A council made of Bosnian Croat parties said on Saturday that the war Bosnian Croat forces fought in the 1990s was “just and legitimate” and not a joint criminal enterprise as the UN war crimes tribunal had labelled it.
The Croat National Council (HNS) passed a Declaration on the state of affairs of Croats in Bosnia and among other said that it wants to restore the dignity of the Croat Defense Council (HVO), the armed force that took part in Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.
The HVO fought a “just and legitimate” war, defending the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina populated by Croats, the document said.
“The basic values of the Homeland War are freedom, rule of law, peacemaking with national equality and respect for human rights,” it said while also urging the judiciary to process war crimes committed by some individuals.
However, the war crimes the Croatia-backed force committed while establishing in 1993 the self-declared statelet of Herzeg-Bosna were “not the random acts of a few unruly soldiers,” the judges of the tribunal in The Hague said when they sentenced six Herceg Bosna leaders to a total of some 110 years in prison.
“On the contrary, these crimes were the result of a plan drawn up by members of the JCE (joint criminal enterprise) whose goal was to permanently remove the Muslim population from Herceg-Bosna,” the 2017 judgement said.
The verdict established that the aim was to turn Herceg Bosnia into a part of greater Croatia and that Croatia’s leadership took part in the joint criminal enterprise.
“We reject the joint criminal enterprise qualification of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia with it has groundlessly and unjustly attributed to the Republic of Croatia, the Croat Republic of Herceg Bosna and to the Croatian Defense Council,” Saturday’s Declaration said.
It emphasised that it wants to restore the dignity of the war the HVO has fought defending the Croats in Bosnia.In the post-war period, Croat nationalists - most of them within the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) - have celebrated the wartime statelet and have spoken about the need for a territorial rearrangement of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the creation of a separate entity for Croats, effectively a revival of Herceg Bosna.
The Declaration also called for the establishment of a Croat public broadcaster in Bosnia and for changes of the Election Law that would allow Croat representatives in the government to be elected only by Croats.
The leader of the HDZ, Dragan Covic, was elected President of the HNS. He was the only candidate.