The Youth Initiative for Human Rights strongly condemns a new proposal of the Ministry of Public Administration for amending the Law on Decorations and Awards of the Republic of Croatia, envisaging the establishment of a new high state decoration named after Franjo Tuđman (Grand Order of the President of the Republic Franjo Tuđman with Sash and Morning Star).

It is inacceptable that in any state which respects human rights, nurture the rule of law and is based on European values, a state decoration carries the name of a member of the joint criminal enterprise.

Let us remind you that in the judgment of Prlić and others (IT-04-74), rendered in 2017, the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) established a joint criminal enterprise aimed at ethnic cleansing of the parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Besides convicted Prlić, Praljak, Stojić, Petković, Pušić and Ćorić, other members of the joint criminal enterprise were also the then President of Croatia Franjo Tuđman, Defence Minister Gojko Šušak, former Chief of the General Staff of the Croatian Army Janko Bobetko and former president of Herzeg-Bosnia Mate Boban.

In this judgment, the ICTY established that numerous crimes against Muslim population of BiH were committed, including murders, torture and persecution of civilians and prisoners of war, as well as unlawful destruction of property; responsible for these crimes are political and military leaderships of Herzeg Bosnia and Croatia of that time, led by Franjo Tuđman.

Franjo Tuđman is responsible for Croatia’s criminal politics towards Bosnia and Herzegovina during 1990s; moreover, he established a non-democratic system of political decision-making. During his ruling, officers of Croatian institutions committed grave violations of human rights and such a regime often worked against their own citizens, its own laws and the Constitution. In addition to devastated economy, it left us with deviant value system based on strong nationalism, patriarchy and values which are in contrast to human rights.

For all these reasons, none of the decorations should be named after Franjo Tuđman. He represents the values which we should not pass to current and future generations, because such values are opposite to the building of a good society, the society that is inclusive, understanding, respectful and that creates together for the good of all and not of some.

On the other hand, the Ministry of Public Administration completely disregards the shortcomings of the current Law on Decorations and Awards (hereinafter the Law) and fails to propose solutions for the current awarding process.

For example, the Ministry does not find it necessary to oblige President to take away decoration from anyone “who acts contrary to the legal system or moral values of Croatia”, although we regularly see in practice that current President does not see conviction for the gravest war crimes as a sufficient reason to decide to take away decorations awarded for heroism and courage in war, contribution to international recognition of the state and similar achievements of individuals.

At the same time, the Ministry of Public Administration has not observed that the procedure for taking away decorations is not available at the official website of the Office of the President. Hence it is practically impossible to fulfil formal requirements for submitting a request for taking away the decoration or award.

Finally, the Ministry of Public Administration, other relevant ministries, as well as the Prime Minister and Government as a whole, and particularly the President, should be interested in what the Office of the President is doing, specifically the Commission for Decorations and Awards (hereinafter: the Commission). Namely, whether the Commission acts in accordance with the Regulation on Decorations and Awards (hereinafter the Regulation) which further specifies the procedure and reasons for taking away decorations, and whether the Commission proposes to the President to take away the decorations or awards from those who are finally convicted to unsuspended imprisonment of not less than three years, as specified by the Regulation. Further, whether the Office of the President asks from the Justice Ministry at least once a year data on persons finally convicted to unsuspended imprisonment of not less than three years, as requested by the Regulation.

At the moment, the following convicted war criminals hold the highest decorations of the Republic of Croatia: Dario Kordić, Tomislav Merčep, Jadranko Prlić, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petković, Bruno Stojić and Valentin Ćorić. YIHR sent a request to the Office of the President for taking away these decorations, but the Office, or more specifically the Commission for Military Decorations and Awards, rejected it without justification.

Not taking away decorations from convicted war criminals is an obvious example that the victims of the cruellest crimes of the 1990s are irrelevant for the President, while criminals are the pride of the state. If a society with such attitude about the period of the 1990s is to be built, the introduction of the decoration of Grand Order of the President of the Republic Franjo Tuđman with Sash and Morning Star for “Croatian citizens, as an expression of the highest recognition of the Republic of Croatia for promoting Croatian state and national interests at home and abroad, especially for promoting civic unity and national unity, statehood and spiritual values of Croatian people”, this will contribute to hypocrisy that will be passed as legacy on younger generations.