President Zoran Milanovic said on Tuesday that the commemoration in Grubori for Serb civilian war victims was a 'debt of honour' to what had happened 25 years ago, adding that it had then provoked in him a sense of moral horror.
"It is easy to say now, 25 years later, that no one has personally been called to account for this. It is well-known... which unit was here that day," Milanovic said.
He added that the murder of six innocent elderly residents of Grubori was a moral disaster and that it also caused harm to Croatia.
It tarnished the reputation of a country that had been attacked and that had not been bad until then, he said.
"... Enough of what marked the relations between the two peoples, two nations so alike that it is difficult to find in Europe two that are more similar to each other. These are not the Czech and Slovak peoples, nor Swedes and Norwegians. It is us, Croats and Serbs, our neighbours," Milanovic underscored.
Medved says honouring innocent victims conducive to trust
Veterans Minister Tomo Medved said in Grubori on Tuesday that Croatia must build a society founded on justice and truth, and that honouring innocent victims contributed to the establishment of trust and mutual respect.
Speaking at a commemoration for Serb civilian war victims, Medved said every life lost left behind broken families which lived with that trauma every day.
The future of Croatian society is based on the steps that are being taken now, he said, calling for the silence in the village of Grubori to be replaced by the life joy of its people as soon as possible.
"Commemorations like this one are an opportunity for us to honour them all. The innocent victims for whom we have gathered here today warn us that it's necessary to invest efforts in building a stronger society to the benefit of all Croatian citizens, a society founded on the common desire that such traumas from the past never happen again."
Many places across Croatia, where Croats, Serbs and other Croatian citizens were killed, share the fate of Grubori, and the abandoned houses make us think about how to revive such places, the minister said, recalling that there were over 150 sites of mass executions in Croatia.
As the winner in the Homeland War, Croatia regrets everyone who was killed, notably civilians, and it is our duty to honour innocent victims, which confirms the legitimacy and justness of the Homeland War, Medved said.
Honouring all victims is a civilisational act and an important step in building an inclusive society, he added.
"We know it's not easy for the victims' families to be here today and remember their dearest ones who are gone, but here with you today are also government officials, among whom there is nearly no person who didn't lose their dearest ones in the Homeland War."
Trust between the majority Croatian people and ethnic minorities is a prerequisite for development and a safe future together. It facilitates dialogue, encourages us to cooperate despite all our differences, thereby reinforcing society's stability and strengthening democracy, Medved said.
He admitted that trust was "demanding both politically and psychologically because of so many victims in the past," but that it was necessary because of the future.
It's time we start building our future on truth based on fact, on cooperation in tracing all the missing, and that's the government's priority. To that end, we adopted a law which regulates the procedure of tracing the missing, the minister said.
Pupovac: Plenkovic, Milanovic have made step forward in commemoration of victims
Croatian Serb leader Milorad Pupovac said on Tuesday, at a commemoration for Serb civilians killed during and in the aftermath of the 1995 operation "Storm", that after 20 years a step had been made forward by Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and President Zoran Milanovic in commemorating victims.
"From August 6 to early September 1995 at least 24 residents of Plavno and its hamlets, mostly elderly people, were killed. They were killed while tending to their cattle, working in the field or lying in their beds. They were killed with their arms raised up in the air. They were not armed, they were not soldiers, they could not have hurt anyone or defended themselves against those who came with the intent to kill them. They were killed by members of the Croatian Army and special police forces," Pupovac, leader of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), said in Grubori, a village in the area of Knin.
The murders were documented by the UN and by the Croatian judiciary and they established beyond doubt that a war crime against the civilian population had been committed here, said Pupovac.
He went on to say that nobody had been held to account for the Grubori killings or most of the killings committed in Sector South as well as that "courts did their job but in such a way to fail to determine who had committed the crimes."
"Unfortunately, participating in that were also those who should not have done so had they followed judicial ethics and a sense of morality," he said.
Pupovac stressed that it had taken 25 years for a memorial for the victims to be erected at Grubori, underlining the political progress made in that regard by the Andrej Plenkovic government and President Zoran Milanovic.
"If not for that move forward, which is aimed at creating new commemorative policies and practices where there will be room for all victims regardless of their ethnicity and where the voice of condemnation of every crime, regardless of the perpetrator, will be heard, these two crosses would probably not have been put up here even after 25 years," he said.
He recalled that the village of Plavno in the Knin area today was inhabited by around 30 of the 1,720 villagers who lived there before 1995.
We hope that some of them will return here and rebuild their homes and we have the duty to help them in creating conditions for a dignified life, he said.
"The fallen will live in our memory, the failed will die in oblivion. Let us remember all and may we eternally remember innocent victims and do all we can so that those who have not been punished at least feel shame for what they did," said Pupovac.
Milosevic: Acknowledging civilian victims needed for reconciliation, ending hate
Deputy Prime Minister for Social Activities and Human Rights Boris Milosevic on Tuesday at a commemoration for Serb civilians killed during and after the 1995 Operation Storm said that empathy and the acknowledgement of all civilian victims was a prerequisite for reconciliation and ending hate.
"Today, after 25 years, we have come here to commemorate the suffering that occurred here. We have come to alleviate at least a little the pain of the people from here, to show human solidarity, so that they feel social empathy here and that they are acknowledged and accepted in the state," Boris Milosevic said in Grubori, attending the commemoration for the first time.
Milosevic said he read a lot of correspondence and documents on the Gurbori war crime and that one of the first correspondence was a memo by the Zadar county prosecutor's office to the chief state prosecutor about a war crimes report which dedicated one sentence to the one committed in Grubori.
That sentence said that the prosecutor's office had not received a criminal complaint or a report on the crime, he added.
The police, the prosecutors, the public and the media failed, Milosevic said. "The public didn't ask, the media didn't write. That's why it's important that we who are gathered here today, notably the government of which I'm a member, send a strong message that every war crime will be punished, regardless of the perpetrator's ethnicity, and that every victim will be acknowledged and accepted regardless of ethnicity."
On the government's behalf, Milosevic called on the people of Plavno to return and seek help from the government.
Speaking at the commemoration, which began in Plavno and continued in Grubori, he said it was "time for hate to stop and to no longer be transferred to new generations, so that our children do not grow with prejudices towards others just because they are of a different ethnicity. Only in that way can we build a better Croatia and that is this government's policy."