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Persecution of Croats in Serbia during Yugoslav Wars

Persecution of Croats in Serbia during Yugoslav Wars is located in Serbia
Affected places on the map of Serbia

Following the beginning of the Yugoslav wars, especially the War in Croatia in 1991, members of Serbian Radical Party and Serbian Chetnik Movement have conducted a campaign of intimidation and persecution of Croats of Serbia in Vojvodina, Serbia, through hate speech.[1][2][3][4] These acts forced a part of the local Croat population to leave the area in 1992. Most of them were resettled in Croatia. [1][2][5][6] The affected locations included Hrtkovci, Nikinci, Novi Slankamen, Ruma, Šid, and other places bordering Croatia.[1] According to some estimates, around 10,000 Croats left Vojvodina in 1992.[7]

The U.N.-backed International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) lated indicted Vojislav Šešelj for these events. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for persecution on political, racial or religious grounds, deportation and forced transfer as a crime against humanity, making it the only conviction of the Tribunal in relation to Yugoslav Wars on the territory of Vojvodina.


Vojvodina is a province of Serbia. According to the 1991 census, its population was 2,012,517. Serbs comprised 57.2%, Hungarians 16.9% of its population, or 1,151,353 and 430,946 members, respectively. Croats numbered 74,226 members or 3.7% of Vojvodina's population (down from 109,203 from the 1981 census).[8][9]

In 1991, Hrtkovci was an ethnically mixed village with Croatian plurality (40.24%), located roughly 40 miles west of Belgrade. Vojislav Šešelj, the leader of the Serbian Radical Party, made numerous public threats to Croats in May 1992.[10][11] Radicals replaced all Latin signs with Cyrillic ones and even renamed Hrtkovci to "Srbislavci" - 'place of Serbs' - though only for a short amount of time.[2] Šešelj personally visited Hrtkovci on 6 May 1992 and gave a hate speech by publicly reading out a list of 17 Croat "traitors" who must leave the village.[2][12][4] Incoming Serb refugees labeled Croats as "fascists".[5]

Following the threats, one part of local Croats rushed to Croatia to see the houses which were offered to them in the planned population transfer.[5] One Croat was even murdered by the radicals.[13] Šešelj's party even crafted a slogan for their campaign: "All Croats out of Hrtkovci".[4] In 1991, Hrtkovci had 2,684 residents, including 1,080 Croats (40.2%), 555 Serbs and Montenegrins (20.7%), 515 Hungarians (19.2%), and 445 Yugoslavs (16.6%).[14] By the end of 1992, 75% of its residents were Serbs.[5]

The number of Croats who left from the village of Hrtkovci was 722.[15] Their empty homes were settled by Serb refugees from Croatia and Bosnia. Likewise, some Serbs tried to protect their Croatian neighbors.[16] After the events, Yugoslav authorities arrested five radicals who were responsible for harassment of Croats. [2]

In its 1993 report, published during its 49th session, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights wrote that Hungarians and Croats in Vojvodina were subjected to "verbal and physical threats and other acts of intimidation, including setting houses on fire and destroying cultural and religious monuments", and thus left their homes in large numbers after Vojvodina lost its autonomy. Another reason for their departure was that many were refusing to be drafted in the Yugoslav army, fearing they might be sent to the battle front.[3] Besides Hrtkovci, the report documented an exodus of Croats from Kukujevci and Novi Slankamen, as a result of threats and the bombing of their houses. The villages of Beška and Golubinci were said to have lost their entire respective Croat population. Other means of intimidation included threatening telephone calls and letters. The report alleged that "the police have acquiesced in some of the incidents which have been attributed to individuals."[3] On 23 February 1993, the Commission adopted a resolution expressing its "grave concern" at the "violations of human rights occurring in Sandžak and Vojvodina, particularly acts of physical harassment, abductions, the burning of homes, warrantless searches, confiscation of property and other practices intended to change the ethnic structure in favour of the Serbian population."[17]

On 29 August 1992, the BBC reported bombings of Croatian homes in the village of Nikinci.[18] In Golubinci, twenty cases were recorded where bombs were planted inside Croat houses. A 28-year old Croat woman was killed in her home on 7 February 1994.[14] The Serbian Humanitarian Law Centre, based in Belgrade, has documented at least 17 instances of killings or disappearances of Croats from Vojvodina from 1991-1995.[19] In many instances, entire Croat families were abducted and murdered. On the 20 April 1992, the Matijević family, consisting of Ana and Jozo Matijević and their underage son, Franjo, were kidnapped by unknown Serb militiamen from the village of Kukujevci. From there, they were taken to Mohovo, then occupied by Croatian Serb forces, where the family was then murdered and buried in the village cemetery.[20] In July 1993, another Croat family from Kukujevci, consisting of Nikola and Agica Oksomić and 87-year-old Marija Tomić, Agica's mother, were murdered by two local Serb volunteers fighting for Croatian Serb forces in Croatia.[21]

