News 11 Dec 17

War Criminal Praljak’s Death Commemorated in Croatia

Several thousand people, including two Croatian ministers, MPs, generals and convicted war criminals, attended a ceremony commemorating Bosnian Croat general Slobodan Praljak, who killed himself at the Hague Tribunal.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
...

 

Several thousand people including two ministers gathered on Monday at Zagreb’s biggest concert hall to commemorate 1990s Bosnian Croat general Slobodan Praljak, who took his own life at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia last month.

Praljak committed suicide by swallowing poison immediately after he was found guilty by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia of committing wartime crimes in Bosnia in 1993-94.

Some of the speakers at the commemoration at the Vatroslav Lisinski concert hall, which was attended by Defence Minister Damir Krsticevic and War Veterans’ Minister Tomo Medved, repeated Praljak’s last words before drinking the poison: “Slobodan Praljak is not a war criminal. With indignation, I reject your verdict.”

The commemoration was attended by a few right-wing and a number of once-influential politicians from the 1990s – mostly from the then governing Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ – as well as numerous generals and other officers from the 1990s war.

Two convicted war criminals also attended, Croatian general Mirko Norac – sentenced to 15 years in prison for crimes in Croatia in 1991 and 1993 – and Dario Kordic, a former Bosnian Croat official who was sentenced to 25 years for crimes against Bosniaks in the village of Ahmici in central Bosnia in 1993-94.

The commemoration was organised by the Croatian Generals Assembly, an association of 1990s wartime generals. The event was open to the public and the association claimed it did not directly invite anyone.

The Hague Tribunal sentenced Praljak to 20 years in prison for the crimes that the Bosnian Croat army – the Croatian Defence Council, HVO – committed against Bosniaks.

Former Bosnian Croat official Dario Kordic, also convicted of war crimes, writes a tribute to Praljak.

The commemoration also attracted right-wing celebrities such as singer Marko Perkovic Thompson and TV host Velimir Bujanec.

Miroslav Tudjman, an MP from the governing HDZ and son of Croatia’s 1990s President Franjo Tudjman, gave a eulogy for Praljak, as did HVO general Stanko Sopta, head of the Generals’ Assembly Pavao Miljavac and theatre director and 1990s Culture Minister Zlatko Vitez.

“Consistent with his uncompromising ethical nature, general Praljak rejected the unjust verdict under which he and the other five were convicted of crimes he had not commanded, which they could not prevent and about which they didn’t know,” Miroslav Tudjman said in his speech.

Praljak was convicted alongside five other political and military officials from the unrecognised Croat-led wartime statelet of Herzeg-Bosnia, but Tudjman argued that they were not directly responsible.

“The political and military leadership of Croats of Herzeg-Bosnia were not charged with having committed or ordering crimes personally. None of them denied that crimes were committed by Croats, so this verdict is equally unfair to the victims who were not satisfied because the perpetrators who committed the crimes were not convicted,” he said.

The ceremony also included recitals of William Shakespeare and a choir singing patriotic songs, and ended with the national anthem.

City of Zagreb buses transported people free of charge to the commemoration.

Later in the afternoon, a religious ceremony was also held at a Catholic church in Zagreb.

Several Croatian cities and towns have held commemorations for Praljak’s death over the past days, while the national broadcaster, Croatian Radio-Television, HRT, has broadcast documentaries and feature films that the deceased general made.

However Zagreb-based NGO Youth Initiative for Human Rights organised a commemoration for all victims killed by Croat forces during the 1990s war on Monday afternoon at French Republic Square.

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