A plaque dedicated to the victims of war in the Croatian town of Osijek has caused controversy for including the names of some Serb victims killed by Croatian forces, while missing out the names of some Croat victims.
|Osijek plaque I Photo by Beta|
The plaque was unveiled on June 28, the Memorial Day of the Defenders of Osijek, to commemorate the approximately 1,800 Osijek citizens who died during the Croatian war for independence 1991 – 1995.
Osijek, which is the centre of the eastern Croatian region of Slavonia close to the Serbian border, came under heavy artillery and infantry attack by both the Yugoslav People’s Army, JNA, and Serbian forces towards the end of 1991 and the start of 1992.
During the attacks over 1,500 Croatian soldiers and several hundred civilians were killed. On the plaque unveiled to memory of those people, 1,724 names have been written.
But Osijek journalist Drago Hedl has revealed in the Croatian daily newspapers, Jutarnji List, that the name of Ljiljana Jaros, a 14-year old girl killed during the shelling of Osijek in 1992, is missing from the memorial.
It was terrible for me and I wept bitterly when I saw at the unveiling ceremony that my Ljiljana was excluded from the plaque“, said Ljiljana's mother Zemina Jaros.
The names of several other civilians killed in the shelling are also missing from the plaque, including the name of a Croatian TV cameraman killed by a JNA soldier in 1991.
Conversely, the names of several Serb civilians killed by the Croatian forces have been included on the plaque.
Among them are Branko Lovric, Bogdan Pocuca, Petar Ladnjak and Djordje Petkovic, who were all killed on the orders of the unofficial wartime army chief in Osijek and convicted war criminal Branimir Glavas.
After the war Glavas was Prefect of the Osijek- Baranja county.
He was an influential figure in the Croatian ruling party, HDZ, for many years.
But after years of investigation by the journalist Drago Hedl for the Croatian newspaper, the Feral Tribune, Glavas was indicted by the Croatian prosecutor for war crimes against Serb civilians in Osijek in 2005.
He stood trial in Zagreb, and was convicted to eight years in prison in 2008. He escaped to Bosnia and Herzegovina before the sentence was given, but was captured and is now serving his sentence in a Bosnian prison.
In 2005, Glavas left the HDZ and formed a regional political party, the Croatian democratic assembly of Slavonia and Baranja, HDSSB, which is now in power in Osijek. The current mayor of Osijek is an HDSSB member.
This means that Glavas's ruling party in Osijek had the responsibility of listing the names of Glavas's victims on the plaque, which is dedicated, “To the defenders, fellow citizens, and victims of greater Serbian aggression at Osijek, Osijek-Baranja county and the Republic of Croatia“.
But not every victim of Glavas' war crimes were mentioned on the plague.
The name of Cedomir Vuckovic, for instance, who was murdered by being forced, to drink acid in a garage at Osijek in 1991, following an order by Glavas, has not been included on the plaque. Even the names of some victims who were included have been spelt incorrectly, distorting their surnames.
But Glavas's HDSSB has refused to discuss the issue.
“Branimir Glavas was sentenced after a prearranged political process, which HDSSB does not and will never recognise“, Osijek’s mayor and the Vice President of the HDSSB Kresimir Bubalo said in a statement, commenting on the plaque controversy.
The Croatian war veteran minister Predrag Matic admitted that putting the names of Croatian war crimes victims on the plaque could be problematic, but emphasised that it is important to remember every victim who died in the war.
“Everybody has the right to be honoured“, Matic said.
“The fact that Croatia was attacked by JNA and Serbian forces cannot be an excuse for manipulating the facts about crimes that have been proven in court,“ said Vesna Terselic, the director of the human rights NGO Documenta.
“Guilt can be attributed only to convicted perpetrators of war crimes,” she added.
So far, there are no indications that steps will be taken to correct the plaque.