According to different sources, between 10,000[7] and 25,000[22] Croats left Vojvodina in the 1990s. Another 6,000 left Kosovo and 5,000 Serbia Proper, including Belgrade.[14]

Legal prosecution

In 2003, Vojislav Šešelj was indicted by the U.N. established International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). On 11 April 2018, the Appeals Chamber sentenced him to 10 years in prison under Counts 1, 10, and 11 of the indictment for instigating deportation, persecution (forcible displacement), and other inhumane acts (forcible transfer) as crimes against humanity due to his speech in Hrtkovci on 6 May 1992, in which he called for the expulsion of Croats from Vojvodina. [23][24][25]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "The Prosecutor against Vojislav Seselj - Third Amended Indictment" (PDF). ICTY. December 2007. Retrieved January 19, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e Marcus Tanner (August 1992). "'Cleansing' row prompts crisis in Vojvodina". The Independent. Retrieved January 19, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c "Situation of Human Rights in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia" (PDF). United Nations Commission on Human Rights. 10 February 1993. p. 40—41. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Final report of the United Nations Commission of Experts, established pursuant to UN Security Council resolution 780 (1992), Annex III.A — M. Cherif Bassiouni; S/1994/674/Add.2 (Vol. IV), 27 May 1994, Special Forces Archived 2011-04-30 at the Wayback Machine, (paragraph 1091). Accessdate January 20, 2011
  5. ^ a b c d Chuck Sudetic (July 26, 1992). "Serbs Force An Exodus From Plain". New York Times. Retrieved January 19, 2011.
  6. ^ "Podsećanje na slučaj Hrtkovci". B92. May 4, 2005. Retrieved January 19, 2011.
  7. ^ a b Naegele, Jolyon (February 21, 2003). "Serbia: Witnesses Recall Ethnic Cleansing As Seselj Prepares For Hague Surrender". Radio Free Europe. Retrieved 15 September 2011.
  8. ^ Andreas Klinke; Ortwin Renn; Jean-Paul Lehners, eds. (2018). Ethnic Conflicts and Civil Society: Proposals for a New Era in Eastern Europe. Routledge. p. 144. ISBN 9781351758758.
  9. ^ B. Hunter, ed. (2016). The Statesman's Year-Book 1993-94. Springer. p. 1621. ISBN 9780230271227.
  10. ^ "Slučaj Šešelj - Vojislav Šešelj - Izjave" (in Serbian). Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia. Retrieved 2011-09-02.
  11. ^ "Warning that couldn't be ignored". Sense Agency. 2010-02-16. Retrieved 2011-09-02.
  12. ^ "Drastic Changes in Ethnic Composition of Population". Sense Agency. 21 October 2008. Retrieved 15 September 2011.
  13. ^ Roger Cohen (August 31, 1992). "A Farm Village in Serbia Distills War Into Hatred". New York Times. Retrieved January 19, 2011.
  14. ^ a b c "Položaj manjina u Vojvodini" (PDF). Zrenjanin: Center for Development of Civil Society. 1998. p. 13, 14, 15. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  15. ^ "The charges against Vojislav Seselj". BBC News. 2003-02-24. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
  16. ^ "Kandić: Šešelja za Hrtkovce optužuju i Srbi". Vesti online. May 6, 2010. Retrieved January 19, 2011.
  17. ^ "Situation of Human Rights in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia—49th session". United Nations Commission on Human Rights. 23 February 1993. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  18. ^ "Chronology for Croats in Yugoslavia". Minorities at Risk Project. 2004. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  19. ^ "Dossier Documents Serbian State Involvement in Driving Out Croats".
  20. ^ "Complaint Filed About Croat Family's Wartime Murder in Serbia".
  21. ^ "Complaint Filed About Croat Family's Wartime Murder in Serbia".
  22. ^ "The Economist". 336 (7926–7929). Economist Newspaper Limited. 1995. p. 42. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  23. ^ "APPEALS CHAMBER REVERSES ŠEŠELJ'S ACQUITTAL, IN PART, AND CONVICTS HIM OF CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY". United Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals. 11 April 2018. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  24. ^ "UN court sentences ultranationalist Serb leader to 10 years". TRT World. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  25. ^ "Serbia: Conviction of war criminal delivers long overdue justice to victims". Amnesty International. Retrieved 11 April 2018.

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