Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Parliament Marks 70th Anniversary of Geneva Conventions

ZAGREB, September 25, 2019 - A round table was held in the Croatian Parliament on Wednesday to mark 70 years since the adoption of the Geneva conventions relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts, highlighting the importance of protecting and respecting international humanitarian law and the role of national parliaments in their promotion.

The chair of the Committee on International Cooperation, Romana Jerković, warned that violations of international humanitarian law continued to present a major problem in the world and that it was necessary to raise awareness of this matter.

Lawmakers should ensure respect for international humanitarian law in cooperation with civil society organisations, media and other stakeholders, Jerković said, recalling that Croatia had experienced serious violations of international humanitarian law during its 1991-1995 Homeland War.

Deputy Speaker of Parliament Željko Reiner said that Serbian forces had repeatedly violated international humanitarian law and the Geneva conventions during the Homeland War, especially in the case of the Vukovar hospital which was shelled despite a Red Cross sign on its roof. This also happened with other Croatian hospitals, including those in Gospić and Vinkovci, he added.

Reiner also drew attention to the issue of missing persons from the war, saying that Croatia had managed to resolve about 82 percent of such cases, but that 1,892 people remained unaccounted for.

The chairman of the Executive Board of the Croatian Red Cross, Robert Markt, said that international humanitarian law was a civilizational achievement that should be preserved. He stressed the importance of providing assistance and protection to persons whose lives were at risk from armed conflict.

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

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

ICMP to Enhance Cooperation with Families of Missing in Croatia

ZAGREB, September 18, 2019 - A meeting with 30 representatives of missing persons family associations from Croatia was organised in Zagreb on Tuesday by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) with the participation of representatives of the Croatian Veterans Ministry's Directorate for Detained and Missing Defenders.

This was the second in a series of meetings with families of the missing, organised to share information about the missing persons process on the territory of the former Yugoslavia, the ICMP said in a press release, adding that the first meeting was held with families from Bosnia and Herzegovina in January 2019.

The meetings are part of a two-year project supported by the UK government and being implemented by ICMP to renew the effort to account for 12,000 people who are still missing throughout the region, the press release said, adding that countries in the region have undertaken to work together as the regional Missing Persons Group, maintaining a process that has already made it possible to account for more than 70 percent of the missing.

Information on new initiatives and implemented activities to strengthen regional cooperation was presented at the meeting.

Families were informed about the Database of Active Missing Persons Cases from the Armed Conflicts in the Former Yugoslavia, the enactment of the Law on Persons Missing from the Homeland War, efforts undertaken to identify unidentified remains, and other activities in accounting for missing persons.

Croatian War Veterans Ministry representatives said lack of information on concealed mass and individual graves was the key obstacle to greater efficiency in the process.

Participants highlighted the need to involve families more widely in discussions on the issue of missing persons at the international level.

Families also appealed to institutions and individuals in the region to provide information on the location of mass and individual graves in order to help address this painful issue, the ICMP said.

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

Friday, 30 August 2019

Croatia Still Searching for 1,892 People Who Went Missing in War

ZAGREB, August 30, 2019 - International Day of the Disappeared, observed on August 30, was marked by wreath-laying ceremonies at the town cemetery in Vinkovci on Friday, and on that occasion War Veterans Minister Tomo Medved said that Croatia was still searching for 1,892 people who had gone missing in the 1991-1995 war.

Medved reiterated that the government was committed to shedding light on the destinies of people who had been unaccounted-for since the war.

"This is the humanitarian issue of top priority," he underscored during the commemorations in the eastern town of Vinkovci. The minister criticised Serbia for its failure to cooperate in providing documents and information about primary and secondary graves of war victims.

Medved said that in the last three years, 108 people had been identified in Croatia and trial excavations were conducted on a daily basis.

The commemorations were organised today by associations of families of defenders and soldiers who were killed during the 1991-1995 war of independence, under the auspices of Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović and the ministry of war veterans' affairs.

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

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Croatia Dismisses as Unacceptable Vučić's Justification of Armed Rebellion

ZAGREB, August 25, 2019 - Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Ministry says that the statement by Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić that the armed rebellion of local Serbs against Croatia's authorities in the early 1990s aimed at undermining the Constitutional and legal order was justified is absolutely unacceptable.

