CNN Balkan Conflict News

Croats accused of atrocities against Serbs

October 4, 1995
Web posted at: 11:45 p.m. EDT (0345 GMT)

Amanpour

From International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour

soldier

VARIVODE, Croatia (CNN) -- Croatia conquered the Serb-held Krajina region two months ago. Since then, the Croats have reportedly destroyed about 70 percent of ancestral Serb homes and killed Serb civilians in an orgy of revenge.

The United States, Croatia's biggest ally, condemns the abuses and warns that post-war financial aid will depend on respect for human rights. Despite the warnings, the Croats appear to be making sure the Serbs never return.

United Nations soldiers showed journalists what they found in the tiny village of Varivode earlier this week.

"You've got blood stains on the floor. You've got two entry wounds from rifle bullets or a pistol, and another set of stains in the corner here," said John Shattuck, assistant secretary of state for human rights.

dog

U.N. soldiers took journalists to the home of an elderly Serb couple. The man had been sick and bedridden. Below a picture of the couple hanging on the bedroom wall, a dog crouched in the corner as if in mourning. The soldiers believe the owners of the house were executed.

"It's obvious they weren't shot from the entrance, but from here," Shattuck says, pointing to bullet holes. "It's a murder."

In several nearby homes, the same pattern was evident: blood stains on the floor, a cane lying nearby, a bullet hole in the wall, abandoned farm animals.

Milan Pokrajac

Seventy-four-year-old Milan Pokrajac, a Serb, is the only one left in Varivode. He says he heard the shooting, but didn't see anything. Now, he's terrified.

"If they come and want to kill me I can't do anything; I can't go anywhere," he said.

The United Nations believes 12 Serb civilians were massacred in Varivode. Jovo and Milka Beric were among those killed, according to identity papers. Their bodies have been buried, along with more than 200 others who were killed during and after the Croatian army retook Krajina from the Serbs in August. More than half of the graves are unmarked.

At first, Croatian authorities denied the reports and said they were propaganda. Later they blamed them on "uncontrollable elements." Now they say they've arrested several hundred people. The United Nations says what's happening here is a systematic campaign of intimidation.

victim

Varivode is only one destroyed village. U.N. television has taken pictures of Serb houses burning all over this region in the two months since the Croatian army conquered it. U.N. cameras found two elderly Serb men who had been killed. One, in his pajamas, had been shot through the head. The other's throat had been slit.

European, U.N. and U.S. human rights reports say much of the burning, looting and killing was done by men in Croatian military uniforms and armed civilians. The United States is protesting the abuses and maintains they would not occur if the Croatian government would take measures to prevent them.

Officially, Croatia says Serbs who have lived in the Krajina region for hundreds of years can stay. But the signals say otherwise.

mass grave

"We're seeing burning, looting and killing of remaining civilians," said U.N. spokesman Alun Roberts. "There's no sign of any encouragement to stay or for those who have left to come back in any way at all."

And as the U.N. soldiers leave, they promise to come back and see Milan, the only remaining villager. "If you find me alive," he says. "If you find me alive."



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