The Humanitarian Law Center demands investigation of the war crimes in Antin

The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) is asking the War Crimes Prosecution Office to initiate a pretrial investigation in connection with the war crimes committed in Antin, Republic of Croatia, following the establishment of the Serb authority (the authority of the Yugoslav National Army, YNA) over the territory of Eastern Slavonija in August 1991, pointing out to the evidence indicating that those crimes had been committed by the members of the volunteer units from Serbia, “Šešelj’s followers”, and of some others, among whom the survivors mention the vice-president of the Serb Radical Party, Tomislav Nikolić.

The Humanitarian Law Center is asking the War Crimes Prosecution Office to initiate an investigation of the security organs and the head of the Security Service of former Yugoslav National Army for covering the crime, and of the commanding officers of the YNA unit and of the volunteer units for failing to report the offenders and hand them over to the judicial authorities.

The fact that almost all institutions of Serbia and the Military Security Service of Serbia and Montenegro have allegedly determined that they are not in possession of any documents implicating or linking Tomislav Nikolić with the war crimes points to, once again, the practice of covering up and denying the crimes committed by the Serb forces in the armed conflicts on the territory of former Yugoslavia.

This is confirmed by the fact that the highest officials of Serbia have been hiding the documents about the participation of the members of the Ministry of the Interior in the slaughter of the Srebrenica Bosniacs for the last ten years. The fact that the organs of the military security are hiding the evidence of the criminal responsibility of the citizens of Serbia and Montenegro for the war crimes can be seen from the documents of the Ovčara case conducted before the war crimes chamber of the district court in Belgrade. According to the statement given by a witness, colonel Slavko Tomić, on 14 March 2000, he had, in 1992 or in 1993, informed general Aleksandar Dimitrijević, the then head of the Security Service, about the shooting of the Croatian prisoners in Vukovar in November 1991. It is a generally known fact that the indictment against the perpetrators of the crime was brought 13 years later.

Another reason to initiate a serious investigation of the crimes committed in Antin is the fact that Tomislav Nikolić himself, on a number of occasions, boasted of his war campaign against Croatia. In an interview given to the weekly NIN (19 June 2003), under the title “I went to war with a heart”, Tomislav Nikolić said: “We proved our belief in the chetnik ideology, our membership in the Serb chetnik movement, during the war outside the territory of Serbia in accordance with the principles the chetnik movement was based on. The moment the war was over and the chetniks returned to Serbia we made it officially known that the Serb Chetnik Movement had been dissolved. We were not interested in proving our belief in the ideas of the chetnik movement in the pubs“. For his “bravery and heroism” and for “showing by a personal example how one should fight for the Serb idea in the battles in Slavonija”, the president of the Central Fatherland Administration of the Serb Chetnik Movement, Vojislav Šešelj, made Tomislav Nikolić a chetnik voivode.

Who is telling the truth? The Tomislav Nikolić who boasted of his military undertakings even from the floor of the Assembly of Serbia, or the Tomislav Nikolić who now claims that “as chance would have it, he had not fired a single round”? (Kurir, 15 June 2005.)

It is no less important to ascertain when exactly Tomislav Nikolić had been at the war front. These days, he himself and his party are giving extremely contradictory statements: Aleksandar Vučić says that Nikolić has come to Antin on 6 December; Nikolić claims he was there a day before that, while his wartime commander, Srećko Radovanović, a one time member of the Serb Radical Party, in a statement given to RFE (22 July 2005), says that: “Tomislav Nikolić was at the Slavonia front line already in the middle of November”. Nikolić himself has never denied the accounts repeated several times in the media, and even in the interviews he himself has given, that “he had spent four months at the Slavonija front line”.

No less confusion exists concerning the units that Tomislav Nikolić was a member of. He himself claims he was a volunteer: “The first brigades of the territorial defense of Slavonija, Baranja and Western Srem” (NIN, 19 July 2003). Aleksandar Vučić claims Nikolić’s engagement was “inside YNA”, while Nikolić’s wartime commander, Srećko Radovanović, says that “Nikolić was a member of a special operations unit”.

The suspicion that Tomislav Nikolić had taken part in the killing of civilians in Antin was first raised by Žarko Korać, a member of the Assembly of Serbia, who told RFE (20 June 2005) that the data about what had happened in Antin would be “discovered in the weeks to come”, and by Beba Popović, the chief of the Communications Bureau in Zoran Đinđić’s Cabinet, in the supplement to TV B92 “Insajder” program (16 June 2005). And lastly, there are the testimonies of the witnesses: “Tomislav Nikolić was in our village together with the chetniks when the most horrendous atrocities were committed to our neighbors”, claims Tadija Mijakić, from Antin, in a statement given to Večernje novosti (18 June 2005). “I can’t forget him because it was he” (that is, Tomislav Nikolić) “who, together with the deputy chetnik voivode, Slobodan Miljak, forced us to clear the minefield in the present-day Matije Gupca street. We were saved from certain death by a Serb from Markušica who, while we were entering the brushwood, cleared the area by drawing a harrow over it”, says Mijakić about the time when about 50 inhabitants of Antin were killed.

All this is more than enough to initiate a pre-trial investigation.