News 07 Mar 17

Intolerance Towards Serbs ‘Escalates in Croatia’: Report

Hate speech, threats and violence against Serbs living in Croatia rose by 57 per cent in 2016, according to a new report by the Serbian National Council.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
The Serbian National Council presenting the report. Photo: Sven Milekic/BIRN.

The Serbian National Council, SNV, said in its latest annual report which was published on Tuesday in Zagreb that 331 cases of anti-Serb hate speech, incidents of ethnic intolerance, threats, physical assaults and damaged and destroyed property were recorded by the public and police in 2016.

This represented a significant rise on the 189 cases reported in 2015 and the 82 cases in 2014, said the SNV, which represents Croatian Serbs’ interest, although the older survey was conducted with slightly different methodology.

The new report entitled ‘Historic Revisionism, Hate Speech and Violence against Serbs in 2016’ said the number of physical assaults rose from nine in 2015 to 16 in 2016, while insults and threats tripled in the same period, from 20 to 62.

According to the report, the media - including national broadcaster Croatian Radio-Television, HRT - played a role in spreading hate speech, with the number of cases rising from 21 to 42.

“You have TV stations where hate speech is common and one such is Z1 TV [the local Zagreb station], which has three shows that we characterised as ones that spread hatred towards Serbs,” Sasa Kosanovic from the SNV told a press conference.

He claimed that the purpose of such hate speech against Serbs is to show them that “their cultural, social and political activity is not wanted”.

Kosanovic also suggested that the real picture was “far worse”, as a large number of Serbs do not report such cases out of fear.

The author of the report, Tamara Opacic, said that graffiti involving hate speech were found in 26 different towns and other places in Croatia.

“Besides those right-wing internet portals that praise the [WWII fascist-allied] Ustasa regime and deny the Holocaust and the genocide committed during WWIII… we have unfortunately witnessed discriminatory speech on HRT,” she said.

The president of the SNV and political leader of the Croatian Serbs, MP Milorad Pupovac, expressed regrets about what he called an “eruption of hate and calls for violence”.

Pupovac, whose Independent Democratic Serb Party is a part of the governing coalition headed by the centre-right Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, also suggested that “the phenomenon has moved from the margins into the public space”.

The US State Department on Friday issued its 2016 human rights report for Croatia, in which it highlighted “social discrimination and instances of violence directed against members of ethnic minorities, including ethnic Serbs and Roma” as some of the most important problems in the country.

It cited a report by the Council of Europe’s Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities from June, which said that “a surge in nationalism and political radicalisation is having a negative impact on the enjoyment of minority rights, in particular in those areas that were heavily affected by conflict” - a reference to the 1990s war for independence in which Croatian forces fought the Yugoslav People’s Army and rebel Croatian Serbs.

The State Department’s report noted that there were anti-Serb and Ustasa WWII fascist chants during a concert by the Croatian right-wing music star Marko Perkovic Thompson in the southern town of Knin in August, during the celebration of the 21st anniversary of the victorious Croatian military operation ‘Storm’.

The US Embassy last week also criticised the pro-Nazi and pro-Ustasa views expressed during a march by right-wingers in Zagreb in support of President Donald Trump.

“We condemn any attempt to link the United States with this odious ideology. Such a suggestion is an insult to the memory of the 186,000 US soldiers killed in Europe in the fight against Nazi Germany and several million innocent victims killed during World War II,” the embassy said.

In its 2016 country report, issued in February, Amnesty International blamed the former centre-right government led by Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic for what it alleged was a surge of hate speech against Serbs.

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