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

Continued Mistreatment of Croats in Serbia Stalls Serbia’s EU Membership Negotiations

Croatian Member of EU Parliament Marijana Petir

Croatian Member of EU Parliament
Marijana Petir


If anyone wants to go and see how minorities are mistreated, abused and persecuted in the 21st Century’s so-called freedom and democracy go to Serbia and check out the abominable treatment of the Croatian minority in the Vojvodina part of Serbia.


This May marks 25 years from the time of widespread and brutal persecution of Vojvodina Croats from their homes under the attack of the criminal Great Serbian policy from Slobodan Milosevic and the current Serbian government, in its desire to become an EU member state is doing nothing much to correct its wrongs of the past. In the 1990’s Serbs did not only attack Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to ethnically cleanse large areas of these sovereign countries but they also went about ethnically cleansing parts of Serbia (Vojvodina); targeting Croatian minority there. (Of course elements of such a criminal pattern would be also seen in the Kosovo, then a province of Serbia, and its Muslim population.)

When compared to 1990, there is only half of Croats still living in Vojvodina, Serbia. They are being discriminated against and their rights as a national minority – repressed. They have had no parliamentary representation in Serbia’s Parliament like Serbs living in Croatia have during the past two decades. The broadcasting of the radio and TV in Croatian language has been shut down; Serbia’s government also does not finance books and education in the Croatian language. Croats are often the targets of thievery, murder and physical attacks for which the assailants are rarely found. Catholic priests are also attacked and Catholic churches defiled. Reports Cro Portal.

Croatian member of the European Parliament Marijana Petir alerted the European Commission about this on several occasions in recent times. She asked the EC to protect the Croatian minority in Vojvodina.
The national authorities in Serbia are preventing Croats in Vojvodina from exercising their rights to language, culture and education in their mother tongue. All of the actions taken by the Serbian authorities in Vojvodina are aimed at favouring the Bunjevci — a group of Croats who do not wish to declare themselves Croats, but only Bunjevci — in order to assimilate them. Croats are prevented from exercising the rights that are guaranteed to them by the law and by international agreements.
The Croatian National Council in Serbia and the Croatian Government are therefore obliged to spend their own resources on printing textbooks. Meanwhile, the Serbian Government refuses to reimburse them for the costs of doing this and does not allow them to use public spaces for their cultural events. It is also attempting to squeeze out the Croatian language and replace it with the Bunjevac language.
Given that Croats are citizens of the European Union, how will the Commission ensure that the rights of Croats in Vojvodina to language, culture and education in their mother tongue are exercised?” Petir asked the EU Parliament in late 2015.


Johannes Hahn, Member of the EC in charge of Regional Policy

Johannes Hahn, Member of the EC in charge of Regional Policy

Johannes Hahn, EC Commissioner Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, replied that respect of fundamental rights and the protection of minorities are the key conditions for Serbia within the negotiation process and are dealt with in Chapter 23. He further explained that Serbia was completing its action plan regarding the protection of minorities and the EC expects from Serbia to take up the recommendations entailed in the EC Advisory board’s directions. Those recommendations, he said, are directed at education, use of language, access to media and religious practices in the languages spoken by minorities. He concluded that Serbia, in practice, is bound to respect fundamental rights, including the right on property protection … As to the latter part of Hahn’s reply, the return of property to the Croatian clubs and organisations (in Vojvodina) Mr Krunoslav Djakovic (President of Centre for Culture ‘Srijem” and Croatian House organisatuon) emphasised that “Croats are not asking for anything that would contradict the law, but are asking from Serbia’s government to give them, as an ethnic minority, that which they have legal right to. If they don’t want to do that, that is breach of human rights”.


Recently Petir said that she will not stop in her endeavours and that Serbia must ensure all the rights defined by the international agreements because if that does not happen, they will not be able to continue their European path. Petir also wants Croatia to start taking more care about Croats outside their country, and also the Croats in Vojvodina, so that their interests are protected and that they can have their right for a Croatian citizenship.


Miro Kovac Croatia's Foreign Minister

Miro Kovac
Croatia’s Foreign Minister

Last week, albeit reluctantly, following complaints by the Croatian government, the European Council had once again postponed the opening of negotiations with Serbia in its desired accession to EU membership. The postponement has to do with two crucial chapters of the EU legislation, Chapter 23 (judiciary and fundamental rights) and Chapter 24 (justice freedom and security). Croatia did not and does not accept or endorse the European Commission opinion that Serbia is ready to proceed to EU membership negotiations stage; all 28 countries, members of the EU must agree in order for any new membership negotiations to proceed.


