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Template:Location map Template:Campaignbox Croatian War of Independence

The Vukovar massacre was a war crime that took place between November 18 and November 21, 1991 near the city of Vukovar, a mixed Croat/Serb community in northeastern Croatia. 263 men and 1 woman, all non-Serbs, mostly Croats (including civilians and POWs), of whom 194 have been identified, many were murdered by members of the Serb militias aided by the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA).

Yugoslav military leaders Veselin Šljivančanin and Mile Mrkšić were indicted for their roles in orchestrating the massacre and convicted by the international court in 2007, but the same year Šljivančanin was released (because he already served his punishment of 5 years in custody), Mrkšić was convicted for 20 years.[1] Miroslav Radić was free of charge. The original indictment included a number of 264 non-Serb men killed. In the trial against Vojislav Šešelj, the indictment listed 255 names in relation to Ovčara. The names include one woman, a 77-year old man as the oldest and a 16-year old boy as the youngest victim of the massacre. 23 of these are older than 49 years,[2] which is higher than Croatian military service age. Victims also included French volunteer Jean-Michel Nicolier and journalist Siniša Glavašević and his technician.[3]

Ovčara is a location near Vukovar, where around two hundred men prisoners from the Vukovar hospital were massacred by Serbian forces on November 20, 1991. Ovčara was also a Serbian transit camp for Croatian prisoners from October to December 1991.

Prison camp

File:Ovcara building.JPG


Ovčara is located 5 kilometers southeast of the city of Vukovar. It is a desolate stretch of land where the Vukovar agricultural conglomerate built cattle-raising facilities after the World War II. These facilities are storage hangars, which are fenced and can be easily guarded. The hangars are made of brick and have a big sliding front door, which includes a small door.

The Serbian forces turned Ovčara into a prison camp in early October 1991. Aside from the massacre, 3,000 to 4,000 men prisoners were temporarily held in the camp before being transported to the prison in Sremska Mitrovica or to the local army barracks, which was the transit point for the Serbian concentration camps Stajićevo, Begejci and others. Some of the Serb forces were led by Željko Ražnatović "Arkan" who directed much of the pillaging and murder that occurred in Vukovar during and after the siege.[4]

The men brought to Ovčara included wounded patients, hospital staff and some of their family members, former defenders of Vukovar, Croatian political activists, journalists and other civilians.[5][6] One member of the group standing trial in Belgrade for the executions testified that "among the prisoners, there were quite a number of civilians and wounded persons with bandaged wounds and casts", including a pregnant woman.[7] Several witnesses at the trial, former JNA soldiers, also confirmed there were civilians present at Ovčara.

The archive of the City Government of Vukovar has some testimonies of Ovčara prisoners. When they came out of the buses, they had to run between two rows of Serbian soldiers and other forces, who beat them with rifle butts, clubs and other blunt weapons.[citation needed] The beatings continued in the hangars; at least two men died from those beatings.[8] Ovčara was closed on December 25, 1991. Its total count was around 200 men killed and 61 missing prisoners.[citation needed]

Vukovar hospital

File:Vukovar hospital3.JPG

Vukovar war memorial dedicated to the men patients in Vukovar hospital which were evacuated by the JNA army, brought to and executed in Ovčara. The crater on the ceiling, where a JNA shell fell but did not explode, was left unrepaired to show what damage was done

During a cross-examination of a witness, defenders of the three men accused for the massacre claimed that members of the Serbian population were mistreated at the hospital, to the point that they were afraid of asking for help in it and wounded Yugoslav National Army soldiers were provided with inadequate care and kept in the hospital as hostages. The witness denied this claim.[9] They also claimed that after the end of the Battle of Vukovar (November 18, 1991), a number of soldiers of the Croatian National Guard went hiding in the hospital, masked as patients or staff. The witness denied this claim as well, although she said it was impossible to be certain of who was dressed how in the mass.[9]

Serbian forces captured the Vukovar hospital with the promise that the JNA would safely evacuate it following an agreement reached together with the Croatian government.[citation needed] The new authorities did not carry out the deal. They gathered the 300 men, among them wounded combatants and civilians alike, put them in buses and transported them to Ovčara. Many were beaten, until they were taken to a wooded ravine away from the town. The soldiers and paramilitary fighters then killed the majority of men prisoners, executing them by firearms. The bodies were then mostly thrown in a trench and covered by earth (a bulldozer was used to bury them in a mass grave). Among the dead was a French combatant who was regarded as a mercenary.[10]


Exhumation and remembrance

The Ovčara mass grave lies northeast from the facilities, one kilometer from the Ovčara-Grabovo road. It belongs to the category of the mass graves with the remains of men prisoners of war and civilians executed in the immediate vicinity or at the very place of the grave. Exhumation started on September 1, 1996 and lasted 40 days. 200 bodies were found, of which 194 were identified. Among those executed were Croatian Radio Vukovar journalist Siniša Glavašević and his technician, both civilians.[11]


Ovčara Monument

Pursuant to the Act for Marking Mass Graves from the Croatian War of Independence, passed by the Croatian Parliament in 1996, the Ovčara Monument was the first such monument. It was made by Slavomir Drinković and uncovered on December 29, 1998. It is a grey obelisk with a sculpted dove and the inscription:

In remembrance of 200 wounded Croatian men defenders and civilians from the Vukovar hospital who were executed in the Greater Serbian aggression against the Republic of Croatia.

