Monday, 23 August 2021

Medved: Government Creates Tolerant Society

ZAGREB, 23 Aug 2021 - War Veterans Affairs Minister, Tomo Medved, said on Monday at an event observing Black Ribbon Day that the government was creating a tolerant society that acknowledges and builds relations that guarantee Croatia's prosperity.

Medved laid wreaths and lit candles at Zagreb's central Mirogoj cemetery marking Black Ribbon Day, the Europe-wide Day of Remembrance for the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, which is an international day of remembrance for victims of specifically Stalinist, communist, Nazi, and fascist regimes.

"After this, I am travelling to Gospic where we are burying the remains of 102 WWII and post WWII victims, exhumed in the wider Lika area," Medved said at Mirogoj.

Asked why there will be nobody from the government in Jasenovac this year, Medved said government members were visiting Mirogoj, Macelj, and Goli Otok today, and that Jesenovac was for some other occasion. 

On this year's Black Ribbon Day, Interior Minister Davor Božinović will attend commemorations in Macelj and Transport Minister Oleg Butkovic on the island of Goli Otok.

Macelj was a site for mass executions committed by the Tito-led Partizans in the wake of the Second World War. 

The Goli Otok and Sveti Grgur prison camps operated first as hard-labor detention camps for people accused by the Communist authorities of supporting Soviet leader Joseph Stalin after Yugoslav Communist leader Josip Broz Tito severed ties with the Soviet Union in 1948 or who for whatever reason were declared enemies of the state. They were later transformed into regular prisons and closed down in 1988. According to historian Martin Previšić, 13,000 prisoners were held in Goli Otok between 1949 and 1956, when it was transformed into an ordinary prison, and over 400 of them died there.

No difference between victims

Asked if the government was making a difference between victims, given that its minister mostly attends commemorations for victims of communism, Medved said there was no difference.

Asked about the ban on the 'For the Homeland ready' Ustasha salute, Medved said that the task force for dealing with the past had given guidelines on how to treat certain insignia and that courts were acting accordingly.

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Saturday, 29 May 2021

President Returns War Decorations to General Branimir Glavaš

ZAGREB, 29 May 2021 - Croatian President Zoran Milanović has invalidated former President Ivo Josipović's decision on stripping wartime Osijek official, general Branimir Glavaš, of war medals, since Glavaš's convictions were quashed and the retrials were ordered.

Glavaš's son, lawyer Filip Glavaš, told Hina on Saturday, that the return of the seven war medals to his father were the only logical and fair decision as his father had no longer the status of a convict.

Milanović's decision on declaring null and void Josipović's decision was published in the Official Gazette after it had been adopted on 21 May on the advice of the state commission for decorations and awards and in line with the Constitution and the relevant legislation.

The commission took into consideration the changes in the trials in the cases dubbed 'Garage' and 'Duct tape' for the war crimes against local Serbs in the eastern Croatian city of Osijek in the early 1990s.

Lawyer Filip Glavaš said today that the reasons such as the final convictions for stripping his father of war decorations had not existed for some time and that in 2019, they had asked the then president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović to return the decoration to his father.

However, she ignored our request, the lawyer Filip Glavaš told Hina.

 A month ago we sent the request to this effect to  President Zoran Milanović, and he granted our request, which is the only fair and logical decision considering the fact that the Constitutional and Supreme Courts quashed the convictions, he said.

The Supreme Court quashed the trial court verdict on 28 July 2016 and requested the Zagreb County Court to hold a new trial in this case.

In the initial trial which lasted from October 2007 to April 2009, Glavaš and the other accused were sentenced to lengthy prison terms but the final verdict was quashed by the Supreme Court. By that time Glavas had served most of his eight-year term in prisons in Bosnia and Herzegovina where he fled before the announcement of the trial court verdict.

In late November 2019, Glavaš, who was still standing trial for war crimes, supported in Osijek with his signature Milanović's presidential candidacy, saying that his signature "is not a signature for the SDP or for drawing closer to the SDP but for Milanović as a candidate for the president of the republic", while members of his HDSSB party would decide for themselves whose presidential bid to support.

Later that day, Milanović, who was  the Social Democratic Party (SDP) candidate for the Croatian president,  said that he distanced himself from the support expressed for his presidential bid by member of parliament and HDSSB party leader Branimir Glavaš.

"I would like to distance myself from his support because Glavaš is not my kind of people. I think that (his support) is a message to (PM Andrej) Plenković. The man has been indicted for grave war crimes and the court is expected to make a ruling. The biggest problem about it is that the trial is taking too long, considering that the events in question happened in Osijek in 1991. That is something that I, as the future president, will change if I can, by statements and by exerting pressure at least. The case is still under way and that's not how the judiciary should work," Milanović said then during his presidential campaign.

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Tomislav Tomašević: War Veterans Programmes Won't be Halted, City Offices to be Merged

ZAGREB, 26 May, 2021 - Zagreb mayoral candidate Tomislav Tomašević said on Wednesday it was not true that city programmes for war veterans would be halted once his We Can! party came to power but that rather city offices would be merged to improve coordination of city programmes.

