Croatia: Stop Listening To Serbia – Listen To The Victims Of Her Aggression!

Borovo Selo Memorial Wall: "He Who Dies In Honesty - Lives Forever"

Borovo Selo Memorial Wall: “He Who Dies In Honesty – Lives Forever”

The events in Croatia during the past week should have marked the diary pages with pride, piety, dignified grieving for the lost lives, and a determined step forward in the direction of achieving final justice for the multitudes of war crimes’ victims, victims of the times of Serb aggression, and which justice includes due pursuits in achieving compensation for victims as well as public property such as buildings, utilities etc. Croatia was devastated by the onslaught of Serb aggression of 1990’s.

Instead of this, the visit to Croatia by Serbia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vucic, caused profound distress especially among those who were the closest to the horrors Serb aggression caused in Croatia during 1990’s. While developing bearable and civilised relations with Serbia is a good thing, in principle, it is not done at the expense of victims and justice they are owed. And this is exactly what was happening in Croatia during the past week.
The past week in Croatia marked:
•    The 18th anniversary of the military operation “Flash”, which in 1995 liberated Croatia’s Western Slavonia from brutal Serb occupation. The purpose of the operation was to regain control of Okucani, the centre of the Serb insurgency and terrorist attacks in Western Slavonia. In less than 32 hours, 7,200 Croatian soldiers and policemen took control of 500 square kilometers of occupied territory, including the Zagreb-Lipovac motorway and the main railway line running from Zagreb to Eastern Slavonia. Forty-two Croatian soldiers and policemen were killed and 162 were wounded. (Operation Flash preceded Operation Storm, which followed three months later, when Croatia showed its determination to re-establish its sovereignty over its territory.)

•    The 18th anniversary of ruthless surface-to-surface rocket attack against Zagreb by rebel Serbs who retaliated for the defeat they suffered as a result of operation “Flash”. Six people were killed in Zagreb, 39 seriously injured and another 136 received lesser injuries. The first explosions were heard around 10.23 a.m. on 2 May 1995 when several rockets were fired on downtown Zagreb. The rocketing a day later was directed at a children’s hospital, a retirement home and the national theatre building. Serb, Milan Martic was sentenced by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia for the attack on Zagreb and is currently serving a 35-year sentence.

•    The 22nd anniversary when 12 police officers were killed and mutilated by Serb paramilitary forces in Borovo, eastern Croatia. The 12 men were killed in an ambush during the night between May 1 and 2, 1991 after they came to rescue two of their colleagues who had been captured by Serb paramilitaries while on regular patrol. Twenty-one policemen were wounded then.

•    The visit to Croatia by Serbia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vucic, who during the times of Serb aggression against Croatia, while Serbs were killing Croatian and non-Serbs and ethnically cleansing of them areas in Croatia, spoke loud and clear that where there are about 20% of Serbs – that was Serbian country – places such as Karlobag, Ogulin, Karlovac, Virovitica … following is video footage of one of Vucic’s speeches in Belgrade, Serbia, during the Serb aggression in Croatia.

It is absolutely unforgivable that Croatia’s government allowed Vucic’s visit to occur in Croatia during the past week. Especially given that Vucic kept saying and reiterating that “the future is more important than the past!” He further said that “ 18 years has passed, the children have become adults. Prospect for development is more important than being buried in political trenches”.

At that point Croatia’s foreign minister Vesna Pusic should have turned towards him, saying:

Stop! Stop right there!

One might even be inclined to believe that Vucic bears sincere good wishes for the Croatian people, but when he went on about the importance of pensions in Croatia for Serbs and Serb’s tenancy rights – every hope that Vucic has turned a page away from Greater Serbia ideals has absolutely vanished. He is still the one who roots for the equation of aggressor with the victim – in every sense. He is still the one who wants the past forgotten so that Serbia does not have to answer for its crimes.

