Croatia Myth&Reality: Serbs have no rights in Croatia
MYTH:"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:
The Republic of Croatia is a democratic, legal and social state in which
prevails the supreme values of constitutional order: freedom, equality,
ethnic equality, peace, social justice, respect for human rights,
pluralism and the inviolability of personal property, environmental
protection, the rule of law, and a multi-party system.
In order to avoid bloodshed and insure a peaceful
transition, the Croatian Declaration concluded:
The Republic of Croatia guarantees Serbs in Croatia and all national
minorities who live in this territory the respect of all human and civil
rights, especially the freedom to nurture their national language and
culture as well as political organizations.
The Republic of Croatia protects the rights and interests of its citizens
without regard to their religious, ethnic or racial belonging. In
accordance with customary and positive international law, the Republic
of Croatia guarantees other states and international bodies that it will
completely and consciously uphold all its rights and duties as a legal
successor to the previous Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to the
extent that they relate to the Republic of Croatia.
The Republic of Croatia calls upon the other republics of the former
SFRY to create an alliance of sovereign states on the presumptions of mutual
recognition of state sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual
respect, recognition of political pluralism and democracy, pluralism of
ownership and market economy, and the actual respect of human rights,
rights for ethnic minorities and other civilized values of the free world.
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:
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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.