Croatia: Distancing From Communist Yugoslavia Still Like Having Teeth Pulled Out Without Anaesthetics

Upper left image – removed mural dedicated to victims of Serb aggression/Vukovar, with inscription “People will never forget”

If there is a living example of a miserably painful transition from communism into democracy it is Croatia. At times the moves that those in power make which degrade and offend those who fought or participated by other means in the war for Croatia’s independence during the 1990’s feels to such patriots like having one’s teeth pulled out one by one – without the anaesthetics or pain-numbers!

During the past couple of weeks, the newly elected President of the Supreme Court, Judge Radovan Dobronic, wasted no time to publicly declare that the age-old greeting for Croatian patriots “For Homeland Ready” (“Za dom spremni”) has no place anywhere, must not exist, and that people were killed under that greeting during WWII in Croatia!  Of course, he did not do the same for the communist greeting “Brotherhood and Unity”, or its red star symbol or that many more innocent people were killed under “Brotherhood and Unity” greeting during WWII and after it than under any greeting known to Croatian history!  What Dobronic said was just what the former communists and Yugoslav nostalgics wanted to hear. He omitted completely to say that in 1990’s the people that formed HOS units (Croatian Defence Forces) whose official symbol and greeting was “For Homeland Ready” are owed utter respect as they contributed significantly to today’s freedom and independence. For over a decade there have been cruel attempts to make the greeting “For Homeland Ready” illegal in Croatia in all instances of life and having a Supreme Court head judge whose one of the first public declarations that touches upon national morality undertones certainly signifies that communists and pro-Communists now have a new friend in Croatia that will continue targeting the values fought for during Croatia’s Homeland War in 1990’s.

A few days after Judge Dobronic stated that the Croatian patriotic greeting “For Homeland Ready”, on 27 October 2021, wall murals on the walls of electric power station in the capital city of Zagreb dedicated to Croatia’s Homeland War, Vukovar and Victims of Serb Aggression during that war were painted over; disappeared. Public revolt and protest, against these acts, occurred in some media, not mainstream that is government controlled, and especially in social media. Protest by members of former HOS units occurred as did from politicians from the right side of political spectrum.  

Mural in Zagreb Erased or painted over
Erased Mural in Zagreb dedicated to General Slobodan Praljak and suffering of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina

This depraved act of erasing the patriotic murals can also be compared to the pain of having teeth pulled out without anaesthetics. It signifies pure hatred for the glorious victory Croats had over communist Yugoslavia in 1990. These acts were done by the City of Zagreb administration (via HEP/Croatian Electricity) whose new Mayor Tomislav Tomasevic brought in a leftist administration riddled with communist Yugoslavia nostalgia. Coupled with the fact that on the state level the HDZ government is kept alive by its coalition with Serbs in Croatia who sided with the Serb aggressor against Croatia during the Homeland War there is no doubt in many minds that this act also forms an ongoing plan to keep wearing down Croatian patriotism and the values fought for during separation from communist Yugoslavia. Within a day or two Mayor Tomasevic came out saying that the painting over the murals dedicated to Vukovar, victims of aggression, war, Homeland war was a mistake that the only mural that was meant to be painted over was the one that had the late General Slobodan Praljak’s face on it (Slobodan Praljak was a General in the Croatian Defence Forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina during 1990’s who committed suicide (29 November 2017) in the Hague courtroom of the International Criminal Tribunal insisting he was innocent of war crimes charged with and convicted of.)

Of course, it was only a matter of a day or so after the murals were removed or painted over that new mural on the same walls appeared – thanks to patriotic citizens who were among those abhorred by the act of murals dedicated to Vukovar and Croatian Homeland War being removed.  

New mural dedicated to Vukovar and victims of Serb aggression in Croatia being painted again on same wall by protesting patriots

Often we hear that the sadness of attacks on Croatian patriotism will turn into defiance against current political leadership and into political assertion of values fought for during 1990’s for a free and independent Croatia. This though is proving to be a task of gigantic proportions as former communists or their offspring hold onto their family’s past during which most profited – they still reside in properties stolen from Jews or wealthy pro-Croatian citizens after WWII, they still know that nepotism and corruption is their only ticket to success in life … 

Forty-one years after the death of Josip Broz Tito. The one and only president of former communist Yugoslavia ever. All other presidents were presidents of the Presidency set-up in accordance with his wishes after his death in 1980 so that no other living person could become a lifelong president of Yugoslavia ever.  This Presidency ensured that seeds are planted after Tito’s death among people that would not tolerate, that would hate with a vengeance any expression of national pride or independence from it by any of its republics.