The past is important. It’s most important when justice for the victims has not been achieved. But then, it is in Serbia’s interests to bury the past which has not been reconciled. Croatia’s foreign minister Pusic was certainly not protecting the interests of Croatia nor its people by suggesting that a withdrawal of lawsuit against Serbia at the International Court of Justice for genocide might be on the books – if the question of the still missing persons was resolved.

For crying out loud – the lawsuit is not just about the missing persons, it’s about all of the victims.

Neither the government nor minister Pusic have the right to withdraw the court claim that was made in the name of all the victims, that was made because of the victims!

As to how Croatia’s victims feel about Vucic’s visit to Croatia and what transpired between him and Pusic may perhaps be best shown with the contents of the following open letter to Croatia’s Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic by some of the victims of Serb aggression.

Respected Mrs Pusic,
At the beginning of your mandate in the government of the Republic of Croatia and after you took up the post at the head of the very important ministry, I sent you a request, asking you to hear the testimonies of raped women, victims of Serbia’s and Yugoslav People’s Army aggression against Croatia.

My wish was to provide you with an opportunity to obtain firsthand knowledge about the suffering of victims, especially women, at that time and which knowledge would, I thought, serve you well when as minister, you find yourself in the situation in which Croatia would be attempting to solve the question of war damages with the aggressor country.

You did not respond to our request, you remained without an insight into war happenings and you were, at the meeting with the government official of Serbia, in a totally inferior position. Minister Vucic stated that we need to look into the future, that love is not necessary for future relations, that problems of pensions and tenancy rights of the Serbian minority must be solved, strengthen economic cooperation. Mr Vucic knows exactly what he wants. He will not talk about the war, about the victims, occupation, war damages, the raped, the concentration camps prisoners. Serbia does not want to talk about the lack of its success in the war. It does not confront the consequences.

You, Mrs Pusic, stated that “if the question of the missing is solved, the conditions will be created for the withdrawal of the claim,” (against Serbia for genocide, at International Court of Justice, filed in 1999) as if you had completed a very significant job for the country and the people.

Why is the question about the missing the most important of all the victims of Serbia’s aggression against Croatia?

If the destroyed and devastated country, the killed, the imprisoned, the raped, the deported, about 400 children, have no value in the efforts for justice, compensation.

It’s every public official’s duty to protect the interests of the country and the people he/she represents.
Are you protecting the interests of raped women? Are you protecting their right to feel that their representatives are truly interceding on their behalf so that they may receive compensation for suffering through war horrors at the hands of those who came, armed to their teeth, and made them into war slaves. Try and imagine how it must be to live with the consequences of having had to live through this. How much strength is needed to raise a child, the fruit of someone from that horde.

The claim, I hope, includes their suffering and horrible ordeals. Or, are you pursuing good political relations without any consideration to the victims. The victims arose during the time when Croatia could not protect them with weapons. Today, when everything is being solved around a table why is Croatia not protecting those same victims. This is not a question of volition; it is a debt and the correction of former powerlessness.

I’m writing to you as a minister, more importantly as a woman, engage your efforts for the living, for those who had the fortune of surviving. The claim must be sustained for their rights. Real victims, not to be equated with the criminal. And the important feeling that justice is being sought and that the difference between aggression and defence is being established.

After all minister, politicians are transient. The people remain and the memory of the experiences remains. It is the responsibility of all of you who have taken over the government jobs to realise a just future. For peace’s sake.

I remain at your disposal to relay to you the true testimonies of the women victims of war.

With respect,
Marija Sliskovic, President, Women in Homeland War Association
Zagreb 30th April 2013

Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

RELATED POST

Convicted Serb rapists from Vukovar 1991 – flee Croatia

Women in Homeland War Association Croatia Photo: Ilustracija/Pixsell

This is the stuff horror movies are made of.

Only, horror movies are usually fiction.

It is incredulous that persons charged of mass rapes during the Serb aggression in Croatia (early 1990’s) are still allowed to roam the streets freely over almost two decades, while charges are being heard in criminal court and others obstructed. And, once they finally are convicted of the rapes, as charged, they “find” safe passage to flee Croatia, most likely to Serbia (reports the media).