Croatia’s concerns are threefold: the lack of Serbian cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY); the mistreatment of the Croatian minority in Serbia (Vojvodina); and the universal jurisdiction of Serbian courts over war crimes committed in other parts of the former Yugoslavia.
It would seem that the EC sent a blind or a pro-Serbia bent person to Serbia during 2015 on task of investigating matters on progress made by Serbia with view to its path in becoming an EU member state. In its Progress Report (2015) EC writes:
2.4. Human rights and the protection of minorities – Overall situation – The legislation and institutions needed to uphold international human rights law are in place. Legislation to protect minorities and cultural rights is also broadly in place. However, sustained efforts are needed to ensure effective and consistent implementation across the country. Shortcomings particularly affect the following areas:
• Conditions for the full exercise of freedom of expression are still not in place. Full implementation of the new media laws needs to be ensured.
• Promotion and protection of the rights of the most vulnerable and discriminated groups, including the LGBTI persons, persons with disabilities, and persons with HIV/AIDS has yet to be fully ensured. Hate-motivated offences need to be properly investigated, prosecuted and sanctioned.
• Efforts to improve the difficult living conditions of Roma and to combat discrimination need to be strengthened. Government coordination and leadership of Roma integration policy needs to be further improved…”

Zilch on the widespread mistreatment of Croat minority in Vojvodina! One must, therefore, be very skeptical of the truthful representation of the situation in Serbia regarding ethnic minorities within the EC. Croatia has the absolute right to require same standards from Serbia as the EC required of Croatia during the prolonged and painful period of negotiations as prospective member of the EU. Furthermore, let’s hope that Croatia will persist in its requirements for Serbia to meet EU standards and turn away from nasty media and nasty politicians who try and belittle Croatia’s attempts at demanding acceptable standards from Serbia. As long as abuse or mistreatment of rights of ethnic minorities exist in Serbia, Croatia must remain a watchdog for the EC.

To reiterate Croatian foreign minister Miro Kovac words on 15 April 2016 HRT news “Croatia is neither a superpower nor a poodle. Croatia is a member state of the European Union. If we are admitting someone in our family we have to monitor the accession process and co-decide about it. If Serbia wants to be a part of the EU, it will have to adapt to its standards…” Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Ethnic Cleansing Of Croatians In Serbia – Say A Prayer On Holy Trinity Day



The Holy Trinity feast day celebrated in the Catholic Church is coming up on June 15.

Just inside Serbia, not far from the border with Croatia, not far from Vukovar there’s a place called Kukujevci. It’s in the Syrmia district of the Vojvodina province of Serbia. There’s a Holy Trinity church in Kukujevci, empty and carrying the scars of forced abandonment from early 1990’s.

Just before the Serb aggression against Croatia in 1991, 89.07% of the Kukujevci population was Croat and 1% Serb nationality! Today, these figures remain the same only the 1% are Croat!

One might ask why? How can this be?

The answer lies in ethnic cleansing Serbs attended to within their Serbia while the world stood by watching and focusing on their acts of ethnic cleansing across Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Kukujevci is only one of many places in Vojvodina cleansed of Croats and these horrible crimes still remain unpunished and the Croat ethnic minority which still exists in Serbia is afforded almost no human rights, indeed, it would seem that Croats in Serbia are not even permitted to call themselves Croat, let alone afforded the decency of having a secured representation in the Serbian Parliament!

The world knows very little, if anything, about this horrible ethnic cleansing within Serbia. Here’s is a profoundly touching account written by a survivor, Ljubica Kolaric-Dumic and published in May 2014 in “Hrvatske Novine 10” (Croatian newspapers) from Vojvodina, Serbia.

Translated into English by Ina Vukic:

She loved her home country and her Kukujevci with the love only known to those who endure in that love despite, if it need be, the sacrifice they will bear. And whoever loves in such a way remains loyal always; consistent, steadfast even in the hardest and the most dangerous of times. For such love there are no two roads, there are no confusing crossroads at which everyone asks where to go, which direction is the right one. For such love one stands upright even when the earth trembles, when the storms rage, and thunders rumble. Cliffs, the rocky symbols of indestructibility that rise into heights despite the harshest of winds that lash against them – know that love. When lightning rips the skies and the winds blow, when something turns in a man, making him inhuman, and evil rules – let those cliffs be our models! So that we remain strong, that even the strongest of storms cannot knock us down, that is fear of dangers we do not run like cowards. But man is not a cliff and fear is the frequent ally in the fight for life. That is why we do not look for blame or cowardice in those who flee in fear of death, but we admire with immeasurable gratitude the people who remain like cliffs to the very end.

