 1995 that liberated Knin and occupied Croatian territory of Krajina from Serb occupation) but that they also keep his picture.

 

Dragan Vasiljkovic war crimes trial Split, Croatia 20 September 2016 Photo: Hamze Media

Dragan Vasiljkovic
war crimes trial
Split, Croatia
20 September 2016
Photo: Hanze Media

Mid-September 2016 Vasiljkovic had sent a complaint to the UN claiming he was illegally detained in Australia for years and unlawfully extradited to Croatia. In his statement to the UN he alleged that he had suffered from the “violation of the right to liberty and security of a person, as well as the excessive length of the investigative detention”. He urges the UN Human Rights Committee to tell Croatia that he should be freed from custody and allowed to mount his defence while on bail. His lawyers are now awaiting a positive result from the UN, i.e. that Vasiljkovic will receive bail and be able to defend himself from outside prison. The problem with that is that he is a huge flight risk and I certainly hope that the UN Human Rights Committee will think of human rights his alleged victims had and that is a right to justice. If he gets bail he is likely to flee into Serbia or somewhere like that, which could take another ten years to get him back to trial in Croatia. As I see it, Vasiljkovic has had his ten years of evading justice and it’s now the victims’ turn to get justice. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

RELATED POSTS:

https://inavukic.com/2012/10/06/red-poppies-of-croatian-independence/
https://inavukic.com/2015/07/15/croatia-demands-for-serbias-accountability-for-crimes-in-concentration-camps/
https://inavukic.com/2014/12/17/indicted-serb-war-criminal-dragan-vasiljkovic-loses-final-battle-against-extradition-to-croatia/

Croatia’s President: We Will Not Accept Falsification Of Causes And Of Consequences Of Homeland War

Croatia's President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic at Knin 21st Anniversary of Operation Storm 1995 Photo: Dusko Jaranaz/Pixsell

Croatia’s President
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
at Knin 21st Anniversary of
Operation Storm 1995
Photo: Dusko Jaranaz/Pixsell

Liberation from Serb cruel, ethnically cleansing of Croats, murderous, destructive occupation of a quite large part of Croatian sovereign territory turned 21 on Friday 5 August 2016. The August 1995 Operation Storm delivered victory for a free development of democracy and a sure or lasting exit from communist Yugoslavia. So, who would spoil Croatia’s freedom 21st birthday party? The aggressor of course – Serbia! Of course Serbia isn’t going to say: Happy Birthday, Croatia! Happy 21st anniversary of freedom from our murderous hordes that attacked Croatia and Croatians – of course Serbia isn’t going to say it. A decent person would, but not the one who denies his/her wrongdoing and aggression. So I really get annoyed with the media that keep giving Serbia’s leadership the space where it can continue its vile attacks, albeit verbal this time, against Croatia – still.

 

On Friday (5 August) a ceremony in Knin, proudly commemorated the 21st anniversary of Operation Storm, when in August 1995 the Croatian army took back around one third of the country’s territory, held by Serbs since the start of the war in 1991.

 

About 200,000 Serbs fled the region, which had been “ethnically cleansed” of Croats four years before via murder, destruction and forced expulsion of people from home. Although Serbs continue to tell the world these 200,000 were forcefully expelled from that region after Operation Storm the Hague international criminal tribunal had found that there were no forced deportations of Serbs from Croatia then. Understandably, if Serbs told the truth that they left Croatia in an organised manner, being asked to leave Croatia by their political leadership in Serbia and make it look like they were forced to leave, they would need to pause and examine their own deeds that preceded August 1995 – sheer war crimes for which a number of their leaders have been convicted by the Hague tribunal.

Giant Croatian flag raised at Knin 5 August 2016 Photo: Hrvoje Jelavic/Pixsell

Giant Croatian flag
raised at Knin
5 August 2016
Photo: Hrvoje Jelavic/Pixsell

A giant Croatian flag was raised on Knin fortress in the presence of the military chiefs, acting Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic and president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic. This was a symbolic gesture representing liberation and victory. Nobody in the world except Serbs (the occupier/aggressor) would deny Croatia this victory celebration.