It has been thirty years since in 1991 Croatia severed all its ties with communist Yugoslavia, bravely forging its independence through a brutal was of Yugoslav Army and Serb aggression. The later twenty years of those thirty, i.e., from year 2000, after President of Croatia Franjo Tudjman passed away in December 1999, Croatia has proven to be a continuance of the same hunting ground that it was under communist Yugoslavia for any and every sign or display of Croatian patriotism taking hold among the public. More and more people from the communist Yugoslavia “family” breed crept into the power echelons of Croatia, not having spilled a drop of blood for her freedom, not wanting her free and independent in the first place, not having deserved to have power by merit but placed there through communist-bred corruption and nepotism.

If most offspring of former Yugoslav communists did not hold such a commitment to their families’ past, then every public debate about Tito would not still create unrest among Croats and push them into antagonistic opposing sides and conflicts as it occurs even forty years after his death. On the one hand there is an ideologically blinded and noisy group of Croats of Yugoslav orientation, who persistently claim that Tito saved the Croatian people and laid the foundations for the establishment of today’s state of Croatia, and on the other hand, there Croats who reject that and, rightfully so, claim that the 1990’s Homeland War was and is the foundations of today’s modern and independent Croatia.

The absolute truth about Josip Broz Tito and his communist Partisans is that they committed horrendous crimes and genocide against the Croatian people who fought for an independent Croatia, not Yugoslavia, not within Yugoslavia. The absolute truth is that Josip Broz Tito is today counted among top ten mass murderers of the Twentieth century as his state ordered purges ordered many hundreds of thousands of anti-communist citizens (more than 500,000). Thankfully, after the disintegration of Yugoslavia, with the appearance of new facts as more than a thousand of mass graves of victims of communist crimes were unearthed, as state archives of historical records were opened, merits and positive opinions about Tito began to decline and today, more than ever, people in Croatia and the world consider him a dictator and a criminal of suspicious ethnic or national origins. But this “more than ever” is not enough to it seems to place communism far far behind those who live in a supposedly democratic Croatia.

Tito used all possible means and methods in the destruction of Croatia and the Croatian people. Unfortunately, along with the Belgrade authorities, Croatian Yugoslavs, the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Serbian national minority in Croatia helped him a great deal. The consequences of his long-term policy towards the Serbian minority and bribery of certain members of that minority, whose ancestors in the time of Ante Starcevic were considered Croats of the Orthodox faith, were well felt by the Croatian people in the 1990s in the Greater Serbia aggression.

Today’s Croatia and Croats who wish Croatia well cannot legally or morally deny civil rights to members of minorities living in Croatia, but at the same time the Croatian people rightly expect members of all national minorities to act in accordance with Croatian law, without being required and enjoying special privileges and serving foreign masters. Above all it is expected that minorities in Croatia adhere to and respect the values and significance of the Croatian Homeland War of Independence. But they do not do this, and one would be completely correct in saying that it’s because the governments have not developed the mechanisms that would police and monitor matters of that importance for the nation.

It needs to be kept in mind that with the establishment of communist Yugoslavia, Tito created the conditions for the killing and persecution of Croats and devised a system whose purpose was the biological destruction of the Croatian people. For the killing, imprisonment, and persecution of Croats in Tito’s Yugoslavia, it was enough to declare someone an enemy of the people. So too, it needs to be kept in mind that the victims of Serb aggression against Vukovar, against Croatia bother Mayor of Zagreb Tomasevic and they bother the leftist political parties, including those in power since year 2000. They do not like the fact that Croats fought for and risked their lives for Croatian patriotism and democracy while most of them hid away while the war of aggression against Croatia raged. All of them should have long ago banned the Red star symbol of communism and torn down all monuments to the criminal dicator Tito and his communist Yugoslavia regime. But they did not, they continue hounding Croatian patriots, throwing their dearest symbols into the waters of worthlessness and criminal connotation.

