location: Prisoners of war were placed in Konačište, which was the official name for the collection centre located in Kerestinec castle in the village of Sveta Nedelja near Samobor. Since the time of its construction, Kerestinec castle served as a centerf or peasants’ revolts, including the 1936 Kerestinec revolt which ended in much bloodshed. The most horrible part of its history was written during WW2. By 1941 Kerestinec was turned into a predecessor of future concentration camps. Later on, it became the JNA (Yugoslav People’s Army) rocket base, and in 1992 when the military prison in Zagreb’s Gajeva Street became overcrowded, the Croatian Army moved into the Kerestinec barracks.

time: December 1991 — May 1992

description of the crime: When Croatian officials turned a deaf ear to the first Red Cross reports about inappropriate treatment of inmates in the army barracks near Samobor, the collection centre Konačište was open in the beginning of January 1992. Prisoners of war, who were earlier tortured in the Gajeva street prison, today the seat of the State Attorney, were moved here. Mistreatment, torture, injuries, maiming and possible killing of inmates were a constant at Kerestinec, which was under the command of Croatian army captain Stjepan Klarić until April 1992. Kerestinec was under the jurisdiction of the City of Zagreb, i.e. the Zagreb Operative Zone. The prisoners were mostly people who had not participated in military operations of any kind, but who were arrested in Croatian cities, especially in Sisak, on suspicion that they aided and abetted the “enemy army”. Women of Serb nationality, placed in a separate wing of the Kerestinec camp, were exposed to rape. One of the dozen detained women suffered abortion as a consequence of abuse. There were feigned trials in the prison during which prisoners were forced to participate in physical fights against each other.

WUnknown persons in civilian clothes raped me several times in Kerestinec, and the orders came from a person nicknamed the Doctor”, Rajka Majkić from Sisak testified at the trial. Along with her husband, she was arrested in her home, after she arrived from her birth place near Bosanski Novi. At the trial she explained that the “Doctor” was not a real doctor at all, and she described him as a shorter person with glasses wearing a military uniform.

Apart from rape, she was tortured in the so called black room in Kerestinec, in which she was stripped, beaten and tortured with electricity about two dozen times. “I remember that one evening we had to dance in the corridor, women had to strip clothes from the upper body and men from the lower part”, said the witness.

Miloš Crnković recalled a similar event when, on five or six occasions, guards beat him after having forced him to run naked down the corridors in Kerestinec. He claims not to know who had ordered this, but apart from soldiers in uniforms, people in civilian clothes were also involved in the beatings.

“They would line us up in the middle of a big room where we had to take off the bottom part of our clothes and on the opposite side would stand a bare chested woman. Men then had to masturbate, and if someone failed, then in the same evening they were taken to the black room for torture and beatings”, witness said. Prior to torture they put a black sack on their heads so that they would not know who was doing the beating.

One of the witnesses, Dobroslav Gračanin, said at the trial that Josip Perković, Head of the Security Information Service (SIS), participated in the torture. Perković negated the allegations stressing that Kerestinec was not under SIS jurisdiction, but under the military police. Gračanin, a former JNA major of Croatian nationality,who suffered terrible torture in Kerestinec, and was left an invalid, who was later, by the decision of the Court Martial in Zagreb, freed from all responsibility.

“I was hurting from the night before, so the guard told me to sit; I sat on the chair, in a few minutes the door opened and these two men come in, Klarić’s men. The dark one, who looked well in uniform, I later started calling Master. They approached and asked me who told me that I could sit down. I wanted to answer, but he hit me. He took a cassette player from his pocket and hit me again on the chest, while the other hit me from behind. I felt like a ping pong ball. Questions ensued and then the dark one hit me with his leg while turning around, in a Bruce Lee fashion. I briefly lost consciousness. When I regained consciousness, on the floor, I saw him above me. He said: ‘Get up!’ I got up and the questioning began…” Gračanin said in an interview for Novosti.

In March of 1992, and with mediation of the Commission for Exchange of Prisoners, a request from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) arrived at President Franjo Tuđman’s address, asking Tuđman to stop the abuse and humiliation of prisoners of war and other inmates and to immediately shut down Kerestinec.

