250,000 Serbs were expelled during Croatia’s military-police operation Storm

The international community keeps silent about the Serbs becoming smaller in number, more disenfranchised and attacked in Croatia as it did 24 years ago, when more than 250,000 Serbs were expelled during Croatia’s military-police operation Storm, while more than 1,800 are reported killed or missing, according to the Veritas Documentation and Information Centre.

The Veritas recalls that on August 4, 1995, the armed forces and police of Croatia, with the approval and support of NATO, and in cooperation with the forces of the Croatian Defence Council and the so-called Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina, carried out aggression against north Dalmatia, Lika, Kordun and Banija, the then Republika Srpska Krajina.

The aggression was carried out despite the fact that the area, “South” and “North” sectors, was under UN protection, as well as the fact that the representatives of the Republika Srpska Krajina had accepted the international community’s proposal for peaceful settlement of the conflict the day before in Geneva and Belgrade.

A sevenfold stronger aggressor was against the Serbs, which after a few days of unfair battle quelled the resistance of the Republika Srpska Krajina Army. Then, the Serbs from the western Krajina, based on their experience in history, started the largest migration to the east, to their brothers in faith and nation, reminded Veritas.

The statement reads that even after the cessation of any resistance by the Srpska Krajina Army, the aggressor kept killing the people who did not want or could not leave their centuries-old homes, as well as those in refugee convoys, to the Una and across the Una river, deep within the territory of the then Republika Srpska.

The Veritas records include the names of 1,869 Serbs either killed or went missing during and after this operation, 1,220 /65 percent/ of whom were civilians, including 551 women.

The destiny of 1,124 persons, out of the total number of victims, has been known so far, while 745 person are still missing, 565 civilians, including 289 women.

Veritas points out that, in addition to delaying the identification of 357 exhumed mortal remains, Croatia also avoids exhumations at known burial sites, where approximately 138 remains lay, mostly buried as “unknown”, which is a unique case across the former Yugoslavia.

Some 1,500 members of the Republika Srpska Krajina Army survived the capture, many of whom were sentenced to years in prison for alleged war crimes.

About 3,200 elderly and infirm people, who did not want or could not leave their homes, were forcibly sent to the detention camps for civilians, reads the statement.

Krajina was devastated, looted, then torn down and set on fire. Ecclesiastical, cultural, historical Serb, as well as anti-fascist, monuments were not spared.

The UN Security Council at the time, apart from “a strong condemnation of the large-scale Croatia’s military offensive,” did not issue any punitive measures against the aggressor.

Veritas points out that Storm is the only crime qualifying Serb from Croata as victims that was tried before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Veritas points out that the trial panel initially unanimously found that two of the three indicted Croat generals did participated in a joint criminal enterprise aimed at permanently removing Serb civilians from Krajina by force or threatening with force, and sentenced Ante Gotovina to 24, and Mladen Markač to 18 years in prison; but afterwards the Appeals Chamber, by a narrow majority, three to two, overturned that verdict and acquitted them on all counts.

So far, only one person has been convicted by the Croatia’s court of Storm, the ethnic Albanian, for the Prukljan and Mandići cases and one Serb for the Kijani case.

The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina also convicted one member of the 5th Corps of the so-called Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina for war crimes against four members of the Srpska Krajina Army, who, with his consent, were killed by a mujahideen from the same unit upon capture on Suva Međa in the territory of Croatia.

Directly related to this operation is the procedure before the Federal Court in Chicago following a lawsuit filed by Serbs of Krajina against the military consulting firm MPRI /claiming that MPRI developed a plan, trained and prepared Croatian forces for Operation Storm/, i.e. or its legal successors, which ended in a settlement in the autumn of 2016 after long negotiations.

Litigation against Croatia over Operation Storm is also pending before the European Court of Human Rights in form of lawsuits filed by damaged Serbs, who have lost cases before Croatian courts or believe that Croatian authorities failed to conduct an efficient investigation into the deaths of their cousins – civilians killed during or after the operation.

The International Court of Justice qualified Operation Storm as ethnic cleansing in the reasoning of its verdict from February 2015.

The reasoning of the verdict reads that the Croats wanted the Serb territory without Serbs, expecting them to leave on their own will, not to “destroy them entirely or partially, so in order to force them to flee their centuries-old homes, they were shelling their cities and refugee convoys, killing, physically and mentally abusing the remaining civilians and soldiers, preventing their return.”

All of this, however, according to the court, did not reach the level of genocide.

Instead of giving up the celebration of “ethnic cleansing and mass crimes” as a double national holiday / “Victory Day and Homeland Thanksgiving Day” and “Croatian Veterans Day”/ without the order of the International Court of Justice, the celebration in Croatia turns year by year into the glorification of the Ustasha regime and the outburst of hatred towards the Serbs, Veritas points out.

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