The removal or the painting over the patriotic murals in its capital city of Zagreb may continue to remain politically significant and encourage the right-wing patriotic parties and movements to unite into a force that may change Croatia’s political and moral future into that what it should have become after 1998 when the last occupied areas were reintegrated into Croatia. Let’s hope that the protests against this incident of trying to erase the victims of Homeland War from those city walls will not constitute a yet another short-lived protest and become just a point of street-talk for a while, until it dies out with a shrug of the patriotic shoulder. Perhaps we will see much more action that will result in a new Croatia after the next general elections; a new political landscape that cemented the Croatian resolve to defend itself from communist Yugoslavia and Greater Serbia onslaughts.

Retired General and former Member of Croatian Parliament Zeljko Glasnovic

The reactions to the erasing of the patriotic murals were many and one so well and succinctly put (that also demonstrates the political landscape in Croatia at present as related to transitioning from communism) on a Facebook profile was that by retired General and former Member of Croatian Parliament Zeljko Glasnovic on 29 October 2021 and it was as follows:

“Mausoleum of Vukašin Šoškočanin in the middle of Borovo selo – permitted, monuments to partisans all over Croatia – permitted, hundreds of pits full of Croatian bones – permitted, streets and squares named after the biggest mass murderers – permitted, five-pointed stars on buildings and flags – permitted, graffiti of the unrepentant Yugoslavia, bloody locksmiths and communism – permitted, marching through the cities to the beats of ‘White Violet’ (song about Tito) – permitted.

Murals dedicated to Vukovar, the 204th Guards Brigade, General Praljak and Dinamo – not permitted. They made criminals out of heroes and made heroes out of criminals. They made an aggressor out of a victim; they made a victim out of an aggressor. It only exists in Croslavia. To celebrate the executioners and the anniversaries of their monstrous crimes committed against their own people and to humiliate, belittle and degrade their liberators. To live in Croatia and to hate and despise everything that is Croatian. Fight for independence and freedom and sell that same freedom for a couple of silver coins. Frightening. The selective memory of the Croatian people has reached its peak. Apathy, amnesia, and indifference are just some of the characteristics of the average Croat who still sits passive in his home hiding behind his keyboard. And while he is virtually fighting for his country, with popcorn in his hands, he is waiting for the solution and the continuation of his carefree future, which he will not fight for alone. Why would he? He brought these people to power with his indifference. Good night Croatia.” Ina Vukic

Keepers of Communist and Serb Crimes in Croatia Suffocate Progress

Croatia is surely one of the most fertile grounds in the world for historians, political analysts, social psychologists, and those in fervent pursuits of truth to study and stand back cringing in disgust at the open and palpable tactics utilised by former communists (under the mask of antifascism) in the prostitution of transition from a totalitarian regime into a democratic one. If we adopt the position of labelling the hiding or desecrating the truth about crimes committed as a wicked act (if not criminal), then the coalition of Croatian HDZ and SDP governments in the past decade or so with the SDSS Serb minority in parliament reminds us of a joint wicked enterprise. A kind of a political joint wicked enterprise that strips the dignity off the defender of Croatia from brutal aggression. The joint wicked enterprise whose task manifests itself in the hiding, in the twisting, in the distorting of truth of countless crimes perpetrated by Yugoslav communists/Partisans against the Croatian people seeking independence in both World War II and by Serbs in the Croatian Homeland War of 1990’s as well as in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  

A normal, compassionate government would not even contemplate on forming a coalition with those who attacked its people from inside, like rebel Serbs living in Croatia at the time and their family members, joined in these crimes by Serbs from Serbia. A normal government of Croatia would know what it meant for its democracy-loving people in early 1990’s when the Serbs engaged in relentless and brutal campaigns of ethnic cleansing, expelling Croats (in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina) and other non-Serbs from their homes, wreaking mass murder, rape, torture and devastation.  