The ministry calls on Serbia to abandon the rhetoric that is detrimental to the bilateral relations as well as to stop manipulating the facts and start enhancing the status of the ethnic Croat minority.

Ministry warns about Serbia's attempts to downplay its responsibility for aggression against Croatia

"The Republic of Croatia refutes any attempt of downplaying Serbia's responsibility for causing the armed conflict and aggression against Croatia's state territory, which were the results of the Great Serbia policy of Slobodan Milošević," the ministry underscores in a press release it issued on Sunday.

Zagreb recalls that many relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council and General Assembly, verdicts of the Hague-based UN-tribunal for war crimes in former Yugoslavia (ICTY) as well as the judgement of the International Court of Justice in the case of Croatia's genocide lawsuit against Serbia and Serbia's counter-suit, clearly speak about Serbia's responsibility for these developments in the 1990s.

Furthermore, these continuous attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of a neighbouring country is something that makes a distinction between the policies led by Serbia and Croatia.

"Contrary to such Serbian attempts, Croatia is interested in the stability of its neighbourhood and is open to transfer its own experiences to its neighbouring countries during their journey to the European Union."

"We do not allow the disrespect for the fact that Croatia is a sovereign and independent country, created following the democratically expressed will of its people (to have its state) and defended during the imposed war," the ministry says reiterating Zagreb's commitment to developing harmonious good-neighbourly relations with all neighbours.

Croatia provides its minorities with the highest level of protection of their rights and is building a tolerant and inclusive society based on the rule of law and trust among citizens.

"Croatia calls on Serbia to enhance the status of the Croat national minority in the Republic of Serbia, in accordance with the obligations it has assumed, instead of manipulating the facts, and to abandon the rhetoric aimed at reviving the defeated projects detrimental to the relations between the two neighbouring countries."

Following the recent incidents in two cafes near Knin in which guests were assaulted while watching a TV broadcast of the Belgrade-based Zrvena Zvezda's football match, Vučić told Serbian media on Saturday that "it is understandable" that 30 years ago the largest part of local Serbs launched a rebellion against Croatia's authorities.

Vučić described those incidents as "awful" and promised Serbia's help to its people in Croatia.

The 21 August assault against guests in a cafe in the village of Uzdolje near Knin is qualified by the Šibenik county law enforcement and prosecutorial authorities as an act of causing riot, the Šibenik police said on Saturday. The perpetrators, who are facing criminal charges for their riotous behaviour, have not yet been identified. The offence carries a prison sentence from six months to five years. As far as a similar incident in the Đevirske village is concerned, misdemeanour charges have been filed against five people and one person is charged with a criminal offence.

More news about relations between Croatia and Serbia can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Several Activists Protest in Zagreb over Crimes during Operation Storm

ZAGREB, August 6, 2019 - A dozen activists of several nongovernmental organisations on Monday afternoon held a protest rally in Zagreb's main square to express their sympathy with the victims of the combined military and police operation Storm in August 1995 when Croatia liberated areas in northern Dalmatia, Lika, Banovina and Kordun that had been controlled by Croatian Serb rebels for four years.

"We want to warn that the victory that is being celebrated in recent days is not indisputable and is not so magnificent. It was stained by crimes that have not yet been prosecuted," said activist Bojana Genov of the Women's Network Croatia.

We call for the prosecution of crimes and for defusing war rhetoric, and now when a quarter of a century passed since the war, the time has come to bring the relations back to normal and to develop peace-mongering rhetoric, Genov said.

She also said that during the Operation Storm ethnic cleansing had been conducted and that the future would be burdened unless war crimes were prosecuted.

Activist Nela Pamuković accused the Croatian leadership of hypocritical rhetoric.

"We insist that the government does not invest funds in the military industry and militarism but it should invest funds into the safety and security of all its citizens, into healthcare and other measures," Pamuković said.

Some of the passers-by made insulting comments about the protesters who carried a huge banner with the message "Crimes in Storm are the responsibility of all of us!", however no major incident happened.

