location: The town of Bjelovar is located in central Croatia, on the southern slopes of mountain Bilogora. It was founded in mid 18th century as a military center, and over time developed into an administrative center of this part of Croatia. During the breakup of Yugoslavia, Bjelovar was the regional center for a group of municipalities with key institution, including judiciary, police and military, for a large area from Koprivnica to Pakrac and from Virovitica to Križevci. Today the town has little over forty thousand inhabitants and is the center of Bjelovar – Bilogora County. According to the 1991 census, there were 5 898 Serbs in the former Municipality of Bjelovar, which amounted to 8.9% of the total population, while the town Bjelovar itself had 2590 Serbs or 9.6% of the population. According to the last census from 2011, the town of Bjelovar, which is a territorial unit smaller than the former municipality and larger than the town itself, there are 1877 Serbs, which make up for 4.66 percent of the population. Despite changes in territorial organization, a significant difference can be observed in the national structure of the population, that is a decrease in the number of Serbs.
time: 1991 – 1995
description of the crime: Bjelovar was the location of one of the more severe conflicts aimed at establishing control over army barracks of the Yugoslav National Army. However, there was no fighting in the town itself and its nearest surroundings from October 1991, since all troops left the town for the Pakrac front. Even before the battle for the barracks, since late summer 1991, many citizens of Bjelovar and the surrounding villages received threats asking them to move to Serbia, and offering “house swaps”. Threats were soon carried out by planting explosives under houses, facilities, and agricultural machinery. Since mid 1991 until the end of 1995 several hundred buildings were damaged in some six hundred explosions and drive-by shootings and at least one person died. The property owned by certain citizens was blown up on multiple occasions in the course of several years. Apart from local Serbs, victims of these explosions were also some Croats who asked military and police institutions for these activities to stop.
It was half past 1:00 am and we were all sleeping: my wife, her parents, and our 19 years old daughter. When it exploded, the windows broke, there was glass everywhere. Luckily, no one ran out to see what was happening because shooting started right after the explosion. I later counted 150 hits. At least three men were shooting, I could see them as they loaded their guns. Some ten minutes later something exploded in the garage, under the new Mercedes.
Jovica Brkić, citizen of Bjelovar who had his house planted with explosives
Fifteen days after they blew up my weekend house, I was sleeping with my 7 year old and my 14 year old daughter in the attic, which saved our lives because the explosion that woke us up around 3:30 am destroyed the entire ground floor. It was raining heavily, I ran out of the house and saw a police land rower pass by. Some time later several police officers came to question me. One of the most important questions they had was my nationality. I’m Chinese, that’s what I am! It was truly humiliating.
Duško Zorić, citizen of Bjelovar who had his house planted with explosives
legal action: Given the fact that the aggrieved parties were mainly citizens who decided to remain in Croatia despite the ethic conflict in progress at the time, they believed they could seek damages from the Republic of Croatia in court. However, in an attempt to avoid paying damages to Croatian citizens of Serbian nationality, amendments to the Civil Obligations Act were adopted in 1996 which exempted the state from liability for the damages which incurred before the adoption of a new law. This issue remained unregulated until a new Damage from Terrorist Acts and Public Demonstrations Act was passed in 2003, under international pressure. Despite this new piece of legislation, citizens lost the right to damages due to “unusual” rulings. Furthermore, three individuals received a suspended sentence for one case of planting explosives, but investigative bodies did not think they could be linked to the remaining 600 explosion in the Bjelovar area.