Monday, 6 January 2020

Serb Orthodox Believers in Croatia Celebrate Christmas Eve

ZAGREB, January 6, 2020 - Orthodox believers of ethnic Serb origin on Monday held their traditional celebrations in Croatian towns to observe Christmas Eve according to the Julian calendar, and for instance, in Vukovar, their local leader, Srđan Milaković, organised the distribution of about 500 fried fish to the faithful.

The tradition of delivery of fish for fasting on Christmas Eve, observed by the Orthodox faithful on 6 January, started four years ago in this eastern Croatian town.

During today's event, Milaković, who is a deputy mayor of Vukovar and the leader of the ethnic Serb DSS party, said that upon the election of Zoran Milanović for the fifth Croatian president, he expected the "normalisation of relations in many segments of Croatian society."

Local dignitaries of the Orthodox Church handed out about 1,500 meals for the fast at the port of Rijeka on the northern Adriatic coast.

Rijeka Mayor Vojko Obersnel attended the ceremony held in Koblerov Trg Square. He extended his best wishes to local believers for Christmas in line with the Julian calendar.

Obersnel recalled that the first ceremony of distributing meals for fasting on Christmas Eve to Orthodox faithful was held ten years ago in this coastal Croatian city.

Religious rites were also held today and are scheduled for tomorrow during Christmas according to the Julian calendar.

More religion news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Commemoration Held for Zec Family

ZAGREB, December 8, 2019 - The Documenta Centre for Dealing with the Past and the Serb National Council (SNV) held a commemoration for Marija, Aleksandra and Mihajlo Zec who had been killed on Mount Medvednica, overlooking Zagreb, 28 years ago on Saturday, saying that they would ask the city authorities to name a Zagreb square or street after 12-year-old Aleksandra.

They said they would also ask the city authorities to put up a memorial plaque on the Adolfovac mountain lodge where Aleksandra and her mother Marija were shot dead by members of a special police unit under Tomislav Merčep.

Members of the unit came to the home of the Zec family in Zagreb's Trešnjevka district shortly after 11pm on 7 December 1991 and shot dead 38-year-old Mihajlo Zec as he tried to escape. Marija and Aleksandra, who witnessed the murder, were then taken in a van to Adolfovac where they were killed and the mountain lodge later burned down.

Shortly after the police found the bodies, the members of Merčep's unit Munib Suljić, Igor Mikola, Siniša Rimac, Nebojša Hodak and Snežana Živanović were arrested. Some of them confessed to the murders before an investigating judge, but at trial it was found that they did not have a lawyer present during their interviews with the investigating judge as required by law. Their earlier statements were thrown out and they were released.

Aleksandra, Marija and Mihajlo Zec are buried in Mihajlo's place of birth Gornja Dragotinja, near Prijedor, northwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Journalist Drago Pilsel said at the commemoration that their murder "is one of the most shameful chapters in modern Croatian history."

"Some of the murderers later advanced in their careers and were even decorated by the then President Franjo Tuđman, which brings into question the defensive nature of the Homeland War," Pilsel said.

The head of Documenta, Vesna Teršelić, wondered if Croatian politicians and citizens "will remember not just the victims of the Homeland War, for whom Parliament has designated a special date in the calendar, but also all the children, more than 400 of them, killed in the Homeland War."

Speaking on behalf of the SNV, Saša Milošević said that the 1990s was "not just a glorious period, but also a very sad, dark, tragic and shameful period of Croatian history."

The Documenta and SNV representatives laid a wreath and lit three candles, members of the public laid roses, and a minute's silence was observed for the dead.

Among those attending were Zoran Pusić of the Antifascist League and the Civic Committee on Human Rights, and SNV president and member of Parliament Milorad Pupovac.

More news about Serbs in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 6 December 2019

SNV Launches Campaign with Cyrillic Messages of Presidential Candidates

ZAGREB, December 6, 2019 - Croatian War Veterans Affairs' Minister Tomo Medved said on Friday that a campaign with posters displaying the names of three presidential candidates and their slogans written in Cyrillic, launched by the Serb National Council (SNV), was unnecessary and did not contribute to a better understanding between Croats and Serbs.

"In my mind, this is unnecessary. I cannot see any concrete form of contribution (to a better understanding)," Medved said adding that he would refrain from any further comment given that this was launched in the build-up to the presidential election.

