Croatia: Reparations For War Damages – A Priority In Relating To Serbia

 

Vukovar, Croatia 1991 - brutally devastated from Serb aggression

Vukovar, Croatia 1991 – brutally devastated from Serb aggression

This month, the Croatian government announced its backing for legislation, set to be voted in May, entitling rape war crime victims to a one-time compensation payment of up to 20,000 euros ($21,500), a 320 euro ($340) monthly allowance, health care, psychological counseling and legal aid.
The focus of the law is on the victim, without the need to detail or emphasise the person who committed the war crime of rape, however, it’s necessary to emphasise the perpetrator’s military characteristics in order to make a distinction from a civil perpetrator,” said Vesna Nadj, deputy veterans’ minister.

 

Marija Sliskovic

Marija Sliskovic

Until now, victims have had to deal with their own trauma privately. Now, they will finally be seen by society,” says Marija Sliskovic, who runs Women in the Homeland, an NGO that has been advocating for rape victims’ rights since 2010, and helping them to heal.

 

 

 

 

 

Ruzica Erdelji - Barbaric

Ruzica Erdelji – Barbaric

Raped by some 20 men in Vukovar, Ruzica Erdelji-Barbaric fled her hometown during the war and returned in 1998. She lives off a 200 euro ($215) pension, and hopes the new compensation will help her live “a decent old age”. Barbaric, 63, insists other perpetrators must face justice. “I was raped and I want the people who did it to be punished,” she said. “Our wounds will never heal.”

 

 

 

War veterans’ minister Predrag Matic told the Croatian media recently that the compensation envisaged by the proposed law will be granted “based on trust”.
A victim of sexual violence comes before the committee and tells what happened to her or him and gives accompanying documentation, if there is any. The commission will then decide whether they will get the status of a victim or not,” he said.
Minister Matic has emphasised that his government is the first to do anything about the war crime of rape and that they have shown a “political good will” to address compensation to victims of rape!

While compensation to victims of rape war crime is, in itself, a positive and needed move one cannot but scorn such statements by the veterans’ affairs minister. Such statements do strongly suggest that there is no substantial will to deal with the gravity of such crimes and their perpetrators. Furthermore, given that the grant of compensation will depend on “trust” the process announced for decision-making on compensation via a committee tied to the veterans’ ministry is fraught with likelihoods of political influences and subjective interpretations on committee members.

This law would seem to fit into the concept of “victims of crime compensation” known to societies throughout the democratic developed world. The only difference is, that in the democratically developed world there’s genuine pursuit of justice against the perpetrator and in this case there seems to be no efforts by the Croatian authorities to seek reparations from Serbia whose citizens, at its instigation, committed these war crimes!

Franjo Tudjman visits Vukovar 8 June 1997 during the process of peaceful reintegration of the Serb-occupied Croatian Danube region into the Croatian constitutional and legal system

Franjo Tudjman visits Vukovar
8 June 1997 during the process
of peaceful reintegration of
the Serb-occupied Croatian
Danube region into the
Croatian constitutional and legal system

This brings me to a pertinent issue: Serbia is desirous of becoming an EU member and as such it would be required to respect the democratic standards inherent to EU membership. One of these standards is respecting and complying with agreements signed with other countries. One of such agreements is the Agreement on Normalization of Relations between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Republic of Croatia, 23rd August 1996.
The joint committee (Croatia – Federal Republic of Yugoslavia/Serbia & Montenegro) met a few times (last time in 1999) after the signing of the said agreement, without any progress being made as to reparations for war damages. Serbian members rejected Croatia’s draft on compensation for damages submitted in July 1998 under the false guise that the 1990’s war was a civil war and, therefore, each state should sustain/compensate for damages arisen on its own territory! Not an inch of Serbia’s territory was under attack, of course. Croatia could not agree to such a legally and factually unfounded premise and considered that its responsibility lay in compensation for war damages that occurred on the territory under the control of the Croatian authorities and not for those that occurred in its occupied territories under the control of the Yugoslav army, i.e. Serbia and Montenegro, and the rebel Serbs in the Krajina region.

