A quarter of a century on, Croatia is commemorating one of the ugliest episodes of the wars that led to the break-up of Yugoslavia.
In the capital and nationwide, all thoughts have turned to Vukovar where a brutal, Serb-led siege ended in carnage on November 18, 1991. Thousands were killed and wounded in the eastern town.
The Croatian government met in Vukovar on the eve of Friday’s anniversary, setting aside cash for reconstruction.
According to reports, it also gave senior ex-Croatian military officer, Ante Gotovina, acquitted of war crimes on appeal at the UN tribunal in the Hague in 2012, a key job in the defence ministry.
With atrocities fresh in many minds, Croatian legal activists are pointing the finger of blame at the old enemy Serbia for thwarting justice.
“In July, we were talking with the deputy chief prosecutor for war crimes in Belgrade and she openly said that, to this day, nothing has been done, not one investigative action. Because of politics, nothing had been done about criminal charges,” said Zoran Sangut of the Vukovar 1991 lawyers’ association.
Ethnic tensions have remained in Vukovar where many believe that war criminals are still living freely.
“It is impossible that aggressors are still walking free on the streets of Vukovar,” said Igor Gavric, President of Vukovar City Council.
“And on the other hand, in recent years, we have had many cases where our Croatian defenders were arrested at the borders and they can’t live freely in our own country.”
Reduced to rubble in a siege lasting three months, Vukovar, on the banks of the Danube, was captured on Nov. 18, 1991 by Serb militia and Serb-majority Yugoslav army troops who refused to accept Croatia’s independence.
All non-Serbs were expelled and more than 200 people taken from a local hospital were murdered.