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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    SUN, 20 FEB 1994 22:28:29 GMT

    DARKNESS AT NOON

    AIM, Belgrade, February 16, 1994

    Summary: Veljko Dzakula was arrested in broad daylight in the middle of Belgrade. A Board for his libereation was established. It is not clear who arrested him - State Security Service of Serbia or the State Security Service of Krajina. In both cases it is a matter of a criminal act. Dzakula - the first among the Krajina early fighters - was accused for negotiating with Croatia. The tragedy of Western Slavonia. An intriguing interview given by Dzakula to the Independent TV "Studio B" which is linked by many with his kidnapping.

    The former Prime Minsiter of the Republic of Serbia Krajina (RSK) and the former President of the Serbian Autonomous Region (SAO) of Western Slavonija, Veljko Dzakula, was arrested on February 4 in Belgrade. The arrest, roughly, happened as follows. Dzakula and Dusan Ecimovic (former Minister of Information of the RSK) were walking down one of the busiest streets in Belgrade - the Street of Serbian Rulers. At 11.30 h, a man they did not know met them and said: "How are you Mr. Dzakula?" Then, with two of his colleagues, he flung himself at his victim. Ecimovic ran away. "You need not run ", the fourth kidnapper called out. Dzakula wriggled, knocked about, and yelled for help. His glasses fell off, a sleeve was torn off his coat. The kidnappers tried to squeeze him into a grey Japanese brand car (plates no. BG 936-525). One of them used some kind of a spray directing it in Dzakula's face. Finally, the unfortunate man from Krajina was hand-cuffed, thrown on the back seat of the car, while one of his attackers, supporting himself by both hands against the roof, kicked him with both legs. Then another car arrived, and they all, Dzakula and his kidnappers, disappered in an unknown direction. Eye-witnesses came across four policemen. They tried to tell them their story. Only one wished to listen. And then, he said "What can I do about it?", and left.

    AND NOW WHAT?

    After kidnapping of Dzakula, the Civilian Association reacted sending a telegram to Slobodan Milosevic and the Minister of the Interior, Zoran Sokolovic, informing them about the event and demanding his freedom. At the same time, a board for the freedom of Veljko Dzakula and defence of political freedoms was established. A famous Belgrade criminologist, Vladan Vasilijevic chaired it, and the most renowned lawyers were engaged: Nikola Barovic, Borivoje Borovic, Boris Popovic, Drago Hiber. The Public Security of the Ministry of the Interior of Serbia issued a statement denying its participation in the kidnapping. Something similar was declared by the Ministry of the Interior of the RSK. But the State Security Service of Serbia kept silent - exactly the one which was suspected. Namely, there was an eye-witness who claimed that one of the kidanppers idntified himself as its member. For several days, Dzakula's destiny is still hidden by a veil of mystery. It is neither known where he is, nor whether he is alive.

    The daily "Politika", referring to "the well-informed sources" reported that Dzakula was in a villa of the State Security Service of Serbia in Banjica. The accusations based on quite tangible facts that this Service was engaged in kidnapping of citizens, started reaching their climax. The public remembered the kidnapping of Dusan Reljic, the editor of foreign policy in the weekly "Vreme", and that of the engineer Jovan Mandic - the man who turned off the street lights for several moments during the Vidovdan rally of the Serbian opposition. But, that is when the Ministry of the Interior of the RSK reacted again and took all the responsibility. It informed the public that Dzakula was arrested because he had left his residence, i.e. that he was taken into custody by the Municipal Court in Glina, where a proceedings for "territorial threat to the RSK and espionage" had been started against him, Ecimovic and Mladen Kulic. But his lawyer, Nikola Barovic reacted to this. He stated that it was not clear who made the arrest: the agencies of the RSK or those of Serbia. In the first case, it would mean an illegal action of a foreign police (since the FRY, like everyone else in the world, has not recognized the self-proclaimed Serbian state in Croatia); and in the latter case, it would be a matter of violation of the right of any citizen to defend himself in the process of extradition. Since his counsel knows nothing of the existence of such a demand for the extradition of Dzakula, if the arrest was made by the members of the State Security of Serbia, this is kidnapping and therefore a criminal act. Finally, Barovic said, it is still a mystery where Dzakula is and in what state. Not even the members of his family have been notified about it, although it is a duty of the "competent bodies" to do it pursuant to the law.

    WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

    The question which is imposed by this story is, who is actually Veljko Dzakula?

    His political career began in 1990 with the establishment of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) in Croatia - he was the President of its Board in Pakrac. In the beginning of March the following year, he was the first leader from Krajina who was actively engaged in the initial Serbian-Croatin armed conflict. The incident in Pakrac was favourable for warmongers from Knin - Martic and Babic (many believe that they inspired it), and the Serbian war lobbyists.

