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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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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Croatia: Luka Misetic Responds As Serb Denials Of Crimes Take New Form

Luka Misetic Photo: Davor Puklavec/PIXSELL

In line with the appalling Serb denials of genocide and the horrendous crimes they committed in the aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina during 1990’s it was to be expected that Croatian Serbs and their wicked supporters were going to stage some outrageous display of denials ahead of the 20th Anniversary of Operation Storm that liberated Croatia from Serb occupation and aggression in August of 1995; just as they did with the 20th commemoration of Srebrenica genocide in July.

And so, it came – the ugly beast of denials, political corruption, lies and attempts to pervert the truth in the form of launching an interactive narrative named “Storm in the Hague” (webpage)! Those responsible for this launch on Friday 31 July 2015 in Zagreb, Croatia, are the Documenta association in Croatia (an organisation supposedly dealing with confronting the truth of history but in reality twists that history to promote bias and lies against Croatia), the Serbian National Council (led by Milorad Pupovac) and, as I and multitudes see it, the ultimately biased and politically corrupt SENSE Agency – Centre for transitional justice.

The ICTY concluded the following: 1.     There was no Joint Criminal Enterprise from the Croatian side.  2.     Krajina Serbs were not deported from Croatia by the Croatian  authorities but left Croatia out of other reasons  not associated with any Croatian officials'  illegal behaviour;  3.     Not only that the Croatian authorities did not permit crimes  against  Serbs and Serbs' property,  but they were actively  against those crimes;    4.   It's confirmed that 20,000 houses were not burned  after Operation Storm. The number is probably closer to 5,000,  and that, in both Sectors, North and South.      5.     The judgment has found that a total of 44 civilians  were killed by the Croatian forces, not 320 as the Prosecution claimed,  not 600 as HHO claimed and  especially not 2,000 as claimed by „Veritas“ i Savo Strbac. 6.     There were no politics of non-investigation of crimes by the Croatian  authorities.  7.     The housing laws after Operation Storm were not  in a collision with the international humanitarian law.

Many in Croatia and abroad consider (rightfully) that the interactive narrative “Storm in the Hague” is an attempt to belittle and nullify the ICTY Appeal Chamber verdict of 16 November 2012 in the case of Croatian Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, which had found that as far as the Croatian war efforts were concerned there was no Joint Criminal Enterprise, no excessive artillery shelling and no ethnic cleansing of Serbs.

I would think that the saddest thing about this twisting of the final verdict in the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to suit the Serb denials of crimes and their aggression is that the Croatian taxpayers fund to a large extent the work of these organisations that twist the truth

Mr Luka Misetic, Ante Gotovina’s US based defense lawyer at the ICTY trial promptly addressed on his blog and in the Croatian media concerning and disquieting aspects of this launch of the interactive narrative “Storm in the Hague”. I have translated into the English language Mr Misetic’s address and here it is:

Today (31st July), in Croatia, there was a SENSE Agency and Serbian National Council launch of the presentation “Storm in the Hague”. As it was to be expected the presentation purposefully covers up that which the Hague Tribunal found in its judgments in the case of Gotovina (Ante Gotovina, Croatian General).

1. Were Serbs deported from Croatia?
2. Did the Croatian authorities purposefully permit crimes such as murders, plunder and arson in order to deny the Serbs the possibility of returning to Croatia?
3. Were there more than 20,000 homes burned after Storm in the Southern part of the liberated territory?
4. Did the Croatian forces kill more than 600 Serbs during and after Operation Storm?
5. Did the Croatian judicial authorities and the police practice the politics of non-investigation of crimes?
6. Have illegally discriminatory housing laws been introduced?
7. Finally, did the Joint Criminal Enterprise exist in Croatia?


Firstly, we need to correct some misunderstandings regarding the Trial Chamber judgment in which General Gotovina received a 24 year prison sentence. The Tribunal had concluded that Krajina Serbs were deported ONLY from 4 towns: Knin, Benkovac, Obrovac and Gracac. So, only from those four places.

The Tribunal had concluded that Serb civilians from all other places in the so-called Krajina had left Croatia out of other reasons not associated with any illegal treatmen by the Croatian authorities. Those legal reasons for leaving were:
• “Serbian Republic of Krajina” officials had called upon the population to leave the areas (Trial Chamber judgment paragraph 1762);
• The fear of aggression usually associated with armed conflict (Trial Chamber judgment paragraph 1762);
• Generalised fear from the Croatian forces and disstrust in Croatian authorities (Trial Chamber judgment paragraph 1762); and
• The fact that other Serbs were leaving had caused the effect of some civilians deciding to leave with them (Trial Chamber judgment paragraph 1754, 1762).

Hence, the Hague Tribunal had even in its Trial Chamber judgment found that a huge majority of Serb population from the so-called Krajina had left Croatia out of its own reasons, and that the Croatian authorities were not responsible for that. Only the four said towns were questionable for the Trial Chamber.

The Trial Chamber had explicitly rejected the claims that the Croatian authorities had purposefully permitted crimes such as arson, plunder and killings in order to deny the Serbs the possibility of return:

2321. The Trial Chamber found that the common objective of the so-called Criminal enterprise did not amount to, or involve the commission of the crimes of persecution (disappearances of people, wanton destruction, plunder, murder, inhumane acts, cruel treatment, and unlawful detentions), destruction of property, plunder, murder, inhumane acts, and cruel treatment.

