News 21 Jul 16

Croatia Urges Serbia to Probe Attack on Presidency

Croatia’s foreign minister called on the Serbian authorities to investigate the Yugoslav People’s Army’s missile attack on Franjo Tudjman’s presidential residence in Zagreb in 1991.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Miro Kovac. Photo: BETAPHOTO/HINA/Daniel KASAP/DS.

Foreign Minister Miro Kovac on Thursday called on Serbia to investigate the attack on the Croatian presidential residence during the 1990s war, calling it an attempt to assassinate President Franjo Tudjman.

Kovac’s comments came in an interview about what steps Serbia should take on war crimes prosecution during its accession negotiations with Brussels on the EU’s Chapter 23 of legislation on the judiciary and fundamental rights, which formally opened this week.

Croatia wants Serbia to change its law giving Belgrade universal jurisdiction over all war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia, no matter where they took place or who were the perpetrators. Croatia fears that many indictments could be issued against its war veterans.

“Instead of the scandalous announcement of investigations into Croatian defenders [war veterans], we wonder why Serbia, for example, doesn’t prosecute those responsible for the rocket attacks on the Banski dvori [presidential residence and the government at the time] and the attempted assassination of the Croatian state leadership and President Franjo Tudjman October 7, 1991?” Kovac said in an interview with daily newspaper Jutarnji list.

“It would be normal for Belgrade to conduct an investigation, would it not?” he added.

Yugoslav People’s Army planes attacked the Banski dvori on October 7, 1991, firing multiple missiles, one of which hit the president’s wing of the building.

Tudjman, along with the head of the Yugoslav presidency, Stjepan Mesic and Yugoslav Prime Minister Ante Markovic, were in the building during the attack, but all of them survived.

As well as the Banski dvori, some neighbouring buildings were hit, but there were no casualties.

Croatia interpreted this as an attack on Tudjman and the country's political leadership and the next day, October 8, parliament voted to terminate its ties with Yugoslavia. October 8 is now celebrated as Croatia’s Independence Day.

The Croatian authorities investigated the case in the 1990s but could not track the direct perpetrators or the organisers of the attack.

Located in Zagreb’s upper town on St. Mark’s Square, the Banski dvori are now just the government premises, and the presidential residence is a few kilometres away.

The EU on Monday approved the opening of Chapters 23 and 24, two key rule-of-law chapters in Serbia’s accession negotiations, but insisted that Belgrade meets several benchmarks on war crimes issues.

The benchmarks set for Chapter 23 include the insistence that Serbia implements its national strategy for war crimes prosecution, adopts a prosecutorial strategy on war crimes, improves its victim assistance and witness protection programmes, and prosecutes high-level perpetrators.

Serbia must also cooperate with its neighbours on war crimes issues, particularly over missing persons from the Balkan conflicts.

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