While President Grabar- Kitarovic full speech in Knin on 5 August 2016 can be accessed at the President’s Office Webpage, here are some excerpts which deserve particular attention and applause:

“…Right at the beginning, I want to send a clear message to those who claim that the Croatian State is accidental, and have even gone a step further by claiming that the modern Croatian State was created by criminal UDBA structures: modern Croatia was created by the will of the Croatian people and the vast majority of Croatian citizens, expressed in the referendum of 1991 and in the magnificent victory of Croatian defenders, the culmination of which was the military and police Operation Storm that we proudly celebrate here in Knin. Thank you to those who gave their lives for our freedom and a future of peace! We owe our lasting gratitude to them and to all the Homeland War veterans,” the president said, alluding to the repulsive and repeated allegations by the Social Democrats’ leader, Zoran Milanovic (who is once again going fort Prime Ministership at coming elections) that Croatia came to be accidentally and that former operatives and chiefs of the notorious/murderous Yugoslav secret service (UDBA) were at the helm for creating independent and democratic Croatia. Milanovic is a nasty piece of work and I am pleased the president found it important to shoot criticism and reprimand against him even if some have said that this turned her speech into a political speech, favouring the HDZ/conservative candidates for coming elections. I tend to differ from them because Milanovic’s comments had affected negatively every Croatian who fought for freedom and every victim who gave his/her life for the freedom fight of Homeland War.

Croatia's president Kolinda Grabar-KItarovic delivering speech at Knin for 21st anniversary of liberation from Serb occupation Photo: Screenshot

Croatia’s president
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
delivering speech at Knin
for 21st anniversary of liberation
from Serb occupation
Photo: Screenshot

“…Before all else, we celebrate this anniversary as our day of freedom and peace. We had to fight for our freedom and peace in war, by defending and liberating the country from the joint criminal enterprise of the unitarian Yugoslav and Chetnik forces, who had perpetrated horrible evils throughout Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina already in the Second World War,” president Grabar-Kitarovic continued.
I would like to take this opportunity to once again clearly say: we respect every victim, because every human life is of equal value and each family feels the same sorrow for their loved ones. At the same time, it must be clear that Operation Storm was and will historically remain a politically justified, ethically pure and a brilliantly conducted military operation that liberated the previously occupied Croatian national territory. It was an honourable victory for a just cause! Through it, we demonstrated our determination to be free and our ability to be sovereign. We did not allow – to quote our great poet Matos – for Croatia to be ‘a foreigner in her own homeland.’

 

21st anniversary of Operation Storm in Knin, Croatia 5 August 2016

21st anniversary of Operation Storm
in Knin, Croatia
5 August 2016

Even though the greater Serbian aggression caused much suffering, death and destruction, the Croatian state policy did not order, undertake or approve any retaliatory action, but expressed readiness for reconciliation and forgiveness. In his speech in Vukovar, on the 8th of June 1997, President Tudjman summed it up: ‘victors who do not know how to forgive, sow the seeds of new discords and future evils. And the Croatian people do not want this.’…

Operation Storm had also great international significance as it enabled the liberation of the Bihac enclave and prevented the repetition of the genocide committed by the forces of the Army of the Serbian Republic in Srebrenica. This accelerated the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the consolidation of the political situation in this part of Europe and opened up the perspective of Euro-Atlantic integration for all countries.

21st anniversary of Operation Storm Knin, Croatia 5 August 2016

21st anniversary of Operation Storm
Knin, Croatia
5 August 2016

Croatia and the Croatian people knew how to forgive: apart from the most ferocious war criminals, all those who had participated in the rebellion against Croatia were pardoned. General and special minority rights were fulfilled and the return of all those who wished to return was enabled. These are the ethics of victors and the ethics of peace! Even though we can humanly understand that for many Serbian refugees Operation Storm is a difficult personal and historical experience, we did not and never will accept that those outside Croatia, as well as those within Croatia evaluate Operation Storm in non-Croatian, and even anti-Croatian terms. This specifically means that we will not accept the falsification of the causes and consequences of the Homeland war. We will not accept any contempt for the generosity that we have expressed, or the neglect of judgments of international tribunals, or any denial of the legality and legitimacy of Operation Storm…

 

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic speech on this most important day for Croatia of today could not have been clearer and more sincere. This is so very much needed given that Serbia’s and Serbs’ outrageous attacks and vilification against Croatia sees no pause; it’s relentless. It’s good to know where Croatia’s president stands on these important matters because someone will need to curtail the unprovoked hatred coming out of Serbia. Certainly, Croatia cannot and will not erase the fact that Serbs and Serbia had waged a brutal war against Croatia in 1991 and in 1995 they lost it. If Serbia and Serbs see celebrations of victory at Operation Storm 1995 as provocation then nobody can do anything to stop their madness and utter meanness that emanates from this except Serbs themselves. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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