Croatia: Justice Against Corruption Still In Claws Of Baptism Of Fire

Ivo Sanader, former prime minister of Croatia Photo: Marko Lukunic

Ivo Sanader, former prime minister of Croatia Photo: Marko Lukunic

Justice in ridding Croatia of paralysing corrupt practices inherited from the communist power-bases of former Yugoslavia, or at least reducing them so that corruption ceases to stifle democratic progress including the economy, has indeed been a long-suffering entity in Croatia. Croatia that is free from corruption is the new bright position people want Croatia to be in. Frank Serpico, New Yorks’s retired police department office who became famous for blowing the whistle on corruption within the police department in late 1960’s and early 1970’s said: “The fight for justice against corruption is never easy. It never has been and never will be. It exacts a toll on our self, our families, our friends, and especially our children. In the end, I believe, as in my case, the price we pay is well worth holding on to our dignity.”

For years Croatia had been unable or unwilling, or both, to deal decisively with thieves and troublemakers that define the deep-rooted corruption. When in 2014 Zagreb’s District Court delivered a guilty verdict in the first and biggest to date corruption case involving the former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader and Hypo and INA-MOL (Croatian gas and petrol energy company with Hungarian MOL clout) there was a breath of relief in Croatia and abroad. Finally – the breath of fresh air and hope for justice showed optimistic promise that Croatia was well on its way in getting rid of paralysing and omnipresent corruption it inherited from communist Yugoslavia days. Sanader was sentenced to eight and a half years and I thought: justice against corruption has been baptised and it will grow from now on.

Zsolt Hernádi, CEO MOL Photo: Budapest Business Journal

Zsolt Hernádi, CEO MOL Photo: Budapest Business Journal

Sanader was arrested in Austria as he fled Croatia in an attempt to avoid facing criminal charges, and was extradited to Croatia in July 2011. Series of trials for a string of serious charges of corruption, bribery and war profiteering offences commenced late 2011. In December 2011 criminal charges were laid against Sanader, which stipulated that for a 10 Million euro bribe he negotiated with president of Hungary’s petrol/energy company MOL, Zsolt Hernádi, that MOL receive majority ownership in Croatia’s INA company. These charges were attached to previous one for war profiteering in which Sanader is alleged to have taken a provision of 3.6 Million kuna (475,000 euro) from Hypo Bank while holding the office of deputy foreign minister of Croatia. As far as bribery from MOL, Hungarian Zsolt Hernádi has continuously denied any wrongdoing although he has refused to attend the Croatian court.
After the 2014 verdicts against Sanader, Croatian Supreme court confirmed those Zagreb District Court guilty verdicts.

But, in July 2015 Croatia’s Constitutional court overturned those guilty verdicts, citing procedural errors (not facts of evidence for the criminal acts) and ordered a retrial. The Constitutional court said that in its decision it did not go into whether Ivo Sanader was guilty of war profiteering and criminal acts of receiving bribes for which he was found guilty because it, the Constitutional court, did not have jurisdiction. The Constitutional court had overturned the guilty verdict because it found that all guarantees for a fair trial and all mechanisms of judicial protection provided through the legislation were not secured for him. http://www.tportal.hr/vijesti/hrvatska/390689/Ukinuta-presuda-Ivi-Sanaderu-za-Hypo-i-INA-MOL.html (Click this link for PDF in Croatian/ Summary of Constitutional Court decision 24 July 2015)

The Constitutional court findings say that there had been a breach of rules of a milder law in relation to the constitutional guarantee for a milder sentence. Article 31, clause 1 of the Constitution of Croatia provides that ” No one may be punished for an act which, prior to its commission, was not defined as a punishable offence by domestic or international law, nor may such individual be sentenced to a penalty which was not then defined by law. If a less severe penalty is determined by law after the commission of said act, such penalty shall be imposed.”

The decision also refers to a breach of Constitutional right to explanations of the part of judgement dealing with the rule of the milder law.

And so, on Monday 7 September 2015, Croatia began a retrial of former prime minister Ivo Sanader on corruption charges, including a case of a bribe allegedly taken from Hungarian oil firm MOL to allow it acquire a dominant stake in Croatia’s biggest utility (INA).

Judge Ivan Turudic Photo: Slavko Midzor

Judge Ivan Turudic Photo: Slavko Midzor

As the retrial got under way, Sanader’s lawyers requested the judge (Ivan Turudic) be changed as he had overseen the previous trial and they submit that he may be biased against Sanader in the second-trial. According to media reports Sanader’s lawyers will seek not only that Turudic be disqualified from hearing the case or presiding over the hearing but that he also be removed from his position as president of the Zagreb District Court. Judge Ivan Turudic, on the other hand, says that he can see no reason why he could not preside over the retrial. Any disqualification of a judge from presiding over the trial or hearing the case will need to be decided by a higher court (in this case Supreme Court of Croatia).

