Zagreb, 28 September 2020 (Hina/MIA) — Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on Monday attended a commemoration for nine Serb civilians killed in Varivode in the aftermath of the 1995 Operation Storm, expressing sympathy for those whose lives Croatia had failed to protect and describing the crime as an insult to modern Croatia and human dignity.
Plenkovic said that the act was a betrayal of those ideals most Croatian war veterans had been fighting for, including Serbs who had honorably fought for a free, democratic and tolerant Croatia in which all its citizens would be equal, regardless of their ethnic origin, religious or political beliefs.
The crime committed here is contrary to the proclamation of the then president (Franjo) Tudjman who on Aug. 4 called on Serb citizens in the occupied territories to stay home and without fear for their lives and property wait for the Croatian government as they would be given all civil rights, he said.
“The perpetrators of this crime also caused harm to Croatia, and because of those who did not have the courage to surrender, Croatian generals for years had to defend the honor of the Croatian military and state in detention in The Hague,” Plenkovic said.
He said that the crime in Varivode was just one of a number of such crimes.
“There is no justification for them and we are truly sorry,” Plenkovic said, adding that every such act is painful for all families of victims and an ugly scar on the just face and defensive character of the Homeland War.
A legitimate right to defense is not and cannot be a justification for wrongdoing, he said.
He also said that the crimes were acts of individuals who had often out of sheer selfishness raided areas where no civil government had yet been established. That, he said, was never the policy of the Croatian state, the military leadership, especially not President Franjo Tudjman, but an autonomous act of individuals.
PM Plenkovic also underscored that Croatia had been defending itself from aggression and not from innocent civilians.
For Serbs in Croatia, he said, that also means mustering the courage to acknowledge that Croatia was under attack from Milosevic’s regime and the former Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA). There is no justification, Plenkovic stressed, for an armed rebellion against a lawfully elected government and the democratic will of the Croatian people for an independent state.
“We all must have the strength to take our share of responsibility, to see all the violence and weight of the events that then took place and to turn to the future,” Plenkovic said.
Pupovac: Warmongering words should be replaced with words of creation, remembrance
Serb National Council (SNV) president and Serb minority MP Milorad Pupovac said that they saw Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milosevic’s visit to Knin, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Operation Storm, President Zoran Milanovic’s and War Veterans Minister Tomo Medved’s visit to Plavno and Grubori, and today’s visit by Prime Minister Plenkovic to Varivode as a nationally responsible and politically courageous act, necessary so that everyone could remember their dead in peace and mutual respect, either on their own or together.
“In this place, as well as in all the other similar places it is necessary to point to the need for cooperation in the exchange of a feeling of justice by legal or political means, legal or political decisions, legal or political judgments. Wars start with the unearthing of graves and end with their closing, they begin with harsh words that incite animosity and hate, and they end when those words quiet down,” Pupovac said in his address at the event.
He expressed hope that “after 25 years, words of creation and remembrance will replace the words that stoked the war. If we look around, we will see the consequences of destruction in many places in our country. We all feel that we need stronger, louder, more meaningful words and messages of creation that will be to the benefit of all of us living in Croatia.”
Killed in Varivode in the aftermath of the 1995 combined Croatian army and police operation were 59-year-old Dusan Dukic, 55-year-old Spiro Beric, 75-year-old Jovo Beric, 56-year-old Jovan Beric, 69-year-old Radivoj Beric, 69-year-old Marija Beric, 67-year-old Milka Beric, 82-year-old Marko Beric and 84-year-old Mirko Pokrajac.
Six members of Croatian police forces were suspected of killing 16 Serb civilians in Gosic and Varivode, but after a trial before the Zadar County Court and a retrial at the Sibenik County Court, they were acquitted. The investigation in the case thus had to start anew, this time against unknown perpetrators, members of the Croatian Army.
Some members of the victims’ families were paid damages after they sued the state.
The commemoration for the Varivode victims was organized by the SNV and Kistanje municipality. Attending the event, among others, were SNV members, members of the local Serb Ethnic Minority Council, a delegation of the parliament and government, a delegation representing the Serbian prime minister, and members of human rights organizations.
After Varivode, a commemoration was also held in Gosic for seven senior Serb civilians killed there on Aug. 27, 1995.