Minister of Internal Affairs of Serbia Aleksandar Vulin stated that the murdered Serbian children in the refugee column deserve justice, and emphasized that it is clear that a lawful and correct verdict is not a priority for Zagreb and that is the reason why Zagreb is insisting on the trial being only in Croatia and only by Croatian judges.

He pointed out that universal jurisdiction is not something Serbia invented, and that Belgrade, unlike Croatia, has been fulfilling all of its international obligations and enforcing justice like it has committed to do.

“That is our obligation, and not some sort of a whim like Croatia now wants to make it seem. Therefore, our country has every right to press charges against the members of the Croatian Army who committed a crime against Serbs, the same way as Norway and Sweden have done, without any type of objection from Croatia,” said Vulin.

He reminded that in 2011 Norway sentenced Mirsad Repko, citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to eight years in prison for his crime against prisoners of war in a camp for Serbs in Dretelj near Čapljina, while in 2013 Sweden sentenced Croatian Armed Forces member Ahmet Makitan to five years in prison also for a crime against prisoners of war at the same camp.

“Why is it that Croatia is not objecting to these countries for trying their citizens for crimes against Serbs in BiH? Why, precisely because of the universal jurisdiction rule,” said Vulin in an op-ed for Večernje Novosti.

According to him, it is abundantly clear why Zagreb continues to insist on holding the trial in Croatia and only with their judges.

“Here is an answer with a specific example. Serbia has ceded to Croatia a case involving an investigation against members of the Croatian Army’s Special Unit “Alfa” for the massacre of prisonersof war on the Mali Alan pass and they have been conducting the investigation ever since, for over 12 years now, even though it had been successfully completed in Belgrade. I suppose they are waiting for the witnesses and the perpetrators to die. Enough said about how they would re-try,” said Vulin.

He stressed that the mother of all questions should not be where the trial will be held, be it Belgrade or Zagreb or London or the Hague or Munich, but how it will be held.

“Even though the priority is a lawful and correct verdict, it is clear that this is not Zagreb’s priority, and that is the reason why they insist on holding the trial only in Croatia and only with their judges. How is it that Croatia, for example, may arrest and try a citizen of a different country, a Banja Luka Serb, for a crime committed on the territory of BiH, but Serbia may not do the same in the case of the shelling of the refugee column?,” asked Vulin.

Vulin pointed out that the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina has been conducting an investigation into the crime on the Petrovac road since 2005, but Croatia has been refusing any form of cooperation for the entire 17 years.

He also reminded that the Government of Croatia reached a conclusion on June 3, 2015 ordering the Ministry of Justice to refuse to provide international legal assistance in war crimes proceedings against their officers per the request of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that Croatia has a Law on Nullity of Judgments and Other Acts of the Serbian Judicial Bodies on War Crimes.

“The victims in the ‘Shelling of Refugee Columns’ case are in Serbia and they are its citizens. The Prosecutor’s Office of Serbia and its services have gathered evidence about the manner in which the crime was committed and the identity of the perpetrators. Serbia has pressed charges and it will hold a trial for this horrific crime because the Serbian people killed on the Petrovac road deserve justice, because the four killed Serbian children and the killed 20-year-old young woman who had been pregnant deserve peace and justice,” said Vulin.

The War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office of Serbia indicted four high-ranking officers of the Croatian Army for a war crime against Serbian Civilians, as they had ordered an air missile strike on the refugee column on the Petrovac road near Bosanski Petrovac, as well as in the town of Svodna near Novi Grad in the Republic of Srpska, during the Croatian military-police operation “Storm” on August 7 and 8, 1995.

On the Petrovac road, between Bosanski Petrovac and Ključ, a Croatian Air Force MiG-21 aircraft dropped missiles on a refugee column of Serbs from the Republic of Serbian Krajina on August 7, 1995, killing nine civilians, including four children and a 20-year-old pregnant woman, and injuring 24.

The Operation “Storm” is the largest and one of the cruelest acts of ethnic cleansing on the territory of the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s. More than 220,000 Serbs were banished from their ancestral homes during the Operation “Storm” in August 1995, and 1,877 were killed or went missing, 65% of whom were civilians.