"As regards accusations that programmes intended for war veterans would stop if we come to power, I can say that that is not true. I have said on more than one occasion that we will merge offices, I was not speaking about the cancellation of programmes, because I do not know of any other capital city in the world that has 27 departments," Tomašević told a news conference.

On being given police protection

Asked by reporters if he had been given police protection, Tomašević told reporters to ask police about that because security assessment was not what he and his colleagues did.

"We have been in touch with police regarding security risks. But the police are the ones to make decisions on the matter, and I cannot speak on their bahalf about that," Tomašević said.

Asked about the Otvoreno political programme on Croatian Television of Tuesday, in which he faced off against his rival in the 30 May runoff for Zagreb mayor, Miroslav Škoro of the Homeland Movement, and if he would sue him for false claims, Tomašević said that he was focused on his campaign now.

"That did not happen only yesterday. We are talking about an unbelievable misrepresentation of facts, someone is accusing you of covert campaign financing while at the same time they report zero donations," said Tomašević.

He noted that the internet was full of paid advertisements with false information on the We Can! platform and his family.

He added that Željka Markić of the In the Name of the Family civil society group yesterday made one more slanderous claim against him, saying that he had a gross salary of HRK 25,000 in a nongovernmental organisation.

"She should say which NGO she was referring to and when it happened," he said, noting that an unprecedented hate-mongering campaign was under way on the political scene in Croatia.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 21 May 2021

Remains of Five Victims Who Went Missing in War Identified in Osijek

ZAGREB, 21 May 2021 - Five people, whose remains were unearthed in Croatia's Danube region after they had gone missing in the 1991-1995 Homeland War, were identified in an Osijek hospital's forensic department on Friday.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, accompanied by War Veterans' Affairs Minister Tomo Medved, attended the final identification and after that he told the press the government was committed to shedding light on the fate of all the war victims.

Plenković said that the issue of missing victims was raised on every occasion and at every formal and informal meeting with Serbia's representatives.

Minister Medved said that Serbia still made no contribution to efforts to find the victims who went missing in the war.

After today' identification, the number on the list of missing people has fallen to 1,864. Of them, 401 are presumed to be dead and the fate of the remaining 1,463 victims is still unknown.

For more news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Zagreb and Other Nearby Cities Remember Victims of May 1995 Shelling

ZAGREB, 2 May 2021 - Seven civilians were killed and more than 200 were wounded in Zagreb during the missile attacks launched by rebel Serb forces on 2 and 3 May 1995, and Zagreb and the nearby cities, which were also shelled in those retaliatory attacks, marked the 26th anniversary of those tragic events on Sunday.

No fatalities were in Karlovac, Sisak, Jastrebarsko, however, considerable material damage was caused to them when Serb paramilitaries shelled them and Zagreb's centre with cluster bombs in retaliation for the defeat suffered in Operation Flash in western Slavonia the day before.

The retaliation was publicly admitted to by the then leader of rebel ethnic Serbs, Milan Martic. Seven people were killed, 39 seriously injured and another 136 sustained lesser injuries.

The first explosions were heard around 10.23 a.m. on 2 May when several shells were fired on downtown Zagreb.

The shelling a day later was directed at a children's hospital, a retirement home, and the national theatre building.

The UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague (ICTY) found Martic guilty of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war committed against Croats and other non-Serbs in Croatia in the early 1990s, sentencing him to 35 years in prison. It also found him guilty of ordering missile attacks on Zagreb in May 1995.

In October 2008, the ICTY Appeals Chamber confirmed the 35-year prison sentence for that former Croatian Serb political leader, for crimes committed against Croats and other non-Serbs in Croatia between 1991 and 1995.

The initial indictment against Martic was issued on 25 July 1995. After several years on the run, he surrendered to the Tribunal on 15 May 2002. The trial started on 13 December 2005 and concluded on 12 January 2007.

In May 2020, Croatia's judicial authorities also sentenced Serb rebel general Milan Čeleketić for those missile attacks to 20 years after he was tried in absentia. Čeleketić is beyond the reach of Croatia's authorities. He lives in the northern Vojvodina city of Subotica, and Serbia's authorities.

For more about the homeland war in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Parliamentary Opposition: Additional Rights For War Veterans Unnecessary

ZAGREB, 17 March, 2021 - Some parliamentary opposition parties on Wednesday criticised amendments to the Act on the Rights of Homeland War Veterans, saying that they unnecessarily expanded rights for that group, while the ruling majority dismissed their claims.

Damir Bakić of the Green-Left Bloc said the bill was harmful as it introduced in more than one way additional and not necessarily needed benefits, both financial and non-financial, for war veterans and members of their families.

"That will additionally move them away from society and real life, as if we were creating a new caste for which special rules apply," said Bakić.

Under the amendments, members of the families of fallen war veterans that already have their housing problems solved will each be able to regulate their housing needs under the bill, obstacles to one-off financial aid are being removed, the scope of persons who are given priority in employment is being expanded, Bakić said, citing some of the examples.

Silvano Hrelja of the Croatian Pensioner Party/Croatian Peasant Party group said he had nothing against war veterans being first-class citizens but that he was against pensioners being second-class citizens, so he proposed amendment of the Pension Insurance Act.

