Recognise ‘Storm’ War Victims, NGOs tell Serbia, Croatia

Human rights groups in Serbia and Croatia have called on authorities in both countries to do more to recognise and aid victims of a 1995 Croatian military operation that ended the country's war against rebel Serbs.

Croatia on Monday marked the 24th anniversary of Operation Storm, a military blitz that quashed a breakaway Serb statelet but put to flight almost 200,000 Serb civilians.

In Croatia, the operation is regarded as a resounding military success; Serbia says it amounted to ethnic cleansing, with hundreds of mainly elderly Serbs killed during or immediately after the collapse of the rebel region.

On Tuesday, the Serbian and Croatian branches of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights said Croatia was forgetting those who suffered and that Serbia was denying their rights as civilian victims of war.

"Twenty four years after members of the Croatian Army, at the beginning of August during and after Operation Storm, participated in the killing and abuse of civilians, the destruction and theft of private property and the prevention of the return of refugees to their homes, no politician of the Republic of Croatia has sent a sincere apology to the victims," they said in a joint press release.

They noted that neither Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic nor Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic had taken part in ceremonies marking the crimes committed during Operation Storm, "thereby pursuing a policy of refusing to confront the past".

"On the other side, not a single victim of Operation Storm in Serbia today has the status of civilian victim of war, despite Serbian officials speaking at official memorials over the past five years about the need to remember the victims."

The Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Centre, HLC, an NGO...

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