In 2016, the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, on whose behalf I stand here today, apologized to all the victims and families of victims of war crimes and human rights violations that occurred during and immediately after the operation "Storm".
The Youth Initiative asked the Government of the Republic of Croatia to do the same, with the aim that the highest state bodies in Croatia, offering an apology for the crimes committed by members of the Croatian forces, which are mostly not legally sanctioned, thus publicly speak out about these events and show maturity, courage and readiness to take their share of responsibility in the complex process of dealing with the burdens of past.
In order to create a society in which peace does not mean only the absence of war, but a real readiness for dialogue and reconciliation, war criminals must be convicted, crimes must be talked about publicly, victims must be apologized to, and the past must be accepted even when it is not something we are proud of.
On this occasion, I want to send and repeat part of that apology today, in Doljani:
"We want to apologize to those of you who lost your closest relatives that summer in the crimes committed against civilians during and after Operation "Storm". To you who were forced to leave the houses, towns and villages where you grew up, lived, had friends, children and family. To you whose property was looted, and the houses in which you lived for generations - burned and destroyed, so that you had nowhere to return to. To you who, despite everything, tried to return to your properties, but were prevented from doing so by the state bodies of the Republic of Croatia. The Republic of Croatia promised you peace if you stayed, but instead brought violence, murder, demolition and arson. We apologize and express our special solidarity with you who are still searching for the remains of your loved ones. We want to tell you that you are not alone.
We want to contribute to building a different Croatia with this apology. We want Croatia to be a community based on the rule of law, legal certainity, truth, equality, democracy and human rights. We want Croatia to be a society of reconciliation that is not afraid of its past, but learns from it lessons for the future."
This society of reconciliation that we hope for and around which we persist, as the years go on, will be made up of people whom today we describe as young, people who will not have direct experience of war. I am one of those people, born after the war, even after the end of the process of peaceful reintegration, and, unfortunately, I cannot stand here and speak for all my peers, but fortunately, neither can those who deny crimes, persist in divisions and feed nationalism speak for all of us.
Let the truth give us the strength to resist nationalistic exclusivity, and let the young people who will persevere so that it is not forgotten comfort the victims.