 

Armed Serb rebels  commenced aggression  in Croatia with barricades 1990

Armed Serb rebels
commenced aggression
in Croatia with barricades
1990

War damages to Croatia sustained between 1990 and 1999 are estimated to be in the vicinity of 32,5 Billion Euro. At the end of 1999 Croatia filed a lawsuit against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (later changed to Serbia as Montenegro left the union with Serbia) at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for genocide and seeking compensation for war damages. When Social Democrats won government in Croatia, in 2000, Prime Minister Ivica Racan suspended all activities to do with the abovesaid 1996 Agreement, pending ICJ verdict. Despite that, Serbia had continued to raised the question of restoring the property to Serb minority that had fled Croatia during the war years, criticising Croatia that not enough is being done on that front even though Croatia had, to September 2014, spent 5.5 Billion Euro from its budget in the implementation of the national program securing the return of refugees and their housing.
In its February 2015 verdict the ICJ had decided that while acts of genocide were committed in various areas of Croatia there was no genocide committed by either side (Croatia or Serbia) as a whole but there was no doubt as to the fact that Serb aggression against Croatia, on Croatia’s sovereign territory, so to speak, did occur.

Vukovar, Croatia 1991 Serb Chetnik and Serb-led Yugoslav army march into Vukovar singing: "Slobo, Slobo (as in Slobodan Milosevic) send us some salad, there will be meat, we'll slaughter the Croats" (BBC newsreel screenshot)

Vukovar, Croatia 1991
Serb Chetnik and Serb-led Yugoslav army
march into Vukovar singing:
“Slobo, Slobo (as in Slobodan Milosevic) send
us some salad, there will be meat, we’ll slaughter
the Croats” (BBC newsreel screenshot)

Croatian parliament had on 21st October 2011 upheld the Declaration on promoting European values in South-East Europe and it has been heard on several occasions that Croatia will not, as an EU member state, use that position in obstructing Serbia’s negotiations for EU membership. However this Declaration does not mean that Croatia should renounce its rights and national interests.
It’s high time to put a stop to political juggling and “political good will” (as minister Matic put it in the case of war crime of rape) and bring the matter of compensation for war damages to Croatia to the table, along with other open questions such as the missing, the Vukovar medical archives, the processing of war criminals, the return of stolen art treasure, the landmines’ plan etc.). An official meeting between Croatia’s new President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and Serbia’s Tomislav Nikolic would seem to be an ideal opportunity to start “the ball rolling” in the right and practical direction. There’s been enough politicisation on the issue of compensation for war damages and the tide needs to turn towards actual and concrete demands to Serbia for payment. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatia: Renewed Aggression And Hatred From Serbia – Alarms

 

Vicious and Indicted Serb War Criminal  Vojislav Seselj Burns the Croatian Flag in Belgrade

Vicious and Indicted Serb War Criminal
Vojislav Seselj
Burns the Croatian Flag in Belgrade

