Finally But Poor Justice For Croatian Civilians Horrendously Tortured By Yugoslav Army In Morinj, Montenegro, 1991-1992

Morinj concentration camp 1991/1992  Photo: ddrrh.com

Morinj concentration camp 1991/1992 Photo: ddrrh.com

For the people of Dubrovnik (Croatia), Morinj is a symbol of horrendous sufferings endured by the Dubrovnik’s residents who ended up in Morinj (near Kotor, Montenegro) concentration camp. From the total of 440 Croats from Dubrovnik who suffered torture at the hands of Serb and Montenegrin camps 300 of them endured the horrors of Morinj camp; some 200 of these suffered abuse of unimaginably cruel proportions.  In Morinj camp most were tortured in the most horrible and insufferable ways, many are to this day suffering chronic Post Traumatic Disorder as one of the nightmarish consequences of utterly horrific tortures and trauma.
Pobjeda news portal (Montenegro) reports that four out of six men originally indicted and now retried on charges of war crimes (against Croatian civilian population between October 1991 and August 1992) and relating to concentration camp Morinj have been convicted Wednesday 31 July to a total of 12 years imprisonment. They are Ivo Menzalin (4 years), Boro Gligic and Spiro Lucic (3 years) and Ivo Gojnic (2 years).  While the defence for these four men has announced that it will appeal the judgment, the special prosecutor Lidija Vukcevic said in the Podgorica supreme court that their guilt for the war crimes had been proven beyond any doubt.

The summary of the horror story behind these horrible crimes perpetrated in Morinj concentration camp against Croats from Dubrovnik goes like this:

In 1991, as part of Serbia’s war against Croatia, Yugoslav Army units led by Montenegrin officers and full of Montenegrin reservists ravaged many of the villages in the southernmost tip of Croatian Dalmatia and shelled the historic port and World Heritage city of Dubrovnik, causing millions of euros in damage and hundreds of civilian deaths. Throughout the duration of the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro remained in a federal state with Serbia until 2003.

In 1997, Montenegro expressed regret for its part in the wars and the consequent atrocities. However, the process of coming to terms with the past has been selective and superficial.

“Rat za mir” (“war for peace”), was the cynical slogan under which Montenegrin politicians backed the Yugoslav Army’s campaign in southern Croatia.

Croat prisoners in Morinj concentration camp 1991/1992 Photo: rtcg.me

Croat prisoners in Morinj concentration camp 1991/1992
Photo: rtcg.me

In 2004-05, the ICTY in The Hague found former Montenegrin admiral Miodrag Jokic and General Pavle Strugar guilty of war crimes and sentenced each of them to eight years’ imprisonment. Attacks on Dubrovnik’s civilians bore a special place in the verdicts.

The Morinj camp war crimes prosecution began in 1998 in Montenegro’s Podgorica city, adjourned several times and retried (with same verdicts both times) … a profile of criminal justice process akin to circumstances where denial of crimes and profound lack of will by Montenegrin authorities and politicians to get stuck into the business of delivering justice where justice must be done had littered and undermined any path for reconciliation. Whether this latest verdict will in fact contribute to some semblance of healing for the victims remains to be seen. The chances for that, though, seem very slim as a significant number of Montenegrin politicians look the other way, barely acknowledging that horrible crimes were perpetrated even though an “apology” for the same war crimes had trickled through albeit with muffled resolve some years ago. Perhaps it is due to this pathetic attitude towards crimes that the sentences received by the four men for Morinj concentration camp are so obscenely inadequate. I pray for the health of those victims whose horrific times spent in Morinj must be revisiting them right now as intensified nightmares and horrendous flashbacks – all because justice has betrayed them. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

SERB/MONTENEGRIN ATTACK ON DUBROVNIK 1991/1992

International Women’s Day: A Tribute to the courage of Croatian women victims of mass rapes

“SUNČICA/ SUNNY” – is a recently published book in Croatia, edited by Marija Sliskovic, that contains testimonies of interned (imprisoned) women against whom the war crimes of rape were committed, covered up, and to this day not brought before the criminal courts. It’s about the crime that was part of the war strategy of Serbian and Yugoslav Army aggression against Croatia in the 1990’s.

