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Varivode massacre

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Varivode massacre

Varivode massacre
Location Village of Varivode, Kistanje municipality, Šibenik-Knin County, Croatia
Date 28 September 1995
Target Elderly Croatian Serb villagers
Attack type
Mass killing
Deaths 9[1][2]
Perpetrators Soldiers of the Croatian Army (HV) and Croatian police[3]

The Varivode massacre was a mass killing and act of terrorism[4] that occurred on 28 September 1995 in the village of Varivode, Croatia during the Croatian War of Independence. In the massacre, soldiers of the Croatian Army (HV) and Croatian police killed nine Croatian Serb villagers, all of whom were between the ages of 60 and 85.[5] After the war, six former Croatian soldiers were tried for committing crimes in the village, but were all eventually released due to lack of evidence. In 2012, the Supreme Court of Croatia ruled that the Republic of Croatia was responsible for the killings, dubbing the massacre an "act of terrorism," and the following year the municipal court in Knin announced that the Government of Croatia must provide compensation to the children of a couple who were murdered.


Following the 1990 electoral defeat of the government of the Socialist Republic of Croatia, ethnic tensions worsened. The Yugoslav People's Army (Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija – JNA) confiscated Croatia's Territorial Defence (Teritorijalna obrana) weapons to minimize resistance.[6] On 17 August, the tensions escalated into an open revolt by Croatian Serbs,[7] centred on the predominantly Serb-populated areas of the Dalmatian hinterland around Knin,[8] parts of the Lika, Kordun, Banovina and eastern Croatia.[9] This was followed by two unsuccessful attempts by Serbia, supported by Montenegro and Serbia's provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo to obtain the Yugoslav Presidency's approval of a JNA operation to disarm Croatian security forces in January 1991.[10] After a bloodless skirmish between Serb insurgents and Croatian special police in March,[11] the JNA itself, supported by Serbia and its allies, asked the federal Presidency declare a state of emergency and grant the JNA wartime powers. The request was denied on 15 March, and the JNA came under control of Serbian President Slobodan Milošević. Milošević, preferring a campaign to expand Serbia rather than preservation of Yugoslavia, publicly threatened to replace the JNA with a Serbian army and declared that he no longer recognized the authority of the federal Presidency.[12] By the end of the month, the conflict had escalated into the Croatian War of Independence.[13] The JNA stepped in, increasingly supporting the Croatian Serb insurgents, and preventing Croatian police from intervening.[12] In early April, the leaders of the Croatian Serb revolt declared their intention to integrate the area under their control with Serbia. The Government of Croatia viewed this declaration as an attempt to secede.[14]

In May, the Croatian government responded by forming the Croatian National Guard (Zbor narodne garde – ZNG),[15] but its development was hampered by a United Nations (UN) arms embargo introduced in September.[16] On 8 October, Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia,[17] and a month later the ZNG was renamed the Croatian Army (Hrvatska vojska - HV).[15] Late 1991 saw the fiercest fighting of the Croatian War of Independence, culminating in the Siege of Dubrovnik[18] and the Battle of Vukovar.[19] A campaign of ethnic cleansing then began in the RSK, and most non-Serbs were expelled.[20] In January 1992, an agreement to implement the peace plan negotiated by UN special envoy Cyrus Vance was signed by Croatia, the JNA and the UN.[21] As a result, the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) deployed to maintain the ceasefire,[22] and the JNA was scheduled to retreat to Bosnia and Herzegovina.[21] Despite the peace arrangement requiring an immediate withdrawal of JNA personnel and equipment from Croatia, the JNA remained on Croatian territory for seven to eight months. When its troops eventually withdrew, the JNA left their equipment to the Army of the Republic of Serb Krajina (ARSK),[23] which Serbia continued to support.[24] A state of stalemate ensued, lasting the next three-and-a-half years. In August 1995 the Croats launched Operation Storm, recapturing most Serb-controlled territory in Croatia and forcing as many as 250,000 Croatian Serbs to flee the country.[25]


