Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović has written on her Twitter account that it is devastating that the Serbian authorities allow persecutors of the Vojvodina Croats to gather again in 2019 in the town of Hrtkovci after they conducted expulsions of local Croats in early May in 1992.
“It is devastating that in 2019 the Serbian authorities allow the gathering of those same persons in Hrtkovci, the byword for the suffering of the Croats in Vojvodina,” the president said on Saturday afternoon in her comment in reference to the Hrtkovci convention of the Serb Radical Party (SRS) which on Saturday re-elected its leader, Vojislav Šešelj, whom the Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (MICT) in The Hague sentenced to 10 years in jail for expulsions and deportations of the Croats from Vojvodina and Serbia.
The SRS held its convention in Hrtkovci today and on 6 May 27 years ago leaders and supporters of that party held a rally in that Vojvodina village at which Šešelj read out the names of “undesirable” local Croats. In the following days, about 700 residents left the village due to pressure and threats.
There were no official reactions from Serbian authorities to demands that today’s SRS gathering be banned.
The SRS leader and ICTY convict Šešelj said today during his party’s meeting in Hrtkovci that the Radicals’ ideology remained unchanged, and he persisted in denying persecution of Croats from Hrtkovci. He also demanded that Serbia should introduce a penalty of life imprisonment for all those who say that war atrocities in Srebrenica amount to genocide.
Šešelj said Croats were not deported but that they willingly left after they swapped their properties. “I did not commit a crime and I will prove it. All Croats who left Hrtkovci had swapped their property and that is not deportation, especially not a war crime,” said Šešelj.
Last year, the Appeals Chamber of the MICT, the successor to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), sentenced Šešelj to ten years’ imprisonment for crimes against humanity over the inflammatory speech in Hrtkovci which it found resulted in the deportation, persecution, displacement and other inhumane acts against Vojvodina Croats. When that final ruling was handed down, Šešelj did not have to go to jail because the time he spent in detention in The Hague was credited to the sentence.