It’s difficult to conclude that the renewed aggression against Croatia coming out of Serbia since the indicted war criminal Vojislav Seselj burned the Croatian flag last week is not politically connected to the announcement by Milorad Dodik, the president of the Serbian Republic (entity within Bosnia and Herzegovina/B&H, which has the 1995 massacre and genocide of Srebrenica as its cornerstone) regarding his plan to bring about at the end of April 2015 the declaration of the independence (from B&H) of the Serbian Republic. All this tells me, and I’m sure, many, that the Greater Serbia plan has not been shelved and sovereign nations affected by it (e.g. Croatia, B&H) must continue vigilance, as possibilities of renewed armed Serb-aggression, such as the one in early 1990’s, do seem to pose a risk.
Serbia did not succeed in its aggressive bid to try and stop secession from communist Yugoslavia of Croatia and B&H into independent states. However, in B&H, Serbs managed to hive off a part of that sovereign country as their enclave with their own local government. In Croatia, they lost completely – Croatian forces in 1995 “Operation Storm” liberated most of the Serb occupied and ethnically cleansed region (Krajina), and the rest was peacefully reintegrated into Croatia by the end of 1998. And everything they do politically points to the conclusion that Serbs cannot accept that; they cannot accept being a minority where they are a minority within a country.
Even though the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) appellate judges had just over a week ago, 30 March 2015, ruled that the indicted war criminal Vojislav Seselj had violated the terms of his release and ordered him to return to ICTY custody, Vojislav Seselj and Serbia’s leaders (Seselj’s political mates during the 1990’s aggression against Croatia and B&H, Serbian ultranatiolists) seem unperturbed and have raised their hate speech and aggressive disposition to almost the levels that existed during the 1990’s war of Serb-aggression against Croatia and B&H .
While the sinister Milorad Dodik is announcing a declaration of Serbian Republic independence in B&H (in defiance of the 1995 Dayton Agreement, which had as its foundation a goal to keep B&H in one piece as a sovereign and independent state) Vojislav Seselj is burning the Croatian flag in Serbia’s capital Belgrade, in front of Serbia’s government house, and threatening that he will only come to Croatia in a tank, and armed! Meanwhile, Serbia’s minister for work Aleksandar Vulin has obviously in the name of Serbia’s government intensified his anti-Croat hate speech, calling Croatia’s 1990’s war hero and general, Ante Gotovina, an Ustashe General and promoting still the lie that some 200,000 Serbs were deported forcefully from Croatia in 1995, ignoring the ICTY Appeals court ruling that there was no forceful deportation of Serbs from Croatia. (Ustashe were members of the Croatian Revolutionary movement in the period 1929-1945 and are considered an ultra-nationalist and fascist formation.A similar group in Serbia, during the same historic period, was the Chetniks.)

 

 

As one might expect, Milorad Pupovac, a member of Croatian parliament representing the Croatian Serb National Council support this Greater Serbia “warrior” and continues equating the 1990’s Croatian War of Independence with the WWII efforts towards Croatian independence. Serbia’s president Tomislav Nikolic had said that stringent measures under the law would be taken out against the person burning Croatia’s flag in Belgrade – but guess what – it’s been over a week and Vojislav Seselj still walks the streets of Serbia instead of being rounded up by Serbia’s authorities to prevent any further criminal actions while the burning of the flag is processed, and, to ensure Seselj returns to the ICTY to face judgment on charges of war crimes perpetrated against Croats and Bosniaks in Croatia, Vojvodina and B&H. Tomislav Nikolic sees the ICTY order to have Seselj returned to Hague as pressure against Serbia! The fact that Seselj stands accused of most heinous crimes against humanity does not seem to factor one iota in Nikolic’s thinking on due justice!
Furthermore, Serbia’s foreign minister and another of Seselj’s political “mates”, Ivica Dacic, said that the ICTY decision to seek Seselj’s return was “perfidious and scandalous” and jeopardised the stability of Serbia and the entire region. Never mind the fact that victims of Seselj’s war crimes spree deserve justice!

 

 

The ICTY Trial Chamber has last week ordered the ICTY Secretariat to contact the medical team of Vojislav Seselj (in Serbia) as soon as possible and furnish the Chamber with the latest information about the health condition of the accused. Meanwhile, Serbia’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic states that his government has no proof that Seselj is well again! I would have thought that organising public hate speeches, threatening Croatia, burning Croatia’s flag was proof enough that Seselj was quite well physically to be treated at medical facilities in the Hague for any physical ailment he may have and when it comes to his mental state – there’s ample proof that he needs to be behind bars as he is a danger to many innocent people!

To throw another element into the factor where Serbia will try everything and anything to avoid acceptance of its guilt for the horrible wars that ensued during the breakup of communist Yugoslavia, Serbia’s president Tomislav Nikolic has a few days ago announced that Serbia’s military forces would be marching in Moscow at the May celebrations of WWII victory! One may indeed raise ones eyebrows and ask: Why? This are the times when Serbia says it wants to join the EU and the EU is not in good terms with Russia, over Ukraine! Is Serbia giving up its plan to join the EU (its leaders’ political idol war criminal Vojislav Seslj says Serbia should not join the EU) or is Serbia, once again, intimidating the international community (EU) in order to, somewhat surreptitiously,  “bag” new acreage for Serbia – Serbian Republic in B&H – and get away with its denial of war crimes perpetrated during 1990’s?

