Two decades after the end of the war, in Croatia there is still no publically available registry of all citizens who lost their lives in the war. There is various research that differs, but assessments vary that between 18.000 and 23.000 Croatian citizens were killed.

For example, demographer Dražen Živić quotes that out of the total number of Croatian citizens who perished and went missing, 8147 (36,7 percent) were Croatian war veterans, 6605 Croatian civilians and the number of Croatian veterans and civilians is 1218 (5,5 percent), a total of 15.970. Number of killed and missing Serbs, military and civilians, Živić assessed at 6222 (28 percent). Therefore, according to Živić’s research, the war in Croatia took a total of 22.192 lives (Živić, 2005). On the other hand, Documentation and Information Centre Veritas claims that 7134 Serbs were killed. According to the Ministry of War Veterans, it is assessed that more than 20.000 people were killed in Croatia and that destiny of another 1600 is still unknown.

Available data indicate constancy of ethnic prejudice in war crimes trials and ethnic prejudice in determining penalties for comparable criminal acts, as well as lack of will and lack of effort by competent institutions to adequately process crimes committed against Serbs, such as those committed in August 1995 during the military-police operation Storm. In the past years some proceedings were initiated for crimes in which Serb civilians were executed, and for which there was no will for years (e.g. proceedings against Tomislav Merćep for crimes in Pakračka Poljana and at the Zagreb Fair and against Vladimir Milanković and others for crimes in Sisak).

According to Croatian State Prosecution (CSP) data, competent state prosecution offices initiated criminal proceedings for war crimes between 1991 and 31 December 2014 against 3553 persons.  At the end of 2014, war crimes investigations were conducted against 220 persons and 642 persons were co-indicted for war crimes.

It is very indicative that among crimes registered in the CSP war crimes database, which contains data about crimes, victims, evidence and perpetrators; 80 percent are crimes committed by members of Serb troops, while registered crimes committed by Croatian units make only 18 percent.  Further, comparative analysis of convictions for war crimes which in their factual descriptions of the criminal act have similarities in the way they were carried out, in number of victims and other comparable facts, there is evident disproportion in sentencing Serb and Croatian troops.

Courts are continuing with the practice of applying extenuating circumstances to indicted members of Croatian troops in past war when deciding on sentence, and some of them have extremely high costs of defence covered from the state budget.  On the other hand, a problem still remains unresolved of covering litigation costs to family members of victims, mostly of Serb nationality, who lost lawsuits in which they sought compensation from the Republic of Croatia, for damages due to death of their loved ones. Although Croatian government in July 2012 adopted a regulation by which socially vulnerable plaintiffs will be exempt from payment of litigation costs, this problem has not been fully resolved in a satisfactory manner.

It is a fact that in the last war in Croatia (1991-1995) members of both sides participated in violations of the International humanitarian law, and because of this, a large number of war crimes and civilians who perished was registered.

The largestnumber of crimes against Serbs in Croatia was committed during the course of 1995, i.e. during and after the military-police actions Flash and Storm. But according to data of domestic and international organizations, the scale of these crimes goes significantly beyond figures presented by the CSP. Thus, for example, official data say that in 24 war crimes cases which took place during and after the operation Storm, 156 civilians were killed. On the other hand, some non-government organisations, among which Croatian Helsinki Committee is most notable, came forward with the number of 700 civilian victims. According to some Serb non-governmentorganisations this number is approximately 1900. The fact that so far there is only one final verdict for war crimes committed in these actions, indicates bias of justice and lack of political will. This verdict relates to crimes committed in Prokljan and Mandići.

The accounts, which we present in a chart of war crimes, represent an attempt to describe some of the biggest crimes committed against Serbs in Croatia in the last war. They do not include all crimes, but offer groundwork for their further investigation. Because of different levels at which each individual crime has been researched, accounts differ in the level of detail in description of crimes, so in some texts we bring lists of victims by name, while in others this has been impossible to do. We used all publicly available sources of information, but because of inconsistent information and a small number of relevant sources there is a chance that some of the victims were left out or that some accounts contain outdated data. Possible mistakes are exclusively the result of limited methodology. We take this opportunity to ask all who have relevant information to contact us.

Investigative report: Civilian Victims of War in Croatia

Rights of Civilian Victims of War