President Ivo Josipovic said that many war crimes still remain unprosecuted, sending the wrong message to Croatian society and to future generations.
“The message that no crime can remain unpunished is important to future generations and to our society over the next few decades,” Josipovic told a round-table discussion on war crimes prosecutions in Zagreb on Wednesday.
He appealed to judges to do everything possible in order to bring war crimes perpetrators to justice, no matter who they are.
“A society that allows cases such as the killing of Zec family [murdered by Croatian soldiers in Zagreb in December 1991] or raping women to remain unpunished, a society that does not treat every crime in the same way, does not have a bright future,” he said.
Reflecting on the legacy of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Josipovic said that there was still a “sense of incompleteness” about the work of the UN-backed court, which had left “a lot of crimes unconvicted”.
“The results is not good for justice and not good for our feelings here in the region, where we expect a lot of that court,” he said.
Various human rights activists also participated in the round-table, entitled ‘Empowering the Status of Witnesses and Victims Towards More Effective Legal Processing of War Crimes’.
Zoran Pusic, the president of the Human Rights Civic Committee in Zagreb, said that the process of reconciliation in the region stopped when Croatia entered the European Union.
“Openly expressing bigotry toward the Serb minority has seriously disrupted relations between the countries,” said Pusic.
Vesna Terselic, president of the Zagreb-based NGO Documenta – Centre for Dealing with the Past, said that she was concerned that high-level officials responsible for war crimes during the 1990s could escape justice.
“Once again one should be fearful about the possibility that the perpetrators and people responsible in command at the highest levels will remain unpunished,” Terselic said.