news 27 Jun 12

Embitterment Disorder Haunts War Victims in Croatia

“Embitterment disorder“ threatens an increasing number of war torture victims in Croatia, warned Mladen Loncar, a psychiatrist from the Croatian War Veterans Ministry in Zagreb on Tuesday.

Boris Pavelic

Speaking at a round table organised by the human rights NGO Documenta to mark June 26, UN International day in Support of Victims of Torture, Loncar said that the War Veterans Ministry therapists observed that more and more cases of ‘post-traumatic embitterment disorder’, PTED, in people who had been victims of torture during the war in Croatia.

The disorder is modelled after post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, because it too is a response to a trauma that endures. People with PTSD are left fearful and anxious. Embittered people are left seething for revenge.

"They feel the world has treated them unfairly. It's one step more complex than anger. They're angry plus helpless," says Dr. Michael Linden, a German psychiatrist who named the behaviour.

Loncar did not say how many cases of PTED have been registered in Croatia.

According to the president of Documenta, Vesna Terselic, the exact number of war torture victims in Croatia cannot be precisely established.

She said that “several dozens places of detention“ existed in Croatia during the war. She reminded the round table that many Croatian citizens also suffered torture in prisons in Serbia at the end of 1991 and during 1992, mentioning the towns of Sremska Mitrovica, Nis and Stajicevo near Zrenjanin.

Zdenka Pantic from the Zagreb based Rehabilitation Centre for Stress and Trauma, said that international partners regard Croatia as a “country which has the means to deal with torture victims“.

But Documenta activists warned that torture victims are becoming more and more “publicly invisible“, which harms the possibility of their faster rehabilitation.

Activists mentioned that asylum seekers, of which there are about 60 in Croatia, were often victims of torture in the countries they came from, which meant that they also needed help and rehabilitation.

The activists warned that in ten years time there could be several thousand of asylum seekers in the country, and if Croatia does not establish the system for their rehabilitation, “‘Paris suburb syndrome’ could hit the country".

Terselic said that the Croatian soldiers who are participating in peacekeeping missions across the world might also need help with post traumatic stress. She added that the government should plan in advance how to provide that help, before sending the soldiers to their missions.


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