Harassment and Ethnic Cleansing in Western Slavonia by the Authorities of the Republic of Croatia
Croatian authorities, far from the eyes of the world public, have initiated in mid 1991 and have continued to this day their ethnic cleansing of the Republic of Croatia from ethnic Serb population, so the largest part of territories controlled by these authorities may be considered as ethnically cleansed by now. This ethnic cleansing was first conducted in larger urban areas and in those countryside areas which were inhabited by ethnic Serbs for centuries and where ethnic Serbs constituted the majority, while ethnic Croats were a minority or only a relative majority. Later on, areas in which ethnic Serbs were a minority already were subjected to the same procedures. In spite of trying, Croatian authorities could not succeed with their ethnic cleansing only on those territories which subsequently became parts of the Republic of Serbian Krayina.
The true proportions of ethnic cleansing in the Republic of Croatia will be possible to determine only if the world community forces the Croatian authorities to conduct a census under international supervision on territories they control and if they permit investigations on harassment and expulsions of ethnic Serbs to take place on those territories. Such investigations, which would include representatives from organizations dealing with human rights and representatives of both sides in conflict, should be conducted in all places where there is founded doubt that ethnic cleansing took place, since this is the only way to fully expose the unacceptable practice of harassing members of other ethnic groups, which cannot be reconciled with Christian morality and is punishable by the Convention on Preventing and Prosecuting Crimes of Genocide, adopted on the session of the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1948 in Geneva.
This report deals with ethnic cleansing in western Slavonia because that was the first area of ex-Yugoslav territory where this practice was begun and was almost completed, including harand totally brutal ethnic cleansing. The success achieved by the Croatian authorities in using violence and feeling of insecurity in ethnic Serbs to ethnically cleanse one of their strategic and economically speaking most important territories has encouraged, and continues to encourage, all those who use the same practices in other ethnically mixed regions of old Yugoslavia. The procedures of ethnic cleansing in western Slavonia was reconstructed on basis of written documents, gathered statistical data, polls taken among victims of ethnic cleansing and written statements of witnesses of individual crimes.
According to data as of August 15, 1992, and regarding western Slavonia, 10 city and 183 countryside settlements have been completely ethnically cleansed of ethnic Serbs, while a further 87 settlements have partially been ethnically cleansed. New data, gathered on a daily basis by associates of the Serbian Council Information Center, indicates that the number of totally and partially ethnically cleansed settlements will soon be much larger, since Croatian authorities are far from halting the harassment of ethnic Serbs on territories they control, and on territories under the protection of UNPROFOR, but subject to the Croatian legal system. We already have data, albeit in raw form as yet, on several tens of settlements where ethnic Serbs were a majority or were ethnically mixed, for which it will soon be reliably known whether they have been completely or only partially ethnically cleansed.
During the first months of 1991, and until this day, complete ethnic cleansing was affected in almost all ethnic Serb majority settlement on the rim of the mountains of Papuk, Psunj, Dilja and Bilogora, all places where ethnic Croats until this time remained in express minority. By means of ethnic cleansing of western Slavonia, from Osijek and Vinkovci in the east to the river Ilova on the west, all of Slavonia has now become an almost ethnically pure Croat territory. This has to a large extent been the culmination of a grand project to create an ethnically pure Croat state in which, as formulated by the Croat state project from XIX century, there is no place for ethnic Serbian, orthodox population. For it to be completely realized, in preparation is the final stage of ethnic cleatization of Western Slavonia: certain ethnically completely cleansed but little damaged ethnic Serb settlements are being settled these days by ethnic Croats from Janjevci (Kosovo and Metohija, Republic of Serbia). Several hundred of them, who sold out their properties on Kosovo or have left it to family member use, have already settled in Miokovicevo, Katinac, Nova Krivaja and Puklica, recently ethnic Serb settlements. In Zagreb, there are plans to use financial aid from Europe to construct refugee settlements on the remains of what were once ethnic Serb settlements.
Croatian authorities were not satisfied to simply drive ethnic Serbs from their homesteads, but went to, as much as it was possible, to remove all traces of their centuries long life and cultural existence in those areas - most churches and other religious buildings belonging to the Serbian Orthodox Church, including the cathedral and episcopal court in Pakrac, were looted and either heavily damaged or completely leveled. Almost all priests of the Serbian Orthodox Church were driven off, while parochial homes were mostly mined. Because of this, all religious life of ethnic Serbs has been inhibited to the point where even the deceased cannot be buried as Orthodox Christians. There are records of harassing the relatives and all too rare Orthodox priests who remained during religious ceremonies during burials of deceased ethnic Serbs. For example, on May 9, 1992 in Podravska Slatina, members of the Croatian National Guard threatened the local Orthodox priest during the burial ceremony by saying: "Sing, sing, you won't for long". Murdered ethnic Serbs are, as a rule, buried by Croatian authorities without the presence of any relatives and in unmarked graves. The bells of even the small number of remaining Orthodox churches are now completely dumb.