Serb National Council on Operation Storm Anniversary

By 3 August 2018

ZAGREB, August 3, 2018 - The Serb National Council (SNV) on Friday issued a statement ahead of the 23rd anniversary of Operation Storm, saying that even 23 years after the end of the war in Croatia, the spirit of war was not giving way to a spirit of peace in public and private relations in Croatia and in its relations with other countries.

"We expect a culture of peace to be built, where there will be room to commemorate each and every victim, but where there will be no room for any ideology or policy that led to war crimes. We especially expect this of Croatia and Serbia and their government policies, because any continuation of policies of war and manipulation with remembrance, harms both Croats and Serbs and insults anyone who truly sympathises with every victim and their need for peace," the SNV said.

Operation Storm was a military offensive launched by the Croatian army on 4 August 1995 to regain Serb-occupied areas in central and southern Croatia. The operation crushed the four-year-long armed insurgency in the country and ended the war.

SNV said that even 23 years after the end of the war its destructive consequences could still be seen in many areas – in the physical condition and demography of many communities and the devastated economy of almost all areas that had been affected by the war.

It recalled that six years ago, following his acquittal by the Hague war crimes tribunal, General Ante Gotovina said that the war was over and that one should turn to a life of peace. It added that the tribunal's rulings listed crimes that were committed during and in the wake of Operation Storm, such as murder, ethnic cleansing, systematic looting, property destruction and obstruction of refugee returns, and that Croatia undertook to punish the perpetrators.

"That has not happened to date and is unlikely to happen. This seriously diminishes chances of Croatia facing its past and its war policies any time soon, as well as chances of its changing the war rhetoric and hence chances of reconciliation in justice and responsibility," SNV said.

SNV noted that, despite the fact that some of the refugees have returned and new settlers have arrived, Croatia has nearly half a million people less than in 1991, of whom nearly 400,000 ethnic Serbs.

During Operation Storm alone, about 200,000 ethnic Serbs fled their homes, but not even today is there public awareness of this fact, and these refugees are not even mentioned in the context of the present emigration of young people from Croatia. The refugees are not counted as a demographic loss, just as their areas are not treated as areas of government concern, the statement said.

SNV believes that referendum campaigns against ethnic minorities, in particular the Serb minority, do not contribute to the spirit of peace but to stigmatisation and intolerance, which are characteristic of the spirit of war.

SNV warned that the revival of various aspects of the WWII pro-Nazi Ustasha ideology in recent years was a serious threat, promoting the spirit of war and weakening the spirit of peace in Croatia.

The presence of this ideology deepens our feelings of exclusion and disquiet, revives our old fears and creates new ones, said the statement signed by SNV president Milorad Pupovac.