Medak Pocket 1993 - www.zlocininadsrbima.com


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Period: Yugoslav Wars

Region: Lika


Medak Pocket 1993



The criminal operation Medak pocket or "Bloody September in Lika" was the third attack of Croatian military and police forces on the territory of the Republic of Serbian Krajina (RSK) at the time when the RSK area was under protection of UNPROFOR.

 

This genocidal operation started on September 9, 1993 with a sudden attack of the Croatian Army on the Serbian villages in the area of "Medak Pocket" near small town Gospic, which were for 18 months under UN protection. Within 7 days, Serbian villages of Medak pocket: Pocitelj, Citluk and Divoselo were looted and razed.

 

This crime was followed by larger participation of the UNPROFOR forces than it had been theretofore conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. It included the largest participation of the Canadian Forces in military conflicts since the Korean War (1950-1953).

 

The only person who was liable for the crimes in Medak pocket, was Croatian general Mirko Norac, while general Rahim Ademi was acquitted. General Norac was sentenced to 7 years of prison for failing to prevent the crime, but having had privileged conditions in the prison, it turned out that it was a mockery of justice and victims.


 

BACKGROUND

SFR Yugoslavia was a federal state comprising six republics (SR Slovenia, SR Croatia, SR Bosnia and Herzegovina, SR Montenegro, SR Serbia and SR Macedonia). Yugoslavia and the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) were, by definition, aimed at union and brotherhood of all nationalities living in Yugoslavia. Socio-economic system in Yugoslavia was socialism. The 1974 Yugoslav Constitution led to decentralization of Yugoslavia, which enabled the separatist forces in Slovenia and Croatia and later in Bosnia and Herzegovina start pounding Yugoslavia, followed by bloody wars and persecution. According to all constitutions of Yugoslavia, the Yugoslav People's Army has been regarded as the only existing armed force on the territory of Yugoslavia and, therefore, the only internationally recognized military entity.

In late 1989, the Federal Parliament brought amendments to the Constitution, including replacement of a one-party for a multiparty system. Thus, in addition to the only existing party-The League of Communists of Yugoslavia, other parties could be established.

At the end of January 1990 at the well-known 14th Communist Congress in Belgrade, breakdown of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia occurred and verbal conflict between the Slovenian delegates and the delegates from the Socialist Republic of Serbia broke out regarding their visions of the future of the joint state of Yugoslavia. The Slovenian delegation left the meeting followed by the Croatian delegation, bringing into question the work of the Congress. Soon after, the delegation of SR Bosnia and Herzegovina and Socialist Republic of Macedonia left the Congress, too. Thus, after 45 years the rule of communist in the Yugoslavia has been interrupted.

 

 




 

ATTACK AND WAR CRIMES

 

The Croatian army launched an offensive at around 6 am on September 9, 1993. The attack involved about 2,500 soldiers of the Operational Zone "Gospic", including the Ninth Guard Brigade of the Croatian Army, the 111th Brigade from Rijeka, the Gospic Home Guard Brigade, the Home Guard Brigade from Lovinca and special police units of the Croatian Ministry of Interior. Croatian military forces mainly possessed weapons taken from the Yugoslav Federal Army (in 1991), including M-84 tanks and a number of artillery pieces.

 

The Serbian Krajina Army was surprised by this attack. After two days of fighting Croatian forces had taken control of the villages of Divoselo, Citluk and part of Pocitelj. The new front line was set near the village of Medak. The total area of ​​occupied territory included about 22 square kilometers, with a population of 1,300 inhabitants. In retaliation for the attack, Serbian forces began to use long-range artillery in bombing of city Karlovac and FROG-7 rockets in bombing of Zagreb.

 

Serbian forces launched a counteroffensive and regained part of the occupied territories which stopped any progress of the Croatian Army. Both sides used heavy artillery during September 12 and 13, 1993 and the UN forces had notified on 6,000 explosions in the area of ​​Gospic and Medak Pocket. On September 12, 1993 Serbian forces fired rocket "ground-ground" on Pleso airport. Then, on September 13 and 14,  1993 Croatia used planes MIG-21 in artillery attacks on Serbian forces in Banija and Kordun, with one being shot down near Vrginmost. Pilot Miroslav Peris died while he was downing the plane on September 14, 1993.

 

On September 15,  1993 a ceasefire was signed by general of the Army of Serbian Krajina, Mile Novakovic, on behalf of Serbian side and major-general Petar Stipetić on behalf of Croatian side. Control agreement "Medak Pocket" implied withdrawal of Croatian troops at the initial position on September 9, 1993 and that  Serbian forces wouldn’t enter the territory of Medak Pocket. The withdrawal was scheduled for September, 15 at 12:00pm.

 

In order to monitor the withdrawal, UNPROFOR has sent 875 soldiers of the Second Battalion of the Regiment "Princess Patricia" of Canadian Light Infantry to enter Medak Pocket together with mechanized unit of the French Army. UN forces under command of James Calvin, were positioned between Serbian and Croatian forces. The Canadian Army within UNPROFOR was one of the best armed and prepared, but after every major incident peacekeepers were escaping from the scene of the conflict more often than they resisted. This created doubt among the warring forces that UNPROFOR forces were unable to do anything for the sake of peacekeeping. Under the agreement, Canadian forces were to enter the interspace of the current front and to fix the Serbian forces and take over the territory from Croatian forces.

