June 2004  



During World War II Croatia, which during the interwar period had been part of Yugoslavia, was established as an “independent” satellite state of Nazi Germany which was ruled by the “Ustasha” Croatian fascists and implemented policies of genocide and ethnic cleansing against local minorities. Hundreds of thousands of innocent civilian Serbs, Jews and Gypsies were harshly persecuted and/or murdered by the Croatian authorities who established numerous concentration camps throughout the country to implement their racist policies. The largest of these was Jasenovac, which was nicknamed “the Auschwitz of the Balkans” and in which at lest 85,000 civilians were murdered.

After World War II many of those responsible for these crimes were prosecuted by the Yugoslav authorities, but numerous perpetrators were able to escape punishment by fleeing abroad, including Ustasha leader Ante Pavelic who was head of state in independent Croatia.

Following the breakup of Yugoslavia and the renewal of Croatian independence, the Croatian authorities did not initiate any investigations of Holocaust crimes and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman published the views of Holocaust deniers in his book The Wastelands of Historical Reality.

During the past five years, Croatia has successfully prosecuted former Jasenovac commandant Dinko Sakic, who was extradited from Argentina, but his case remains the only such achievement to date, and many other potential cases await investigation and possible legal action.