This type of government coalition is much about blaming the victim – freedom loving Croat in this case – and justifying or shutting a blind eye at mass crimes perpetrated by communist Yugoslavia partisans during WWII and after it, as well as multitude of those committed by communist Yugoslavia nostalgics during the 1990’s war of Serb aggression. This type of government by participating in and tolerating such distortions and belittling of the historical truth of the territories populated by communist agendas and the agenda of Greater Serbia stifle and suffocate true democracy. It is in their interests to do so, otherwise the acknowledgement of communist crimes for the depravity they represent would sink them utterly and completely into the garbage bin of history, where they belong. The pursuits of secession from communist Yugoslavia in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina during 1990’s aimed to achieve exactly that: dump communism and its totalitarian regime into the garbage bin of history. While these pursuits were successful militarily and with heroic gumption of Croatian independence fighters, they encountered monumental failures after the War ended. The communist mindset grew wings in its efforts to redeem the unredeemable monstrosities of Yugoslav communists and their Serb echelons. Anyone attempting to show the truth, to research the truth, to lift Croatia where it should have been decades ago after the Homeland War ended, well rid of the communist mindset and its stinking corrupt heritage, finds himself, or herself, labelled revisionist and still fighting for dignity of the good fight it fought when seceding by the will of the people from communist Yugoslavia.      

 Given that such government coalition in Croatia has also scooped under its wings the mainstream media, the truth and horror of Yugoslav communist crimes in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, of Serb-perpetrated crimes, suffers deeply. It’s difficult to say how long the truth-loving people will need to keep investing their energy in disputing the communist filthy mantra that communists liberated Croatia in 1945 and showing-up Serb denials of depravities they committed against Croats during 1990’s. The strong communist mindset thriving within such government coalition in Croatia has placed often insurmountable barriers on the road of achieving full and functional democracy since the Homeland War ended completely in late 1990’s.

The month of July is as telling as any month of the year where we see examples of such despicable approaches to historical truths.

The historical village of Srb belongs to the Boricevac parish in Croatia that in Spring of 1941 saw, at the hands of communist partisans, great human and property suffering and destruction of Croats. Their houses, church, parish residence, were burned and destroyed. All the Catholic faithful of this parish, about two thousand of them, had to leave their centuries-old homes, and unfortunately, to this day, their descendants have not realised the right of return. The inhabitants of the village of Ivezici, 37 of them, failed to escape and all were murdered and thrown into a pit, near Brotnja, on Dabin peak. In 2017 their exhumation was carried out and they were buried in the Catholic cemetery in Boricevac. And yet, one will not find this historical truth in any Croatian mainstream media. What one will find there in relation to the historical village of Srb is the Serbian National Council of Croatia, supported by the government, holding a commemoration dedicated to the so-called first antifascist uprising (against the fight for independent Croatia). The fact that horrific crimes were committed by anti-fascists against local Croats during the uprising is not mentioned anywhere where the Croatian Serbs in coalition with the government have a say. The pure truth is not a pastime the so-called antifascists of Croatia have any time or will for.

A sad state of affairs in Croatia, indeed!

This day (24 July) in 1992, the village of Brisevo in the municipality of Prijedor, became a torture and hell for the Croatian people, wrote retired General and former Member of Croatian Parliament, Zeljko Glasnovic (pictured above), on his Facebook page last week, 67 Croats were brutally killed. Everyone to the last was a civilian. The Serbs beat the killed Croats to exhaustion, cut the tendons on their arms and legs with knives, cut off their flesh from their bodies, slaughtered them, stabbed them in the body, cut off their noses, ears, genitals, ripped their bellies, broke their ribs, bludgeoned them with clubs and hoes, forced mothers, wives and children to observe the brutality and abuse of men after which women and girls were raped. You will not hear about this monstrous crime in the Croatian media. Brisevo has never existed for the Croatian media! For, the people need to be kept in ignorance, in guilt and obedience of every kind. This is the testimony of one girl (Helena Komljen, from the book on Brisevo victims by Frano Pilipovic and Ivo Atlija) who survived this horrific massacre:

“I was 13 and I remember everything well. I know we couldn’t escape anywhere, we had to stay at home and wait for our fate. As a child, I didn’t understand it all, although I used to hear Mum and Dad talk so I was scared I was also afraid that the infantry would destroy and kill us all, and I had no idea what infantry was. I thought about how we could hide and run away somewhere, although all that when I think about it now was impossible. So, the days passed in fear that some grenade may hit us, because they also shelled us sometimes as well. Then came the worst day of my life, July 24, 1992, when I was left without everything by Serbian soldiers. No family, no friends, no childhood. Only my little brother was left with me. I don’t know what it would be like if he wasn’t with me afterwards. It was morning and we all got up, Nedo Mlinar passed by our house and told us that we had to hang a white sheet on the house and that no one would touch those houses. It was then that all of us with white sheets perished. Everything was the other way around.

