ZAGREB, May 17, 2020 – Former Croatian President Ivo Josipovic on Sunday most strongly condemned the Croatian parliament’s sponsorship of the Bleiburg commemoration, saying that it was not an act of commemorating the victims but a problematic political event and “a case of shameful manipulation.”
“The Bleiburg commemoration, held under Croatia’s auspices, is anything but an act of commemoration. It is a strong political message that serves the purpose of historical and political revisionism, rehabilitation of Ustasha ideology and strengthening nationalism and the political right,” Josipovic said in an interview with the Bosnian news portal Faktor.
He said the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and the Church and right political circles shared responsibility for that.
Josipovic also said that there was no doubt that crimes had been committed against numerous people in May 1945 and that that truth must not be concealed but that facts must not be used for political purposes either.
“Many people were killed… there is no justification for such a large number of killings,” he said, adding that believers and their church have the right to pray for the souls of the deceased but that it is problematic when that is done without the historical context and with “dangerous political messages.”
That is especially dangerous in the multiethnic Sarajevo and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which felt strongly the consequences of the Ustasha regime and which continues to be burdened by ethnic intolerance and policies that are responsible for the suffering in WWII as well as in the 1990s war, Josipovic said, adding that this was why he believed Sarajevo Archbishop Vinko Puljic was wrong to hold a memorial mass for the Bleiburg victims in Sarajevo on Saturday.
“It is dangerous and irresponsible or is a part of a political concept designed to destabilise Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Josipovic said, adding that he stood firmly behind his speech during a visit to Israel, when he said that the threat of Ustashism was still alive and was getting stronger.
Kusic: Bleiburg one of biggest Croatian tragedies
In a separate interview with Croatian Television on Saturday, PM Plenkovic’s advisor on social affairs, academician Zvonko Kusic, said that this year’s commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Bleiburg tragedy, one of the biggest tragedies in the history of the Croatian people, was dignified.
The commemoration also included a memorial mass for the victims, held in Sarajevo by Sarajevo Archbishop Vinko Puljic, which drew criticism from a part of the public in the country and prompted several thousand people in the Bosnian capital to go on a protest walk, claiming the mass was an attempt to equate the victims of the Ustasha regime and those who had committed crimes against them.
Commenting on that, Kusic said that it was an old attempt to politicise the commemoration.
“The commemoration for the Bleiburg victims has always been politicised in a way. There have always been accusations that it is about the rehabilitation of the Independent State of Croatia, however, (the Sarajevo event) is a mass, a ceremony that has nothing to do with rehabilitation. Nonetheless, various political stakeholders… become active at this time of the year, forming a kind of hostile alliance,” he said.
Kusic, who chairs the Croatian government’s commission for dealing with consequences of undemocratic regimes, also described as an act of politicisation the statement by Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic that the Sarajevo mass risked turning into a glorification of the Ustasha regime.