location: Karlovac is a city in central Croatia, 56 km south-west of Zagreb. Once an important industrial centre, because of its location, it is still an important traffic hub of road and railway lines from Zagreb towards Rijeka and Split. According to the 2011 census, Karlovac had 55,705 inhabitants, of whom 8 percent are Serbs. According to the 1991 census, Karlovac had 81,319 inhabitants of which 26.72 percent were Serbs. Although Karlovac no longer covers the same territory it did in 1991, and a simple comparison of data is impossible, a big change in the ethnic make-up of the population is clear and it shows a big decline in the number of Serbs in this area. Korana bridge is close to the very centre of Karlovac and in a way, it represents an entrance to the city from the southern side. During the armed conflict, the bridge had an important strategic role in the defence of Karlovac.
time: 21 September 1991
description of crime: On 21 September 1991, Ministry of Interior (MUP) and the National Guard of the Republic of Croatia (ZNG) in Karlovac, immediately before the bridge across the river Korana stopped two military trucks carrying JNA troops and reservists. The trucks were transporting soldiers from the Mekušje barracks to the Logorište barracks, situated in Karlovac. After negotiations and Croatian forces’ promise that nothing would happen to them, JNA members laid down their arms and surrendered. Immediately after the surrender, a group of prisoners, mainly active JNA members, was taken to the police premises in Karlovac, while another group of 17 soldiers, mainly reservists from the village of Krnjak, were led on foot across Korana bridge. When they stepped on the Korana bridge, three persons in uniforms, wearing balaclava masks, killed thirteen of them with bullets from automatic weapons. Out of four who had survived, three saved themselves by jumping from the bridge into the Korana river.
judicial outcome: For the crime against prisoners of war at the Korana bridge, Mihajlo Hrastov, former member of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Croatia, was indicted. The procedure against Hrastov is one of the longest in the history of the Croatian judiciary. The County Court in Karlovac acquitted him three times, claiming that an attack of the disarmed enemy soldiers against Hrastov’s fellow fighters preceded the shooting, because of which they had lost the status of prisoners of war. The Supreme Court quashed all three acquittals, and after the third one was annulled, the case was not returned to the same court. Instead, the Supreme Court itself conducted the second and third instance proceedings and declared Hrastov guilty, sentencing him to seven years in prison. But since the Supreme Court did not make its ruling public, the Constitutional Court dismissed the verdict and in 2010, Hrastov was set free. Although the three survivors mentioned that three persons, and not only Hrastov, had fired at them, the State Attorney’s Office has not shown any interest so far to expand the indictment, nor has it tried to prove who ordered the crime. The Supreme Court in 2015 finally confirmed the second instance ruling, according to which Hrastov was sentenced to four years in prison, which included the time already spent in prison and the sentence served from 6 March 1992 to 2 September 1992 and from 5 May 2009 to 22 December 2010. Mihajlo Hrastov’s trial lasted a total of 23 years.