Human rights group slams lecture by convicted Bosnian Croat wartime leader

Human rights group slams lecture by convicted Bosnian Croat wartime leader

Human rights group slams lecture by convicted Bosnian Croat wartime leader Izvor: STR / AFP, (ilustracija)

Croatian human rights activist group Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR) issued an open letter on Wednesday calling for a student cinema in Zagreb to screen a film about the 1993 Ahmici massacre in Bosnia, after the same cinema had hosted a lecture by a Bosnian Croat wartime leader later convicted for his role in the event.

Dario Kordic was a Bosnian Croat wartime leader who served as commander-in-chief of the Bosnian Croat army HVO during the 1992-95 Bosnian War, and who was sentenced for war crimes after the war.

In the late 1990s, Kordic was put on trial at the Hague war crimes tribunal (ICTY) for his role in the 1993 Ahmici massacre in central Bosnia, where HVO soldiers killed over a hundred Muslim Bosniak civilians during the Bosniak-Croat conflict which was part of the larger Bosnian War.

At the start of his trial, Kordic pleaded not guilty to three counts war crimes, violations of Geneva convention, and customs of war. In 2001 he was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2001 and was later released in 2014 after serving two-thirds of his sentence, having spent some 17 years in detention.

On Tuesday, Kordic was invited by a Catholic chaplain who regularly holds service for students on the campus to appear at the cinema and speak to students about his time in prison and how the experience helped him affirm his Catholic faith.

According to local media reports, during Kordic's speech, four activists briefly interrupted the event, carrying a banner reading "Dario Kordic - War Criminal" before they were escorted out.

On Wednesday, YIHR responded by issuing an open letter calling for the head of the student campus to follow up Kordic's talk with a screening of a Hague tribunal's film about HVO crimes in central Bosnia.

"Giving space in public to people like Kordic works to build a society which glorifies war and violence, which disparages and disrespects the victims, and which actively promotes values which are directly opposed to human rights," the group said.

"In order to allow students and the general public to get insight into the events and crimes which happened in central Bosnia in the early 1990s, we call for the same theatre to screen the "Crimes Before the ICTY: Central Bosnia" documentary film produced by the ICTY, which, among other things, deals with the crimes at Ahmici for which Kordic was sentenced to 25 years in prison," the letter said.

The group also said that an appropriate date to screen the film would be April 16, which is the 26th anniversary of the Ahmici massacre.

At the village itself, anniversaries of the massacre are regularly marked by survivors and families of victims to this day. Their association, called “April 16," is still searching for the remains of some 30 victims thought to have been killed there in 1993.

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