On August 4 1995, Croatian army and police pursued a military operation officially named "storm". This military campaign resulted in recapturing the region of Krajina, the territory previously controls by local Serb rebels.
In 1991, after unsuccessful negotiation to resolve the future of Yugoslav state, Croatian parliament declared independents from Yugoslavia. Local Serbs reacted by proclaiming the autonomy in the regions of Croatia where they have majority.
Soon, local Serb militia confronted government forces. Superior to government forces, mostly due to assistance of Yugoslav federal Army, local Serbs managed to keep control over the region.
The conflict did not last long, and as result of negotiations the region of Krajina was established as UN protected areas.
Meanwhile, local Serbs declared its own republic and subsequently they declared independence from Croatia.
Krajina encompassed almost one third of Croatia. This self-proclaimed Republic was never recognized by any country, including Serbia that provided the logistical and military supports to Serbs in Krajina.
Although relatively short, the initial conflict between the government forces and the local Serbs produced the war crimes and atrocities on both sides.
Many Croats were killed or were forced to leave the region of Krajina
The international court for former Yugoslavia indicted high ranking military officers and political leaders of Krajina who were sentenced to long imprisonment. The court also indicted high ranking Croatian officials, mostly in relations to the military operation storm.
In early summer of 1995, the U.S. ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith warned the local Serbs to accept z4 plan, plan that guaranteed broad political and cultural autonomy to Krajina.
Despite of the fact that refusal of such plan gave green light to Croatia to solve this problem by military means; the Krajina leaders were reluctant to accept the autonomy instead full-blown independence.
The United States supported Croatian efforts to recapture the lost territory and to establish its authority over Krajina region. In his book "My Life", President Clinton described his open sympathy for Croatian cause. Although United Nations prohibited any military support to region of former Yugoslavia, US administration allowed American private companies to help Croatia in the matter of military advising and equipment.
However, the Croatian government used, or probably abused US support and utilized its military superiority not only to regain control over the Krajina region, but this military action resulted in massive ethnic cleansing.
While hundreds of Serbian civilians, mostly elders, were killed during and after the operation "storm", around 250000 Serbs left their homes. According to several human rights organizations, 1900 people lost their lives including both Serbian soldiers and civilians.
As result of such notorious crime, the International Court Tribunal for former Yugoslavia indicted three high ranking Croatian military officers in relation to operation "storm". Generals ante gotovina, Ivan Cermak and Mladenn Markac are facing charges for the war crimes.
The persecution depictured this three high ranking Croatian officer as members of the organized crime enterprise which main goal was to expel Serbs from the region of Krajina.
In the official indictment, the court prosecutors mentioned even late Croatian president Franjo Tudjman as a member of united crime enterprise. Therefore, many believe that late Croatian president Tudjman escaped the same indictment due to his natural death.
Peter Galbraith who served as US ambassador to Croatia during the operation "storm" testified in the Hague on trial of three high ranking Croatian generals accusing Croatian regime for planning and committing crimes including ethnic cleansing. This former US ambassador to Croatia started his testimony by saying that Croatian state leaders, headed by late president Franjo Tudjman, wanted an ethnically homogenous Croatia, cleansed of Serbs. Despite of such clear accusation of Croatian regimes the international community including the United States failed to pressure the government in Zagreb to provide a necessary environment for Serbs to return to region of Krajina.
Today, 13 years after the "storm', region of so called Krajina is still unpopulated. The legacy of ethnic cleansing is still vivid and the time just brings a less hope that something could change.
While Croatian Serbs commemorated August 4 as day of their national tragedy and massive exodus, Croats declared August 4th as national holiday.
Unfortunately, among many crimes that have been committed by all sides during bloody conflict in former Yugoslavia, this crime of ethnic cleansing in Croatia attracts the least attention of the international community. Many believe that this has to due with still unclear role of Clinton administration in preparation and execution of the operation storm; operation the court in Hague defined as part of the united crime enterprise.
If the war crimes in former Yugoslavia continue to be distinguished by the nationality of the perpetrators and their victims, the reconciliation among people in the Balkan region will never be reached. Moreover, this could open the possibility for new crimes in the future, which hopefully nobody won't.