Croatia Looking for 2,525 Missing Persons

By 30 August 2018

ZAGREB, August 30, 2018 - Croatia is looking for 2,525 persons, including 1,922 unsolved cases dating back to the Homeland War, it was said on Thursday on the occasion of International Day of the Disappeared, with President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović saying this was a "big unsolved life, humanitarian and political problem."

"The Great Serbia aggression caused Croatia many wounds, but the wound of the missing is the biggest of all. We have repaired the material damage, we have buried victims in a dignified way and we can respectfully honour them, but we have still not shed light on the fate of the missing. As a state, we still haven't settled this moral debt to our missing and their families," said the president.

She said that was why she had insisted on renewing political dialogue with Serbia and invited Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić to Croatia in February. After the visit, certain small steps forward have been made but much more needs to be done, as there is not one justified reason to delay solving this problem, she added.

The president said she would continue to insist on the fate of the missing as a key element of further dialogue and full normalisation of Croatia-Serbia relations as well as of Croatia's support for Serbia's European Union accession, because "the truth about the missing is the political minimum below which no one in Croatia must go."

Dignified burials and marked graves are a prerequisite for talks on justice, morality, European values and civilisation achievements, the president added.

War Veterans Minister Tomo Medved said the investigation of mass or single graves of missing victims has intensified since 2016.

To date, 128 possible unregistered sites in 12 counties have been found, test excavations were done on 100, resulting in the finding of 85 victims. After the identification of those and other remains, 108 victims were given dignified burials.

Medved said 1,508 missing persons were being traced for and that for 414 there was information that they were killed but not where their remains may be.

In order to find out, steps forward have been made in cooperation with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, but the key is in Serbia, so Medved suggested signing a new cooperation agreement in line with the present context. We want data from Serbia. They have that data as well as records, and one of the basic requirements for opening Chapter 23 in Serbia's EU accession negotiations will be full cooperation in tracing the disappeared, he said.

Medved said he could not speculate on Serbia's motives for concealing those locations, but "the fact is that they have records on mass grave sites."

The president of an association of detained and missing Croatian defenders' families, Ljiljana Alvir, said Medved's ministry was looking for 1,922 persons who disappeared in the Homeland War.

We ask of Croatian institutions to exert bigger pressure on Serbia and a firmer stance with regard to Serbia's EU accession negotiations, as the key to finding the disappeared is in Serbia, she added.

Alvir said Serbian institutions and Vučić had not kept even one of the promises they made in Zagreb in February and later in Belgrade.