ZAGREB, December 6, 2018 – Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović said in Brussels on Thursday that several persons had been arrested as war crimes suspects in the Vukovar area, but added that he was not familiar with the details.
“As minister, I don’t know nor can I know the details but what I can confirm is that several people were arrested today for war crimes and a criminal investigation is underway. That is all I can say for the moment,” Božinović said in Brussels where he was attending a Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting.
A spokeswoman in the ministry, Marina Mandić, confirmed to HINA that a criminal investigation was underway related to war crimes committed in 1991 in the Vukovar area. She said that several people were under investigation and that more details would be made public upon the completion of the investigation.
Media outlets have reported that an investigation has been launched against five ethnic Serbs from Vukovar who were taken in for questioning early on Thursday morning on suspicion of committing war crimes in Vukovar in 1991.
Minister Božinović underscored that he wished to recall that the chief police director had in February, “prior to some processes and protests in Croatia, set up a task force that began to intensively investigate war crimes in the Vukovar area. So far, the task force has filed criminal charges in three cases of war crimes as well as for four crimes committed on the Ovčara farm” (the site of a 1991 atrocity near Vukovar).
“The task force is working very seriously and thoroughly. As you know, investigating war crimes committed 27 years ago isn’t easy. It is very complex and it would have been much better if investigations had been launched sooner. This government and the interior ministry began working on that as soon as they were given the mandate. The results are visible and we will continue on that path,” said Božinović.
Prime Minister Andrej Plenković dismissed on Thursday speculation that the arrest of several people from Vukovar, suspected of war crimes committed in 1991, had been made due to pressure by Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava, noting that the police and prosecutorial authorities were doing their job in line with the law and autonomously.
“No. The police are doing their job, as is the special task force for war crimes, which has been dealing with war crimes in Vukovar and at Ovčara in such a way that has resulted in these steps and procedures. It has been working since February. This has nothing to do with political pressure. The police, the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor (DORH) are doing their job lawfully and independently of any institution,” Plenković said after a cabinet meeting in Karlovac.
The Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) and the Joint Council of Serb-majority Municipalities (ZVO) expressed concern on Thursday after police arrested five ethnic Serbs in Vukovar early in the morning and took them in for questioning as part of a war crimes investigation.
“Without wishing to question police work or obstruct an investigation into war crimes, our concern is based on the fact that the latest police action comes after a political campaign launched at national and local level to exert pressure on the police and investigators,” the SDSS and ZVO said in a joint statement.
They said that this campaign and the latest police action caused fear in Vukovar’s Serb community and doubts of impartiality of the necessary investigation into war crimes. They said that the individuals brought in for questioning had regularly responded to police summons for questioning and had never shown a readiness to obstruct or avoid cooperation with the police.
“We fear that the purpose of their detention is to please the campaign actors who created such an atmosphere in society and who spread intolerance towards the Serb community,” the statement said. It warned that war crimes committed against Serbs in Vukovar and elsewhere during the 1991-1995 war remained unprosecuted, while the campaign to prosecute Serbs continued.
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