 

 

As to Serbian plans to march in Moscow, Serbia’s political scientist Aleksander Pavic said that he believes that Serbia’s participation in the parade has a tremendous symbolic significance. “We are definitely part of the coalition [of victors], considering how many Serbs were killed in the Second World War. We had not one, but two anti-fascist projects, and we have the right to say that we were the first to rebel in a Europe enslaved by Nazism.” Pavic, like all Serbia’s leaders, have conveniently forgotten that Serbia’s WWII “rebellion” against Nazi enslavement came after Serbia under Milan Nedic exterminated, by May 1942, 94% of its Jews and became one of the first European countries to declare itself “Judenfrei” (Jew-free)! Serbia was like Russia during WWII: shouting to be anti-Nazi while murdering multitudes of innocent people! What a disgrace for humanity!

 

Although, last week Croatia had, after Seselj’s burning of the Croatian flag, called its Ambassador to Serbia back to Croatia for consultations it is of utmost importance that, within Croatia, some serious measures are put in place to protect the Croatian people and Croatia’s war veterans from Serb nationalist lies and the undermining of the sovereignty of Croatian state. Pressure might be on from the EU (and other parts of the world) to see neighbourly relations between Croatia and Serbia become more normal and moving towards reconciliation but this latest outpouring of hatred and lies against Croatia and the 1990’s War of Independence coming out of Serbia vividly demonstrate that Serbian and Serbs still do not see themselves as Croatia’s neighbours nor do they want to be neighbours – they still want a piece of Croatia for Serbia just as they want the same in Bosnia and Herzegovina! That is the ugly bottom line and the sooner the Croatian leadership acknowledge this truth publicly the better it will be for Croatia and its people; for democracy and freedom far and wide. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A. Ps. (Syd)

Madman On The Loose In Serbia Threatens Peace And Human Dignity

Vojislav Seselj, indicted war criminal awaiting ICTY verdict

Vojislav Seselj,
indicted war criminal
awaiting ICTY verdict

 

Vojislav Seselj’s return to Serbia (after being temporarily released from war crimes tribunal in the Hague on account of advanced illness and pending judgment) happened just days before the 23rd anniversary of the fall of Vukovar (18 November), which is a very important date for the Croats and which evidences untold atrocities committed in the early 1990’s against Croats and other non-Serbs in Croatia at the directive and under Seselj’s or Serbian Radical Party’s directives (whose members at the time also included the current Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic).

A master at rubbing salt into the wounds and enjoying it, as on 18 November Croatia mourned and remembered its dead, its raped, its devastated lives from Serb aggression, Seselj tauntingly published from Belgrade headquarters a statement in which he congratulated the Serb chetniks on their liberation from Croats of Vukovar on 18 November 1991! (He reportedly also sent such a press release to the Croatian media). For Seselj, for Greater Serbia ideology occupation, murder, rape, ethnic cleansing means – liberation! Furthermore, in the same statement Seselj and his Serbian Radical Party vowed to pursue with their aim in ensuring that the territory they had occupied in Croatia in 1990’s, which was then liberated by Croat forces in 1995, becomes Serb territory again.

 