    Maybe under the impression of the events in Pakrac (it was clear that it was an ouverture for war), maybe due to the fact that the Serbs there began wondering how did they get involved into it all, and especially under pressure of the families of the prisoners in Croatian prisons, Dzakula started negotiating. He even met Dr. Tudjman. Negotiations about any kind of normalization of Serbian-Croat relations and handshaking of the negotiators was perceived in Knin as mere compromising.

    But the war was already taking its course. Dzakula participated in it like all the other Krajina leaders. Various structures from Belgrade offered all kinds of things: The League of Communists - Movement for Yugoslavia (in the first place, the retired general Borisav Pekic) promised an intervention of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) in Western Slavonija after the first shot was fired; different paramilitary structures - from Seselj's Chetniks to the "White Eagles" of Dragolav Bokan sent their men. Dzakula did not wish to lag behind. About 500 of armed Western-Slavonian Serbs cruised around Papuk at the time. And yet, this region - as we hear lately - was never seriously considered by Belgrade strategists, because that is what was agreed in Karadjordjevo. Moreover, there was no significant presence of the JNA there, either. But, that did not prevent shelling of Daruvar, Novska and some other towns. After Vukovar fell and Ilok was emptied of all its Croatian inhabitants in the beginning of December 1991. Croatian National Corps (ZNG) made an offensive on Western Slavonia. Majority of the Serbian rural population left the region panic-stricken without any major resistance. The offensive of Croatian forces was not powerful enough to justify such a headlong flight. There was also an order on the Serbian side - although noone knew who gave it - to withdraw. Dzakula who was promoted to the President of SAO Krajina in the meantime, became the leader of the Serbs with no land at all. His Slavonians moved into the houses of the expelled Croats in Eastern Slavonia and Baranja. A part of them - fleeing as far from Krajina as possible - were carrying out the second colonization of Vojvodina. Finally, there was a large number of refugees without a penny to their name (but those seriously wounded, as well) who roamed around Serbia and who were being forcibly thrown out of the illegally taken military appartments. They all felt completely hopeless and rootless and they all wished to go home - to Western Slavonia. Because of all that, Dzakula began exerting pressure on the Government of the RSK to enable the return of Western-Slavonian refugees according to the Vance plan. The unfruitful skirmishes in Krajina lasted during the entire 1992. Finally, on February 18, 1993, Dzakula met with representatives of the Croatian authorities in Daruvar and signed a document of an agreement about the return, opening of communications and construction of infrastructure facilities. But, Croatia was by now deeply involved in its Maslenica adventure, a bitter conflict between the leaders was unedr course in Krajina, and Serbia did not manifest the least flexibility because of that. It appeared that noone was in favour of the Vance plan any more, so Dzakula in the end turned out to be the guilty party.

    CALVARY

    Not long after the negotiations, Dzakula lost his political posts, and seven months later he was even arrested charged of treason and spying. He spent two months in the investigation prison in Knin and Glina, and then in the beginning of December 1993, he was set free. Two months later he came to Belgrade to visit his family. He was a guest in the "Interview of the spectators", a telecast of the Independet TV "Studio B", and many link this with his kidnapping eleven hours later. What did Dzakula say?

    He stated that he had elaborated a plan for the return of Western Slavonian refugees and that he had presented it to the authorities in Belgrade and Knin. The text of the plan is not known. He also declared that Ilija Koncarevuic (President of the Serbian Assembly in Eastern Slavonia), at a meeting attended by Budimir Kosutic and Stanko Cvijan (Serbian Minister for the Serbs outside Serbia at the time) in August 1991, had said that Western Slavonia was planned for assimilation and its population to be moved. Kosutic and Cvijan did not deny that. Dzakula also mentioned that local commanders, men close to Mile Martic, had once refused an offered cease fire during the December offensive of the Croat National Corps, insisting tthat they would fight to the end, and then they were the first to flee. About Milosevic himself he spoke favourably.

    And this is where the story about Veljko Dzakula ends, at least for the time being. He himself is by no means a man who can be amnested for the tragedy in Western Slavonia. But, he has at least subsequently realized that the Serbs and the Croats over there can live side by side through the implementation of the Vance plan. But, that would open numberless questions. The first would be - who is preventing that plan from becoming operational on the territory of the entire Krajina. Mile Martic and his Belgarde sponsors could hardly find a sensible answer to this question.

    Like most of the leaders of Krajina, Dzakula was first a fighter, then he was forced to negotiate, and, when he had refused to withdraw as a discarded personality, he had to disappear as a lesson to the others, in order to prevent them from trying to resolve the interests of the Serbs in Croatia in the only way possible - on the level of ordinary, everyday life without any high state pretensions.

    PHILIP SCHWARM