Veterans Associations Will Keep Banned Ustasha Slogan

By 8 March 2018

ZAGREB, March 8, 2018 - A few Zagreb- and Split-based associations of 1991-1995 Homeland War veterans and victims on Thursday criticised the guidelines made by the Croatian council for dealing with the consequences of the rule of undemocratic regimes that banned the Ustasha salute "For the homeland ready", except in commemorative purposes, whereas the Communist Red Star, which those veterans perceive as a symbol of the Serbian forces that launched a military aggression against Croatia in the early 1990s, is tolerated.

The representatives of the associations who held a news conference in Zagreb said that they would never renounce "For the homeland ready".

The 17-member council has recently issued its guidelines, and two of its decisions have stirred up heated debates. One of those decisions is that the above-mentioned salute should be banned and can be used in only commemorative situations, subject to prior permission, and the salute will be allowed very restrictively in the future. When it comes to commemorative purposes, the salute can be used only in commemorations for slain members of Croatian Defence Forces (HOS), the armed wing of the Croatian Party of Rights (HSP) during the Homeland War.

The explanation about the exceptions has met with criticism. One of those who criticised the exceptions is the parliamentary representative of the ethnic Italian community, Furio Radin, who has recently said that that he could not agree with the council's suggestion. On the other hand, Radin has drawn parallels to a similar situation in Italy, recalling that the Italian Supreme Court has ruled that a stiff-armed salute, also known as Mussolini's Roman salute, was not a crime if done only for the purpose of commemoration, which meant that it could be used in commemorations, otherwise it was in contravention of the Constitution.

Concerning the suggestion that the salute "For the Homeland Ready" could be allowed in some exceptions, law professor Sanja Barić has recently said that this unusual solution which can be described as "official tolerance of otherwise unconstitutional practice" is permitted by the Constitution and laws due to an "extremely restricted and very clearly defined outreach."

The other decision that fuels debate is the guidelines about the Red Star symbol. Ivan Turudić, one of the representatives of the war veterans' associations who held the news conference in Zagreb today, said that he had been detained in the Serb-run camps and that some of people who tortured him and exposed him to mental torture had worn caps with the Red Star. According to the guidelines made by the council, the Red Star and other Communist symbols could be seen as ambiguous.

The council's chairman Zvonko Kusić has explained that "they have both positive and negative connotations." "The part relating to the antifascist struggle and World War II is indisputable. But if it is about promoting hatred and violence, it can be subject to regulation. The legislature can regulate this matter if any such situations arise," he added.

In one of his interviews, Kusić said that insignia such as Red Star could be treated as disputable if they are associated with the Communist regime's crimes and the military aggression against Croatia in the 1990s.