Friday, April 30, 2004

Blood Money

Today in Zagreb deputy prime minister Jadranka Kosor met with Gordana Zec and Dušan Zec (Dusan Zec) and announced settlement that is supposed to give some sort of closure to one of the darkest stories of 1991-95 war.

On December 7th 1991 home of Mihajlo Zec, well-to-do Zagreb butcher and ethnic Serb, was visited by a group of reserve policeman. In those days such visits usually ended with people being taken away only to be found executed. Zec apparently tried to escape and was killed. His wife Marija and 12-year old daughter Aleksandra were taken in a police vehicle and later executed.

The perpetrators were relatively quickly arrested and admitted the killings during interrogation. But due to procedural screw-up their confessions were invalid and whole criminal case was dropped. Instead of receiving prison sentences, the killers later received military decorations and pensions.

The killings later served as inspiration for Ovce od gipsa, novel by Jurica Pavičić (Jurica Pavicic), later adapted into controversial movie Svjedoci.

A decade later, Gordana and Dušan, two surviving children, launched a lawsuit demanding financial compensation for their loss. Croatian government at first refused to pay, denying any responsibility for the actions of "policemen acting outside working hours". Public outrage led Sanader to intervene and 1,5 million HRK settlement was reached today in Zagreb.

Needless to say, today's settlement was unimaginable only few years ago. There were people in Croatian establishment that saw nothing wrong in Zec killings. And some were even open about it. Nedjeljko Mihanović (Nedjeljko Mihanovic), Tudjman's Sabor speaker between 1994 and 1995, said that the killing of 12-year old girl was justified under the wartime circumstances.

Only few months ago few people would even dream about former Tudjman's followers going that far in their attempts to cleanse themselves and Croatia from that bloody and embarrassing chapter of national history.


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