The coordinator of the regional post-war reconciliation network REKOM and long-time director of the Humanitarian Law Centre, Natasa Kandic, said on Friday there was irrefutable evidence that the Croatian army had carried out a missile attack on a refugee convoy in Bosnia and Herzegovina in August 1995.
“It is worrying that Croatia’s president and prime minister consider protection of Croatian Army (HV) members from criminal liability a national priority in spite of irrefutable evidence that the HV attacked a refugee convoy on 7 and 8 August 1995, killing at least six children,” Kandic said in a Twitter post.
She noted that “the prosecutorial authorities of Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina need to cooperate and resolve every war crime.”
The Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office has issued an indictment against four Croatian Air Force officers for committing war crimes against Serb civilians during the 1995 Operation Storm by ordering a missile attack on a refugee convoy outside Bosanski Petrovac and in Svodna, near Novi Grad, northwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The indictment has prompted sharp reactions from senior Croatian officials, with President Zoran Milanovic mentioning the possibility of issuing an indictment against incumbent Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic for making a war-mongering speech in Glina, Croatia, in 1995.
Croatian War Veterans Minister Tomo Medved said that Croatian authorities had not received the Serbian indictment and that if they received it, they would reject it.
Serbian President Vucic called the reactions from Croatia “political folklore”, noting that “it is very important to show that there is no impunity for war crimes.”
Commenting on the disputes between Belgrade and Zagreb, Kandic pointed to an inadequate rule of law in the former Yugoslav countries, noting that the Croatian judiciary should have documented the attack on the refugee convoy.
“Had the rule of law been established in the post-Yugoslav countries, victims and not officers would be protected, regardless of their ethnic background. The Croatian prosecutors should have established long ago who had ordered the missile attack on the refugee convoy and should have punished the perpetrators,” Kandic said in her Twitter post.
The prosecutorial authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which cite territorial jurisdiction, “had the obligation to carry out an investigation and launch criminal proceedings against members of the Croatian Army responsible for the missile attack on the refugee convoy in Bosanski Petrovac and Bosanski Novi and for the killing of civilians fleeing the Croatian Army,” she said.
“Post-conflict societies do not have institutions that can apply the principle of universal jurisdiction in an unbiased way. Instead of holding in absentia trials, the prosecutorial authorities of Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina should cooperate and resolve each war crime, as was the case during the term of (former Croatian president) Ivo Josipovic,” Kandic said.
The Humanitarian Law Centre (FHP), which Kandic founded and led for many years, documented between 1992 and 1995 hundreds of different crimes committed in the early 1990s conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, as well as war crimes in Kosovo in the late 1990s.
It collected a huge number of case files related to conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and has documents on mass human rights violations as well as more than 90% of documents from the publicly accessible database of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
The FHP archive is part of the Section on Archives and Human Rights of the International Council on Archives.