On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of civilians’ suffering on the territory of Western Slavonia and in Zagreb, the Youth Initiative for Human Rights Croatia and Youth Initiative for Human Rights Serbia are commemorating civilian victims of war killed during that time aiming to contribute to the process of reconciliation in our society and to the change of a dominant narrative currently centred around military feats, while victims are completely neglected.

Operation Flash

On the first day of the Operation Flash, carried out by the Croatian Army, civilians, including women and children, were killed in the village of Medari near Nova Gradiška. Out of the 22 victims, there were eleven women, two were girls, 7 and 8 years old and one was an eleven-year old boy. Also, after the Flashmembers of the Serbian Army of Krajina were tortured after having surrendered weapons to the UN Peacekeeping Troops. For this reason, in 2012 the Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Croatia filed a criminal complaint against the perpetrators of this war crime against prisoners of war. According to VeritasCroatian forces killed 283 Serbian civilians on 1 and 2 May 1995, but none of the crimes committed during and after the Flash have been prosecuted to date.

The Shelling of Zagreb

Forces of the Republic of Srpska Krajina responded by shelling Zagreb and surrounding towns. In two days, seven civilians lost their lives in Zagreb, while 214 were injured in the attack on Zagreb’s main square and broader downtown area.

Milan Martić was prosecuted for the shelling of Zagreb before the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). In October 2018, he was sentenced to 35 years’ imprisonment for the crimes against humanity and violation of laws and customs of war.

When the state officials of Serbia and Croatia speak about these events, they are often focused exclusively on military victories, while the consequences the citizens, civilians, have been suffering, are completely left out.

Although we welcome the decision of the President of Croatia Zoran Milanović to leave the celebration of the Flash operation because of the presence of a person wearing a T-shirt with Croatian Ustashe salute “Za dom spremni” (For Home – Ready), we still protest because both him and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković once again failed to show respect for civilian victims, thus keeping the continuity of denial of crimes committed by the Croatian army.

Recommendations for Both Countries

Victims’ identities must not be reduced to their nationality only. Their basic human rights are not upheld by institutions of both Croatia and Serbia and for this reason we demand that the authorities do the following:

  • Having in mind that massive human rights violations were committed in the past, we demand that the representatives of the highest authorities of Croatia and Serbia, publicly and in the presence of victims, apologise for what the members of armed forces under the command of their predecessors did, in accordance with the 2005 UN General Assembly Resolution no. 60/147;
  • Pay material reparations to the victims in accordance with the mentioned 2005 UNGA Resolution and applicable national laws;
  • Have the number of indictments for war crimes increased having in mind that many of the perpetrators have remained unpunished;
  • Pass the laws on civilian victims of war, which would enable and facilitate the realisation of rights guaranteed by constitutions and international documents applicable in Croatia and Serbia;
  • To help/contribute to the establishment of the Regional Commission Tasked with Establishing the Facts about Victims of War Crimes and Other Serious Human Rights Violations Committed on the Territory of the Former SFRY from 1 January 1991 to 31 December 2001 (REKOM);
  • To declare 2nd May a Memorial Day for all civilian victims of war and enable its commemoration at an appropriate location.