Several jumbo posters with the names of the incumbent President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, former Prime Minister Zoran Milanović and Miroslav Škoro and their campaign slogans written in Cyrillic, were set up by the SNV on Thursday.

This umbrella association of ethnic Serbs in Croatia thus resumed its campaign "Let's better understand each other", launched two months ago with the aim of removing a stigma from the Cyrillic script during the 1991-1995 Homeland War when Serb rebel forces used this script and sprayed Cyrillic letters on buildings and houses in the occupied areas.

The SNV embarked on the campaign following the Constitutional Court's recommendation in mid-2019 that the Vukovar city council adopt changes to the city statute under which Serb councillors should be allowed to ask orally for documents and papers to be delivered in their mother tongue and Cyrillic script. Currently, such requests have to be submitted in writing.

The Council was given until October to make such changes and adopt other necessary decisions that would enhance the Serb minority's right to use its language and script.

On 18 October, the City Council adopted a conclusion saying that understanding, solidarity, tolerance and dialogue between ethnic Croats and Serbs are at a level that enables cooperation and co-existence; however, conditions have not been met to expand the scope of vested individual rights and prescribe collective rights for the Serb minority in Vukovar.

More news about the status of Serbs in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

15 Assailants Who Attacked Uzdolje Cafe Guests Charged with Hate Crime

ZAGREB, December 5, 2019 - Fifteen hooligans, who on 21 August raided a Serb-owned cafe in the village of Uzdolje, beating up some of the guests, including a child, as they were watching a TV broadcast of a football match between Red Star Belgrade and the Swiss side Young Boys, and damaging the interior of the bar, were charged with committing a hate crime in that village near Knin.

The municipal office of the Chief State Prosecutor (DORH) in Šibenik on Wednesday issued an indictment for the Uzdolje incident which reads that the defendants, who were masked and carried wooden and metal rods and a machete, attacked and inflicted bodily injuries on five guests, including a child, fans of the Serbian club Red Star.

The damage done to the cafe is estimated at 25,000 kuna (3,400 euro).

The first arrests in connection with the Uzdolje incident were made in late August, when four suspects were apprehended on suspicion of committing violence out of hatred. Ten more hooligans were arrested in early September. The 15th suspect turned himself in to the police on 12 September.

In the meantime, the prosecution has requested the extension of detention for ten of the 15 indictees.

More politics news can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Prosecution Dismisses Reports Against Pupovac Alleging He Defamed Croatia's Reputation

ZAGREB, November 12, 2019 - The Zagreb County Office of the Prosecutor has dismissed reports filed against Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) leader Milorad Pupovac, accusing him of inciting hate and defaming the country's reputation with comments he made following attacks on members of the Serb minority this past summer.

Without revealing Pupovac's identity, the county prosecutor's office said it had dismissed all 13 reports alleging that Pupovac had incited violence and hate and defamed Croatia's reputation.

The reports, filed by two associations and 11 individuals, referred to Pupovac's comments on attacks on members of the Serb minority that occurred in Uzdolje and Đevrske on 21 August, 2019, the office of the prosecutor said on its website.

It went on to say that the reports were dismissed "because... the said actions do not constitute the criminal act of incitement to violence and hate or the criminal act of defaming the reputation of the Republic of Croatia or any other criminal act that is prosecuted ex officio."

The prosecutor's office believes that the content of Pupovac's statements "was not intended to ridicule, disparage or grossly belittle the Republic of Croatia nor did it constitute a call for public violence and hate, but rather essentially constitutes sharp but permissible criticism of the said events in Croatia."

"This is especially so as the case at hand concerns a member of the Croatian parliament who represents his electorate, and members of parliament enjoy the highest level of protection of the freedom of expression and presentation of their political views, ideas and assessments, guaranteed by the Constitution and relevant conventions," the prosecutor's office said.

Leaders of war veterans' associations, notably the HVIDRA disabled war veterans' association, have lately been calling on the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor to investigate Pupovac's statements, stressing that he constantly breaches laws, the Constitution and the Homeland War Declaration. They have also accused him of grossly belittling Croatia and comparing it to the World War II Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia (NDH).

