Deutsche Welle: Serbo-Croat argument over camps in Stajićevo and Begejci

Members of the association of families of injured veterans from Zrenjanin have reached day three of their hunger strike in protest at plans to place a memorial plaque on the site in Stajićevo and Begejci where detention camps for Croats once stood.

For that reason the hunger strikers demand the resignation of Zrenjanin Municipal Assembly President, Aleksandar Marton, who, two-months ago, received a delegation of representatives of the lawyers’ Association “Vukovar 1991” from Croatia and expressed understanding for the initiative to place a memorial plaque.

Jovanka Pavlović, from the Zrenjanin veterans association said that a monument to the fallen Serbian fighters in the wars of the 1990s should be raised first: “That [the placing of a memorial plaque in Stajićevo and Begejci] should not be permitted before a monument is raised, because we have 50 people who perished in the wars between 1990 and 1999. They gave their lives for this country. They weren’t politicians, but patriots.”

Zrenjanin Municipal Assembly President, Aleksandar Marton, maintained his previous position in support of placing of a memorial plaque in Stajićevo and Begejci: “The war madness of the 1990s showed that there was plenty of inhumanity and very little humanity and that’s why we need to offer an olive branch one to another: we to the Croats, and the Croats to us. We need these gestures. After all, no one denies that there was what there was in Stajićevo and Begejci. Indeed, there were camps there. People were imprisoned there.”

In 2002, when she was a young journalist Marinika Čoban discovered that in Stajićevo and Begejci at the end of 1991 there were detention camps for Croats. She was there to report on the church then being built in a neighbouring village: “It was completely by chance when I was talking with villagers that I learnt that not one priest wanted to consecrate the church for the simple reason that the bricks that had been used were from the neighbouring village of Begejci, and they had been taken from a barn were Croat prisoners had once been held.”

In that year, Marinika Čoban recorded on film the villagers describing the camps in detail: “Before the camera they outlined how that place looked, how it was surrounded by barbed wire; where the German shepherd dogs were; who was allowed to enter, where the hangar was located, where the prisoners were held. People were simply living in barns.”

However, witnesses who had previously spoken for the cameras, refused to give testimony before the court about the camps only a few days ago because it has these days become taboo.

The lawyers’ Association “Vukovar 1991” and the Association of homeland war defenders and prisoners announced several days ago that on October 3rd Vukovar defenders, wounded and civilians will go to the site of the former camp in Stajićevo and place a memorial plaque there. Associations from Serbia warned them that they would not permit that and called on the responsible institutions to prevent the arrival of Croatian citizens. In other words, if people aren’t clever, there’ll certainly be an incident.

Author: Dinko Gruhonjić