IFrameHowever, the moment they entered the no man's land and tried to go through the territory occupied by Croatian forces, they faced fire opened on them by Croatian side. Canadian soldiers raised the flag of UN on their GDPs and repeatedly tried during September 16 to enter Medak Pocket. With an every such try fire from Croatian side was becoming more intensive. Eventually, Canadians began returning fire, and it was noticed that Croatian forces had used guns of 20 mm.

 

Tension continued through the night and the early pre-dawn fire from Croatian side stopped and Canadian troops began taking over the territory. They moved by vehicles when they were prevented to carry on by a blockade made of mines and anti-tank obstacles. Behind the blockade on horizon smoke was seen rising and masked tank was noticed nearby with its barrel pointed toward the UN troops. At 8 am at that point  general Calvin and Ademi agreed on removing the blockage within a period of four hours. After a four-hour period blockade hadn’t still been removed. In 1pm generals met again, and general Ademi asked to be given more time for removal. A group of journalists was not far away and general Kalvin held a press conference in front of the blockade, and after seeing this Croatian soldiers began to remove the blockade. Croatian forces quickly started withdrawing to positions from September 9, 1993. The withdrawal was verified on September 17, 1993 at 6 pm.

 

"Sometimes shit has to finish, and this thing must end. And all I ever heard from Croats at my level were some vague excuses in order to stop us continue with the operation."

- general Kalvin, the press conference on the blockade, September 17, 1993

 

General Kalvin later said: "27 members (the Croatian Army) were killed or wounded during combat operations with my battle group during 14 days in Medak." Croatia denies these events. In Canada the truth about the events and conflicts between Canadian and Croatian forces was hidden for long. The soldiers could not believe that this conflict was unknown in Canada. Only on December 1, 2002 during a gathering of soldiers, they were awarded for the courage they demonstrated then. In the opening speech, Governor Edrijana Carlson said:

- "The simple fact is that only a small number of us Canadians know what you did in 1993 in Croatia. Your accomplishments have been nothing but heroic, but this country didn’t recognized it at that time."

 

 

 

 

VICTIMS

 

During the action Croatian joint forces killed 46 soldiers of SVK, 6 RSK policemen and 36 Serbian civilians. Among civilians 26 people were over the age of 60, and 17 of them were women. In total, 88 Serbs were killed. In this criminal action of the Croatian Army there were no wounded persons on Serbian side.

UNPROFOR troops brought out 18 bodies from direct combat with most of them having been mutilated and burned. Two bodies were found later,  and one corpse was found by soldiers of RSK in 1994. Only in 2000 11 more (16) corpses were found hidden in a septic tank in the former Serbian part of the (eastern) Gospic. Of 11 bodies 6 have been identified by the method of DNA. From a total of 88 missing, 84 were found with 8 corpses not yet identified.

 

"I have found no signs of life, neither men nor animals, in several villages through which we passed. The destruction was complete, systematic and deliberate".

- general Jean (Jean Cot), September 19, 1993.

 

 

 

 

CONSEQUENCES

 

This criminal operation of the Croatian Army "Medak Pocket" was subjected to a strong international criticism and after facing a political and military pressure, Croatian Government agreed to a ceasefire. The commander of the UN in Croatia, French general Jean Kot, organized and conducted negotiation meditation.

 

In 1994 in the area of Teslingrad (Lički Osik) Lika Corps members captured a soldier of the Croatian Army, Tilder Johana, who was participant in the events in Medak Pocket, as a member of a reconnaissance unit. In his statement, he described the whole operation, orders of Rahim Ademi and Mirko Norac, his own behavior and behavior of other persons. He explained in detail scenes of the massacre and torture against persons who happened to be there.

 

 

 

 

TRIALS

 

Crime pays off: Ademi and Norac

Based on the investigation which was being conducted until 2004 The Hague Prosecution filed indictments for command responsibility against the Chief of General Staff of the Croatian Army general Janko Bobetko, commander of the Gospic Military District, general Rahim Ademi and commander of the Ninth Guards Brigade General Mirko Norac. Indictment was not handed over to Janko Bobetko, because he died in April 2003.

 

The trial against Mirko Norac and Rahim Ademi was not conducted in the Hague Tribunal because the case was transferred to the Croatian judiciary in September 2005 and the Croatian judiciary issued the indictment only on November 22, 2006.

The trial began in June 2007 and ended on May 31, 2008, with oral pronouncement of the judgment. During the trial stories about monstrous crimes and torture of Serbian population could be heard (tamping women at the stake, beheading, ripping and throwing women in their own homes, then burning, shooting with knife a retarded young man who was hanged upside down, etc.). It was also proved that during the attack artillery shells were used four times of the required number.

 

The verdict acquitted Rahim Ademi and Mirko Norac was sentenced to only 7 years of prison for failing to prevent killings of civilians, looting of property and  killing and torture of war prisoners. During imprisonment, Mirko Norac was more at liberty than in prison: he got married, got two children, graduated from college etc.

 


Do not forget and do not repeat!