Well, well, it seems Sanader and his lawyers don’t worry about the independent facts revealed during the first trial against him, which facts point to guilt of actual corruption, bribery and war profiteering. Procedural matters are the hot coals in the baptism of fire of justice in this case. While Sanader and everyone should have the benefit of due process – which includes access to all rights under the law and procedural fairness – one cannot but think of Frank Serpico at this time: the fight for justice is never easy! Baptism of fire for many good things is an inevitable albeit regretful path to the good; we all want justice and want it now! Especially given that Croatia has been suffocated by corruption for a whole lifetime. Time to speed up the fight against corruption in Croatia and I hope that agenda will be included in someone’s election campaign platform! It’s election year with general elections likely to occur in a couple of month’s times. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A.;M.A.Ps. (Syd)

First published on Sept.09 2015

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Croatia’s Blessed Aloysius Stepinac, WWII Rescue Of Jews and Dr Esther Gitman’s Fact Finding Captivate Pages Of Prestigious US Catholic Historical Review

 

Blessed Aloysius Stepinac Front Cover Catholic Histoprical Review Summer 2015 Edition Catholic University of America Press

Blessed Aloysius Stepinac Front Cover Catholic Historical Review Summer 2015 Edition Catholic University of America Press

Dr Esther Gitman

In 1942, during the mass deportations of Jews to concentration camps, some Jews managed to escape to the Italian Zones of Occupation on the Adriatic. When the Italian authorities realized that so many Jews were flocking to their zone they aimed to deport them back to he Independent State of Croatia ruled by the Ustashe regime controlled by Nazi Germany. When the news reached Archbishop Stepinac of the intention of the Governor of Dalmatia, he wrote to the Holy See requesting to allow the Jewish refugees to remain under the Italian occupation. The Italians did not murder Jewish refugees they protected them. Thus, in fact, Stepinac, was instrumental in saving my mother’s and my life and thousands other lives. I owe him an eternal gratitude because by his conduct, he gave me an opportunity to live and get to know my husband, daughter and my grandchildren. Archbishop Stepinac was honored by the Catholic Historical Review by having his picture posted on the cover. This picture commemorates the time he spent as a prisoner in Communist Yugoslavia. The article is found on pp. 488-529. Thank you!” Said Dr. Esther Gitman,  a few days ago

And so, I took delight and pride in translating the posting from the Catholic University of Croatia website that announces Dr. Esther Gitman’s very important achievement  – the publication of her article on the work of Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac and the rescue and the saving of Jews during WWII Croatia in such a world-renowned and prestigious scholarly journal published in the US. I hope many of you will access the article via the Catholic University of America Press website.

____

Information for the Media

Catholic University of Croatia
Zagreb
Contact: pr@unicath.hr
http://www.unicath.hr

Zagreb 29 August 2015

The American historian of Jewish descent, Dr. Esther Gitman Ph.D., has published in the Summer Edition of the scientific journal The Catholic Historical Review (CHR), third this year (pp. 488-529, vol. 101. n. 3), an article about the blessed Alojzije (Aloysius) Stepinac, titled “Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac of Zagreb and the Rescue of Jews, 1941-45”.

In the article, the author shows how the Archbishop of Zagreb undertook the action of rescuing several hundred of individuals associated with the Croatian Jewish community, how he saved more than a thousand Jews who were in mixed marriages, as well as many others for whom the Nazi regime posed a danger.

Using evidence from various archives, testimonies of surviving family members and other documents, the author discusses how Stepinac responded to the politics of the Ustasha regime under the Nazi and Fascist patronage, and how he used his position in the Church to promote the rescue of Jews. In the same article, the author talks about the collaboration between Archbishop Stepinac and Msgr. Giuseppe Ramiro Marcone, Pope Pius XII’s apostolic visitor, and how they demanded from the Vatican that the Jews who had arrived into the Italian zone not be deported back to NDH (Independent State of Croatia).

Excerpt from the article by Dr Esther Gitman published in The Catholic Historical Review Summer 2015

Excerpt from the article by Dr Esther Gitman published in The Catholic Historical Review Summer 2015

The scientific journal, The Catholic Historical Review, had decided to publish Dr. Gitman’s article only after the article had been subjected to double-verification by two of our professional associates who did not know who the author of the article they were verifying was. The verifying associates were four scientists of high international reputation from Croatia and abroad. Dr. Gitman was able to provide adequate answers to all criticisms and complaints put by the versifier/s and substantiate her claims with evidence from the archives. Some complaints were irrelevant to the subject of the article and, hence, we did not seek any clarification for them. Dr. Gitman’s article contributes significantly to discussions regarding the role of Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac of Zagreb during the difficult years of World War II. The Catholic Historical Review is, therefore, very happy to be in the position of making that article available to the scholarly world. By placing the image of Archbishop Stepinac in prison on the cover of the summer issue we wanted to draw attention to this important person in the history of the Catholic Church in the 20th century – said Professor Nelson H. Minnich, editor of The Catholic Historical Review and a professor at the Department of History, the American Catholic University.
This article is yet another in the list of articles that, based on facts, show how much Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac was engaged in the defense of the dignity of every person during the difficult times of the Second World War.
About the author:

Dr Esther Gitman Delivering a talk on her work at NSW State Library (Mitchell Library) Sydney, Australia February 2014 Photo: Ina Vukic

Dr Esther Gitman Delivering a talk on her work at NSW State Library (Mitchell Library) Sydney, Australia February 2014 Photo: Ina Vukic

Dr Esther Gitman earned her doctorate at the City University, New York and the findings of her research are summarized in her book “When Courage Prevailed,” translated into the Croatian language and published by Christian Actuality in 2011. The book deals with the topic of the rescue and survival of Jews in NDH (Independent State of Croatia) and one of its chapters is devoted to the role played at the time by the Archbishop of Zagreb, Alojzije Stepinac. The author deals with issues related to Jews in Croatia during World War II and, using scientific evidence and historical facts, she points to the uniqueness and the greatness of Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac in all those events.