Some of the detained persons gave statements to the ICRC following the exchange. They stressed abuse of men with daily beatings, raping women, torture with use of special devices such as sailor ladders, wooden and rubber penises, electric batons, forcing persons to perform sexual intercourse and oral sex, both among detainees and involving prison guards, forcing men to masturbate in front of scarcely dressed women, maiming body parts, cutting of fingers of men and nipples off women. In these statements, tortures of prisoners which occurred in the darkened room, painted in black, called the Laboratory, were emphasized. This was a windowless room which was used as a photo lab. In these statements the commander of the Kerestinec camp, major Stjepan Klarić, was particularly singled out as the one inciting and directly participating in beatings, sexual and other ‘games’ with prisoners. For example he forced prisoners to bark like dogs and graze grass. They also mentioned some other employees, guards and supervisors, out of some 30 persons that were part of the Kerestinec staff. In the first half of 1992, there was a constant of between 60 and 100 prisoners in the camp, depending on the intensity of prisoners’ exchanges.

victims (physically and/or sexually abused):

  1. Đorđe Jovičić
  2. Dobroslav Gračanin
  3. Milka Badrić
  4. Milena Adamović
  5. Danica Vuruna
  6. Danica Poznanović
  7. Zorka Hrkić
  8. Pantelija Zec
  9. Slobodan Kukić
  10. Tomislav Božović
  11. Damir Kalik
  12. Branko Zeljak
  13. Milorad Đuričić
  14. Branimir Skočić
  15. Miodrag Nikolić
  16. Petra Došen
  17. Vid Ninić
  18. Slobodan Jasenski
  19. Ljuban Grab
  20. Dušica Nikolić
  21. Borivoj Rogić
  22. Nenad Filipović
  23. Nebojša Kostadinović
  24. Vojkan Živković
  25. Nada Grab
  26. Nada Miličević
  27. Milorad Blagojević
  28. Miloš Crnković
  29. Rajka Majkić
  30. Unidentified person

judicial consequences: In November 2011, the County State Prosecution in Zagreb raised indictments against five Croatian citizens: Stjepan Klarić (commander of the war prisoners’ camp Konačište), Dražen Pavlović, Viktor Ivančin, Željko Živec and Goran Štrukelj (Croatian Army members who supervised work of security guards), on suspicion that they committed war crimes against prisoners of war. They were charged with having abused 26 persons, inflicting upon them great suffering and injuries against both physical integrity and health.

On 31 October 2012, the verdict was published of the County Court Zagreb Council for War Crimes, under which defendants were declared guilty in the first instance and they were convicted to prison terms: first defendant Stjepan Klarić was convicted to three years and six months, second defendant Dražen Pavlović to one year, and third defendant Viktor Ivančin to two the years prison term; while fourth defendant Željko Živec was convicted to one year in prison and fifth defendant Goran Štrukelj to one year in prison. Detention against the first three was abolished and time spent in detention was calculated into the prison terms for all the defendants.

By the decision of the Supreme Court on 16 April 2014, the first instance verdict was abolished and the case was returned to another hearing. Explaining its decision, the Supreme Court made a special remark to the lower court’s statements that the crimes took place during an international conflict, and it stated among other that ‘the lower court had clearly stated why it considered that this was an international conflict, but whether these reasons were valid is another matter.’ Furthermore, in the Supreme Court’s decision that quashed the verdict, it is explained that Croatia on 8 October 1991 broke all state and legal ties with the SFRJ, by which it declared its independence. Another trial began in February 2015.

On March 11, 2016, the prosecution, defence and a lawyer representing the victims made their closing arguments, which concluded the hearings in the repeated trial before a partly changed pannel (judge Petar Šakić had been on the panel at the previous trial) presided by the judge Renata Miličević. According to the indictment, which had been altered in the meantime, the five defendants were charged with two criminal acts: a war crime against civilians and a war crime against prisoners of war. The defence lawyers for the the Kerestinec hostel commander, Stjepan Klarić, and the other defendants, requested acquittal for their clients in the closing argument, claiming that their guilt had not been established, while the prosecution requested that they be found guilty as charged in the altered indictment. The original verdict for the war crime in Kerestinec was passed on March 24, 2014.  Stjepan Klarić was sentenced to eight years in prison (subject to appeal), Ivančan to five years, Pavlović to three, Štrukelj to two and Šivec to a year and a half in prison.