The non-governmental organisations Documenta, the Centre for Peace Studies, GONG and the Centre for Peace issued a statement on Thursday following the latest developments in Vukovar, expressing their full support for establishing democratic standards and restoring dialogue so that the people of Vukovar could continue the peace building process by themselves.
“Vukovar, as a town burdened with a legacy of war crimes, depravity and divisions, needs much more than transient, non-binding declarations and politicking,” the NGOs said, adding that the town needs support in shedding light on the fate of missing persons from the 1991-1995 war and in dealing with economic problems.
“The very fact that in all these years since the reintegration there have been no tragic violent incidents indicates the desire of the people of Vukovar for non-violence,” the statement said.
The NGOs warned that the very absence of physical violence could not guarantee a lasting peace, but that it required “the true and sincere will” of all the residents of Vukovar and of the political institutions in opening dialogue on key problems and difficulties from the past that have continued to affect the everyday lives of the people of Vukovar, citing war crimes against civilians and prisoners of war, missing persons from both Croat and Serb communities, marking the sites of war suffering regardless of victims’ ethnic background, and the need for a multi/intercultural life in the town.
“Let us not forget that alongside Croats killed in Ovcara, Lovas, Sotin and elsewhere, Serb civilians were also killed in Vukovar in the summer of 1991,” the NGOs said.
The NGOs condemned any expression of hate towards those who are different, including the violent removal of dual Latin and Cyrillic signs from government buildings in Vukovar this week.
“The right of ethnic minorities, notably the right of the Serbs to use the Serbian language and Cyrillic alphabet, is not an issue that should be associated with one town only, but it becomes a test of respect and tolerance for all in Croatia,” the statement said.