She was a visiting professor at the Croatian Catholic University during the 2013/2014 academic year 2013/2014. and held a course on rescuing Jews in NDH (Independent State of Croatia).

About the Journal:
The Scientific Journal The Catholic Historical Review, founded by the Catholic University of America, has been published since 1915. That is the only university journal under the Catholic Church’s auspices in the English-speaking world dedicated to the history of the Catholic Church. The journal publishes articles, peer-reviewed articles, as well as review articles, book reviews, and lists of current periodical literature received in all areas of church history. The Journal and the article can be obtained at the following address: The Catholic University of America Press http://cuapress.cua.edu/journals/chr.cfm

Summary of Dr. Gitman’s article:
During World War II, Blessed Alojzije (Aloysius) Stepinac, Archbishop and later Cardinal of Zagreb (1898 – 1960), took action to rescue several hundred individuals associated with Croatia’s Jewish community, more than 1000 Jews in mixed marriages, and a number of others in danger from the Nazis. Using archival evidence, survivor testimonies, and other documentation, the author discusses how Stepinac reacted to the policies of the Nazi-and-fascist-sponsored Ustase regime and used his position in the Church to promote the rescue of Jews, supported by his moral convictions and Giuseppe Ramiro Marcone, Benedictine abbot and Pope Pius XII’s apostolic visitor to Croatia.

Prof. Minnich’s reply as to why he decided to publish Dr. Gitman’s article:

The CHR decided to publish Dr. Gitman’s article after it had gone through our double-blind refereeing process. The four referees are scholars of international standing, from within and outside Croatia. Where referees raised objection and criticisms, Dr. Gitman was able to provide appropriate responses and she backed up her claims with archival evidence. Some of the objections were irrelevant to the topic of the article and did not deserve a response. Her article makes a significant contribution to the debates concerning the role of Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac of Zagreb during the difficult years of World War II. The CHR is thus happy to make it available to the scholarly world. By putting the picture of Archbishop Stepinac in prison on the cover of the Summer issue, the journal wishes to draw attention to this important figure in the history of the Catholic Church in the twentieth century.
Translated from the Croatian language by Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

First published on 2nd September 2015

 

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The Glory Of Croatian Martyrs

The Glory of Croatian Martyrs Sculpture relief by Kuzma Kovacic Church of Croatian Martyrs Udbina Croatia

The Glory of Croatian Martyrs Sculpture relief by Kuzma Kovacic Church of Croatian Martyrs Udbina Croatia (Click picture to enlarge)

In 2003, in the city of Rijeka, Pope John Paul II blessed the rough stone base for the future altar sculpture for the Church of Croatian Martyrs at Udbina, a relief of the impressions of the Battle of Krbava (1493 when Kingdom of Croatia forces fought the advance of the Ottoman with tragic consequences. While the Croatian army was heavily defeated on September 9th 1493 in the Battle of Krbava, a hundred years later, in the Battle of Sisak on June 22nd 1593 it won a glorious victory over the Turks. From that point onwards the power of the Turks in Europe began to decline continuously), Bleiburg and Way of the Cross (post-WWII mass murders of Croats by Yugoslav communists) and the sufferings and victims of Vukovar during Croatia’s Homeland War of 1990’s (mass murders and tortures perpetrated by Serb aggressor). As part of the marking of Croatian Martyrs Day this altar relief called “The Glory of Croatian Martyrs”, sculptured by artist Kuzma Kovacic, a three-part whole made up of 70 large stone tiles from the Island of Brac, was blessed on Saturday 29 August 2015 in the Church of Croatian Martyrs in Udbina. The relief’s author, Kuzma Kovacic, said that his work “The Glory of Croatian Martyrs” represents almost a thousand years of the connection between the Catholic faith and the Croatian history.

Saturday 29 August 2015 at The Church of Croatian Martyrs in Udbina Photo: www.lika-online.com

With that relief the grand dedication sitting above the Krbava Field – the church with its altar relief sculpture – is completed. Several thousands of believers from all regions of Croatia, as well as state and church dignitaries, gathered in Udbina at the holy mass on Saturday, headed by Mile Bogovic, the Bishop of Lika-Senj county. Bishop Bogovic emphasised that besides having a great artistic value the relief sculpture also has a large patriotic and religious value. He reminded the pilgrims of the history of the region where the church stands, where the bishopric…. was established 730 years ago and where at the Krbava Field the geographic centre of Croatia had been wounded in 1493. “Krbava and the whole of Lika were under the Turks for 160 years, and after this there were not only Catholics here but also the Orthodox,” Bishop Bogovic said.

