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Croatia: Decades after Balkan wars, UN expert urges new push for justice

Children play "shelter" in the ruins of the Croatian city of Pakrac. (1993)
©UNICEF/Marc de Haan
Children play "shelter" in the ruins of the Croatian city of Pakrac. (1993)

Croatia: Decades after Balkan wars, UN expert urges new push for justice

Human Rights

Following armed conflict from1991 to 1994 in Croatia and the rest of former Yugoslavia, that triggered increased radicalization and hate speech, an independent UN human rights expert urged the authorities on Thursday to redouble efforts towards full justice for victims and survivors.

“It is important that the Government gives an unequivocal sign to society and the international community, of its commitment towards a comprehensive and holistic transitional justice process aimed at addressing past abuses, preventing their recurrence and establishing the foundations of a peaceful and respectful society for all”, Fabián Salvioli, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, said in a statement at the end of a six-day official visit to the country.

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Respond to radicalization

While praising the “progress made after the conflict, and particularly during Croatia’s accession process to the European Union”, in prosecuting war criminals, searching for missing persons, and institutional reforms aimed at ensuring the rule of law, democracy and the promotion and protection of human rights, the UN expert observed however, that “progress appears to have stalled in the last seven years”.

The Special Rapporteur flagged rising concerns over “the prospects of effective social reconciliation, particularly as a result of mounting instances of hate speech, glorification of war crimes, and the relativization of the decisions of the ICTY and national tribunals”.

While noting legislative measures adopted by the Government to curb the extremely worrying trend, Mr. Salvioli also pointed out that implementation was insufficient.

“I urge the relevant police, judicial, legislative and executive authorities to adopt all necessary measures to adequately respond to the raise in radicalization and hatred expressed in certain sectors of society, to ensure that the steps taken so far towards reconciliation are not irremediably reverted”, he said.

Acknowledging the past

In Croatia, the UN expert met senior government officials, civil society and human rights representatives and survivors, and visited mass grave sites, exhumation locations, memorials of the 1990s conflict and sites of World War Two concentration camps.

He recalled that “for a process of transition and reconciliation to be effective” it is vital to acknowledge the suffering and dignity of all victims, as well as “the transmission of their stories to current and future generations, not only through school curricula and textbooks, but also through cultural activities and through the media”.

“The legacy of past violations in all its complexities must be adequately and comprehensively addressed to assist in the process of social reconciliation, placing the victims at the centre of this process”, spelled out the Special Rapporteur.

Reporting on country situation

The independent expert will submit a full report on the visit to the Human Rights Council next year.

Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and they are not paid for their work.