On the night of 28 September 1995, Croatian soldiers entered the village of Varivode and killed nine elderly Serb villagers. The civilians that were killed were Jovan Berić, Marko Berić, Milka Berić, Radivoje Berić, Marija Berić, Dušan Dukić, Jovo Berić, Špiro Berić and Mirko Pokrajac. After the executions occurred, the bodies were buried in a cemetery near the village without the knowledge of the families of the victims.[26]


After the massacre, Croatian authorities denied reports of widespread atrocities targeting Serbs and said that they were propaganda. Later, the government blamed the atrocities on uncontrollable elements within the Croatian Army and Croatian police.[27] Christiane Amanpour's report from October 1995 said that the "United Nations believes 12 Serb civilians were massacred."[27] In the first one hundred days following Operation Storm, at least 150 Serb civilians were summarily executed, and many hundreds disappeared as part of a widespread campaign of revenge against Croatia's Serb minority.[28]

The bodies of the killed Serbs were never exhumed, autopsies were never performed and much of the evidence that could have been used against the perpetrators of the crime was disgarded.[29] Despite this, six Croatian soldiers were tried for committing crimes in the village. The soldiers were Ivan Jakovljević, Peri Perković, Neđeljko Mijić, Zlatko Ladović, Ivica Petrić and Nikola Rašić. However, in 2002 they were all released due to the lack of evidence against them.[29]


Croatian President Ivo Josipović condemned the killings in 2010.

A simple wooden monument was erected to commemorate the victims of the massacre. In April 2010, the plaque was destroyed by a Croatian war veteran and had to be rebuilt.[30][31] The monument's destruction was condemned by then-Croatian Orthodox and Catholics, Croats and Serbs, after the erection of this monument to the ethnic Serbs civilians who suffered in the 1991–1995 war, can motion away from these things so that they no longer divide us so that we can all feel a mutual-responsibility to ensure that these crimes never happen again."[35]

Legal proceedings

In July 2012, the Supreme Court of Croatia ruled that the Republic of Croatia was responsible for the deaths of the nine Serb villagers who were killed in Varivode. The Supreme Court declared, "two months after the conclusion of Operation Storm, an act of terrorism was committed against the Serb inhabitants of Varivode for the purpose of causing fear, hopelessness and to spread feelings of personal insecurity among the citizens."[4]

On 23 January 2013, the municipal court in Knin upheld that the Croatian government of the time was responsible for the killings in Varivode, and reiterated that the killings were an act of terrorism against the Serb inhabitants of the village. Furthermore, the court announced that the Croatian government must pay 540,000 kuna ( 72,000) to the children of massacre-victims Radivoje and Marija Berić.[36][37] The European Commission welcomed the court's ruling, stating that the court had "addressed for the first time a long-standing grievance."[38]