Agica (Aggie) was like that. Upright, fearless, firm as a cliff. Her life was cut short, a sad end, too early, by the hand of criminals in the dark of the night. She dies in unspeakable tortures, in indescribable massacre perpetrated by crazed minds. And for years now we have been asking ourselves how is it possible, how is it permitted to keep quiet about Martyr Agica? We ask in human pain: How did her mother endure leaning over the open casket? How could she look at her massacred body? How come she herself did not die on that terrible day? What did Agica’s son feel looking at his dead mother? And we ask ourselves: Why is there so much silence about such a horrific crime? Books are written, films are made, and stage theatre plays are performed about victims. Is it possible that Agica’s son is not considered a victim? In one night the criminals murdered his father and his mother. And he, like other children, needed them for a long time to come! Or, are the Croatian victims of lesser importance?

We have no exact data about the silent emigration of Croats from Vojvodina (Serbia) from 1918 to today, and especially we have no exact data about the forced deportation from Syrmia during the Homeland War (1990’s). Due to well-known reasons many had not expressed themselves by their national name in former Yugoslavia. They went to Croatia for education and in search of employment, especially after WWII. The land was taken away from peasants and as a result they literally had nothing to live from. The young left the village in masses in order to escape poverty and make life easier. Their parents were pronounced as kulaks (affluent farmers who opposed the communist collectivisation of farming) and enemies of the state and, as such, were themselves tortured and humiliated in various ways, and wherever they came they were treated as second grade citizens.

Leaving the home had continued at the beginning of 1990’s, not individually but whole families, whole sections of villages. Persecution was strong and without mercy. Intolerable, day and night intimidation and tortures commenced, especially of young people who were fit for the army and fit to go to the battlefronts. At this time, not only were they pronounced as enemies but threats against them were made as well: if they do not leave – they would all be killed. Honest but through fear distraught people did not at first believe that such an insane idea of deporting people just because of their nationality could exist is someone’s criminal mind, let alone be put into practice. Such a crime against a nation, about which secret whispers spread and became louder, seemed like a horrible and impossible dream after which, a broken person awakes in disbelief, and asks whether he dreamt it all or whether it was all really happening to him.

And nights became scary. Dark shadows stalked under the windows, threatening messages arrived in envelopes that had no address written on them. Everything occurred in the blackness of darkness, and eye-to-eye with a bloody stare. Tortures and hits, kicks, thumps across the body, derogatory name-calling for nationality and insults to the souls, warnings and death threats – wounded the innocent youth that was full of love and dreams about life. Not about death! In their youthful dreams they dreamt of life! Expel completely innocent people from their centuries-old homes, their birth homes, from the land of their ancestors – just because they are Croats! They tortured and beat them, but Syrmians, as used to injustice as they were, thought that this evil would pass too – just as other previous tribulations they endured because of their nationality and Catholic faith had to, after a certain time, pass.

That is what they believed. And so they hoped while fearing for their sons who were taken away by the blood-thirsty criminals at night, tortured till dawn and then left in nearby farm fields – all bruised, wounded, cut in body and soul, with profound insults to their nationality and religion. And they were still unripe young men, many just having left childhood days and filled with the faith in a happy future.

When the war and aggression against Croatia started, the young fled and hid in order to avoid being mobilised into battles while the older men lived in fear, not knowing what dangers and what calamity were being prepared for them. Strange people began appearing at their door every day, “offering” to exchange their land and home, frightening them: that they will be killed or forced to leave with only one plastic bag of possessions if they do not agree to hand over their land and home. At night they were awakened by phone calls that swore at them, insulted and threatened them – To leave tomorrow, to not wait for the following night because they may not be alive by then! And when they began realising their threats, many did not greet the morning alive! Among them was my childhood friend. Syrmian Martyr Agata! (Agica, her husband Mika, Nikola Oskomic and 87 year old granny Marija Tomic, neé Oskomic were massacred by Chetniks in the night of 29 July 1993. Serb Vojislav Seselj currently befor ICTY in The Hague is also indicted for crimes in Kukujevci and other predominatly Croat villages in Serbia, as well as those in Croatia).

