Croatians count toll in a `clean war'

ETHNIC CLEANSING

ROBERT FISK

Knin

There were 10 prisoners in the Knin secondary school, the one on the left badly beaten, red welts around the mouth and eyes, the one on the far right starved and weedy in the wreckage of a Krajina Serb army uniform, a pathetic thin beard around his jaw. Yes, they told us, they had enough cigarettes, enough food. But they would like a shower. They lived in one tiny room, mattresses on the floor, a burly Croatian policeman at the door. One of the European human-rights workers backed out of the cell. ``This isn't a prison," she hissed. ``This is a stable for animals."

Yet of all the Serb soldiers who remained behind when their colleagues ran away before Croatia's "Operation Storm" a month ago, these were the lucky ones. Upstairs, an even larger Croatian policeman was collecting photographs, snapshots from Serb houses before they were burned, groups of Krajina Serb soldiers and militiamen sitting on benches for their portraits back in the days when Knin was the capital of the farthest reach of ``Greater Serbia''. The Croatian policeman did not have time to hide the photographs before we walked into his office.

One showed an Orthodox funeral with militia guards, another a gang of plump Serb milicija in their sinister grey uniforms, yet another a bunch of slightly drunken soldiers, the camera capturing their stupid smiles some time between 1992 and August this year. Above one of their heads the policeman had inscribed an arrow in biro.

Found him yet, I asked? ``No, not yet," and the policeman tried to smile, his cheeks rising but his mouth unmoved.

It didn't take much to work out what was happening in the Knin secondary school. The Croatian security police riffled through the snapshots, trotted downstairs to the pathetic creatures in the windowless room and asked them - with or without a little persuasion - to identify the faces in the pictures. "That's how they ransack the Serb houses," a United Nations officer told me later. "They go for family photographs, any documents in Latin script - because they can't read Cyrillic - and then they burn the house down."

But lucky those prisoners in the Knin secondary school undoubtedly are; and a visit to the Knin city cemetery shows the extent of their good fortune. Almost a hundred crosses, erected by the Croatians, show the alleged number of corpses interred there since the Croatian army captured Krajina. But UN officials suspect that the bodies may be buried three deep - that at least 300 people, many of them civilians - have been placed there. Most of the crosses bear the legend "NN" for "No Name". A mobile digger stood ominously at the site, next to a newly scooped mass grave. For whom, we wondered?

Officers of the European Commission Monitoring Mission (ECMM) have equally grave doubts about the official figure of 524 supposed fatalities in all Krajina over the past month. "According to the [Croatian] authorities, 228 people had been buried in mass graves in five locations by 11 August," one of their official reports stated last week.

"Of 102 civilians and 126 military personnel, only 57 were apparently identifiable. It seems rather strange that so many should have been without ID cards. ECMM has interviewed witnesses who say their [Serb] relatives were definitely carrying IDs when they were killed, however their names do not appear on any of the lists. The [Croatian] authorities have stated that fingerprints and photographic records have been kept of all the unidentified bodies ... "

The suspicions of the European monitors have increased in recent weeks, as their report makes clear. "Granic [a Croatian official] stated on 24 August that of all the 524 victims from Operation Storm, only 24 civilians had been identified, when in SS (UN Sector South) alone there were 33 identified civilian corpses on 11 August. The figures are either extremely inaccurate or there are mass graves unaccounted for. It can only be presumed that the corpses observed over the last week are merely the tip of the iceberg."

If any observers remain unconvinced by this devastating assessment, they have only to read the report of the UN human-rights team, led by Petr Soucek, which wrote to the organisation's humanitarian- affairs officer from south-western Krajina on 30 August. "In Gracac gravesite we saw 81 graves (crosses)," his report said. "Only a few crosses bore a name of the soldiers. There were 22 more crosses than on 18 August when the site had been visited last time. In Korenica grave site, we found 21 crosses ... with no names"

Then the report takes on a chilling tone. "In the Czech battalion area located in Korenica, I was informed by the Operations officer that on Sunday 5 August, 21 Serb civilians had been seen ... chased by Croatian soldiers along the Czech battalion base. Later on, soldiers had heard inhuman screaming and then shooting. It might be just a coincidence between those 21 civilians and the 21 graves with no names on them!"

Nor is there any end to the Croatian depredations in formerly Serb Krajina. Over the weekend, Croatian troops burned 98 per cent of the houses in five more deserted Serb villages in the Cetine valley, once home to around 1,800 Serbs. The graffiti on a wall which I saw in the gutted village of Kistanje, west of Knin, summed up the emotions of the victorious Croatian army whose supposed discipline has been widely praised in Croatia and abroad. "Ovo ste trazili," it said."You were asking for it."

Voices
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond delivers his speech at the Scottish National Party (SNP) Spring Conference in Aberdeen, Scotland April 12, 2014.
voices
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Pare as Megan Draper and Jon Hamm as the troubled, melancholy Don Draper
tvAnd six other questions we hope Mad Men series seven will answer
Life & Style
The new low cost smartphone of Motorola, 'Motorola Moto G', is displayed in Sao Paulo, Brazil on November 13, 2013. The smartphone, with dimensions 65.9mm W x 129.9mm H x 6.0 - 11.6mm D is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with quad-core 1,2 GHz CPU, a 4.5-inch display and Android Operating System 4.3 and a suggested price of $ 179 USD.
techData assessing smartphones has revealed tens of millions of phones are at risk of being harvested
News
David Beckham is planning to build a stadium in Miami’s port for a new football team he will own
news... in his fight for a football stadium in Miami's port area
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
weird newsMan live-photographs cracking of mysterious locked box on Reddit
Sport
Oliver Giroud kisses the Arsenal badge after giving the Gunners the lead
sportArsenal 3 West Ham 1: Two goals from the German striker and one piece of brilliance from Giroud puts the Gunners back above Everton
News
Plans to decriminalise non-payment of television licence fees would cost the BBC £500m according to estimates drawn up within the Corporation
people
News
weird news
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
filmAs 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star James Dean perfected his moody act
News
Obesity surgery in rats has been found to change the way the body processes alcohol
news
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
artThe Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
Life & Style
US Airways has been at the centre of a Twitter storm after it responded to customer complaints with a graphic sexual image
techUS Airways takes an interesting approach to customer service
Arts & Entertainment
Philip Arditti as Yossarian and Christopher Price as Milo Minderbinder in Northern Stage's 'Catch-22'
theatre
Arts & Entertainment
The Purple Wedding: Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell tie the knot
TV The second episode of the hit series featured a surprise for viewers
Life & Style
Back to nature: women with body issues have found naked yoga sessions therapeutic
lifeDoing poses in the altogether is already big in the US, and now it’s landed here – in mixed classes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Move from Audit to Advisory

£45000 per annum + benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Move from Audit to Advisor...

Management Consultancy - Operational Research Analysts

£35000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: You must ...

Secondary Teaching Assistant

£60 - £70 per day: AER Teachers: THE SCHOOL: This outstanding Secondary School...

Application Support Analyst (MS SQL, java based webserver, batch scripting)

£36000 - £40000 Per Annum On call allowance.: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
10 best activity books for children

10 best activity books for children

Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

Politicians urged to find radical solution
Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

Ukraine crisis

How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

A history of the First World War in 100 moments
Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?