Sunny was only eight months old when she was taken with her mother in occupied Vukovar (1991). Her mother was locked in a flat like a slave for rape. Sunny did not know what they were doing to her mother, she cried because she needed her mother for herself. Serbian soldiers raping her mother were annoyed by Sunny’s cries so they threw heavy army coats over her. By some miracle Sunny did not suffocate under the heavy coats, she survived. Sunny is strong, she survived the occupiers’ heavy attire and survives the cover-up of crimes against her and her mother today. Croatia is woven from the strength of many Sunnys.”

Victim of war crimes Ružica Erdelji:

Transcript from video testimony September 2011 above (Ruzica’s testimony starts at 0.31 sec on video:

“I am Ruzica Erdelji, maiden name Barbaric, Croatian – Herzegovinian. I was born 11 January 1951 in Grabovo near Vukovar.

I spent the war in Vukovar, at Olajnica, building 15, in the corridor of third floor, without any living conditions, without water, food, in fear. Hungry in 21st Century. We waited for freedom. With the arrival Chetnik occupator, for me and many Croatians the Way of the Cross commenced, and many have never returned from that Way of the Cross.

We had to surrender to the Chetniks, they led us through the city, on the bridge Jelica Jankovic was kissing with the Chetniks, she tells them by name and surname who needs to be killed. Those people are no longer alive, and she proudly strolls through Vukovar.

They transport us on buses to Velepromet.  As soon as I got out of the bus, they separated Serbs to one and Croatians to the other side. Branka Janjetovic comes and writes me in under number 477. My neighbor comes soon, Pero Krtinic, points to me as a Croatian and hands me over to the Chetniks, while I hoped he would help me. They take me into the carpentry building. Sladjana Korda is at the door, takes by force everything I had, and I had about 30,000 German Marks and gold jewelery. She ripped my leather jacket looking for money, she took everything and pushed me into the carpentry room.

There Hell, at nine thirty at night a Chetnik nicknamed Topola from Velepromet takes me out and drags me through streets of Vukovar. He says he’s taking me to interrogation. It’s night, I don’t know where I am, he forces me into a house and then into a room, Chetnik headquarters are in that house. He, armed, ripped everything off my body and raped me all night while gunfire went on outside. A man was crying in the next room.

In the morning he takes me to another room, several of them there, rape again. Then a Chetnik comes and he takes me upstairs, to a children’s room. Rape again, torment. After he had finished tormenting me, he takes me to the ground floor, where another Chetnik named Zmigo awaits. Holding batons and rifle he takes me to the next room, Arkan’s men are there. Again rape, one after the other, I felt humiliation, I felt repulsed at myself, dirty, unkempt. They chased me out, and there Zmigo waited, takes me away as war trophy, me as if a little Ustashe. Along the way we meet Ilija Macura, I thought he’ll help me, but he pretended he did not know me. He was in army uniform, today he works as delivery man for the police.

Zmigo takes me to the cellar of a house across the street from Textile school, he too rapes me all night. In the morning he takes me to a Chetnik leader, Lancizanin from Vukovar, nicknamed Kameni. He sends me to Velepromet, to judge me there. And again carpentry building with Sladjana Korda. She kicked me into a room, it was the room of death. I, the only woman among men. Vukovar men dressed in Chetnik uniforms came there all the time, they beat us and dragged people out who never returned. Next night they take us out in buses to army barracks. They beat us there and force us to sleep on concrete.

If we needed to go to the toilet there had to be 10 of us. When we finally reach the toilet, you cannot relax from fear, as armed Chetnik stands beside us. One day we had to clean the army barracks, we were humiliated, shamed, dirty. Come Stanimirovic, Dokmanovic and Hadzic, spit on us and ask what we are doing on holy Serbian ground. Stanimirovic now receives a parliamentary wage, while I live on 1, 775 Kunas pension after 35 years of work.

After all those tortures and torments, 29th November 1991 we are transported to Sremska Mitrovica, and on 12th December we were exchanged. Never had anyone asked how I am, do I need help. I’ve been treated at psychiatric wards in Cakovec, Zagreb and Vukovar. Noone lent me a hand of consolation.

