Croats accused of massacring Serbs: New blow for Tudjman as UN condemns scorched-earth policy in Krajina villages

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The Independent Online
THE UNITED NATIONS yesterday confirmed that the special war-crimes investigator, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, has accused the Croatian army of committing atocities against Serbian civilians in the Serb-held Krajina region of south- west Croatia and has demanded Zagreb mount a full investigation.

In one incident witnesses claimed Croatian soldiers sprayed an 84-year-old Serbian woman with machine-gun fire and others threw two wounded Serbs into a house and set it on fire. A spokeswoman for UN peace-keepers in the region said the Croats carried out a scorched-earth policy in a string of Serbian villages taken briefly by Croats last month, dynamiting and burning down houses.

In a letter addressed to the Croatian Foreign Minister, Mate Granic, Mr Mazowiecki, a former prime minister of Poland, charged Croatian forces with 'the systematic and deliberate destruction of homes, livestock and other civilian property'. He added: 'I am particularly disturbed by evidence which indicates that Croat-armed forces arbitrarily executed several inhabitants of the villages.'

UN peace-keepers brokering a ceasefire with rebel Serbs recovered the bodies of 67 Serbs from the villages, near Gospic, after the Croatian army withdrew; 18 bodies were mutilated. Another 48 Serbs are still unaccounted for. In Bosnia, the UN reported that Bosnian Croats expelled another 530 Muslims civilians from Croat-held western Mostar in southern Bosnia to the Muslim-held eastern section of the city.

The accusations about atrocities will further dent President Franjo Tudjman's battered image in Croatia. Eight prominent intellectuals recently wrote an open letter to the President demanding his resignation. The critics savaged Mr Tudjman for destroying Croatia's international reputation by joining Serbia in the partition of Bosnia and making Croatia hostage to the territorial demands of Bosnian Croats.

Croatia's meddling in the Bosnian conflict has estranged Germany and Austria, former close allies, and led to threats of sanctions from the European Community.

Mr Mazowiecki's attack on Croatia caught official Serbdom on the hop. The authorities in Serbia have made no secret of the fact that they detest Mr Mazowiecki for his efforts to expose the mass killing of several hundred Croats by Serbian forces in Vukovar.