Tuesday, June 11, 1996


Fear from internationalizing the Serb question in Croatia

State-run and government-controlled media initiated a witch-hunt on the meeting's organizers.

Zagreb, FoNet. Convention "Serbs in Croatia - yesterday, today, tomorrow," to be held at the end of this month under the auspices of the Croatian Helsinki Committee (CHC), has been postponed until the fall. According to the Ljubljana-based press agency Morel, CHC representatives officially declared the postponement due to the boycott of the meeting from the government, the opposition parties, and the Catholic church.

The CHC representatives recalled the atmosphere created in Croatia after their initiation of the meeting, to which around 300 participants were invited. Croatian state and government-controlled media instigated a veritable witch-hunt on the convention organizers - in particular Dr. Ivo Banac, CHC vice-president, and Dr. Ivan Zvonimir Cicak, its president, CHC explains - as they (the media) called on Croatian intellectuals to refuse cooperation with such "anti-Croat projects."

CHC said that the representatives of Croatian government lent a deaf ear to the invitation to attend the convention, fearing, it was said, that this might result in "internationalizing the question of Serbs in Croatia." According to Dr. Ivo Banac, return of the refugees - a major point on the convention's agenda - is the most important political question in Croatia, because it concerns the return of all the refugees from throughout ex-Yugoslavia to their homes, since, as Banac said, "the return cannot be partitioned on the ethnic background." It is because of that, he claims, that the "promoters of ethnic cleansing" are so wont to prevent the convention.

A member of the organizational committee, Dragutin Hlad, stated that this convention was supposed to show that in Croatia "there are people who have civic valor, who do not think as those within the Croat society, even its very leadership, who promote blatant racism." When it comes to the return of Serbs to Croatia, and the "Serb question in Croatia", most opposition parties concur with the ruling Croatian Democratic Convention (CDC); same can be said of the Catholic church and its top, warned the president of CHC, Ivan Zvonimir Cicak.

Cicak furthermore said that even "certain priests call from the altar on the Croat citizens not to congregate with the Serbs." He mentioned that Dr. Franjo Kuharic, Archbishop of Zagreb, recently at the European Bishop Conference in Austria "explained," as Franjo Tudjman [Croatian President] often does, that the Serbs fled Croatia because their rulers told them to do so, or because they "fell victim to their own propaganda," and "were unable to accept the reality of the Croatian state."

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