Bishop Mile Bogovic

He reminded that in 1942 the Croatian Catholics that remained there were forced to leave Udbina, where also their church was destroyed, their cemetery devastated, their houses destroyed and their land taken away from them. “Another law reigned that did not even spare the Orthodox Church in Udbina,” he emphasised (meaning the communist Partisan “law”).

Speaking about the WWII and post-WWII sufferings Bishop Bogovic accentuated Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac’s example. “Although we, like other nations, cannot say we have nothing to regret from our pasts, we can say with pride that there were great many greats of good and sacrifice for others in our history, and our church and worldly history have systematically been muddied,” concluded Bishopo Bogovic.

Bishop Bogovic gave an appraisal in saying that the Croatian past and its Greats “are still, to this day, covered with many fat layers of lies so that not even the most well-meaning persons cannot see the real picture”. “It is sad that the same people who fabricated those lies force themselves upon us as our teachers and receive funds and space for their schools and, so, it’s within these frames that the idea of the Church of Croatian Martyrs appeared and grew,” said Bishop Bogovic, emphasising the church project in Udbina “did not arise from the cult of a gun, a lie and aggression, as suggested by some even today, but that it arose out of the cult of the cross and veneration of those who had suffered the aggression from various guns and aggressors”.

Turning to the marking of anniversaries of sufferings, Bishop Bogovic emphasised how it’s human to value courage and resolve in the defence of people and homeland.

Children at mass in Udbina Croatian Martyrs Day 29 August 2015 Photo: www.lika-online.com

It’s been ten years since the foundation stone was laid and the building of this Shrine (The Church of Croatian Martyrs) to the Croatian martyrs in Udbina had begun. The road to its completion was hard and riddled with obstacles laid by those who did not want the Croatian martyrs remembered in such a grand, deserving manner. The same road, though, had been a joyous one for to pursue with the project also meant the expression of special gratitude to those who had throughout history sacrificed their lives for the human and Christian progress over the Croatian nation.

Church of Croatian Martyrs Udbina the altar and the Glory of Croatian Martyrs relief by Kuzma Kovacic

Many of the most prominent sons of Croatia who accepted death so that others could live, now live on Kuzma Kovacic’s relief sculpture in Udbina. They come from Krbava Field, from Bleiburg and Ways of the Cross, from Vukovar and all places of killings in Croatia and all its pits and mass graves; those for whom regimes said were defeated and beaten, those whom the aggressors considered as rubbish and tossed them into pits of torture and oblivion – are greeted by Christ as the victorious and our generation has retrieves their human dignity while Christ waits for them as the victorious. That is the message within the relief sculpture “The Glory of Croatian Martyrs”. Lest we forget! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

First published August 31 2015 by inavukic

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Suffocating Refugees and Illegal Migrants Avalanche Heading Croatia’s Way

Refugees and illegal migrants making their way from Greece to Macedonia to continue into EU Photo: AP Photos/ Sakis Mitrolidis

Refugees and illegal migrants making their
way from Greece to Macedonia
to continue into EU
Photo: AP Photos/ Sakis Mitrolidis

Countless thousands of refugees and illegal migrants from war-torn Syria, Iraq and other Middle East territory, Africa… are reaching Europe via Greece and Italy as points of entry in particular. According to interviews published on all world’s media all those coming from Greece across Macedonia and Serbia and Hungary are intent on making it to Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Netherlands, United Kingdom… they know where they want to go and expect to succeed in it, trampling over and destabilising European countries they cross towards their desired destination.

Refugees and illegal migrants of today appear to have expectations that they will reach their desired destination and stay there. How very different from the refugees fleeing WWII Europe – most were happy to wait in refugee camps and go to a country offered to them. Personal preferences played little part.

Refugees and illegal migrants reaching border of Macedonia from Greece August 2015

Refugees and illegal migrants reaching border of Macedonia from Greece August 2015

Today, we are seeing a humanitarian crisis unfolding before our eyes, a political crisis and a standard of living crisis of those living in the countries where this is occurring. We witness a great deal of criticisms directed to the countries or individuals for seemingly failing to assist or for using caution in allowing total strangers into their towns, countries etc. We have seen force being used at the Macedonian border with Greece against the refugees and illegal migrants; tear gas used to send them back to Greece…and then let them trough, or they break through police lines, in order to reach other countries where they want to go.

Train station in Gevgelija, Macedonia Refugees and illegal migrants wait transportation

Train station in Gevgelija, Macedonia Refugees and illegal migrants wait transportation

While doing everything within its power and control on a humanitarian base to assist the needy, to my view, countries have a moral obligation in protecting their borders especially when it’s known that there are most likely many Islamic State affiliates or fighters or supporters among them. And who can assure me that this is not a strategy to strengthen the IS within Europe? Please do if you can with certainty.
Croatia, has so far avoided the avalanche simply due to its geographical position. But, after Hungary builds its 174 Km, 4-meter high border wall with Serbia, Croatia becomes an alternative route for the entry of refugees into the Schengen Area. Croatian government has said all past week that it has a strategy how to care for refugees and illegal migrants and has begun preparations in the event that refugees and illegal migrants start entering Croatia en masse.
According to HRT TV news from 21 August 2015 “Croatia has enough facilities from Ilok to Dubrovnik that can accommodate immigrants if it is needed. There should be no problems as far as the accommodation of refugees is concerned. State Office for Property Management has a list of fifteen potential facilities which can be quickly put into operation if it is required“, said Mladen Pejnovic, director of the Office of Government Owned Property Management.