Thank you to everyone who supports us in this painful journey of truth, because the truth must be known. “

“Sunny” has become a strong movement in Croatia during recent months with courageous women finally breaking the social and intimate barriers that occur in cases of rape, and have come out: speaking of their suffering, pointing their fingers at and naming the Serb war criminals, perpetrators of mass rapes over Croatian women during Croatia’s war of Independence. To take their courage further they have begun arriving at the office of the State Prosecutor, giving their testimonies, providing evidence of war crimes – with great expectations that the perpetrators be finally brought to justice.

Marija Sliskovic

Marija Sliskovic, also the president of the “Women in Homeland War” Association said last month in Croatia: “Those who had perpetrated those crimes must face their evi deeds,” adding that in the opposite case the criminals will think they’ve done something that’s not punishable”.

It’s a known fact that there were even camps for the implementation of mass rapes into which fertile women of non-Serbian origins were broughtvand raped. They would be released only when they were highly pregnant, too risky for termination of pregnancy. There is no doubt that this approach to women contributed to ethnic cleansing of the areas as women who experienced this most often did not want to remain in these areas in order to avoid seeing their rapists (and these were often their first neighbours) and to be constantly reminded of the horrible memories.

Women of Vukovar also experienced hell on earth when in 1991 Chetnik paramilitary units together with Yugoslav Peoples Army occupied the city. In that they kept many non-Serb women in Vukovar, imprisoned them in houses and committed over them pathological perversions that only sick minds can imagine. It’s enough to mention that the youngest female person whom these maniacs tormented was six, and the oldest eighty years old.”

The courageous women of Croatia are pursuing war criminals that have escaped justice up until now. Their plights for justice had in the past fell on deaf ears; rapes were covered up, rapists set free, some fled Croatia after the war only to be returned to Croatia under the EU push to repatriate Serb “refugees” back into Vukovar/Croatia.

No more cover-ups if these women, victims, get their way. Besides approaching the State Prosecutor’s office they are spreading their intention to reap justice to the Croatian foreign minister, EU Ambassador to Croatia, Members of Croatian Parliament for Serb Minorities…

As a woman, I stand in awe and admiration before such courage.

There is no doubt in my mind that many these heinous rape crimes have been covered-up and “overlooked” for political reasons that point to external pressures against Croatia not to “ruffle too many feathers against Serbs” if it wants to be in EU! Well, it’s about time that Croatian government and institutions step up and shout out loudly in securing justice for it’s women victims of mass rapes. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A.,M.A,Ps.(Syd)

Legal and military experts support Gotovina and Markac Hague defence challenge

Lt. Gen. (ret.) Wilson A. Schoffner (Photo: courtesy of U.S. Army)

An unprecedented occurrence landed at the Hague on Thursday 12 January.

A  25 page Application and Brief by 12 world experts, analysing the ICTY’s April 2011 Judgment on Croatian Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac in relation to the alleged excessive shelling of Knin, Benkovac, Gracac and Obrovac during 1995 Operation Storm that liberated the Croatian territory of Krajina from Serb occupation, was submitted for filing.

Although not a defence document in the Appeals Chamber but a submission by Friends of court, the Application and Brief support the Generals’ defence and seems to have an overwhelming capacity of contributing to the original judgment being declared unacceptable and baseless.

As a reminder, a significant part of the 2011 Judgment against the Croatian Generals Gotovina and Markac (who received 24 and 18 years imprisonment respectively) relates to the artillery findings which the ICTY translated into a conviction of participating in “joint criminal enterprise”. I.e., the trial chamber found that Croatian artillery hit too wide of the military targets and was therefore indiscriminate, and concluded that civilian areas were targeted based on an order issued by Gotovina because he aimed to drive out the Serb population.

Compiled by a group of high ranking British, Canadian and American experts and professionals in international military and humanitarian laws including retired US Army generals, the brief and application seek that the court reconsiders the findings of the original judgment in the case.

The brief submits among other matters that if the Appeals Chamber uphold the original judgment on artillery findings it would have long term implications for the international humanitarian and military laws and future armed conflicts.

