News 19 Dec 12

Croatian NGO Criticise Ruling Against Vukovic Sisters

Croatian Human Rights NGO has criticised the decision to make two sisters, war victims who sued Croatia for reparations and lost their case, pay court expenses or risk losing their property.

Marija Ristic
BIRN
Zagreb

Two sisters, Radmila and Mirjana Vukovic, whose parents and sister were killed during the 1995 Croatian military operation Flash, lost their case before a local court in the Croatian capital Zagreb.

The court ruled that the murder of their parents, Milutin and Cvjeta Vukovic, and their younger sister Dragana in the village Medari in Croatia, in May 1995 during the operation Flash was not a war crime. 

According to the court’s ruling, the civilians were collateral damage and the sisters were ordered to pay court expenses.

Following that decision, a local court in the municipality of Nova Gradiska ruled that their property should be confiscated unless they cover the cost of the trial.

Eugen Jakovcic, from the Croatian human rights NGO Documenta, says that the case of the Vukovic sisters is just one more example of the injustice of the Croatian courts.

“These families wait for years for the Croatian courts to tell them who killed their loved ones, and before they get an answer to that question, the courts want their property or money for court expenses,” Jakovcic says.

According to Documenta, during Operation Flash in the village of Medari 22 civilians were killed, including 11 women and three children. So far, Croatian courts have not passed a single verdict for the crimes in this village.

The Serbian prosecutors are currently investigating war crimes committed in the village, where a mass grave containing 28 bodies was found in 2010.

The operation Flash was a key event in Croatia's attempt to recover control of all its territory from ethnic Serb separatists who in the early 1990s seized one-third of the republic.

Breakaway Serbs opposed to Croatia's independence from Yugoslavia proclaimed the Serbian Autonomous Territory of Western Slavonia in August 1991. The territory was under the protection of the UN Protection Forces, UNPROFOR, from June 1992 until 1995.

But on May 1, 1995, the Croatian Army struck back with a surprise attack on the town of Pakrac, rapidly taking control of the whole enclave and reintegrating it into Croatia.

Around 30,000 Serbs fled the area to Serb-held land in Bosnia or to Serbia. The number of killed people in the action remains a subject of dispute.

According to the Serbian NGO Veritas 283 people were killed in Flash, while the Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights says the figure is below 90.

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