There are, according to Pejnovic, about 15 disused large objects that can be fixed and ready for use fairly quickly, if required. The majority of these facilities are former, now disused, army barracks, coastal resorts with unresolved ownership issues, as well as facilities, which Croatia received according to the agreements on succession of the former Yugoslavia.

While a will to help the needy is a gesture we should all follow, this declaration by Croatia’s government certainly seems most irresponsible, as it does not address the reality pressing upon Croatia’s own people and indeed the population of other European countries caught in this avalanche of fear, misery and instability. Croatian government announcement of having enough space to house refugees fails to address the safety of Croatian people and alarms raised in Schengen Zone countries, such as Germany, regarding behaviour of some EU countries not taking their “share” of refugees and illegal migrants. It, also, lacks criticism towards the UN for failing miserably at pooling resources of all UN member countries and establishing safe, clean and decent refugee camps at agreed sites across various countries.
This way, fear and uncertainty and human misery seem to be the only “currencies” UN is interested in.

Germany's Angela Merkel

Germany’s Angela Merkel

Germany has called on Britain to take more of a share of migrants coming into Europe. Interior minister Thomas de Maiziere said along with other countries it needed to be ‘more aware’ of its responsibilities as a member of the European Union. He made his call for the British to welcome more refugees after it was revealed Germany expects to receive 800,000 asylum applications this year – more than all 28 EU countries combined in 2014. Britain is not of the Schengen area of 26 European countries that have removed all border checks and passport controls between each other. It has an opt-out on taking part in a scheme to distribute migrants arriving into the EU between different countries and has so far refused.

Mirela Holy

Mirela Holy

Back in Croatia, Mirela Holy, leader of The Sustainable Development of Croatia (ORaH) a small green party and member of Croatian parliament has Saturday, 22 August 2015, sent to Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, and his government, an open letter regarding a refugee wave that has swamped the Balkans, calling on him to present a strategic plan for refugees, if his government had one, and to explain to the public how it would be implemented, reported HRT TV news on Saturday.
She also asked the PM how much budget funding had been set aside for the accommodation of refugees and their basic supplies and whether Croatian intelligence services cooperated with other countries’ services to efficiently prevent the infiltration of terrorists traveling with refugees, as well as how the government planned to prevent possible acts of terrorism and whether the security aspect of the crisis was being considered at all.
She said that the refugee crisis was a consequence of conflicts in Syria and other countries in the Middle East and that the exodus of a large number of people from those areas was expected to continue if no peace and security was established there.
Holy added that considering the fact that this was unlikely to happen without an international intervention led by the UN, Milanovic should inform the public about the government’s position on securing peace and stability in those regions militarily.
The EU has warned that it is currently facing ‘the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War’. Its border agency Frontex has said some 340,000 migrants have arrived already this year.
This is an emergency situation for Europe that requires all EU member states to step in to support the national authorities who are taking on a massive number of migrants at its borders,” said Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri.
Frontex has called on member states to provide additional equipment and people to support our operations in Greece and in Hungary and the European Commission has approved national programmes to provide significant financial assistance to the Member States to address these challenges,” he added.

A member of the Macedonian special police forces holds a baby as migrants try to cross into Macedonia near the southern city of Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 22 August 2015 Photo: EPA/Georgi Licovski

A member of the Macedonian special police forces holds a baby as migrants try to cross into Macedonia near the southern city of Gevgelija, 22 August 2015 Photo: EPA/Georgi Licovski

Croatia has always been willing to assist and take a quota of refugees (550 was the most recent number confirmed by the government) but I believe that the government’s announcement of having adequate space in disused objects to receive refugees and illegal migrants may be deceitful (as no limit to numbers these objects can take are mentioned) and encourage the avalanche to start falling on Croatia much before Hungary builds its announced border fence. It’s a shame we haven’t heard more about the plan or strategy Croatia’s government has developed to contribute in dealing with this humanitarian crisis, but I too suspect it hasn’t got a tight strategy. And it must! People in Europe are torn between the instinct to offer shelter and help to those in need and the instinct to shut the borders, lock the doors, while the leaders portray no unity in this crisis that’s threatening all – no one seems to be helping the other and no major UN Security Council meeting on this at the horizon. This is not a passing storm or an avalanche that will come quickly and dissipate just as fast. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

First published August 23, 2015 by inavukic

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Reverence For Croatian Victims Of Serb Aggression: Vote Trashes Use Of Serbian Cyrillic In Vukovar

Bilingual signs with Serbian Cyrillic Removed from Vukovar's public buildings Photo: G. Panic

This is a big move towards making solid steps for peace and healing of victims of Serb aggression and atrocities against Croats and non-Serbs in Vukovar in the early 1990’s. Those who oppose the “step” will call it by any other name except one that has even a tiny bit of positiveness in it; they will call it recist, denial of human rights, denial of minority rights and such.

