Croatians Protest ‘Silence’ Over War Crimes Prosecutions in Vukovar

Thousands of war veterans and citizens came from across Croatia to take part on Saturday in a protest in the eastern town of Vukovar, which was flattened by Yugoslav forces and Serb paramilitaries in 1991, to demand more prosecutions for war crimes committed during what Croatia calls its ‘Homeland War’ for independence.

Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava, who initiated the protest after accusing the Croatian judiciary of not doing enough to apprehend those who committed war crimes in Vukovar, addressed the crowd, stating: “I invite you all, including those who have not been with us today, to join us on this path towards a more righteous Croatia!”

“Enough!”, “Treachery!” the crowds chanted.

Prior to the rally, Penava said his motive for the protest was the “shameful silence of Croatian institutions regarding the prosecution of war crimes committed in Croatia”, more than 27 years after the end of the 1991-95 war.

The mayor’s initial announcement in September for the protest caused a stir among Croatia’s politicians.

Penava denied that the event is meant to be a protest against Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, but it’s widely seen among the public and media as the next round in an ongoing power struggle within the dominant Croatian Democratic Alliance, HDZ, party, which Penava is also a member of.

The rally is also perceived as a protest against the HDZ-led government; some veterans’ organisations and the powerful conservative NGO “In the name of family” have supported the event – which many see as a fresh opportunity for the hard-liners to weaken or even topple Plenkovic.

Vukovar, the eastern Croatian town devastated by war, still faces some consequences from the events of 1991.

Besieged from late August, 1991, by Yugoslav People’s Army and Serb paramilitaries, the defenders of Vukovar surrendered on November 18, after which all the non-Serb population was expelled from the town, and a number of prisoners of war and civilians were deported to prisons and detention camps in Serbia.

After a being under the control of rebel Croatian Serbs for four years, Vukovar was peacefully reintegrated into Croatia under the Erdut peace agreement in 1996 and 1997.

 Members of Croatian war veterans’ associations at a protest in Vukovar. Photo: Beta
 “I want to be the last girl in the world with a story like mine,”  a banner read at the protest. Photo: Beta


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