More news about Operation Storm can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Government Officials Say Operation Storm Croatia's Historic Success

ZAGREB, August 5, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said at a ceremony marking the 24th anniversary of Operation Storm in Knin on Monday that the 1995 operation was the moment that changed Croatia's history, telling citizens to awaken the self-confidence that helped them overcome the obstacles at the time and to look at the future with optimism.

"Under the leadership of the first Croatian president Franjo Tuđman we liberated one-fifth of the then occupied areas and showed the world that the Croatian people decides about its fate on its own. The Croatian flag at the Knin Fortress told the world boldly that the cradle of the Croatian state... the ancient town of Knin... will forever stay Croatian. And it also (told the world) that the strength of the newly built Croatian army had made it possible to finally complete the historic act of creation of an independent and sovereign Croatian state," Plenković said at the event marking Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and Croatian Veterans Day.

He said that Operation Storm was the decisive endeavour that secured the survival of the Croatian state and its territorial integrity, a legitimate response to the occupying forces and the final battle that dealt a fatal blow to Great Serbian claims to Croatian territory.

Recalling that Croatia was remembering with pride all Croatian soldiers killed in the war, Plenković told their families that state institutions were working tirelessly to shed light on all war crimes and locate all the missing persons.

Plenković noted that Croatia's coming presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2020 would be dedicated to Croatian defenders.

He said that Croatia was oriented towards the future and towards building a more just and more solidarity-based society.

"We want a prosperous, demographically vital and poverty-free country, we are working to strengthen the rule of law because we want a more equitable Croatia, free of corruption and unlawfulness, based on its tradition and identity, and with the political will and strength to include all its minorities and ensure respect for their rights," said the PM.

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said in her address at the Knin commemoration that Croatian politicians had the duty to make Croatia a prosperous, free country.

Quoting General Ante Gotovina's statement in which he said that the war was over and that Croatians should turn to the future, Grabar-Kitarović said that the future was primarily the responsibility of politicians but also of all citizens.

"The defenders gave their lives and health so that we could live... in our own, free and democratic country. We were given the responsibility to make Croatia a country where work is valued, where every citizen's dignity is beyond dispute, where Croatian identity and tradition are developed in freedom that fosters initiative, learning and creation and not destructiveness. That is our responsibility and my message today," said the president.

Addressing the commemoration, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković said that on the 24th anniversary of Operation Storm Croatians celebrated "their historic achievement with a feeling of unity, pride and joy."

"... today we celebrate the joint act of liberation of Croatian territory occupied by the Serb aggressor and the entire Homeland War," Jandroković said, adding that Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day was also an opportunity to remember the Croatian people's aspirations for independence that had lasted for centuries.

Expressing gratitude to Croatian defenders for self-sacrifice in the defence of their people, Jandroković said that the values for which they had fought should be passed onto young generations.

Croatia's future is up to its people and Croatians must be aware of that, said Jandroković.

"Our homeland must be a country that protects its identity, tradition and values on which it was founded, which respects its saints and heroes and objectively evaluates its history, and which rejects the legacy of totalitarian regimes that oppressed it and made it retrograde," Jandroković said, calling for "stronger engagement in the accomplishment of the set goals and for the creation of positive trends and a positive atmosphere in the country."

More news about Operation Storm anniversary can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Central Celebration of Operation Storm Anniversary Starts in Knin

ZAGREB, August 5, 2019 - A wreath-laying and candle-lighting ceremony was held at a monument dedicated to Croatia's victory in the 1995 Operation Storm in Knin on Monday morning, the first in a number of events that will mark Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and Croatian Veterans Day and the 24th anniversary of the combined military and police operation that ended an armed rebellion of local Serbs, helping restore state sovereignty in occupied central and southern parts of the country and enabling the peaceful reintegration of eastern Croatia in January 1998.

A joint wreath was laid at the monument by President and Armed Forces' Supreme Commander Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and the leader of the national association of the families of Croatian defenders killed or gone missing in the war, Ljiljana Alvir.

