Croatia Sued for 3.5 Billion Dollars in Compensation for Ustasha Regime

Total Croatia News

The lawsuit was filed in the United States, in the name of Serbs, Roma and Jews who were the victims of the Independent State of Croatia.

Croatia has recently received a class action lawsuit for compensation of damages against Serbs, Roma and Jews suffered during World War II. The proceedings were launched by a few plaintiffs in May last year at a court in Chicago, demanding compensation for victims, their heirs and relatives, in the amount of 3.5 billion dollars, reports Večernji List on March 13, 2017.

The compensation would cover not only material damages, related to the seized property, but also the suffering of victims of Ustasha camps. Prosecutors claim that the Republic of Croatia is responsible for the damages because it is allegedly the legal successor to the Independent State of Croatia (NDH).

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that the lawsuit had been received through the US Embassy. “Ministry received on 27 February a note from the US Embassy concerning the lawsuit it the case of Lalich et al. v. Republic of Croatia, which has been launched in a court in Illinois”, confirmed the Ministry. Details of the lawsuit are not known, but unofficially the Ministry says that the lawsuit is frivolous because the Republic of Croatia is not the legal successor to the NDH and cannot be held responsible for crimes that have been done under that regime.

“This can be easily seen in the Preamble of the Constitution, which explicitly states that Croatia is founded on sovereignty as expressed in the decisions of ZAVNOH, and not on the foundation of NDH”, explains a source. ZAVNOH was the State Anti-Fascist Council for the National Liberation of Croatia.

All Croatian governments have faced the issue of restitution of property confiscated during the NDH, especially the property which belonged to the Jews, who want the legal right to restitution to be extended from the period of the communist rule to also include the period of the Ustasha regime. Last April, special envoy for Holocaust issues of US State Department Nicholas Dean visited Zagreb and said that the main purpose of his visit was the issue of Jewish property seized during World War II.

However, former Justice Minister Vesna Škare Ožbolt says that such rights cannot be extended to the NDH period. “Such a request or lawsuit is based on inaccurate data. Croatia is not a successor of the NDH, but of the Socialist Republic of Croatia. A court which would accept such a construction would say that Croatia has been built on the basis of a criminal regime, which is not true. I am confident that the lawsuit will end in failure”, said Škare Ožbolt.

Jewish Community of Zagreb has repeatedly demanded that Jews in Croatia should receive property which can be returned under the current law, and that in the second phase the law should be changed in order to enable the return of property which was took by the Ustasha regime.

President of the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities Ognjen Kraus says that the demands have always been concerned with seized material assets, which are huge. He is convinced that it is precisely the value of the properties why governments try to avoid its return. “The law in Croatia is the most restrictive in Europe and completely unenforceable. In addition, even perfectly easy cases which are covered by the current law are not being solved”, said Kraus.

The lawsuit in Chicago is not the first for victims of the Ustasha regime seeking compensation. In 2012, another case was launched in North Carolina, seeking compensation from the Vatican bank for the so-called “Ustasha treasures”. The lawsuit was dismissed and, given that the lawsuit was based on very similar arguments, it is expected that Croatia will use the ruling as a precedent.


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