"The existing law on war veterans is good and what is now being proposed should be scrapped. Too much is too much," said Hrelja.

He stressed that defenders and disabled war veterans were worthy of everyone and every generation's respect, without special privileges and benefits.

Social Democrat Martina Vlašić-Iljkić said it was not necessary to additionally expand veterans' rights.

"How long will this continue? 25 years after the war the status of war veteran and disabled war veteran is being recognised," she asked, noting that care for war veterans was good, especially if compared to care for other groups such as pensioners, the socially deprived and civilians with disabilities.

Marijana Balić of the ruling HDZ party said the amendments were not about additional rights but exclusively about technical organisation regarding the exercise of rights from a law adopted in 2017, expediting procedures for granting the status of disabled war veteran, housing provision procedures, social rights and adjustment of pension insurance-related rights.

Miro Bulj (Bridge) and Željko Sačić (Sovereignists) said that they supported amendments designed to expedite procedures but noted that they could not help but think that they were being proposed for election purposes, and their view was supported by Stipo Mlinarić of the Homeland Movement.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Saturday, 15 August 2020

Croat War Veteran Sends Incredible Gift To Injured Serb War Veteran

August 15, 2020 - Novica Kostić from Vlasotince, near Leskovac, received a touching package yesterday and expressed his heartfelt gratitude to a Croat war veteran on Facebook

Injured during the war, life has since not been easy for Novica Kostić, a veteran living in Vlasotince, near Leskovac, southern Serbia. Since the day the war stopped for him, he has been without his left foot. He's one of many that suffered life-changing injuries at the time.

Things haven't been much better of late for Novica because, although entitled, he has been waiting for a replacement prosthetic foot for seven years. The one he wore was old and worn.

Life took a turn for the better on Friday 14 August when Novica received a surprise package in the post; a new prosthetic foot, to the exact specifications he needed. Inside the package was also a touching letter.

The old and worn prosthetic foot, pictured next to the new one sent by a Croat war veteran, posted on Facebook by Novica

Taking to Facebook later in the day, Novica detailed the contents of the package and the note. It had been sent by a Croat war veteran who, although he revealed himself to Novica, said he wished to remain anonymous.

"The letter that was inside had a very very touching content, with a lot of warmth, empathy, and solidarity,” explained Novica, who went on to detail that the Croat war veteran had not himself been wounded in the war, but had managed to find the prosthesis through a colleague.

While elements of division linger between some sections of Croatian and Serbian society, this gesture and compassion is not an isolated incident between those who actually fought against each other on the battlefield.

"What to add here, what to say, except that this can be a strong message to others, especially politicians, that if we, who shot directly at each other, can talk and accept each other, why is it a problem for them, what prevents them from doing so?” wrote Novica. “I know that everyone will look at this from their own angle, but you must admit this should be considered, especially when it comes to ordinary people, people who take everything in society, even the war, on their backs."

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Istrian War Veterans Saddened by Croatia's Demographic Crisis

As Glas Istre/Borka Petrovic writes on the 7th of September, 2019, Deputy Prefect of Istria County, Fabrizio Radin, and Deputy Mayor of Pula, Robert Cvek, recently hosted a reception for members of the 119th Croatian Army Brigade on the occasion of the 28th anniversary of its founding in Istria, Croatia.

Radin said the County and the City are actively participating in these anniversaries every year, and he pledged his support to continue. He said they were open to talks, not just about anniversaries, but about all other current affairs. He noted that as of next year, Istria County is taking over the affairs of the state administration, which involves issues related to the issues of war veterans (branitelji).

''If we've been closely linked so far in terms of cooperation, then by next year, we will surely be even more linked,'' Radin stated.

Mayor Cvek congratulated the 119th Brigade, saying that Istria must be and is proud of all that the brigade members accomplished in the defense of Croatia during the Homeland War, and especially that their war paths were honourable and free of any ''stains''.

The 119th Brigade's Roberto Fabris recalled that the brigade was founded on September the 7th, 1991, and that it covered the whole of Istria with four battalions - one in Umag, one in Pazin, and two in Pula. He recalled that a large number of JNA members were still stationed in Pula at the time and that the most important task was to try to preserve the peace.

The brigade made its way to Lika, was in Slavonia and even down south in the Ston area, and the highlight of their operation was certainly the military-police operation Storm (Oluja), Fabris said, recalling that seven members of the brigade were killed in war operations, and 82 were in some way wounded.

''Istria must be proud of its 119th Brigade, as well as all other units in the area. Our brigade is proud of everyone because it carried out all the tasks that were put before it without stains,'' Fabris said in an emotional speech, explaining that he could not hide his strong emotions because he had spent as many as 1,700 days in the brigade. He entered at the age of 25, and came out at the age of 30. He had left his entire young life on the battlefields, he said.

''Almost 90 percent of the members returned to their jobs and ordinary lives after the war, but we're proud of what we've achieved and will not let our journey be forgotten. The only thing that hurts me personally, and I believe hurts others, is that our children today are leaving the land we created. But I believe in a better future,'' Fabris concluded.

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