Croatia: Amnesty International Urges Croatian Authorities to Investigate War Crimes Committed during 1991-1995 War

Press Release
January 21, 2011

Croatia: Amnesty International Urges Croatian Authorities to Investigate War Crimes Committed during 1991-1995 War

Amnesty International Press Release
For Immediate Release
Friday, January 21, 2011

Amnesty International Urges Croatian Authorities to Investigate War
Crimes Committed during 1991-1995 War
--
Following Key European Court of Human Rights ruling that
Victims Can Seek Justice Internationally

Contact: AIUSA media relations office, 202-509-8194

(Washington, D.C.) Amnesty International is again urging the Croatian authorities to investigate war crimes committed during the 1991-1995 war following a key European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling that could allow thousands of victims seek justice internationally.

The ECHR yesterday found that the Croatian authorities were responsible for the lack of adequate investigations into the disappearance and deaths of two war crimes victims in 1991, despite the country only becoming part of the European Convention on Human Rights in 1997.

“This judgment creates a significant precedent, allowing victims of war crimes committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia to seek justice before the ECHR if states do not carry out adequate investigations into those crimes,” said Marek Marczynski, Amnesty International’s expert on Croatia.

The ruling centered around two cases, including that of a woman whose husband was shot by the Yugoslav army in 1991 in Vukovar.

Despite some evidence being gathered by the authorities, no meaningful progress was made in the investigation and 2010 proceedings were terminated under an Amnesty law.

The second complaint was filed by Josipa Skend?iæ and her children, Tamara Krznariæ and Aleksandar Skend?iæ, after their husband and father was arrested by the Croatian police on November 3, 1991 in the family flat in Otoèac. He never returned.

Skend?iæ tried to establish the whereabouts of her husband by contacting the local authorities and the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ombudsman and the Vice-President of the government. A local investigation was launched but no progress made.

The Court judgment established that although the authorities cannot be held legally accountable before the ECHR for deaths and enforced disappearances – as they occurred before Croatia joined the Convention – they still had the obligation to investigate those crimes, which they failed to fulfill.

“Victims of war crimes deserve justice," said Marczinski. "The Croatian authorities have been reminded yet again that their ongoing failure to bring those responsible for such crimes to justice violates international law."

In its latest report: Behind a wall of silence: Prosecution of war crimes in Croatia published in December 2010, Amnesty International documented how the justice system of Croatia has failed to provide the victims of war crimes with access to justice.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

# # #