The ceremony is to be followed by addressed by Grabar-Kitarović, Plenković and Jandroković, after which the three state officials will head for the Knin Fortress overlooking the town to attend the traditional hoisting of the Croatian flag there and a ceremony at which the names of Croatian soldiers killed or gone missing in the 1995 operation will be read out.

The Croatian Air Force aerobatic team The Wings of Storm is expected to perform a display above the Knin Fortress during the ceremony. The programme at the Knin Fortress also includes a performance by the Croatian Navy harmony singing group "St George".

After the ceremony at the Knin Fortress, participants in the event will attend a religious service for the homeland in a local church.

The combined military and police operation Storm was launched on 4 August 1995 and it liberated areas in northern Dalmatia, Lika, Banovina and Kordun that had been controlled by Croatian Serb rebels for four years.

In only 84 hours, Croatian forces, with about 200,000 people, liberated slightly less than 10,500 kilometres of territory, almost one-fifth of the country, which helped put an end to the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and enabled the peaceful reintegration of the Croatian Danube region.

The operation was launched at 5 am on August 4 along the line running from Bosansko Grahovo to the south to Jasenovac to the east, the front line being more than 630 kilometres long.

The operation culminated on August 5, when members of the Croatian Army's 4th and 7th Guard Brigades liberated Knin, until then the stronghold of rebel Serb forces.

In the following days, Croatian forces took control of the state border and launched a mop-up operation in the liberated areas. At 6 pm on August 6, then Defence Minister Gojko Šušak declared the end of Operation Storm.

With Operation Storm, Croatian forces enabled the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina to lift the siege of the northwestern town of Bihać, thus helping prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and crime similar to the Srebrenica genocide.

The Homeland War Memorial and Documentation Centre says that 196 Croatian soldiers were killed, at least 1,100 were wounded and 15 went missing in the operation, while losses among Serb forces were several times bigger.

More news about Operation Storm can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

SNV: Croatia Must Assume Responsibility for Crimes Committed in Operation Storm

ZAGREB, August 4, 2019 - The Serb National Council (SNV) on Sunday held a commemoration in Donji Lapac, a town in Lika-Senj County near the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, with speakers at the event calling on Croatia to face the past and assume responsibility for war crimes committed during and in the aftermath of the 1995 Operation Storm and prosecute those responsible for them.

SNV leader Boris Milošević said that the commemoration was an act of remembering the military and police operation Storm which 24 years ago "cleansed this area of Serbs" while today's state protocol did not envisage making any mention of them in political speeches.

"I don't own the truth but I do know that plunder, arson and murders did happen and that there were no reports about it at the time. The state did not prevent the plunder but rather covered it up, while local authorities issued documents that justified property being loaded onto vehicles and taken away," Milošević said.

He said that Serb houses set on fire in the aftermath of Operation Storm were described as having been set on fire by "Chetniks who were left behind."

"The Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights reported that all houses were set on fire except for those marked by the sign 'Croatian Army, do not touch'. But at the time there were no reports about that or about the killing of elderly, unarmed civilians. And if there were such reports, one of the headlines read 'Five Chetniks murdered'," said Milošević.

He cited places where war crimes were committed against civilians who had stayed in their homes, noting that the state had never expressed sympathy for those people and describing it as "a defect in moral values."

The SNV therefore calls for "acknowledgement, respect and sympathy for victims and their families, for all families, including those of Serb ethnic background."

Describing empathy as a moral issue, Milošević said that by calling for the recognition of Serb victims and sympathy for them, they were asking society to put an end to war and hate, to prevent the stigma of war guilt to be borne by children and to put an end to prejudice against children of different ethnic background. Only that way can we build a better Croatia, because it is our homeland, he added.

The programme director of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, Nikola Puharić, said that "there is only one final and one non-final court verdict for war crimes committed against around 600 people killed (during and in the aftermath of Operation Storm)."

He said that the initiative's petition calling for an apology to the victims of Operation Storm had been signed by around 1,200 citizens.

"By signing the petition together with us, members of the Initiative, citizens are asking also the president and the prime minister to send a message of apology to the victims and their families, because it would be a minimum, symbolic form of reparation considering that the judiciary is not prosecuting those cases," said Puharić.

