Human Rights: Erdut Agreement
ERDUT AGREEMENT, ARTICLE 6:
The highest levels of internationally-recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms shall be respected in the Region.
Erdut Agreement, Article 10:
Interested countries and organizations are requested to take appropriate steps to promote the accomplishment of the commitments in this Agreement. After the expiration of the transition period and consistent with established practice, the international community shall monitor and report on respect for human rights in the Region on a long term basis.
Erdut Agreement, Article 11:
In addition, interested countries and organizations are requested to establish a commission, which will be authorized to monitor the implementation of this agreement, particularly its human rights and civil rights provisions, to investigate all allegations of violations of this agreement, and to make appropriate recommendations.
The Erdut Basic Agreement established a UN Transitional government in Eastern Slavonia charged with monitoring human rights conditions and stipulated that the GoC both respect internationally recognized human rights laws and cooperate fully with the Transitional Administration. In accordance with the agreement, the Security Council passes resolution 1009 and 1019 (9 November 1995) requiring the GoC to respect the human rights of the Serbian population and to report all human rights abuses to the Transitional Administration to be investigated.
In January 1996, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Croatia issues a “Report by the Government of Croatia on the Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1019” regarding human rights violations. In the report, the GoC indicated they were investigating and prosecuting alleged human rights violations by members of the Croatian military and that 352 such cases were in a phase of pre-trail investigation.
A UN review of the GOC report issued in June of 1996, concluded that “[a]ll evidence, since my report of 14 February 1996, indicates that the Croatian authorities have failed to implement effective security measures to prevent harassment and victimization of Serbs”. Citing the frequency of killings and other attacks against Serbs, the UN review notes that many attacks are by groups “frequently including uniformed Croatian soldiers”. Often the police are informed of the known identity of the perpetrators, but no arrests are made. Police Chiefs have commented to UN personnel and others that many Croatian police officers are afraid to challenge the Croatian military. Between 8 January and 1 May 1996, 89 cases of arson were reported and 12 killings were noted.1
A follow-up “Report by the Government of Croatia on the Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1019” was issued in June of 1996. The report stated that 621 criminal investigations have been initiated with 231 final verdicts reached, giving the impression of active prosecution of human rights abuses against Serbs by Croatian civilians and military and police personnel. A review by the UN of the cases showed that many of the convictions cited by the GoC report were against Serbs. Upon closer examination by the Secretary General of those cases where the GoC reached a final verdict, 41 cases out of 231 (18 percent) involved the prosecution of Serbs for subversive activity, not human rights violations.2
International observers begin to note that the Croatian authorities in charge of administering the rehabilitation programs are clearly favoring Croat beneficiaries. Audits reveal that government funding for home reconstruction has gone mostly to Croat recipients. Serb applicants are being denied identify documents that are required by the GoC to receive rehabilitation assistance and other benefits made available by donors.3
UNTAES commences a human rights training seminar conducted by the Joint Implementation Committee on Human Rights at Osijek, Croatia. The members of all the Joint Implementation Committees were invited or called to attend.4
Over the course of the last two years, a legal framework was established making the Croat occupation of empty Serb houses essentially indefinite or permanent; this dynamic begins to gain attention as more Serbs return in 1997. The GoC passed the Law on the Lease of Flats in the Liberated Territory and the Law of Temporary Takeover in 1995 and 1996. The first gave Serbs a matter of 2-3 months to legally reclaim their property or someone could legally occupy it. Many, if not most, could not do so either out of security concerns or because the GoC would not recognize identity documents (such as passports) issued by Serbian authorities on Croatian soil from 1991 to 1995. The second law stated that no one could be evicted from a temporary takeover without having alternative housing provided for them by the GoC. Due to the substantial shortage of housing, this makes all occupations essentially permanent. In addition, the GoC prevented many Serbs from getting a legal hearing by not recognizing the legal papers of Serbian lawyers to practice law in Croatia. Serbian lawyers, who may have been practicing law in the same location for decades, had to pay a large sum of money, roughly 10,000 dollars, for a new Croatian law license. UNTAES also reports that of those are being forcefully evicted from homes for not having the proper documentation or legal history – the majority are Serbs. Furthermore, it is reported that in most cases they are the rightful owners of the home.5
