news 03 Aug 12

Serb Families Seek Truth About Missing in Croatia

A Serbian association of the families of missing has appealed to the Croatian government to speed up the process of exhumation and identification of those gone missing during Croatia's 1995 military operations.

Tanjug
Belgrade

"Croatia stands at the threshhold of the EU, a community of democratic nations and societies. Now is the time for it to show its democratic spirit by completing these humane tasks," Cedomir Maric, head of the association, told a news conference on Thursday.

Operation Flash

It began on May 1, 1995, in Western Slavonia, signalling Croatia’s readiness to regain control of the whole of its territory after four years of war. It took Croat forces two days to retake control.

Since 1991 local Serb rebels, supported and aided by Belgrade and the then Yugoslav Army, had held almost 25 % of Croatian territory where they were a pre-war majority.

Croatia’s Helsinki Committee for Human Rights says 83 Serb civilians were killed during the Operation, 30 of whom were refugees fleeing the violence.

Serb estimates say 280 people were either killed or are missing.

Maric stressed that even 17 years after the operations 'Flesh' and 'Storm', the fate of 1,950 Serbs from Krajina, the breakaway Serb region in Croatia in the early 1990s, is still unknown.

The remains of 1,018 people have been exhumed, with 350 of them still located at an institute in Zagreb, awaiting identification.

The families of the missing are not happy with the pace of the process related to finding out what happened to the missing and point out that there is still a large number of registered burial sites where exhumation has not started.

Veljko Odalovic, Head of the Serbian government committee for missing persons, said the committee had started an initiative to organise a meeting between the presidents of the countries in the region, where a joint declaration would define the obligations by the authorities aimed at uncovering the truth about the missing persons.

Serbia cannot decide when and where exhumation will be carried out inside another country, but it does participate in coordinating that business based on a protocol signed with Croatia.

Operation Storm (Oluja)

It began on August 4, 1995, in Croatia and part of Bosnia and Herzegovina as the armies from both countries sought to takeover territories that had been under Serb control since 1991.

About 200,000 people were also believed to have been forced from their homes.

In Croatia, 5 August is celebrated as a national holiday.

Odalovic added that the families of the missing, besides the fact that they should know what happened to their loved ones, have the right to know who committed the crimes against their familiy members.

"Our imerative demand is that all the perpetrators of war crimes be discovered and punished, regardless of whether they are in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina or Serbia. It is the only way to reach the full truth about what happened," Odalovic stated.

Representatives of the association said that according to their records, more than 1,000 missing were buried in unregistered graves and demanded that the truth about their fate be discovered.

"Croatia stands at the threshold of the EU, a community of democratic nations and societies. Now is the time for it to show its democratic spirit by completing these humanitarian tasks," Cedomir Maric, head of the Association of the Families of Missing and Killed 'Tear', told a news conference on Thursday.

Operation Flash

It began on May 1, 1995, in Western Slavonia, signalling Croatia’s readiness to regain control of the whole of its territory after four years of war. It took Croat forces two days to retake control.

Since 1991 local Serb rebels, supported and aided by Belgrade and the then Yugoslav Army, had held almost 25 % of Croatian territory where they were a pre-war majority.

Croatia’s Helsinki Committee for Human Rights says 83 Serb civilians were killed during the Operation, 30 of whom were refugees fleeing the violence.

Serb estimates say 280 people were either killed or are still missing.

Maric stressed that even 17 years after the operations 'Flesh' and 'Storm', the fate of 1,950 Serbs from Krajina, the breakaway Serb region in Croatia in the early 1990s, was still unknown.

The remains of 1,018 people have been exhumed, while 350 of them are still awaiting identification at an institute in Zagreb.

The families of the missing are not happy with the pace of the process of finding out what happened to their loved ones and point out that there is still a large number of registered burial sites where exhumations have not started.

Veljko Odalovic, Head of the Serbian government committee for missing persons, said the committee had started an initiative to organise a meeting between the presidents of the countries in the region, where a joint declaration would define the obligations by the authorities aimed at uncovering the truth about the missing persons.

Serbia cannot decide when and where exhumation will be carried out inside another country, but it does participate in coordinating that business based on a protocol signed with Croatia, said Odalovic.

Operation Storm (Oluja)

It began on August 4, 1995, in Croatia and part of Bosnia and Herzegovina as the armies from both countries sought to takeover territories that had been under Serb control since 1991.

About 200,000 people were also believed to have been forced from their homes.

In Croatia, 5 August is celebrated as a national holiday.

He added that the families of the missing have the right to know who committed the crimes against their family members.

"Our main demand is that all the perpetrators of war crimes be discovered and punished, regardless whether they are in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina or Serbia. It is the only way to reach the full truth about what happened," Odalovic stated.

Representatives of the association said that according to their records, more than 1,000 missing were buried in unmarked graves and demanded that the truth about their fate be discovered.

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