Moreover, the Court tribunal did not only find that Croatia did not permit such crimes, but it also found that the Croatian leadership had actively opposed the perpetration of such criminal acts:

2313. However, the evidence, in particular the statements made at meetings and in public reviewed in chapters 6.2.2-6.2.5, does not
indicate that members of the Croatian political and military leadership intended that property inhabited or owned by Krajina Serbs should be destroyed or plundered. Further, it does not indicate that these acts were initiated or supported by members of the leadership. Rather, the evidence includes several examples of meetings and statements (see for example D409, P470, and D1451), indicating that the leadership, including Tudjman, disapproved of the destruction of property. Based on the foregoing, the Trial Chamber does not find that destruction and plunder were within the purpose of the joint criminal enterprise.

3. Were 20,000 homes burned in the South Sector?

This claim was thoroughly discredited at the hearing. This hypothesis, which has constantly been repeated in the past 15 years, is based upon wrong claims made in the 1999 report by the HHO (Croatian Helsinki Committee) on Operation Storm in which HHO claimed that the Canadian General Alain Forand, UN forces chief commander based in Knin, stated that 22,000 houses were burned in the South Sector. The reality is that Forand stated that a total of 22,000 houses in South Sector were inspected, and not that they were burned. The truth regarding the number of burned houses in the liberated area is most likely closer to the report by the UN General Secretary in December 1995: about 5,000 of houses and stables in Sectors North and South were burned after Operation Storm.
4. Did the Croatian forces kill 600 civilians during and after Operation Storm?

This also is a usual claim perpetuated all the time in the media. However, the Prosecution had claimed that about 320 civilians were killed in Sector South, and not 600. The Trial Chamber had found that out of these 320, 44 were killed by members of the Croatian armed forces. The number of Serb civilians killed by Croatian forces is closer to 44 than 600.

5. Did the Croatian judicial authorities and police practice the politics of non-investigation of crimes?

The Court Tribunal had rejected this allegation, which is being repeated in the media all the time, even today, and, after the Appeal decision. In paragraph 2203 of its judgment the Trial Chamber found the following:

The evidence reviewed indicates that some investigatory efforts were made, but with relatively few results. Moreover, there are
indications in the evidence that at the political level, these efforts were motivated at least in part by a concern for Croatia’s international standing rather than by genuine concern for victims. In light of the testimony of expert Albiston, the Trial Chamber considers that the insufficient response by the Croatian law enforcement authorities and judiciary can to some extent be explained by the abovementioned obstacles they faced and their need to perform other duties in August and September 1995. In conclusion, while the evidence indicates incidents of purposeful hindrance of certain investigations, the Trial Chamber cannot positively establish that the Croatian authorities had a policy of non-investigation of crimes committed against Krajina Serbs during and following Operation Storm in the Indictment area.
These are the main findings of the Trial Chamber. As we all know, some parts of this judgment have remained disputable given that General Gotovina was sentenced to 24 years (and General Markac to 18) due to Trial Chamber’s conclusion that General Gotovina had executed illegal artillery attacks against the towns of Knin, Benkovac, Obrovac and Gracac.

That’s why we needed to wait for the final verdict by the Appeals Chamber regarding the disputed matters left from the Trial Chamber judgment, and that final judgment arrived on 16 November 2012. (Acquitting the Croatian generals of all charges).

Appeals Chamber verdict

6 and 7. Joint Criminal Enterprise and housing laws

There was no Joint Criminal Enterprise on the Croatian side. The Appeal Chamber had quashed Trial Chamber judgment on that count, concluding that the Krajina Serbs were not deported from Knin, Benkovac, Obrovac and Gracac, and with that, the Croatian authorities did not deport the Krajina Serbs nor did the Joint Criminal Enterprise involving the Croatian leadership, especially Franjo Tudjman, Gojko Susak, Zvonimir Cervenko, Ante Gotovina, Jure Radic and Mladen Markac – exist.

Furthermore, after the Appeal Chamber verdict, it can be concluded that the Croatian leadership did not pass discriminatory housing laws after Operation Storm (see firstly the Government regulation and then the Temporary assumption and administration of certain property Act/Government Gazette NN 073/1995). That is, the Trial Chamber had found that those housing laws were in breach of the international law as they were introduced after the Serbs from Knin, Benkovac, Obrovac and Gracac were deported from Croatia. However, given that the Appeals Chamber had quashed the finding that the Serbs were displaced, that is deported, the conclusion that housing laws passed after Operation Storm were in contravention of the international humanitarian law must also be quashed.


Croatia's Capital Zagreb  Prepares For The 20 Anniversary Of Operation Storm and Liberation From Serb Occupation Military Parade and Celebrations of Independence to be held 4th August 2015 Photo: FAH


The ICTY concluded the following:

1. There was no Joint Criminal Enterprise from the Croatian side.

2. Krajina Serbs were not deported from Croatia by the Croatian authorities but left Croatia out of other reasons not associated with any Croatian officials’ illegal behaviour;

3. Not only that the Croatian authorities did not permit crimes against Serbs and Serbs’ property, but they were actively against those crimes;

4. It’s confirmed that 20,000 houses were not burned after Operation Storm. The number is probably closer to 5,000, and that, in both Sectors, North and South.

5. The judgment has found that a total of 44 civilians were killed by the Croatian forces, not 320 as the Prosecution claimed, not 600 as HHO claimed and especially not 2,000 as claimed by „Veritas“ i Savo Strbac.

6. There were no politics of non-investigation of crimes by the Croatian authorities.

7. The housing laws after Operation Storm were not in a collision with the international humanitarian law.”

Written and Translated from the Croatian language by Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb), B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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