UNTAES reports that Serb school children are dropping out of school due to constant harassment and beatings at the hands of Croat children. Intimidation, killings, and assaults against Serbs in the former sectors continues to be reported and may be on the rise, although reliable numbers are not reported at regular intervals. In some places, there are isolated attacks, in others, forms of communal violence erupts. The most serious event took place in Hrvastka where returning Serb refugees were attacked by a mob of 150 ethnic Croats.6
UNATES reports that the GoC’s cooperation with the Internal Tribunal and its prosecution of human rights violators, is not satisfactory. Reportedly, the GoC delays or obstructs matters of evidence regarding alleged war crimes by Croatians. The Croatian authorities are not able to provide accounts of progress regarding their efforts at tracking down individuals charged with war crimes. When the Tribunal Prosecutor used legal channels to obtain evidence that the GoC refused to submit or turn over, the evidence being sought was blocked and the GoC issued legislation to stop the Tribunal’s investigations.7
Croatia’s failure to meet the human rights conditions as laid out in the European Union’s “Regional Approach to Countries of South-East Europe,” results in a denial of membership and cuts in foreign aid. The E.U. limits aid to Croatia to 7.74 million (US) for humanitarian assistance and 3.14 million ($US). Croatia was also denied PHARE reconstruction aid based on its failure to allow freedom of the press and independent media in general.8
The outgoing president of the Tribunal denounced the GoC as non-compliant with regards to the investigations of the International Tribunal. The GoC refuses to arrest and put on trial known perpetrators of war crimes against Serbs. Meanwhile, Amnesty International reports that the GoC actively prosecutes Serb perpetrators of war crimes.9 Amnesty International reports that government officials that are criticized in the press are suing the journalists for defamation and often having some related criminal charges brought against them. For example, a journalist with the daily Jutarnji list wrote several articles about the financial holdings in a bank account belonging to President Tudjman’s wife that had not been disclosed as financial income. The journalist was arrested and charged with publishing financial secrets of the GoC and is facing trial and five years in prison.10
Starting in the year 2000, the GoC’s level of cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal in the prosecution of war criminals is seen as having improved.11
- 11. "Amnesty International Report 2001 Croatia."
Cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal is reported as better than previous years.12
- 12. "Amnesty International Report 2002 Croatia."
Amnesty International reports that Croatia in 2002 “failed to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (the Tribunal) by delaying the arrest and transfer of two Croatian suspects indicted by the Tribunal”. Legal discrimination against Serbs remains widespread and it is reported the majority of those prosecuted in Croat courts are Serbs.13
- 13. "Amnesty International Report 2003 Croatia."
Cooperation with the International Tribunal and international law is mixed. The GoC remains selective in who they turn over to the Tribunal. For example, General Ante Gotovina remains protected from prosecution by the GoC in 2003.14
- 14. "Amnesty International Report 2003 Croatia."
General Ante Gotovina remains protected from prosecution by the GoC in 2004.15
- 15. Ibid.
The newspaper, The Independent, interviewed a Serb refugee trying to return to the family home in the Knin area. Dragoslav Dupor had taken his wife, three children and grandchild and fled by car into Serbia when the government of Croatia attacked the area where he lived. Ten years later, in 2005, they had not yet been able to get their house back. The house had been sold to a Croat family by the Government of Croatia. Through the “Agency for Mediation in Real Estate” (APN) the Dupor family home had been sold using forged power of attorney paperwork years earlier.
Formed in 1997, the APN spent EUR200m buying over 8,000 Serb homes in Krajina and Slavonia. Those in charge of APN admitted that organized crime members and corrupt government officials bought and sold homes that didn’t belong to them for an extended period. Much of the money went into private pockets, as families moved into their new homes purchased with fraudulent documents.
Goatti, the newest leader of APN, told investigators that as many as half of the 8,380 Serb homes sold to APN were fraud. Pupovac, another investigator says that the number is closer to 90 percent fraud. In all, thousands of houses of Serb refugees were bought by the Government of Croatia and sold to new Croatian families using fraudulent paperwork - only one arrest was made at the APN.16
A senior Croatian diplomat tells The Independent that “there are reasonable grounds for believing” that the swindle of Serbian homes in Croatia was deliberate and part of a “refined method of ethnic cleansing." Out of the 600,000 Serbs that lived in Croatia before the war, in 2005 only 200,000 remained.17