Victims of operation “Storm” still await for justice

On the occasion of 21 years from the operation “Storm”, which lasted from 4 – 7 August 1995, Centre for Civic Education (CCE) reminds that the establishment of justice for victims of wars that took place on the territory of former Yugoslavia must present the priority, which includes the creation of individualised list of victims of operation “Storm” as well as the prosecution of war crimes which occurred during this operation, all of which, in this specific case, falls under the competence institution of Croatia.

During the military-police operation “Storm”, Croatian forces perpetrated both serious and widespread crimes against the Serbs who lived on the territory of so called Republic of Srpska Krajina, whereby thousands of houses and other objects were burned down, while great number of refugees still awaits to return to areas from which they were persecuted. Regardless of the verdict of ICTY’s Appeals Chamber in the case “Storm” against Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač, families of victims have moral and legal right to expect that perpetrators of their tragedies will bear the responsibility for their crimes.

According to the information gathered by various international organisations, approximately 200 000 Croatian Serbs fled mostly to Bosnia and Herzegovina and other countries of former Yugoslavia after Croatian military actions in former sectors West, North and South in the summer of 1995. What is devastating is that the survivors of this crime, as well as the families of victims and missing persons, have no support whatsoever, and they have still not been recognised as civilian victims of war.

CCE claims that in the forthcoming period a serious challenge lies before the Croatian judiciary in terms of the review of prosecutions of war crimes, given that only one person was convicted on the account of war crimes during the operation “Storm”, while only four criminal proceeding in total were led before the Croatian courts. Croatian State Attorney’s Office received the complaints for 24 crimes related to operation “Storm” in which the perpetrators were not identified. State of Croatia is ought to establish a day of remembrance for the victims of “Storm”. In addition, civil society of Croatia, as well as the societies of former states of Yugoslavia, bear the responsibility to establish additional mechanisms which would result in much needed satisfaction of justice for victims.

CCE pays the respect to every victim of military-police operation “Storm” and reminds the post-Yugoslav societies, especially the systems of institution, that they should contribute in the remembrance of this atrocious crime, but also of every other crime which occurred against innocent civilians, on the territory of former Yugoslavia during the period 1991-2001. With the use of joint forces, and through an efficient regional cooperation, we have to work on the development of culture of remembrance and respect, recognition and empathy with every victim, in order to contribute to sustainable reconciliation in region. Civil society organisations in Montenegro and region have been insisting on that for years, whereby they were able to form so-far-the-largest regional coalition advocating the establishment of RECOM. CCE will continue with the activities related to establishment of culture of remembrance, individually or as the referent organisation of Coalition for RECOM for Montenegro.

Tamara Milaš, CCE programme associate and spokesperson of Coalition for RECOM in Montenegro