The Vukovar City Council on Monday 17 August 2015 adopted amendments to the city Statute as per August 2014 Constitutional Court ruling that handed instructions to determine, within one year, in which of the city’s neighbourhoods bilingual signs can be displayed.
In the amendments the City Council of Vukovar voted constitute changes of the Statute of the city so that it no longer provides for the existence of bilingual signs, and Cyrillic alphabet, on the city’s and government institutions, squares and streets. The changes were adopted on the initiative of the Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ, the leading party in Vukovar local government. Serbian political representatives and the Councillors of the Social Democratic Party, the strongest party in the national government, unsuccessfully opposed the decision.
For a couple of years now much has happened in Vukovar with protests against bilingual (Croatian and Serbian) signs on public buildings and streets etc. Bilingual signs containing Serb Cyrillic were systematically pulled down, smashed and generally rejected by the Croats living in Vukovar. The Committee for the defence of Croatian Vukovar and their supporters, who represent the victims of Serb mass murders, rapes, destruction say that Cyrillic symbolically represents the utter terror and the horror inflicted upon innocent Croats in Vukovar as they went about seceding from communist Yugoslavia, seeking through democratic peaceful processes their freedom and democracy.

As was expected Serbia and some of Croatia’s antifascist riff-raff have protested against these amendments in Vukovar City Statute and have called them racist as well as denying human rights to minorities. Their protest also touches upon the decision in these amendments of the Statute of Vukovar to introduce charges of 3 Euro for any council document issued in Cyrillic at special request by an applicant.

Vukovar’s people who are behind the moves against the Serbian Cyrillic on public buildings, streets etc. and the councillors of the ruling coalition defended the amendments to the Statute which were proposed by city mayor Ivan Penava (HDZ) and all of these supporters continue seeking and calling for a new census. The last census, they say, was fraudulent and had many more Serbs who lived in Serbia, not Vukovar, recorded as living in Vukovar. Busloads of people from Serbia had come to Vukovar at time of census, falsely declared their residence there and then after went back to Serbia. All this in efforts to make-up the necessary minimum of 34% of population in a place needed to introduce bilingual signage on public buildings etc.! If that percentage is based on fraud – and all evidence argued and provided to the public so far seems to point that way – then those councillors in Vukovar that reject accepting that fraudulent census result as its benchmark for the introduction of bilingual signage are absolutely in the right!

There has been no information yet on how the government will react to the amendments made to Vukovar’s Statute, to the complaints made by the Serb Ethnic Minority Council and criticism coming out of Serbia calling the Vukovar council’s move racist, and in breach of human rights of minorities.

As regards Cyrillic signs in Vukovar the government has the possibility to directly enforce laws, bypassing the city statute, but the question is how much that would be in line with the ruling of the Constitutional Court instructing the government to propose to the parliament, within a period of one year, amendments to the Law on the Use of Languages and Scripts of Ethnic Minorities, including mechanisms for cases when local self-government bodies obstruct the right to bilingualism.

Along with the Serb Ethnic Minority Council of Vukovar, also dissatisfied with the amendments to the Vukovar City Statute is the Serb National Council (SNV), whose leaders on Monday described them as unconstitutional and unlawful and said that they would notify the relevant institutions in Croatia, as well as the EU, the Council of Europe and the UN.

They can write to EU and UN “till the cows come home” but they have no case! Vukovar council decision was in respect of human rights: those of the victims!

EU ParliamentBesides, Tove Ernst, European Commission Press Officer, reportedly said to Serbia’s news agency Tanjug and responding to a plea to the European Commission to comment on the abolition of the Cyrillic alphabet in Croatian city of Vukovar: “the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU bans discrimination based on minority status. However, the Commission has no overall authority with regard to minorities, especially in relation to the issue of recognition of the status of minorities, their self-determination and autonomy, and the use of regional or minority languages.” According to her, the Member States retain a general power to make decisions about minorities and the provisions of the Charter of fundamental rights concern the EU Member States only when they implement EU laws.
The Vukovar Council said it supported full application of the Constitutional Law on the Rights of Ethnic Minorities and the Law on the Use of Minority Languages and Scripts and warned that minority rights must not depend on daily politics. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

First published August 19th 2015

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FEATURED:Islamic State Claims Beheading of Croatian Hostage

This image made from a militant video posted on a social media website on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015, Hostage: Tomislav Salopek A Croatian working in Egypt

This image made from a militant video posted on a social media website on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015, Hostage: Tomislav Salopek A Croatian working in Egypt

The desert road kidnapping and claimed beheading by Islamic State (IS) fighters last week of a Croatian citizen, 30-year old Tomislav Salopek, temporarily working for a French geoscience company, CGG Ardiseis, as oil and gas surveyor, who was snatched in broad daylight on the outskirts of Cairo, is the first of its kind involving a foreigner in Egypt. The fact that this atrocious act is sure to deal an almost irrecoverable blow to Egypt’s government’s efforts to project stability, which would attract foreign investment and influx of foreign skills needed to support an economic turnaround following years of unrest in the wake of Egypt’s Arab Spring, is not what the West should be worried about. In the big scheme of worldly affairs Croatia is a small country but the fact that the capture and reported beheading of Salopek “for his country’s participation in the war against the Islamic State” reverberates the terrible truth that IS’ has counted on and is counting on using individuals wherever they are for targets whose death spreads immobilising fear. Such method of terror, as we know, can occur on the territory where IS fights or on “our” territory through.