More news about the Operation Storm anniversary can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Officials Issue Messages for Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day

ZAGREB, August 4, 2019 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Sunday issued a message on the occasion of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and Veterans Day, saying that Croatians today remember with pride and special respect every life given for the freedom of Croatia, a law-based country that will be chairing the European Union in the first half of 2020.

By celebrating Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and Veterans Day, Croatia marks with pride the 24th anniversary of the magnificent military and police operation Storm. On 5 August 1995, Croatia's constitutional and legal order was restored in most of the occupied parts of its territory, which brought freedom and peace to the homeland, PM Plenković said in the message.

With the self-sacrifice and courage of Croatian defenders, the skill of army and police commanders, the unity of the Croatian people and the wisdom of Croatia's first president, Franjo Tuđman, in only four days the largest part of occupied areas was liberated. The constitutional order of the sovereign, independent and internationally recognised Croatia was restored in the town of Knin, a centre of Croatian statehood, and Operation Storm also put an end to the siege of Bihac and helped liberate a large part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the PM said.

Owing to Operation Storm, the country's then leadership also enabled, with the help of the United Nations, a peaceful reintegration of Vukovar and the entire Croatian Danube region, which in 1998 resulted in the restoration of Croatia's territorial integrity. Thousands of displaced persons were able to return to their homes, and a lasting peace enabled the country's reconstruction and revitalisation, said the PM.

The Croatian government responsibly protects the dignity of Croatian defenders and will continue to work with commitment on improving their social status as well as on continuing the modernisation of the army and police forces, which are a guarantee of the security of the Croatian state and its citizens, said Plenković.

Inspired by patriotism and Homeland War values, we are working with determination on reforms to build a mature, democratic, socially sensitive, economically strong and competitive country, which is worthy of the sacrifice built into the foundations of its statehood, Plenković said, offering his best wishes to Croats in the country and abroad, defenders and fellow citizens on the occasion of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and Veterans Day.

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, too, issued a message on the occasion of the August 5 holidays, calling for tireless patriotism.

The victory in Operation Storm made the Croats' dream of freedom and independence a reality, enabling the country to become a full member of the international community, she said.

"Let us always be tireless in patriotism! Let us build our beautiful homeland in unity, solidarity and respect for each other, so it can become more prosperous and more just, the way previous generations dreamed it would be and the way our defenders wanted it to be," the president said in her message.

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

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Wreaths Laid at Zagreb Cemetery for Victory Day

ZAGREB, August 4, 2019 - Delegations of the Croatian government and the City of Zagreb on Sunday laid wreaths at the city's central Mirogoj cemetery ahead of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and Croatian Veterans Day and the 24th anniversary of the 1995 Operation Storm.

Operation Storm was a combined military and police operation that was launched on 4 August 1995 and that ended a Serb armed rebellion, helping restore state sovereignty over occupied central and southern parts of the country and enabling the peaceful reintegration of eastern Croatia in January 1998.

Wreaths were laid at the central cross in the Alley of Croatian Homeland War Defenders, at the grave of Croatia's first president, Franjo Tuđman, and at the common grave of unidentified Homeland War victims.

"Many great men had dreamed of Croatia's freedom and independence, but only the generation led by President Franjo Tuđman made it a reality," Parliament Deputy Speaker Željko Reiner said at the wreath-laying ceremony, expressing gratitude to all who had fought for the country's independence.

Veterans Minister Tomo Medved, who also attended the ceremony, commented on Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić's statement of Saturday, saying that Croats did not need anyone to interpret their history for them.

Vučić on Saturday asked Croatian officials where the 400,000 Croatian Serbs and Yugoslavs registered in the 1981 census, had gone.

"I will only say that we created Croatia's more recent history and are witnesses to that time and we do not need anyone to interpret our history for us. We are proud of every detail and every minute of our history," Medved stressed.

He said that Croatia was attacked and defended itself in extremely difficult conditions.

"Croatia managed to defend and liberate its territory and eventually, through peaceful reintegration, restored its constitutional order in the Danube region as well. We are proud of everything we did," he said.

More news about Operation Storm anniversary can be found in the Politics section.

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