Around 12 o’clock, exactly what we were all afraid of – happened; the infantry entered the village. We were in the house when they threw a Zolja rocket on the roof, I was in the bathroom, I could only feel the pieces of the ceiling falling on me and the dust and hissing in my ears. We all ran outside in panic to hide in our grandparents’ basement because we didn’t have a basement in our house. My brother managed to run to my grandparents, my mum and dad managed to hide under our house, and I stayed in the middle, neither here nor there. They started firing at me in bursts, I saw bullets near my feet crashing into the ground and raising dust, cutting down plum branches and then suddenly, I fell. As I fell bullets flew over me. God was with me and saved me, that’s what I felt then. Dad thought I was hit, he called me from the side and when he saw me looking at him, he told me to get up abruptly and run to them as fast as I could. That’s what I did, and they didn’t shoot then. Then they called from above from the hill that we should all come to them otherwise they would come and kill us all, even the children they emphasised. Then my dad said, there’s no life here anymore. And of course, to save ourselves since we couldn’t escape anywhere, we went to them.

My dad immediately recognised a man who went to school with him, told him you could have killed my daughter. The same man and a few others took my dad, my grandpa and my uncle somewhere. My grandmother, mum, brother and I stayed there with the others. There were about 20 of them on that road. Grandma told them she would bring them food and water and they told her she was talking too much and that she wanted to poison them. Then one completely young man, maybe 16 years old, came to me and played with a knife in front of my face. Grandma said nothing more, she was afraid he might kill me. I was in shock, I no longer felt or feared, I didn’t care, like in a movie, in fog and I don’t know where. We were all silent, mum was holding my brother and me and grandma were sitting next to each other on the ground. Then again one of the Serb soldiers started shooting near my ear in the direction of the forest. Mum and grandma begged him, don’t, then one came to mum and said, ‘how about we kill your son, he will kill us when he grows up.’ She told them in a sad voice, don’t please, he won’t kill anyone. At that moment, 4 or 5 of them were returning, taking my dad, grandad and uncle, bloodied pants, and shoes. When grandma saw that she just cried and told her my kids are dead. They came and showed us their legs how they were wounded, how the Ustashas wounded them and that the blood on them was from the Ustashas. I will never forget my grandmother’s and mother’s face, that fear and that sadness, and they kept silent because every word could mean death for them.

Memorial to victims of Serb crimes in Brisevo

They told us to go to the weekend cottage nearby. As we were going up the one that killed my dad, grandpa and uncle said grandma stays because she talked a lot. We went on and entered the cottage. After 5 minutes two shots were heard. At that moment, I felt that my grandmother was dead. Mum looked at me and that look of hers full of fear confirmed once again that grandma was dead. She was holding my brother in front of her, and I was about 2 meters away from her. They told my brother to come to me and my brother came to me. Then, a Serbian soldier slapped my mother across the face and told her that she was a whore and that she was giving birth to Ustashas. Then, I noticed right across from me one person I knew, it was M.I., and I was hoping he could help us. I begged him with my eyes to do something or say something, but he just kept quiet. Even in his eyes there was fear. He later told me that he tried to tell a soldier, but he told him to keep quiet, otherwise he would kill him if he tried to save someone. Then they told my brother and me that we had to get out of the cottage because a soldier was waiting for us on the main road to take us to the command. We went out and I thought it was our turn now. The one who said that to us came out with us, drew his gun, and told us to run. We did that, we ran lightly, waiting for the bullet to pierce our backs, but it didn’t fire. Good luck again and God’s help. As we moved running like that, we passed our grandmother lying dead on her back, her arms folded beside her head as if praying to God. Blood was still dripping from her forehead, her eyes closed as if asleep. My grandmother, whom I loved the most in the world and without whom I could not sleep a single night, now I look at her dead in that worst way. We passed by that too and down the road a man was waiting for us. He told us sadly, oh dear children this is a war, and I will take you to safety to the command. I don’t know who that man was, I never saw him again. We went that way and then he left us with Dule in the command. So, it was a command for them.

