Anti-Romani civilian violence in Eastern Slavonia, Croatia
10 September 1998
Roma living in the Eastern Slavonia area of Croatia told the ERRC that since the region was reintegrated into the Republic of Croatia in January this year, there have been cases of anti-Romani community violence by local Croats. One of the victims of such attacks was Mr Z.T. (30), a Rom from the town of Darda in the Osijek-Baranja district, who reported to the ERRC that he had been attacked by two Croats in May 1998 while passing a café on his way to the Jablanovo Romani neighbourhood. He suffered serious head injuries and was hospitalised. Mr Z.T. told the ERRC that when he went to the police station in Darda to report the attack, police officers told him to stop complaining, otherwise "things would become worse for him." Mr R.T. (59), a Rom who recently moved to Darda, told the ERRC that Roma from the neighbouring town of Bilje started selling their houses in February and March, because they had been subjected to permanent harassment and abuse by local Croat returnees who had fled the town during the war. During field research conducted by the ERRC in June 1998, Roma reported that in February 1998, a group of 10-15 people, one of them allegedly armed with a gun, attacked Romani houses in Bilje and threatened to kill the Roma. When the latter complained at the police station, police allegedly told the Roma concerned that they should have left the town before the incident happened. Mr R.T. himself wanted to sell his house, but left Bilje without doing so, after it was vandalised. No more than five Romani families remained in Bilje according to Mr R.T. at the time the ERRC interviewed him on June 7, 1998. The situation of Roma in Eastern Slavonia is additionally complicated by the fact that some of them fought on the side of the Serbs during the war in the former Yugoslav lands. For that reason, many Croats regard them collectively as traitors to the new Croatian state. Bordering the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Eastern Slavonia was mostly populated by Serbs, and from 1991 to 1996 it was a part of a self-declared Serbian entity known as Republika Srpska Krajina. This area came under the protection of the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia (UNTAES) in January 1996, with UNTAES leaving it to the Croat authorities two years later.