If a charge for rape is brought against a person in the Western democratic countries, once arrested, that person remains behind bars and criminal proceedings in court continue. While bail can be granted I would argue that no person in the West ever charged with charges of mass/repeated rapes like the ones in Vukovar would ever convince a court to grant them bail.

To have two Serb rapists flee Vukovar in recent days and months after being charged or convicted in the first instance of rape is no accident, I dare say.

It is absolutely horrible to even contemplate that mass rapes could be taken so lightly by the authorities and rapists allowed to roam the streets where their battered, tortured and utterly humiliated victims walk.

Croatian news agency HINA reported September 7 that the president of Women in Homeland War Association, Marija Sliskovic, emphasised at press conference that victims of rape, as well as those who helped the victims, feel unsafe and are in fear of their lives due to the fact that convicted-in-the-first-instance rapists are free.

The Association has announced today that it will sue the State because, they claim, it has allowed Dusan Ivkovic (51), convicted of rape in occupied Vukovar 1991, to flee while the other convicted rapist Rade Ivkovic (59) fled immediately after charges were laid against him. (Reportedly the two Ivkovics are not related)

The president of Women in Homeland War Association, Marija Sliskovic, reminded that the court hearing against the two convicted rapists lasted ten years.

Rade Ivkovic, who was sentenced to eight years by the court in Vukovar on Monday, fled immediately after charges were laid, most likely to Serbia, and Dusan Ivkovic did that the day after his sentence was handed down in court ( he was present at hearings but not at sentencing), said Sliskovic.

“It’s horrible that he resided in Vukovar the day after the sentencing, where he could have hurt the victim, and us who helped her”, said Sliskovic.

Sliskovic said that she cannot comprehend why the police did not arrest him given that he was sentenced to five and half years.

We’ll work out the details with our solicitor, but in any case, we are going ahead with the lawsuit against the Republic of Croatia,” said Sliskovic as she emphasized that the long court proceedings in this case as well as the fact that charged rapists are not remanded in custody but allowed to defend themselves while freely moving about town, and the fact that one has fled the country after being sentenced for rape prove that the Government institutions are not doing their job.

She also reminded that Dusan Ivkovic was a policeman under suspension, was in receipt of half his salary at all times, that the Police Union secured a solicitor for his defence while the victim of his rapes was left to fend for herself with only some help from the Women in Homeland War Association.

A pathetic record for Croatian authorities, indeed. It is difficult to comprehend why this is so.

Whether it has to do with politics of equating the victim with the aggressor it’s hard to say but certainly plausible. It is in someone’s interest to protect the Serb rapists as much as possible and I support any moves by the victims to compel the authorities into just actions even if it means suing the State.

Or, has the internationally fired push for reconciliation between Croatia’s Serbs and Croatians gone so very, very wrong that it ignores the basic human rights of victims of rapes to justice and the non-negotiable process where the perpetrator must be punished for his crimes?

Whatever the case this madness and thorough injustice towards rape victims must stop.

April 2012 “Two decades after many of the worst atrocities were committed in the 1991-95 war, Croatian victims of rape and sexual violence are still awaiting justice, recognition, and support. This was the conclusion of a roundtable organized in Vukovar on 3 April by the United Nations (UN) in Croatia and the City of Vukovar, with support from the Office of the President of Croatia. The event was organized to draw attention to the plight of rape survivors and mobilize state authorities and civil society to redouble their efforts to punish the perpetrators and respond to the needs of the victims. Croatia’s experience was set in a broader context by the American playwright and activist Eve Ensler, who issued a rallying cry for a global crusade to fight all discrimination and violence against women…

Nothing has changed; nothing has improved for the victims of rape in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. So it’s high time the victims call the authorities to account, demand justice, demand protection. If it means taking the Government to court – so be it! No mercy should be afforded to any such obviously rotten and irresponsible actions or omissions by the authorities (be it only local ones in Vukovar, if not higher ones in the country’s governmental headquarters) who let the brutal beasts walk. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Serbs serve more “Blood” than “Honey” for Angelina Jolie’s film promotion

