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Amnesty International Urges Croatian Authorities to Investigate War Crimes Committed during 1991-1995 War

Following Key European Court of Human Rights ruling that Victims Can Seek Justice Internationally

WASHINGTON - Amnesty International
is again urging the Croatian authorities to investigate war crimes committed
during the 1991-1995 war following a key European Court of Human Rights
(ECHR) ruling that could allow thousands of victims seek justice internationally.

The ECHR yesterday found that the Croatian
authorities were responsible for the lack of adequate investigations into
the disappearance and deaths of two war crimes victims in 1991, despite
the country only becoming part of the European Convention on Human Rights
in 1997.

“This judgment creates a significant
precedent, allowing victims of war crimes committed during the wars in
the former Yugoslavia to seek justice before the ECHR if states do not
carry out adequate investigations into those crimes,” said Marek Marczynski,
Amnesty International’s expert on Croatia.

The ruling centered around two cases,
including that of a woman whose husband was shot by the Yugoslav army in
1991 in Vukovar.

Despite some evidence being gathered by
the authorities, no meaningful progress was made in the investigation and
2010 proceedings were terminated under an Amnesty law.

The second complaint was filed by Josipa
Skendžiæ and her children, Tamara Krznariæ and Aleksandar Skendžiæ, after
their husband and father was arrested by the Croatian police on November
3, 1991 in the family flat in Otoèac. He never returned.

Skendžiæ tried to establish the whereabouts
of her husband by contacting the local authorities and the Ministry of
Justice, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ombudsman and the Vice-President
of the government. A local investigation was launched but no progress made.

The Court judgment established that although
the authorities cannot be held legally accountable before the ECHR for
deaths and enforced disappearances – as they occurred before Croatia joined
the Convention – they still had the obligation to investigate those crimes,
which they failed to fulfill.

“Victims of war crimes deserve justice,"
said Marczinski. "The Croatian authorities have been reminded yet
again that their ongoing failure to bring those responsible for such crimes
to justice violates international law."

In its latest report: Behind
a wall of silence: Prosecution of war crimes in Croatia

published in December 2010, Amnesty International documented how the justice
system of Croatia has failed to provide the victims of war crimes with
access to justice.


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