Tomislav Salopek and his wife Natasa Photo: Facebook

Tomislav Salopek and his wife Natasa Photo: Facebook

In a brief statement, CGG said: “His car was stopped by an armed group who forced the driver to leave the car and then took off in an unknown direction.”

Initially, Salopek’s captors did not demand money but set a 48-hour deadline for the release of “Muslim women” from Egyptian jails – a reference to the hundreds of female Islamist prisoners (considered to be members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood) detained in a sweeping government crackdown following the 2013 ouster of the country’s Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi.

On Thursday, 13 August 2015, the Islamic State group’s radio station, Al Bayan, announced that its Egyptian affiliate had killed Salopek, the first word from the extremist group – media reported.
Authorities, though, still have not confirmed the authenticity of the claim and are continuing the search for Salopek in isolated areas of Egypt, including the restive northern Sinai Peninsula, where Egypt’s Islamic State affiliate is based, and the vast Western Desert, which is a gateway to volatile and lawless Libya, home to its own Islamic State branch. Croatians all over the world and friends pray that Salopek is still alive.

Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic

Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic

Croatian foreign minister Vesna Pusic travelled to Egypt amid this terrible time and said she has met with representatives of about 80 other Croatian citizens working in Egypt and the Croatian government has demanded stronger security measures for them, including the protection of the Egyptian army.
Croatia’s Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic said that Tomislav Salopek was captured by a different group than the Islamic State and was only given to ISIS once a ransom wasn’t paid by Salopek’s company, General Geoscience (CGG), reports Al Arabiya.

According to Croatian newspaper Vecernji List, the terrorist organisation responsible for the kidnapping and reported beheading of Croatia’s Tomislav Salopek is the Jamaat Ansar al-Sunna. However, it would seem that not enough relevant information about this group has been published there that would place it into the Islamic State fighters that it seems to now be.

Jamaat Ansar al-Sunna group like jihadi groups traces via its supposed heritage an ideology of explicitly espousing the restoration of the Caliphate and, according to reports, politically the group tended to take a more ‘moderate’ stance in affiliating with the insurgent nationalist ‘Iraqi Resistance’ political council until last year.
The reassertion of Jamaat Ansar al-Sunna’s jihadi identity and roots has been made more clear during 2014 with a tract from the group’s leader calling for the unity of the ‘mujahideen of the Ummah’ and the late-2014 statement marking itself out as a ‘jihadi faction’ rather than a mere ‘armed Sunni faction’.

And so, it would seem that the Croatian foreign minister Pusic needs some more lessons in Islamic State and all the groups and ways it operates with. Islamic State is the ultimate result for the Mujahideens and all other groups committing terror and murder in the name of IS. And didn’t the Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina experience the terror and the insufferable brutality of Mujahideens that made up a part of the Muslim led, Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1990’s war!

Tomislav Salopek

Tomislav Salopek

In July 2015, an ISIS video (taken off Youtube) encouraged Muslims in the Balkan countries to take up arms and establish Sharia Law in the region. Meanwhile in March 2014, Brown Moses reported that ISIS had taken control and was using Croatian weaponry the group hijacked from convoys meant for the Free Syrian Army. “…it seems extremely likely these weapons are the same ones purchased from Croatia, by Saudi Arabia, and smuggled through Jordan. Now, despite the best intentions of those who were involved with providing these weapons to the Free Syrian Army, these weapons are being used to attack Iraqi government forces inside Iraq, a clear indication that attempts to control the spread of weapons beyond the borders of Syria and the groups that initially received them has failed in a spectacular fashion…” Moses wrote. Surely, Croatia’s foreign minister Vesna Pusic can do better in dealing with the way Islamic State has targeted a Croatian citizen for its latest display of terror by beheading! ISIS has pointed its murderous finger at Croatia through the kidnapping and beheading of Tomislav Salopek and it is very irresponsible of foreign minister Pusic to suggest that the incident was not originally planned by IS but by some unnamed, non-IS group seeking ransom! Whether ransom was sought before the release of female Islamists from prison it does not matter – both tactics are evidently tied to the IS and it was not by chance that a Croatian citizen was taken!

The kidnapping and reported execution of a foreign national (Croatian Tomislav Salopek) adds a new dimension to an environment of hostility toward outsiders that has taken root in the country. Entrenched military and security political forces have blamed Egypt’s unrest on foreign influences.
This is already an insular moment for Egypt and it’s quite possible that the country could be seen as not only an inhospitable environment for foreigners, but a dangerous one—and that is [Sinai Province’s] intention,” said Michael Hanna, an Egypt analyst with the Century Foundation in New York.
Croatian foreign minister Vesna Pusic’s evident playing down the role of IS in Tomislav Salopek case could be seen as an attempt to try to help Egypt’s government salvage some of the reputation it lost in this attack for foreign investors and travelers. Such an attempt would be unforgivable for its effect can only incite further IS attacks rather than reduce them. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

First published on August 16, 2015 by inavukic

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Croatia: Callous Deceit Behind Serbia’s Initiative For Common Victims Remembrance Day

Serb aggression devastated Croatian towns and people in 1990's

Serb aggression devastated Croatian towns and people in 1990’s

Distressing attempts to equate the aggressor with the victims of 1990’s war of Serb aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina coming out of Serbia never seem to relent. In July we witnessed Serbia’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic having stones, shoes and items of rubbish thrown at him at the 20th anniversary of Srebrenica genocide, when he had to flee the gathering. The reason for this was mainly in his and Serbia’s twisted political course in denying the fact that Serbs committed genocide in Srebrenica 1995.