Angelina Jolie Photo: Slobodna Dalmacija

According to the Guardian’s article Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut “In the Land of Blood and Honey was intended to remind the world of the horrors of the Bosnian war which began 20 years ago, and trigger a debate among Bosnians over what happened and why. But it has succeeded most in exposing the depth of the rifts in a country that many fear is moving away from reconciliation and drifting once more towards dangerous instability. Since the film opened, with a peace award at the Berlin film festival on Monday (13 February 2012) and a premiere before 5,000 people in Sarajevo on Tuesday night, Jolie and several Serbian members of the cast have received threats.
In the Land of Blood and Honey is a stark, brutal and often shocking portrayal of the war. It shows summary executions and the systematic rape of Muslim and Croat women by Serbian officers at one of the many camps set up around the country.
An estimated 100,000 people were killed in the war, 8,000 Muslim men and boys murdered at Srebrenica in 1995, which the Hague tribunal has declared an act of genocide.
The current Bosnian Serb leadership rejects the findings of the tribunal and other international investigations, and Jolie’s film is not being shown in the Republika Srpska, the Serbian entity which makes up more than half of Bosnia.”
Republika Srpska (Serbian Republic) arose from within the borders of the former Yugoslav state of Bosnia and Herzegovina and it’s “birth” is soaked in genocidal blood and horrors of the 1990’s wars when Croatian and Bosnian Serbs and the Serb-led Yugoslav Army mounted terrible aggression in order to stop the secession of Croatia and Bosnia from communist Yugoslavia. It is, therefore, no surprise that Bosnian Serbs have hostile attitudes towards Jolie’s movie. One can safely conclude that Serbs don’t want the world to know or imagine more about their horrors.
Critics, including renowned Serbian film director Emir Kusturica, “alleged that Jolie unfairly had depicted ethnic Serbs as sole aggressors in the war and associated ethnic-cleansing campaigns. Kusturica told Serbian daily Blic that Jolie’s new film was a work of Hollywood propaganda.”
Does it really matter whether it’s propaganda or not?

In all its history, movie making has been about bringing to the world portrayals of factual as well as fictional events. Jolie has brought a factual story of horror told by fictional characters. There’s no propaganda in that. But even if it were propaganda then it’s high time for more of it because justice has not yet been served to all the innocent victims, and especially not to rape victims in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

So, I say: “good on you, Angelina! Now make a movie on the thousands upon thousands of rape victims in Croatia because Croatian women who were raped by the Serbs during the 1990’s war still await their justice. But worse than that, they are forced to live in the same community as their rapists (e.g. in Vukovar) because the international community, particularly the European Union, has been pushing for the return to Croatia of Serbs who fled the country in 1995 without insisting on justice and conditions that Serbs need to meet if they wish to rehabilitate themselves back into the country which they so brutally ravaged.
Attending the Croatian premiere of the movie in Zagreb, Croatia, Friday February 17, Jolie said: “I hope that my film will throw a light upon this region, that people will come and travel here, be excited by your beautiful country and artists that inspire”. When, on the red carpet, asked why she made the movie she replied: “It was the bloodiest conflict since WWII, and I felt that I did not know anything about it, like many people in other countries. People here have suffered enormous agonies and are still suffering through much. International community needs to continue helping them.”

Let’s hope that Jolie’s movie will trigger more investigations and prosecution of all rapists from the war in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. While Serb rapists from Bosnia have maintained a relatively safe haven from prosecution within the Serbian Republic and Serbia, in Croatia most roam freely because the international community insists on their return to Croatia. While the ICTY in the Hague has included rape as a war crime, only the individuals who are before it get to answer for it. The majority of the rapists are still at large and much more needs to be done for justice to be served. Every bit helps and Jolie’s film may well trigger some blood into a boiling point that will see an increased number of criminal investigations and criminal trials for rape, wherever the rapists may be – even in “Western” countries where many live normal lives as refugees from former Yugoslavia. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A. Ps. (Syd)

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