Croatia reacted with horror to these statements by Seselj, but the Serbian government remained quiet. Seselj’s excesses have also unleashed a hailstorm of criticism against the ICTY, with detractors saying Seselj’s release deals a serious setback to the court’s mandate to promote post-war reconciliation.
To “correct” the lack of Serbian government’s reaction to Seselj’s hateful and violent public rhetoric, its foreign minister Ivica Dacic has come out saying that there is no need to react to Seselj for Seselj is not a political factor in Serbian government. Oh dear, he may not be, but he is certainly raising hell in Serbia and abroad!
As suggested by my previous post on the issue of Seselj’s temporary release from prison, there are many disquieting questions to be answered as to why the war crimes tribunal would release its prisoner pending judgment to receive medical treatment in their own country, far away from the court and far away the capacity of being able to monitor such treatment. As if to provoke outrage, numerous exceptions were made for Seselj’s case. The Office of the Prosecutor, run by Serge Brammertz, did not participate in the deliberations for temporary release. And the final order, published on November 6, stipulates only that Seselj should refrain from witness and victim intimidation and return promptly to The Hague when summoned. No restraints were put on Seselj in terms of political activity. The trial chamber also took the unusual step of circumventing a final consultation with Seselj that would allow him to accept or deny the terms of his release. Nor is it clear the trial chamber received detailed information about the state of Seselj’s health.
The November 6 ICTY court order approving Seselj’s release notes only that the judges had “received additional confidential information that points to a deterioration in the accused’s health.” The dissenting opinion in the matter by Judge Mandiaye Niang (PDF) describes Seselj as “gravely ill,” adding, “We know this despite his refusal to allow his medical file to be disclosed officially.”

If you, the fair and just minded reader, are confused and enraged at this point, know that you are experiencing an outrage at the lack of justice in this matter, at the lack of consideration for the victims of the brutal crimes committed against Croats under Seselj’s tutelage and orders. The courts that the just world has known to this point require expert evidence in cases of ill-health claims. In this case, Seselj has refused to disclose health records to the court and the court released him anyway! What calamity for human kind!

So far, Seselj has yet to show any overt signs of serious health setbacks. Indeed he appears as strong as an Ox and his voice is full of strength and energy; he emanates a dynamic stature and drive, he refuses to undertake medical treatment he’s reported to be returned to Serbia for. Certainly, he could be very physically ill nevertheless, and, in a mad rage to push his political agenda. Whichever it is, it’s certainly not what the ICTY said it was going to be (medical treatment/ exceptional humanitarian grounds).

 

Presented with Seselj’s public grandstanding, ethnic hatred speeches, raising unrest the ICTY prosecutor Serge Brammertz would like the world to believe that his office cannot appeal the temporary release decision without access to Seselj’s medical records! How about appealing on grounds that decision should not have been made without medical records in the first place!

Croatia’s president Ivo Josipovic stated that he wrote to the ICTY president Judge Theodore Meron, alerting him that Seselj’s hate speeches could destabilise peace in that part of Europe.

Former ICTY prosecution spokesperson Florence Hartmann used irony on Saturday 22 November when she commented on the Seselj situation and Croatia’s reaction to the Slovenian Delo:

They (Hague war crimes tribunal) are absolutely above everything, above international standards, above the UN Security Council, and even above God.”
“They’ve temporarily released a madman,” she continued.
If I were in Croatian president Josipovic’s place, I would not write to the president of the Hague tribunal, Meron, but instead I would write to the member states of the UN Security Council and ask them: what is happening? We are paying enormous sums of money for the work of the tribunal and in return we are receiving only attempts to revise the conflict’s history and premature release from prison of a madman,” said Hartmann. Hartmann said that there is more and more of nationalism emerging and that “we would not have that were it not for the fear of confronting the past.”
Croatian member of EU Parliament, Tonino Picula (Social Democrats) said that good care should be taken to ensure that “individual pathological cases“, such as recent statements by Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj, did not affect entire societies. “Croatia should be extremely cautious, considering its recent past, and the European Parliament is a forum where we can discuss this in good time,” he concluded.

 

The issue is that “individual pathological cases” such as Seselj cause a great deal of suffering and fear and must be stopped at once, not discussed about “in good time”. One can discuss and discuss about a madman ‘till the cows come home’ but nothing will change. Firm action is needed.
On a more promising note, though, MEP Andrej Plenkovic of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) said that the European People’s Party (EPP) was planning to propose a resolution at a European Parliament session in Strasbourg next week to condemn Seselj’s behaviour. It’s an urgent matter to stop the rhetoric that caused the crimes of the 1990’s in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina – Seselj should have been on his way back to the Hague prison – yesterday! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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