Our way or no way
Bosnian Croat nationalists are using intimidation and threats to force Croat soldiers, police officers and businessmen into backing their self-rule campaign, international peace authorities said on Thursday.
After the international takeover of their main source of funding, a Croat-owned bank, said Patrik Volf, spokesman for High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch, the nationalists were trying to force Croats to pay "taxes" to support self-rule.
"There are serious indications that the proponents of Croat self-rule are waging a systematic campaign of threats and intimidation to try to force Bosnia and Herzegovina Croats to back the illegal and unconstitutional activities of a small group of hardliners," Volf told a news conference.
Read the small print
Anonymous leaflets have appeared in the southern city of Mostar, stronghold of the nationalist Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party, threatening Croats who cooperate with the government, which the HDZ says is illegitimate. The HDZ denies any use of violence or threats.
It argues that, as the biggest Croat party, it should be part of any government in the Muslim-Croat federation that has shared Bosnia with an autonomous Serb republic since the 1992-95 war.
The HDZ launched its action for self rule on 3 March through a self-styled Croatian National Congress (HNS), claiming that ethnic Croats were being excluded from power.
Thousands of Croat soldiers left their barracks and many police in Croat areas removed their federation insignia in a sign of loyalty to self-rule, seriously undermining international efforts to reunify Bosnia.
Blocking the border
Allied Croat groups, such as veterans organisations, have supported self-rule by staging demonstrations and trying to take over Croat barracks and weapons stores. According to the private ONASA news agency, on Thursday one group of veterans threatened to block roads in Croat areas and border crossings with neighbouring Croatia if they did not get money they say the government owes them.
If Slobo goes, will Stipe follow?
A Belgrade-based association of Croatian Serbs has called on the UN war crimes tribunal to investigate Croatian President Stipe Mesić for alleged "genocide" against his country's Serbs.
The Association of Croatian Serbs sent a letter to the UN court's chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte calling for a probe to be launched against Mesić into charges of "inciting and organising war crimes and genocide against Croats of Serbian nationality," according to the Tanjug news agency.
Preparations for war
"Mr Mesić occupied extremely important positions in the HDZ in Yugoslavia and in Croatia" between 1990 and 1995, the period covering the war between Zagreb and Belgrade. "During this period he worked on the illegal destruction of Yugoslavia ... the formation of paramilitary groups in Croatia, their armament and preparation for war against the Yugoslav army," the group said.
It said Mesić had abused his capacity as the Croat representative in the former Yugoslavia's joint presidency, which comprised eight members. Then as a leader of the HDZ, the group said, he worked with late Croatian president Franjo Tuđman on the "psychological preparation for a genocide against the Serb people and their exodus from Croatia."
Finally, the group accused him of having done nothing to facilitate the return of Serb refugees to their homes since becoming president early last year "and has obstructed decisions by the international community" to that end.
Afraid to return
More than 350,000 Serbs fled or were expelled from Croatia during the war. Some of them joined armed Serb groups, often backed by the Yugoslav army, against the forces of the secessionist Croatian government. Since Tuđman's death in December 1999, many Serb refugees have said they would like to go home, but they are afraid they will face harassment by the Croatian police, said Jovica Vejnović, secretary of the Serb National Council, based in Zagreb.
More mass burials
This week exhumation teams started unearthing a mass grave believed to hide the bodies of several dozen victims of Serb rebels in Croatia at the "Lovas" farm, located between the eastern villages of Dalj and Borovo.
The remains of four civilians were excavated from just below the surface, said the head of the government's office for detained and missing persons, Lt-Col Ivan Grujić. It is assumed that the grave contains bodies of victims taken to the site shortly after the fall of Vukovar, although this is yet to be confirmed by an investigation being conducted by the Osijek county court.
Grujić said that the Hague war crimes tribunal had been contacted and informed about the case. The exhumation was attended by Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitors. There are indications that there might be another mass grave in the Osijek county, said Colonel Grujić, but he refused to specify its location.
According to the Colonel, this is the 127th mass grave in Croatia. So far, 3207 victims of the war have been exhumed and 2592 of them have been identified. Another 1506 persons are still listed as missing.
Arms from everywhere
Finally, the echoes of Croatia's fight for independence were felt in Latin America this week. Argentine Prosecutor-General Carlos Stornelli called for former Argentine President Carlos Menem to appear for investigative questioning. Menem will appear as an alleged leader of a conspiracy in a case which involves the investigation of arms smuggling to Ecuador and Croatia between 1991 and 1995.
Stornelli also asked that judge Jorge Urso, who is heading up the investigation, subpoena former Defence Minister Antonio Erman Gonzalez and former Army Commander Martin Balza. Both are mentioned as alleged ring leaders of the group that illegally diverted the weapons at a time that Croatia was a big buyer on the international market, despite UN sanctions against arms sales to all former Yugoslav republics.
Dan Damon, 27 April 2001
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