RECOM War Victims Project Has Politically Failed

By 17 December 2019

ZAGREB, December 17, 2019 - RECOM, the regional fact-finding commission on victims of the 1990s wars in the former Yugoslavia, is a project which has politically failed, Nataša Kandić, a peace activist from Belgrade, said in Zagreb on Monday at a regional gathering of activists for the protection of human rights.

Since 2006, RECOM has been trying to compile a joint list of victims without success due to political resistance to combining data on the circumstances of death and the names of about 130,000 victims of the 1990s wars in the territory of the former Yugoslavia.

RECOM has created a solid foundation for a regional list of victims but the project has failed politically, Kandić said at the gathering organised ahead of Croatia's presidency of the Council of the European Union.

"NGOs and civil society can't publicly acknowledge the victims because that is the task of the states," she said, adding that RECOM had been unable to meet with Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović because they were told she was too busy and that naming victims was not a topic within her remit.

Vesna Teršelić, head of the Documenta Centre for Dealing with the Past, said no progress had been made this year in documenting war victims due to lack of political will to access the documents of Croatia's Homeland War Memorial Documentation Centre, which collects and has access to all official documents.

The Transition Justice Forum brought together representatives of European Commission institutions, lawyers and activists. Croatia was represented by Assistant Justice Minister Ivan Crnčec, who agreed that regional cooperation was not good, blaming Serbia for it.

He said that over the past two years Croatia had been trying without success to start cooperation with Serbia. About 3,600 war crimes cases have been instigated in Croatia, about 2,100 indictments have been filed and about 640 persons have been convicted, while the figures in Serbia have been paltry and show no trend of increasing, he added.

"There is still no prosecuting on command responsibility in Serbia, which both Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have managed to do," Crnčec said.

Speaking of the exchange of lists of war crimes suspects between Croatia and Serbia, he said Croatian prosecutors had given Serbia 1,534 names and received 86 in return, including 43 from an indictment filed by the military prosecutor's office for subverting the constitutional order of the former Yugoslavia.

"They won't hand over other cases instigated by the military prosecutor's office. Regional cooperation requires a lot of work but there must be at least a minimum will on the other side too," Crnčec said.

Activists called out the Homeland War Memorial Documentation Centre for not making public its list of war victims.

"Croatia's Memorial Documentation Centre announced a year ago that it would make public the names of 13,500 victims of Croatian nationality and about 7,000 victims of other nationalities... but that hasn't happened," said Kandić.

More news about the Homeland War can be found in the Politics section.