They kept us in the attic for a few days to survive somehow, gave us food and water. There were, I don’t know anymore, exactly, maybe about 15 people. I just cried and cried day and night. In order for a group of Serb soldiers to pass, they would enter the house near Dule, and they wanted to inspect the whole house in case anyone hid. As for my mother, she was left alone in the cottage, she was taken back with 4 soldiers to the house, they raped her, bit her, tore pieces of flesh from her chest and then took her out from under the house and shot her in the head. Everyone heard her cries and moans. A few days later, my mum was buried by her brother himself and he confirmed it all. Later, my brother and I were in Ljubija with Ned Dimac and Nada and their children. They helped us a lot, they fed us and took care of us for 2 months, for sure. After that, my brother and I went to Croatia by bus. It was very difficult, years of fear and bad dreams, a big black hole in my heart and a broken childhood.”

Ina Vukic

Croatia: First Define Serb Civilian In War Then Talk About Compensation!

In any war civilian victims are defined as casualties of war killed or injured by non-civilians. Civilians who are helping a war effort are people working to supply the troops or paramilitary forces and to provide them with weapons, shelter, cheer them on or help in other ways are not combatants in the sense of bearing arms, but they are an essential part of the war machine and constitute a threat to the other side and, therefore,

may well (must) be considered as combatants and not civilians.

Even thirty years after Serb (Croatian rebel Serbs and Serbs from Serbia) and Yugoslav Army aggression against Croatia began, Croatia has not managed to sort this out. And it was the first thing it should have done after the Homeland War had completely ended with the re-integration of its last occupied territory of Eastern Slavonia in 1998. For all the public knows Croatia has no list of Serb “civilians” in Croatia who must be listed as non-civilians and yet Croatian government has the terrible and mean audacity to try and pass its new legislation regarding the rights of civilian victims during its Homeland War including among them Croatian Serb rebels and their families and friends who were actively involved, in one way or another, in the aggression against Croatia.

Clearly distinguishing between civilians and non-civilians (civilian combatants) has never been more important for Croatia than now. This importance arises from the fact that if this is not clearly defined it will serve as yet another notch in the repulsive denial of human rights of the real victims that equating the victim with the aggressor has been doing so far in Croatia.  

During this past week the matter of proposed new legislation for civilian victims of Croatian Homeland War has been before the Croatian Parliament and the floor clearly demonstrated that even though Croatia won that bloody war of aggression against it, the war is by a long shot not over. Croatian Serbs who belonged to the rebel squads during the war, who simply cannot be considered as civilians, still have their sights on taking over Croatia for Serbia and they are in parliament as representatives who got into the parliament with a couple of hundred votes – because Croatia’s law regarding minority rights permits that. They do not represent those Croatian Serbs who are in the same minority but fought on the Croatian side in war, to defend Croatia from Serb aggression. They are in parliament with the task of equating Croatian victim with Serb aggressor.

Croatian authorities appear to have purposefully forgotten or are sweeping under the carpet the fact that Serb aggression against Croatia started with the Croatian Serb rebels, many of whom come under the definition of civilian combatants who actually drove the aggression and who caused untold damage and loss to Croatians even though they belonged at the time to no official army. Their family members and friends helped them to cause untold damage to Croatia and continued to do so. They were all an army of “civilians”, intent on ethnically cleansing Croats from their own homes so that their homes become a part of Greater Serbia. This is simple language but nevertheless most relevant. The so-called Log Revolution (Blavanska revolucija) was an insurrection by Croatian citizens of Serb extraction who in August of 1990 barricaded sections of Croatian territory near Knin in efforts to stop Croatia in its path of secession from communist Yugoslavia. These rebel Serbs were armed and dangerous and their families stood tight with them against Croats and Croatia. This tension once rebel Serbs were joined by the Yugoslav Army and Serbia’s forces escalated soon into a war, Croatian Homeland War, during which the aggressor perpetrated ethnic cleansing of Croats, genocide, murder, rapes, destruction.  

Serb aggression against Croatia serves as a clear example where civilians are not exclusively civilians but actually largely an active and essential part of that aggression. Serb “civilians” were largely involved in hostilities against independence of Croatia and against the Croatian population in Croatia. Generally, the participation of civilians in hostilities is an issue that represents a critical challenge to the protection of civilians in current conflicts, particularly when hostilities are conducted in the midst of civilian populations and assets, and when non-state armed groups and individuals are engaged as central actors. This issue is also of particular relevance when the hostilities occur under occupation. While international law recognises a basic right of self-determination for populations under occupation, it provides immunity against violence only to those not participating in hostilities. This apparent contradiction is at the core of the debate on the protection of civilians and raises a number of questions about the roles and rights of civilians in armed conflict, as well as the concept of participation in the war effort and the nature of hostilities. Is a member of a militant group necessarily a “combatant”? Of course he/she is! Was a Serb civilian individual who tortured or sent from Vukovar to a camp in Serbia his Croatian neighbour a “combatant”? Of course he was!