And I still see her before me today. I see clearly our playful childhood. On the shores in the summer’s dust, in the white of the snow of winter. In the yard, ours or theirs. In the fruit plantation, plum or vineyard. I see how her grandfather Ivo drives us to the hill for some sweet grapes. I see everything clearly. Our rich, large village. I also see Aggie, that’s what we called her, on the day when the Democratic Alliance of Croats of Vojvodina was founded in Kukujevci. In the autumn of 1990! That was my last stay, my last summer in my home village. Oh, with what great pain I see our Syrmia! Aggie in the goldie! Goldie is a part of our folklore dress, silk scarf, embroidered with golden threads, which young women always wore on their head on Sundays, on holidays and on occasions of any celebration. And I can hear the string instrument players. And when the violin whines, every Syrmian’s heart is pierced with the pain and yearning for his stolen land. That is how it’s going to be while we are alive, while we are still breathing, dreaming and waking with an irresistible wish and eternal dream of returning to our homes, to our fields.

And those 1990’s! Why did they bring us so much misery? What happened in those years? Can years, seasons, time, beside changes in nature and works in the fields, harvests, bring such evil upon man?

The killing of people started in many places. Frightened for their life, the hard working and proud Syrmians suddenly spread across Croatia, accepting anything offered to them in those dark days. To save their own life. As pressured and threatened, they exchanged their homes and land so that they would never again have the right of return! What destiny! What ill fortune! They left into the unknown, into strangers’ homes, onto other people’s fields, the fields they, instead of the rain, would water with their tears.

It is estimated that about 40,000 Croats were forcefully deported from Vojvodina; mostly from Syrmia, about 25,000, and 15,000 from Backa and Banat. The big place of Kukujevci fared most tragically of all as its whole Croatian population was forcefully deported and two families horribly tortured and murdered (Oskomic and Matijevic, and Mr Zivko Litric).

It needs to be emphasised here that Germans, who were mercilessly deported after WWII, lived in Kukujevci, and in many other places in Vojvodina. After fifty years Croats would experience the same destiny here. Why has Kukujevci been chosen – that is the big question of JUSTICE, truthful and honest answer to which we have been waiting for a very long time. At the beginning of the aggression against Croatia about half of the people from Kukujevci had exchanged their properties just as it happened in other villagers of Vojvodina. But, after the Croatian liberating military operation Storm (Aug 1995), the army and police (Serbian) stormed into the village and chased all those that remained out. They did not just chase out a few older families.

Kukujevci experienced ethnocide. Kukujevcians were expelled. Only the grand Holy Trinity church, a declared monument of culture, commissioned for building in 1772 by the Empress Maria Theresa, remains. Kukujevcians and many just people expect the return and the church’s renewal as suggested by the parish priest of Sid – the parish to which Holy Trinity church, without its congregation, belongs. The church was bombed at the end of WWII (its bell tower and roof were destroyed), and now, unless some of the damage is repaired as soon as possible, complete ruin threatens it and her people, who loved her limitlessly, who congregated in it, prayed and were joyous.

The suffering and persecution of Croats in Vojvodina, especially in Syrmia, hard working and proud people, who lived for centuries on their rich land, but forcefully deported from their land at the beginning of the third Millennium, cannot be described by words, because dictionaries into which so much human pain, broken heart, torn roots from the soil could fit – do not exist. The tragedy of my people has no name, has no grammatical word meaning. It’s not written into the history books. It’s not sung into our songs. It’s incomprehensible to an ordinary person. And so, to the traveler with intention, who passes through Kukujevci, we send our plucked out heart. Let him take it to our church, to our cemetery. Let him cry his tears out! Let him leave inerasable tracks of our footsteps in blood as he leaves our home land. Permanent tracks of existence. We lived there. We lived for centuries.

Return us to our hometown! Years are passing by. The nineteen nineties are buried in the crime of our persecution, deportation. Kukujevci is our monument. Our unhealable wounds. Kukujevci is a NAME. Embroidered in gold. Weaved in firm stitch. Kukujevci is an inerasable name. Holy Trinity is soon coming. Our church had always been filled with our guests on Holy Trinity Feast Day. Today it is desolate, without believers, who had always been loyal to her, and then, although innocent, forcefully deported to over 120 places across Croatia. Let all who come to Kukujevci on this year’s Trinity day visit our cemetery after the Holy Mass. Let them visit the graves of our dear people who remained there and visit the sad resting place of our Aggie, our Syrmian Martyr.

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