More news about Milorad Pupovac can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 1 November 2019

Prosecution Drops Case of Man Who Smashed Bilingual Signs in Vukovar

ZAGREB, November 1, 2019 - Vukovar municipal office of the Chief State Prosecutor has decided not to proceed with the case of Marijan Živković, the father of two soldiers killed in the defence of Croatia, who was charged with smashing Latin-Cyrillic signs on the building of the Vukovar police station in September 2013.

The commercial N1 broadcaster quoted on Friday Živković's lawyer Emil Mitrovski as saying that the case was dropped after the findings of the latest psychiatric examination of his client which shows that at the time when he had smashed the signs, Živković was mentally incapacitated.

Mitrovski said that the local prosecution already sent its decision to the Vukovar Municipal Court where a hearing was to have been held on 5 November.

The lawyer also explained that during that event in 2013, Živković was carried by his emotions and influenced by a prevailing mood in the crowd which was why he was not able to control his conduct.

He added that his client Živković was now a free man.

Živković said that he had received the decision of the prosecution about the discontinuation of the proceedings against him.

"I am a little man, but I am afraid of nothing, and I can only mourn the deaths of my sons," Živković said adding that justice has won and thanked those who supported him with prayers.

The lawyer said that this was the victory of justice and added that after Živković's acquittal in 2016 pending trial, no proceedings should have been conducted at all.

In the meantime, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović has written on her Twitter account that the decision of the prosecution to drop this case was the only correct decision.

More Vukovar news can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Segregated Schools to Remain in Vukovar?

ZAGREB, October 22, 2019 - Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava said on Tuesday that the model of segregated schools and pre-school institutions in Vukovar was implemented pursuant to the law and it remained to be seen whether or when the time would come to take steps to change that model.

"The model of segregated schools and a similar model, although a little less stricter, in kindergartens, are not my personal choice. In my opinion, children should go together and be able to learn their own language, history, culture regardless of which minority they belong to. That (learning the language of one's own ethnic group) should be after regular (school) programmes," Penava said on Tuesday during a visit of the recently reconstructed kindergarten in the Borovo Naselje suburb of Vukovar.

He added that children should play together, make friends and share their time.

The energy reconstruction of the kindergarten cost 1.5 million kuna with 1.1 million kuna secured by the Ministry for Demography, the Family, Youth and Social Policy and the remainder from the Vukovar Reconstruction and Development Fund.

The kindergarten's heating bills before the reconstruction amounted to HRK 40,000 a month and the reconstruction is expected to help cut the bills by 60%.

Children at the kindergarten attend separate programmes - Croatian and Serbian and are divided into separate rooms.

More Vukovar news can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 19 October 2019

President Doesn't Think Conditions Are Right for Cyrillic Signs in Vukovar

ZAGREB, October 19, 2019 - Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said on Friday that major issues should be resolved first and then steps taken for everybody to feel safe before setting up official and street signs in the Cyrillic alphabet in the eastern town of Vukovar.

"I find important the decision made by the Vukovar Town Council that conditions have not been met for Cyrillic signs, having in mind that the constitutional law on the rights of ethnic minorities envisages that all those rights must be in the service of facilitating coexistence between the majority Croatian people and minorities, and that the rights of the Croatian people should be respected," the president said.

I was engaged in efforts to reach the peaceful reintegration (of Croatia's Danube region in the 1996-1998 period). I can say that the results achieved are better than expected. The Croatians and the Serbs, who had enough courage at the time, agreed on coexistence. Croatia was the first to show that it did not want warfare and acceded to some conditions, although I believe that this could have been settled in some other way, the president said.

The Croatian state leadership demonstrated that it did not want a war and that it was committed to peace and coexistence with the Serb and other ethnic minorities, she said.

I believe that the issues about which I warned a few days ago will be resolved, Grabar-Kitarović said, criticising again the national judicial system for "under-performance" in dealing with war crimes. There is no reconciliation nor future without justice, she added.

As for Cyrillic signs in Vukovar, she commented that first some major things should be solved. "I do not underestimate any issue. The Cyrillic alphabet is important to some people, and if I can help in any way on behalf of the majority Croatian people, I will do that," the president said during her visit to the village of Novi Farkašić.

More news about the status of Serbs in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 18 October 2019

Vukovar: Conditions Not Met to Grant Serb Minority Special Rights

ZAGREB, October 18, 2019 - The conditions for granting special rights to the Serb minority and for use of the Cyrillic alphabet in Vukovar have not been met, Mayor Ivan Penava said in the Vukovar Town Council on Friday while presenting proposed conclusions on the degree of understanding and dialogue between the town's Croat and Serb communities.