Aleksandar Vucic Photo: Beta

Aleksandar Vucic Photo: Beta

During the past week Vucic has come up with another distressing proposal or initiative: he proposes Common Day of Remembrance for all the Victims of the Conflicts on the Territory of former Yugoslavia towards achieving lasting peace in the region! That means Serb victims, Croat victims, Bosniak victims, Kosovar victims…

Superficially, all that might seem fine where it not for the fact that the Serbs and the Serbs only, were the aggressors everywhere who do not want to accept it nor take responsibility for their aggression on other nations’ territories and people.
Vucic announced that at the meeting on the 27th of August in Vienna, and even before that, he will propose to all leaders whose countries were involved in the conflicts on the territory of the former Yugoslavia, to find a common day of remembrance on all victims from the Western Balkans, that would not be differed by their ethnicity.
According to his words, “everyone could show the same respect for all of the victims and we would all know that there were victims on all sides.”
From hatred and digging the old wounds from the past we cannot and we will not be able to live,” said Vucic.

Vucic needs to reaslise that “digging the old wounds” is essential to human dignity and justice if those wounds have not healed and the only way such wound can properly heal is through justice for the victim – through prosecutions and punishment of the perpetrator and through the perpetrator’s repentance.
The leaders in the region and some politicians in BiH have already said that this proposal will not be accepted.

Bakir Izetbegovic

Bakir Izetbegovic

Bakir Izetbegovic, member of tripartite Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Federation said that “Prime Minister Vucic’s initiative can only gain momentum if it implies genuine confrontation with the truth on all crimes, acceptance of verdicts handed down by international courts and historical facts established in the verdicts, as well as unequivocal condemnation of activities leading to new conflicts in this region – such as the initiative on holding a referendum on secession coming from the leadership of Republika Srpska.” Otherwise, he added, Vucic’s initiative might lead to relativising the character of the war and the scope of the crimes committed against the Bosniaks. “Such an initiative would not contribute to the process of reconciliation, but would rather set it back and endanger it,” Izetbegovic stressed.

Zoran Milanovic

Zoran Milanovic

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic rejected the idea.
“With due respect and condolence, we do not prescribe to others which holidays they will mark, and we will not allow them to do that to us,” Milanovic said.

Hashim Thaci

Hashim Thaci

Kosovo foreign minister Hashim Thaci said Vucic’s proposal is unacceptable, and it represents an attempt to rewrite the history.
We cannot equate those who instigated, organized and conducted genocide with those who defended their homes,” Thaci said.
Indeed the only thing I see in Vucic’s initiative for a common commemoration day for all victims of the 1990’s war in former Yugoslavia is yet another rude and callous attempt to equate the aggressor with the victims, to bury the blood from Serbia’s hands without any responsibility taken for the spilling of that blood.

It’s good to remind ourselves at this point that Williams and Scharf, suggest that a fixation on peace, especially when accompanied by practices of appeasement, does not simply result in a glossing over of questions of justice and victimisation, but actually leads to a discourse of moral equivalence and moral duplicity between victim and aggressor: “ Moral duplicity… entails declarations and actions designed to create the perception of moral equivalence among the parties, thereby eroding the distinction between aggressor and victim and spreading culpability among all parties” (Paul R. Williams and Michael P. Scharf, Peace With Justice: War Crimes and Accountability in the Former Yugoslavia, 2002, p. 26).

From this perspective, it is not just that “getting to peace” fails to directly engage victim identification and aggressor identification, but in fact it can falsely lead to equating the two groups as combatants on the same moral platform.

This simply cannot be permitted! For humanity’s sake if for nothing else!

There was no common moral platform between the Serb aggressor and those that needed to defend themselves from this aggression.

Aleksandar Vucic must fail in his bid for a common day of remembrance for all victims! All victims were not equal and had no common purpose. Serbs’ purpose was to attack, kill, ethnically cleanse and take the territory belonging to other people while the purpose of Croats, Bosniaks, Kosovars… was to defend themselves and their self-preservation. That of course does not mean that individuals of the latter did not commit crimes but this is not about individuals this is about the “blanket” purpose and policy that existed on “national” levels at the time.

Andrej Plenkovic

Andrej Plenkovic

But: “Of course, all victims deserve to be honored and respected. But twenty years later, we should be vigilant and discourage Belgrade from attempts to whitewash its failed Greater Serbia policy by revising this watershed event of the 1991-1995 period. To conclude, if the membership in the EU, thorough reforms and development of good neighborly relations are indeed key priorities of Serbia, it is vital that they are underpinned by the courage of their leaders who accept the truth and are ready for clear expression of regret and excuse as a precondition for forgiveness and lasting reconciliation with their neighbours,” commented so aptly Andrej Plenkovic, Croatian EU Parliament representative. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

First published August 12, 2015 by inavukic

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