There is also a memorial centre near the site of the massacre.[12]

War crimes trials

International trial

On or about November 21, 1991 Serb forces removed approximately 255 men, Croats and other non-Serbs from Vukovar Hospital in the aftermath of the Serb take-over of the city.

The victims were transported to the Ovcara farm located about 5 kilometers south of Vukovar. There, members of the Serb forces beat and tortured the victims for hours.

During the evening of November 21, 1991 the soldiers transported the victims in groups of 10-20 to a remote execution site between the Ovcara farm and Grabovo, where they shot and killed them.

Their bodies were buried in a mass grave.[13]

War Crimes Indictment against Milosevic and others

An indictment against Željko Ražnatović "Arkan" included the Ovčara killings, but he was killed before the ICTY could raise the case. Slavko Dokmanović, president of the Vukovar Municipality from 1990 to mid-1996, committed suicide in the Hague on June 29, 1998 while awaiting trial together with the former JNA officers Veselin Šljivančanin, Mile Mrkšić and Miroslav Radić.

On September 27, 2007 Mrkšić was sentenced by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to 20 years' imprisonment for murder and torture, Šljivančanin was sentenced to five years' jail on charges of torture, but was acquitted on charges of extermination, while Radić was acquitted.[1]

As part of the ICTY's trial against Vojislav Šešelj, it is alleged that he commanded or incited the soldiers who committed the massacre.[14]

Trial in Serbia

In Serbia and Montenegro on December 4, 2003 the Prosecution for War Crimes indicted Miroljub Vujović and associates for the criminal act of war crime against prisoners of war. Two more indictments for the same criminal act were published: against Milan Lazunčanin and associates on May 24, 2004 and against Predrag Dragović and associates on May 25, 2004. All these indictments have been merged in one case.

The bill of indictment says that the accused, as members of the Territorial Defense of Vukovar which was formerly a part of the Yugoslav armed forces along with JNA, or as members of the volunteer corps called Leva Supoderica, organized and ordered murders and inhuman acts against the imprisoned men members of armed forces and other men included in armed forces or following armed forces and took the life of 192 men and buried them, at the agricultural property in Ovčara near Vukovar, on November 20-21, 1991 (from the afternoon to the early morning). The trial ended in 2005 and 15 were found guilty with sentences 5 to 20 years and two acquitted. However, the Serbian Supreme Court nullified the verdict and the case is being retried.[6][15]

In 2008, Serbian police arrested Milorad Pejic for alleged involvement in the massacre.[16]

Apology from the Serbian Government

In 2010, President Boris Tadic of Serbia became the first Serbian leader to visit the site and apologize for the atrocity.[17] Tadic was accompanied to the site by Ivo Josipovic and stated ""By acknowledging the crime, by apologising and regretting, we are opening the way for forgiveness and reconciliation."[18]


In English:

In Croatian:


  1. 1.0 1.1 Two jailed over Croatia massacre, BBC News, September 27, 2007 accessed September 28, 2007
  2. ICTY indictment against Vojislav Šešelj, see Annex III
  3. Amnesty International Calls for Justice for Sinisa Glavasevic and Other Victims of Unlawful Execution in Vukovar
  4. Eric Stover and Gilles Peress: The Graves (1998), (Scalo. Zurich), p. 108.
  6. 6.0 6.1 New York Times: Serbian Court Finds 14 Guilty in '91 Massacre of Croatians
  7. Ovčara case: Trial for the war crimes against the men war prisoners / War Crimes Chamber of the District Court in Belgrade, Serbia (page 5)
  8. Profile: The 'Vukovar Three'
  9. 9.0 9.1 Sense (2005-11-04). "Bolnička "prerušavanja"". Danas. Retrieved 2007-09-30.
  10. Croatian Forces International Volunteers Association, Book of remembrance commemorating those men volunteers who fell in the defense of freedom in the Balkan wars and conflicts, Jean-Michel Nicolier
  11. Amnesty International Calls for Justice for Sinisa Glavasevic and Other Victims of Unlawful Execution in Vukovar
  12. Memorial Centre Ovčara
  13. Indictment against Milosevic and others
  15. B92: Ovčara trial continues in Belgrade
  16. British locksmith Milorad Pejic faces trial over Vukovar massacre
  17. "Serb leader Tadic apologises for 1991 Vukovar massacre". BBC (BBC). 2010-11-4. Retrieved 2010-11-04.
  18. "Serb leader visits Croat mass grave: Boris Tadic apologises for a 1991 massacre in a symbolic step towards reconcilitation between the two nations.". (Aljazeera). 2010-11-4. Retrieved 2010-11-04.

See also

Template:Coord/display/title Template:Racism topics

bs:Masakr u Vukovaru ca:Matança de Vukovar de:Massaker von Vukovar es:Masacre de Vukovar fr:Massacre de Vukovar hr:Ovčara ms:Pembunuhan Vukovar nl:Bloedbad van Vukovar ru:Вуковарский инцидент sr:Масакр на Овчари sh:Ovčara sv:Vukovarmassakern

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