Croatia Myth&Reality: Serbs have no rights in Croatia


Myth: The government of the Republic of Croatia denied basic civil, cultural and linguistic rights to the Serbian minority in Croatia.

Reality: On the very day it declared independence Croatia granted extraordinary rights and privileges to Serbs and other minorities in Croatia.

It became apparent throughout the world that Serbia was the aggressor in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina during the break-up of Yugoslavia. Its clear aim was the preservation of a Greater Serbian state while retaining the name Yugoslavia against the expressed will of the majority of the people. However, Serbia's aims were not so clear to many in the West during the terrible days of aggression in the Fall of 1991 and Spring of 1992. A full-scale Serbian propaganda campaign repeated time and time again that the War was to "protect the Serbian minority in Croatia" despite the fact that the Serbs had lived peacefully with the Croatians for nearly a half-century. To reinforce their case, Serbia let it be known to the world that the new Croatian government had made no provision for the rights of Serbs in Croatia. The Western media, unable or unwilling to read the documents provided to them by the Croatian government in English, accepted mythology as fact and in many cases continued to repeat it well into 1992. "The Croatians wrote a new constitution, giving no special rights to Croatia's Serbs..." wrote the Christian Science Monitor on September 19, 1991.

Croatian Declaration of Independence, June 25, 1991

In reality, with the very first document to emerge from the new Croatian Republic, its Declaration of Independence on June 25, 1991, the Croatian government guaranteed not only civil rights, but unique rights to the Serbian minority. The first two articles of the Declaration established the rights of Croatia to declare independence and to defend its territorial integrity. Article III of the Declaration stated:

In order to avoid bloodshed and insure a peaceful transition, the Croatian Declaration concluded:

Serbia met this call for peaceful dialogue with the bloodiest warfare Europe had seen since World War II, slaughtering over ten thousand people, exiling hundreds of thousands and crushing the human rights of non-Serbs in every corner of former Yugoslavia.

Charter Relating to the Rights of Serbs and Others

In order to dispel any doubts about the Croatian government's commitment to human rights and exceptional rights for the Serbian minority, the Croatian Parliament in its first session as an independent state, adopted The Charter Relating to the Rights of Serbs and Other Nationalities in the Republic of Croatia on June 25, 1991:

  1. A just solution relating to the issue of Serbs and other nationalities in the Republic of Croatia is one of the important factors to democracy, stability, peace and economic advancement, and to cooperation with other countries.

  2. The protection and full realization of rights for all nationalities in the Republic of Croatia, as well as the protection of individual rights is a composite part of international protection of human and civil rights and the protection of nationalities and as such they belong to the area of international cooperation.

  3. The rights of nationalities and international cooperation will not allow any activity which is opposed to the regulations of international law, especially sovereignty, territorial integrity and the political independence of the Republic of Croatia as a united and indivisible democratic and social state.

  4. All nationalities in Croatia are legally protected from such activities that would threaten their existence. They have the right to respect and to self preservation of their cultural autonomy.

  5. Serbs in Croatia and all nationalities have the right to proportionally engage in bodies of local self-government and appropriate government bodies, as well as security for economic and social development for the purpose of preserving their identity and for the protection of any attempts of assimilation, which will be regulated by law, territorial organization, local self-government as well as institutionalizing parliamentary bodies which will be responsible for relations between nationalities.

  6. Organizations which will adhere to the aims of its constitution and which are involved in protecting and developing individual nationalities, and as such are representative of the said nationality, have the right to represent the nationality as a whole and each individual belonging to that nationality, within the Republic as well as on an international level. Individual nationalities and members have the right, in order to protect their rights, to tum to international institutions which are involved in the protection of human and national rights.

The commitments of the Croatian government to human rights surpassed those of the United States Declaration of Independence which referred to native Americans as "merciless Indian savages," or the U.S. Constitution which specifically defined an African-American as three-fifths of a person. The Croatian Parliament further strengthened the law on December 4, 1991 by specifically granting local police, courts and governments to Serbs in those areas in which they were a majority. These documents grant Serbs and other national minorities full protection of human rights, guaranteed proportional representation in government, the right to self-government, and protection from any attempts of forced assimilation. It further encouraged individuals and organizations to appeal to international bodies to secure these protections. Ironically, Serbs in Croatia have never needed these provisions. It was the Croatians, Bosnians and Kosova' s Albanian majority who would appeal to the European Community, the United Nations, the International League for Human Rights, Helsinki Watch, Amnesty International and other international bodies for protection from the Serbian minority and the Serbian controlled Army.