Thursday, November 04, 2010

Serbia / Croatia

Serbian President Apologizes for 1991 Massacre of Croats
Associated Press dispatch in The Hamilton Spectator, November 4, 2010
"Serbian President Boris Tadic apologized Thursday at the site where more than 200 Croats were massacred, offering the strongest condemnation to date by a leader from Serbia of wartime atrocities committed by the country. Laying a wreath at Ovcara, a former pig farm where a mass grave remains a painful symbol for Croats of Serb brutality during the 1991 ethnic war, Tadic said he came to 'bow down before the victims.' 'By acknowledging the crime, by apologizing and regretting, we are opening the way for forgiveness and reconciliation,' Tadic said. A few hours later, Croatian counterpart Ivo Josipovic laid a wreath at the graveyard of 18 Serbs killed by Croats in 1991 in a nearby village of Paulin Dvor and Josipovic said that 'those who are left behind those victims deserve our apology.' 'A crime has no justification; revenge cannot be justified by a crime,' Josipovic said. The slaying in Paulin Dvor came a month after the massacre at Ovcara. Though relations between the neighbours have vastly improved, the two presidents’ joint tour of the killing sites and apologies offer a symbolic step of reconciliation after years of mutual accusations over atrocities. Tadic is the first Serb leader to visit Ovcara, the site of one of the worst massacres of the Balkan conflicts that followed the post-communism breakup of Yugoslavia. Accompanied by Josipovic, Tadic said the two of them visited the site near the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar 'to create the possibility that Croats and Serbs can turn a new page of history.'
More than 200 Croats were executed at Ovcara after Serb soldiers dragged them out of a local hospital. Josipovic said the two were there to show that “a different policy, one of co-operation and friendship is possible' between the two nations. Vukovar was levelled by Serb bombardment in November 1991, after a three-month siege, leaving hundreds dead and forcing even more to flee their homes. Some in Croatia oppose Tadic's visit, saying he should have first admitted that Serbs were aggressors in the war. Several members of the small Croatian Party of Rights gathered in Vukovar carrying banners saying: 'Apology, Not Regret' and 'You're Not Welcome.' Several mothers of those killed in Vukovar came to Ovcara and turned their backs on Tadic as he spoke. The two presidents will also lay wreaths for 18 Serbs killed by Croats in a nearby village. [...]"

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