News 03 Aug 16

Croatia Urged to Commemorate Operation Storm Victims

Ahead of the anniversary of Croatia’s 1995 Operation Storm campaign, a human rights group urged the authorities to pay respects to the civilian victims as well as celebrating the military victory.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Documenta presents its research on Wednesday. Photo Anadolu Agency/Stipe Majic.

Zagreb-based NGO Documenta – Centre for Dealing with the Past on Wednesday presented a partial name-by-name list of civilian victims of Croatia’s victorious military operation ‘Storm’ in August 1995 and called on the authorities to commemorate their deaths.

In the operation, Croatian forces which seized back 18 per cent of Croatian territory, which had been under Serb rebel control since 1991. During and immediately after the operation crimes were committed against Croatian Serb citizens and around 200,000 Serbs left the country.

Vesna Terselic, the head of Documenta, said that it was important to find a way to “talk about the victory and the recognition of the victims’ suffering at the same time”.

Terselic said the authorities should have a day of commemoration for the victims as well as celebrating Victory Day and Homeland Thanksgiving Day each year on August 5.

August 5 is a public holiday in Croatia, marking the operation with a ceremony in the town of Knin, where the defeat of rebel Serb forces began. In Serbia, however, the victims of the operation are commemorated and Croatia’s celebration is condemned.

Last year’s 20th anniversary in Knin attracted around 100,000 people but was marred by anti-Serb chants during a concert by the Croatian nationalist singer Marko Perkovic, alias Thompson.

Terselic also said that as well as commemorating the victims, the state should do more to prosecute the crimes committed against them, because only five cases have been brought so far, with two verdicts, two still pending and one indictment rejected by the court.

Meanwhile Slaven Raskovic, head of Documenta’s project to create a database of all human losses in the 1990s war in Croatia, told BIRN that its research in some villages suggests that the number of civilian victims is smaller than the estimate of 677 made by human rights NGO Croatian Helsinki Committee, HHO.

The HHO conducted its research immediately after Operation Storm and named 677 civilian victims found dead in the area in which the operation was carried out.

“In the research we’ve conducted so far, there are already some 20 to 30 victims fewer than on the HHO’s list for the mentioned villages. Although I prefer not to speculate, I can say that the final number of victims will be definitely somewhat smaller than the HHO’s one,” Raskovic said.

Raskovic said that the HHO had not intentionally exaggerated the death toll but “had some mistakes on their list due to methodological difficulties”.

He further explained that it was hard to conduct research immediately after the operation and that the HHO did not have access to the same amount of publications and documents as Documenta.

He suggested that some people were accounted for twice under different names and that others did not die as a result of the military operation but earlier or from other causes.

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