ZAGREB, December 9, 2018 – The Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) leader and a member of the Croatian Parliament, Milorad Pupovac, said that local Croatian Serbs who work or used to work in the town administration in Vukovar had been exposed to pressure since 1997, and added that the purpose of the recent arrests in that eastern Croatian town was to cause disturbance and legal insecurity.
Considering the concrete case of the arrest of a few citizens of the Serb background and the issuance of the indictment against two of them, we can say that such forms of pressure have been performed since 1997 by a certain number of people from Vukovar, whose identities are known, against a certain number of citizens of Serb origin who used to work or are now working in the town administration or in other institutions, Pupovac said at a news conference he held in Vukovar.
On early Thursday morning, five ethnic Croatian Serbs from Vukovar were taken in for questioning early on suspicion of committing war crimes in Vukovar in 1991. The SDSS and the Joint Council of Serb-majority Municipalities (ZVO) expressed concern on Thursday after their arrest. The interior ministry said on Friday that police and the Osijek County Prosecutor’s Office had completed an investigation, pressed charges and handed over to prison authorities two men, former members of Serb paramilitary units, aged 63 and 64, who are suspected of committing war crimes against civilians in the Vukovar neighbourhoods of Petrova Gora and Sajmište in September 1991. The suspects were arrested in Vukovar on Thursday on the suspicion that, as members of the Petrova Gora Territorial Defence units, in September 1991 they took part in the unlawful detention and torture of local civilians.
Pupovac today criticised the current Vukovar mayor and his advisers for being the first of the local office holders to take helm of that campaign against local Serbs which had been in place since 1997.
The SDSS leader went on to say that making use of the judiciary as a tool for causing legal insecurity was against the Constitution and laws. He said that exploiting traumatic and serious problems from war crimes trials for the purpose of acquiring and strengthening political power is also against the Constitution and amoral, and that it is dishonest to exploit the deaths of other people for the purpose of staying in power.
Pupovac calls for the judiciary to prosecute those who were responsible for the victims among the Serb people from July to November 1991 in Vukovar. In this context, he said that the father of one of the two Serbs who were now indicted for war crimes, had been taken captive in Borovo Commerce in October 1991 and executed on 4 November on the bank of the Danube. If his son is guilty of something, his guilt should be established, however, those responsible for the death of his father should also be held to account, Pupovac said.
He reiterated the dissatisfaction of the Serb community with the performance of the Croatian judiciary when it comes to the prosecution of war crimes committed against its members. “We will not point an accusing finger at anybody, we will not do anything to mount pressure on the judiciary, but we are going to use international and local legal tools to seek justice for those who were accused although they were innocent and for those who were killed, or arrested and abused by those who now enjoy the legal protection of the order of the Republic of Croatia,” said Pupovac.
Interestingly, Pupovac supports the current government in parliament.
More news about the Serb national minority in Croatia can be found in our politics section.