  1. ^ "Croats Leave Bloody Trail of Serbian Dead". The Chicago Tribune. 9 October 1995. Retrieved 29 November 2012. 
  2. ^ "Croatia Admits Serb Civilians Were Killed". Los Angeles Times. 3 October 1995. Retrieved 29 November 2012. 
  3. ^ Za ratne zločine nad Srbima u Oluji niko osuđen | Dosije |
  4. ^ a b Vrhovni sud: Hrvatska je odgovorna za zločin u Varivodama! - Hrvatska / Novi list
  5. ^ a b B92 - News - Kosor condemns vandalization of Serb memorial
  6. ^ Hoare, Attila Hoare (2010). "The War of Yugoslav Succession". In Ramet, Sabrina P. Central and Southeast European Politics Since 1989. Cambridge University Press. p. 117.  
  7. ^ Hoare, Attila Hoare (2010). "The War of Yugoslav Succession". In Ramet, Sabrina P. Central and Southeast European Politics Since 1989. Cambridge University Press. p. 118.  
  8. ^ Reuters (19 August 2010). "Roads Sealed as Yugoslav Unrest Mounts". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 August 2013. 
  9. ^ "The Prosecutor vs. Milan Martic – Judgement" (PDF).  
  10. ^ Hoare, Attila Hoare (2010). "The War of Yugoslav Succession". In Ramet, Sabrina P. Central and Southeast European Politics Since 1989. Cambridge University Press. pp. 118–119.  
  11. ^ Ramet, Sabrina P. (2006). The Three Yugoslavias: State-Building And Legitimation, 1918–2006. Bloomington, Indiana:  
  12. ^ a b Hoare, Attila Hoare (2010). "The War of Yugoslav Succession". In Ramet, Sabrina P. Central and Southeast European Politics Since 1989. Cambridge University Press. p. 119.  
  13. ^ Engelberg, Stephen (3 March 1991). "Belgrade Sends Troops to Croatia Town". The New York Times. 
  14. ^ Sudetic, Chuck (2 April 1991). "Rebel Serbs Complicate Rift on Yugoslav Unity". The New York Times. 
  15. ^ a b Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. London, England: Routledge. 1999. pp. 272–278.  
  16. ^ Bellamy, Christopher (10 October 1992). "Croatia built 'web of contacts' to evade weapons embargo".  
  17. ^ "Odluka" [Decision] (in Croatian) (53).  
  18. ^ Bjelajac, Mile; Žunec, Ozren (2009). "The War in Croatia, 1991–1995". In Charles W. Ingrao; Thomas Allan Emmert. Confronting the Yugoslav Controversies: A Scholars' Initiative. West Lafayette, Indiana:  
  19. ^ Sudetic, Chuck (18 November 1991). "Croats Concede Danube Town's Loss". The New York Times. 
  20. ^ "Croatia human rights practices, 1993; Section 2, part d".  
  21. ^ a b Sudetic, Chuck (3 January 1992). "Yugoslav Factions Agree to U.N. Plan to Halt Civil War". The New York Times. 
  22. ^ Williams, Carol J. (29 January 1992). "Roadblock Stalls U.N.'s Yugoslavia Deployment".  
  23. ^ Armatta, Judith (2010). Twilight of Impunity: The War Crimes Trial of Slobodan Milosevic. Durham, North Carolina:  
  24. ^ Thompson, Wayne C. (2012). Nordic, Central & Southeastern Europe 2012. Lanham, Maryland:  
  25. ^ Neven Crvenkovic (5 August 1995). "Home again, 10 years after Croatia's Operation Storm". UNHCR. 
  26. ^ Chris Hedges (5 October 1995). "9 Aged Serbs Found Slain In Croat Town". New York Times. Retrieved 8 October 2012. 
  27. ^ a b  
  28. ^ "Croat army shelled civilians, report says". CNN. 21 March 1999. Retrieved 8 October 2012. 
  29. ^ a b Vesti online / Vesti / Ex YU / Hrvatska priznala masakr nad devetoro Srba u Varivodama
  30. ^ Srušen spomen-križ žrtvama zločina u Varivodama > Slobodna Dalmacija > Hrvatska
  31. ^ Vesti online / Vesti / Ex YU / Otkrivanje spomenika srpskim civilima u Varivodama
  32. ^ HRT: Spomen-obilježje stradalim srpskim civilima
  33. ^ Kameni križ za žrtve zločina u Varivodama nakon Oluje > Slobodna Dalmacija > Sibenik
  34. ^ B92 - News - Croat president honors Serb victims
  35. ^ Vesti online / Vesti / Ex YU / Josipović otkrio spomenik ubijenim srpskim civilima
  36. ^ Zorana Deljanin (23 January 2013). "Pravda za Varivode: Država mora platiti 540 tisuća kuna odštete djeci ubijenih srpskih civila!". Novi List. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  37. ^ "Knin: Za ubistvo Srba 72.000 evra". Večernje Novosti. 23 January 2013. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  38. ^ "EU backs Croatia to join in July as 28th member state". BBC. 26 March 2013. Retrieved 18 May 2013. 

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