So, thirty years after the war of Serb aggression (from inside Croatia and outside it) in Croatia started, a law that aims to set out the rights of civilian victims of the conflict, parents of children who were killed, children of parents who were killed and families of missing persons has been drafted, and the Croatian government (part of which are family members of rebel Serb aggressors!) is pushing for it to be passed by parliament by the end of the year.

The proposed law aims to provide financial compensation for people who became disabled as a result of the war or people who lost family members, as well as funding specific items like prosthetics.

The problem is in the definition of civilians during that war – it has not surfaced yet in the way that reflects reality of the time nor is it accompanied with efforts to delineate between true civilians and civilian combatants, i.e. those who were a perilous enemy without guns! This is the point upon which strong disputes and recriminations are occurring on the parliament’s floor.

The opposition or right-wing politicians are fighting for distinctions to be made so that someone who was a civilian combatant among the Serb aggressor doesn’t “sneak in” and receives compensation that should go to true civilian victims only.

Furthermore, Stipo Mlinaric Cipe, Member of Croatian Parliament for the Patriotic Movement Party has rightly criticised the proposed legislation because it also actually excludes Croatian victims of war who were taken to Serbia during the war, kept in prison camps, tortured and often killed there.

How can we one day explain to the generations that come after us that they have to set money aside from their salary to pay compensation for the aggressors who destroyed their homeland? How to explain that the people who killed their grandparents have all the benefits of the state budget? Is it worth pushing the aggressors at the expense of the budget for 76 hands? It is unfortunate that we are losing the battle we won in 1995 in peace,” Mlinaric said in Croatian Parliament on Wednesday 17 March 2021.

…Tomorrow some Chetnik (Serb) who received amnesty (for war crimes) or someone who fell out of a tractor while fleeing Croatia during the Operation Storm (1995) will get money from the Croatian state … there are some good provisions in this law and really some people or some group who could not exercise that right before will now, on our Croatian side, I am not interested in those from the other side… this may sound rude, non-Christian, but I don’t care what happened to those who applauded the tanks and those who bombed our cities, I don’t care. I wouldn’t give them a penny from the Croatian budget, to any of them … “ said in Croatian Parliament Hrvoje Zekanovic MP for Croatian Sovereignists when talking about the draft legislation on compensation for civilian victims.

The coalition government partly made up of those who belonged to the rebel Serb side during the war, on the other hand, are fighting for all who were not members of any armed forces or groups to be considered as civilians. And they know only too well that a great majority of Serbs in Croatia bore no arms but participated in the hostilities against Croats! Their aim is to justify Serb aggression and equate victims with the aggressors. These are attempts by the depraved people Croatians encounter every day on the streets and parliament! They talk of reconciliation when they have no intention whatsoever to admit to their own guilt! On the contrary, they fabricate new lies about the Homeland War every day. They condone acts of murderous aggression and want their victim to pay them for it. Truly repulsive and utterly immoral.

Until yesterday, they (Serbs) were killing us, raped us, beat us, massacred us, set us on fire, imprisoned us, denounced us, and today we are paying them for those same crimes. Are we a normal state? The whole play about this law that you made yesterday is just ordinary folklore with which, for who knows how many times, you equate the victim and the aggressor. Be ashamed of the the land you walk on, the bloody soil that covers the buried bones of our killed and missing,” Zeljko Glasnovic, retired Croatian Army and Croatian Defence Council General and former Member of Croatian Parliament, wrote 19 March 2021 on his Facebook profile about this proposed new legislation.

The point is that the most important criticism against this proposed legislation for compensating for civilian victims of Croatian Homeland War is the real danger that those “civilians” who participated in the hostilities against Croatia and Croats may end up receiving compensation and, I dare say, the danger is real because the proposed law does not employ real criteria in defining who was civilian and who was not, even though they may not have been members of armed forces or paramilitary forces! The government opposition and people in Croatia need to press on with this and “force” the lawmakers to distinguish among the so-called civilians and exclude from compensation those who participated in hostilities against Croatia and Croats without guns. Ina Vukic

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