News 01 Jul 16

Assassinated Croatian Policeman Commemorated As Peacemaker

Croatian policeman Josip Reihl Kir, who was killed in 1991 in Osijek after trying to negotiate peace with local Serbs, is being commemorated as a symbol of peace in “times of madness”.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
A visual for the event commemorating Josip Reihl Kir. Photo: Facebook.

The 25th anniversary of the assassination of Croatian policeman Josip Reihl Kir on July 1, 1991 is being commemorated at a special event on Friday in the eastern city of Osijek.

As the local police chief, Reihl Kir was a negotiator between local Serbs and the Croatian authorities in 1991, when he was assassinated in an ambush in the municipality of Tenja, close to Osijek, by a Croatian reservist policeman.

Reihl Kir’s assassination came just before the outbreak of a full-scale war that involved Croatian forces, the Yugoslav People’s Army and rebelled Croatian Serbs.

The commemorative event will be held in the Museum of Slavonia, organised by the city and a human rights’ NGO, the Centre for Peace Studies, CMS.

It will include choral singing and a panel discussion at which writers and journalist from Croatia and Serbia will speak about what Reihl Kir’s life means to them.

The mayor of Osijek, Ivica Vrkic, the chief of Osijek-Baranja County police, Milan Baricevic, and Gordan Bosanac from the CMS will give the opening speeches.

Bosanac told BIRN that he is particularly proud that the city decided to get involved in commemorating Reihl Kir, which he said was “something that all state institutions, except interior ministry, avoid”.

He said that the CMS has been commemorating Reihl Kir’s death for years but decided to commemorate it more formally this year, unlike last year, when it marked the anniversary at the place where the policeman was killed.

“We have been doing it for years in order to articulate something called pacifism and to promote those people who, in the time of the greatest madness and preparations for violence, were still devoted to non-violence,” he said.

Bosanac argued that pacifism “was and still is completely marginalised in Croatia”.

He said that only military victories and soldiers from the 1990s war are celebrated, “while individuals and groups that opposed the violence” are not remembered.

“We want Reihl Kir to become a role model for the younger generation, showing them how even in the hardest times it is valuable to work on non-violence,” he said.

Reihl Kir was killed in the 1991 attack along with local politicians Goran Zobundzija and Milan Knezevic; the mayor of Tenja, Mirko Tubic, survived despite being severely wounded.

Reservist policeman Anton Gudelj was convicted of the murder in 1993 and sentenced to 20 years in prison in his absence, as he was on the run. He was arrested in Frankfurt in 1995 and extradited to Croatia the following year.

But the Croatian supreme court annulled the judgment in March 1996, ordering a new trial. The supreme court then decided in May 1997 to end criminal procedures against Gudelj and released him from custody.

He left for Australia, and Reihl Kir’s wife Jadranka embarked on a long process of overturning the supreme court’s decision.

In September 2006, Gudelj was finally arrested in Sydney and then extradited to Croatia in July 2007.

He was found guilty by the supreme court in April 2009 and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

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