The submitting experts suggest that unrealistic standards of battle/shelling including the acceptable error in target precision, applied by the Trial Chamber in the case of the Croatian Generals, are not the standards practised/acceptable in past conflicts around the world.  And state that the Friends of the court:

“… are united in their concern that any judgment encouraging application of this 200­ meter standard (or any standard of acceptable error that is not based on the actual realities of artillery and indirect fire employment) in future operations will subject military commanders to a standard of care that is impossible to satisfy and operationally untenable”.

In conclusion of the Application and Brief the group of experts:

“… respectfully request that the Appeals Chamber admit this Brief pursuant to Rule 74 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence and reconsider and reject the findings of unlawful artillery attacks during Operation Storm”.

Submitting individuals/Friends of the court are:

Laurie R. Blank, Walter B. Huffman, Bill Boothby, Eric Talbot Jensen, Geoffrey S. Corn, Mark E. Newcomb, William J. Fenrick, Thomas J. Romig, Professor C H B Garraway CBE, Colonel Raymond C. Ruppert, Dean Donald J. Guter, Gary Solis.

Furthermore, in his expert report to the Application and Brief the retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Wilson A. Schoffner said: “Should the standard of review adopted by the Trial Chamber be allowed to stand as a legitimate interpretation of international law, it would unfairly condemn commanders who have properly conducted military operations pursuant to accepted technical and tactical standards. War is inherently dangerous and an abhorrent matter, but it is an acceptable use of force when executed pursuant to morally responsible standards and established technical and tactical norms. In the name of justice, I respectfully submit that this court cannot allow this fallacious finding of the Trial Chamber to stand, as doing so would place at risk many future commanders who are executing their responsibilities in a professionally competent and morally responsible manner to the threat of being brought before some international tribunal and unfairly charged with war crimes, as was General Gotovina here”.

Journalist Jadranka Juresko-Kero from the Croatian newspaper Vecernji List has written an exclusive article depicting in the Croatian language the most relevant sections of the above Application and Brief, suggesting that the Croatian Generals should be freed.

To the many Croatians who regard the Generals as heroes of the Croatian Homeland War this unprecedented occurrence in the Hague is a form of blessing. There are other people in the world who also argue that Croatian Generals hadn’t breached any international war or humanitarian laws or acceptable practices in the shelling of Krajina, in their efforts to liberate it.

Croatians justifiably feel that Croatia with its leadership had not embarked on a joint criminal enterprise to ethnically cleanse the Serbs from Croatia as suggested by the Hague Trial Chamber’s judgment in April 2011. Had the Croatian Serbs and the Yugoslav army accepted in 1991 the will of 94% of Croatian people to secede from the Communist Yugoslavia there would have been no armed conflict, no war and no victims. But since the Serbs rejected to live in an independent Croatia and began brutalising Croatian and non-Serb population, ethnically cleansing the Croatian territory and occupying a third of Croatia, liberating that territory was a just cause.

The fact that Serbs decided to leave Croatia in masses, in August 1995, immediately after the Operation Storm liberated Krajina from Serb occupation, may not have been, as Trial Chamber in the Hague stated April 2011, due to fear of being killed from excessive shelling. Indeed, they may have fled because their goal of pinning Croatian Krajina territory to Serbia did not materialise and their leaders urged them to leave. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb), B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Related posts:

http://inavukic.com/2011/12/20/icty-in-the-hague-just-before-christmas-2011-goran-hadzic-trial-date-set-general-ante-gotovina-appeal-road-strewn-with-more-unjust-obstacles/

http://inavukic.com/2012/01/04/croatian-anti-eu-activists-demand-postponement-of-referendum-while-the-minister-of-foreign-affairs-vesna-pusic-says-if-people-vote-no-to-eu-membership-therell-be-no-money/

http://inavukic.com/2011/12/30/neven-sesardic-claims-the-hague-is-wrong-beyond-any-reasonable-doubt/

http://inavukic.com/2011/12/26/amnesty-international-is-discrimination-against-some-victims-apparent/

http://inavukic.com/2011/12/09/go-jump-in-the-lake/

http://inavukic.com/2011/11/20/general-ante-gotovina-and-calvary-at-icty-in-the-hague/

http://inavukic.com/2011/10/30/the-trial-of-generals-ante-gotovina-and-mladen-markac-a-farce-from-beginning-to-end/

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