NGOs Warns about Non-Prosecution of War Crimes against Serbs

Total Croatia News

ZAGREB, April 27, 2018 – The Documenta non-governmental organisation and the Serb National Council (SNV) warned on Friday that war crimes committed during and after the Croatian army’s Operation Flash in 1995 were not being prosecuted, crimes against Serbs were not treated as war crimes, and prison sentences were lenient. They demanded that the rights of civilian casualties of war and their relatives be recognised.

SNV president Milorad Pupovac said that the Croatian society had never acknowledged Serb casualties in the Western Slavonia region before and after Croatia’s international recognition. He said that the military operations carried out there had resulted in numerous war crimes, including ethnic cleansing and the killings of civilians.

He cited the case of 26 villages in the Požega valley which the Croatian army evacuated in 1991, following an order from the crisis management committee, under the pretext that they would be protected, after which the villages were destroyed and the remaining residents killed.

Pupovac stressed that no one had been brought to account for war crimes committed during 1995’s Operation Flash in Western Slavonia. “This constitutes a serious and grave blot on the Croatian and the international justice system,” he said and added: “That was the first clear example of the practice of ethnic cleansing.”

Documenta director Vesna Teršelić said that civil society organisations had been demanding for years that the rights of civilian casualties of war and their relatives be recognised and that the litigation costs of relatives be written off.

Noting that the prevailing view of the government and in other spheres was that no war crimes had been committed in Operation Flash, SNV official Saša Milošević said that the SNV and rights organisations thought the opposite. He asked why war crimes committed against Serbs in that and other military and police operations were not being punished, why Serbs were being banned or prevented from returning to their pre-war homes and why those areas had been devastated.

Milošević stressed that many of the crimes against Serbs were not treated as war crimes, and even if they were admitted as crimes, investigations were sloppy and often unsuccessful. “Trials are very often ethnically biased. Sentences, provided they are imposed at all after many years, are lenient and actually do not serve as punishment,” he said.

Milena Čalić-Jelić, a lawyer with Documenta, said that 182 cases had been launched for damages, mostly concerning houses that were blown up outside the war zones. Most of the cases were initiated between 2003 and 2006 and most were rejected because a five-year statute of limitations had run out. Čalić-Jelić warned that claimants who lost the cases were ordered to pay litigation costs which sometimes reached 100,000 kuna (13,500 euro). She called for a write-off of such costs.

Operation Flash was carried out on May 1 and 2, 1995 in the Western Slavonia region, which was under Serb occupation at the time.


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