The proposal sparked an emotionally-charged debate which at one point escalated to the brink of an incident. The conclusions were eventually voted in by a majority of councillors.

The conclusions say that the two communities have reached a degree of understanding, solidarity, tolerance and dialogue that ensures cooperation and a co-existence, but that the prerequisites have not been met to enhance the scope of individual and collective rights for the Serb minority in Vukovar.

The conclusions also note that the fundamental rights of a large majority of the town's residents of all ethnic backgrounds who opposed the Serbian military aggression in 1991, such as the right to human life, dignity and freedom, are still neglected because the prosecution of war criminals is systematically delayed, and that the necessary conditions for the recognition of more special rights for the Serb minority, such as equal use of its language and script, have not been created.

The conclusions say that in light of these facts enhancing the scope of rights beyond those guaranteed by the Vukovar Town Statute and the statutory decision on the official use of the language and script of the Serb minority in Vukovar would be considered as showing disrespect and lack of understanding for the citizens of Vukovar of all ethnicities, which might adversely affect their co-existence in the town.

The conclusions, proposed by Mayor Penava of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), were adopted by 15 votes in favour, three councillors of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) were against, while two councillors abstained from voting.

After the mayor read out the text of the proposed conclusions, a debate followed which at one point reached the brink of an incident.

SDSS Councillor Srđan Kolar said that the debate was going in the wrong direction and called for dialogue. He presented Mayor Penava with a copy of the Town Statute written in Cyrillic, which was formally inaugurated by the Serb National Council (SNV) in Zagreb on Thursday.

Penava threw the Statute onto the floor and then picked it up, showing it to the press and saying that this was an act of aggression by the SNV and its head Milorad Pupovac.

Deputy Mayor Marijan Pavliček, of the Croatian Conservative Party, took off his T-shirt displaying the number of people killed in the Serbian aggression and handed it over to Kolar.

More Vukovar news can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 18 October 2019

SNV Launching Campaign to Remove Stigma from Cyrillic Script

ZAGREB, October 18, 2019 - The Serb National Council (SNV) on Thursday announced the start of a campaign aimed at removing the stigma from the Cyrillic and send the message that using this script privately or publicly does not endanger anyone in Croatia, notably the Croatian majority.

Speaking at a press conference announcing the "Let's understand each other better" campaign, SNV president Boris Milošević said it would promote dignity, freedom, equality and non-discrimination.

The Cyrillic is an important part of the Serb cultural identity and language diversity is one of the foundations of the European Union, so every member state has the duty to promote the use of minority languages and scripts.

"Since the state has not worked on the promotion of a minority language, we decided on this campaign. We want respect for the constitution, Constitutional Court decisions and the conventions Croatia has committed to, as well as the application of the law on national minorities," Milosevic said.

The campaign will last until January 1, when Croatia takes over the Council of the EU presidency.

He said the motive for the campaign was a session of the Vukovar City Council scheduled to discuss the degree of understanding in the town and the use of the Cyrillic, which prompted the SNV to print the city statute in Cyrillic and the Serbian language.

The message is that the SNV wants dialogue and better understanding, regardless of the language and script in use, and that an unrealised legal right is not a right. "We believe that the Cyrillic has its place across Croatia, notably in places with a significant Serb population, including Vukovar," Milošević said.

Vukovar city councillor Srđan Kolar said the Cyrillic could not be and was not an aggressor script which, he added, was something that could very frequently be heard in Vukovar. If the stigma was removed from it, people in Vukovar would live "more peacefully, better."

Independent Democratic Serb Party president Milorad Pupovac said the Cyrillic, as one of the EU scripts after Bulgaria's accession, should not be banned and restricted anywhere in Europe.

This campaign calls for dialogue, the goal being to avoid misunderstandings and start a dialogue on all issues, "including those which can be painful," he said.

"Some want the Cyrillic to be a script of non-freedom in Croatia. For us, it was, is and will be a script of freedom just as any other script. Freedom is to write in it, to read and see it where it should be seen, and for everyone to be free of the bad feelings connected with those who made wrong political and military decisions," Pupovac said.

More news about status of Serbs in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

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