War Veterans at the Commemoration in Varivode and Gošić: Condemn the Crime and Punish the Perpetrators
Since 2008, the peace organisation Centre for Nonviolent Action, with offices in Sarajevo and Belgrade, has been organising visits by groups of war veterans from Croatia, Serbia and BiH to sites of suffering of civilians and soldiers from the past war and to official commemorations organised by local and state authorities and victims associations.
This time, at the invitation of the Serb National Council as the organiser, war veterans of the Croatian Army (HV), the Yugoslav Army (JV), the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Army of BiH), the Croat Defence Council (HVO) and the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) took up the invitation to attend the commemoration for civilians killed in Varivode and Gošić in Croatia.
In Varivode, situated some 40 kilometres west of Knin, on 28 September 1995, almost two months after Operation “Storm”, unknown perpetrators killed 9 elderly civilians, while in nearby Gošić, on 27 August 1995, another 8 elderly civilians were also killed.
Although the authorities do not deny the committed crimes, their perpetrators have not been identified or prosecuted in the 22 years since.
By attending the commemoration, we want to show that former fighters are a social group with a high degree of credibility and potential for peace building work, precisely because they have directly, and often brutally, experienced war themselves. With these activities, we want to promote the image of former fighters as peace builders working for the benefit of the great majority of people in this region, and by extension the great majority of veterans and their families.
Also, by attending the commemoration, former members of HV, HVO, Army of BiH, VRS and VJ called on the authorities to prosecute those responsible for the crimes.
Dražen Horvat, a veteran of the Croatian Army, said at the commemoration today that he felt a responsibility and human need to honour all who were killed in armed conflicts, especially those in the territory of Croatia.
“These commemorations must serve as warnings about what armed conflict truly is – a conflict in which people are killed. That is why these commemorations are important – to help us make choices in the future and decide what is good for us and what isn’t,” said Horvat.
Adnan Hasanbegović from the Centre for Nonviolent Action addressed those gathered for the commemoration and expressed his condolences to the families of the victims.
“Veterans have an added responsibility, but also the legitimacy to honour all those who were killed. Today, we are here as people who have directly participated in the conflicts, and the very fact that we came together is an important message. We condemn the crimes and call for the identification and punishment of the perpetrators. Although veterans are often, and not always unjustifiably, seen by the public as an obstacle to peace building, today we are here to send a message of peace,” said Hasanbegović.