Zagreb, 9 May 2023
Activists of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights advocate the installation of a memorial for murdered members of the Zec family in accordance with standards of commemorating civilian victims of war.
In December 1991, Mihajlo, Marija, and their 12-year-old daughter Aleksandra Zec were killed by members of the reserve unit of the Ministry of the Interior (MUP) of the Republic of Croatia, the so-called Mercepovci, who were not held responsible for this crime.
At the commemoration of the murdered members of the Zec family in December 2022, Mayor Tomašević made a promise that a memorial plaque would be placed at the murder site of Aleksandra and Marija Zec.
On the occasion of May 8, the symbolic date when Aleksandra Zec would mark her birthday, the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, addressed the Mayor with guidelines on how to appropriately commemorate murdered members of the Zec family and thus make a historic step forward in commemorative practices not only of the City of Zagreb but also of the Republic of Croatia.
Guidelines that are in line with international standards for commemorating civilian war victims stem from the Recommendations for the commemoration of civilian war victims for representatives of local and regional governments in the Republic of Croatia entitled "Inclusive Memory", which were sent to Mayor Tomašević in December 2021.
Na prikladan način postaviti spomen obilježje nužno je kako bi se gradila budućnost u kojoj se zločini motivirani međuetničkom mržnjom, nikad više ne bi ponovili.
Installing a memorial in an appropriate manner is necessary to build a future in which crimes motivated by interethnic hatred would never happen again.
On this occasion, activists of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights said:
Nikola (28): The suffering of the Zec family is no ordinary murder. This crime is the result of interethnic hatred that flared up in this region in the 1990s. We, young people, want to protect such collective experiences of ours from oblivion and ignorance so that it does not happen again. That is why the memorial to Aleksandra Zec will not only mark the place of suffering but also the direction in which we as a society must not go again.
Borna (29): Dealing with the past responsibly is a prerequisite for a healthy present and a happier future. Zagreb and Croatia must responsibly memorialize and commemorate the massacre of the Zec family, i.e. they must realize all initiatives based on the principles of transitional justice and on examples of good commemorative practices if out of their enormous shame, they want to create the preconditions for building a democratic and peaceful society and a healthy national identity.
Teo (24): Dealing with one's own past is always a difficult but necessary step. An inclusive approach to memory is essential for young generations, who can comprehend the war of the 1990s from a distance, more objectively and openly. Young people of this area have a great opportunity to bury the old conflict (but not its memories), and to cherish the memory of those who tragically lost their lives due to delusional interethnic hatred, just so that nothing like this would happen again. The memory of the Zec family and the promised memorial plaque/monument are part of the puzzle of that inclusive memory, and that is why I sincerely hope that this issue will be acted upon.
Marina (22): The City of Zagreb has the power to influence the way future and present generations will face and learn about the past. This responsibility is great, and the application of the advice of civil society organizations dealing with the consequences of the war in the 1990s is the only way to fairly commemorate all victims.
Aurora (25): Symbolic reparation in the form of a memorial plaque/monument for the Zec family in the context of the budget of the capital city of the Republic of Croatia probably does not cost much, but that is why it means a lot - for the family of the victims, for the local community, for the nation, for current and future generations - because it represents the readiness to face the darkest parts of our history, as well as the will to act with joint efforts in the direction of the rule of law and recognition of the suffering of all victims, regardless of nationality or religion. In this sense, the City of Zagreb currently has the opportunity to serve other local self-government units as a model with its example of good practice of inclusive memorialization of civilian victims. It is an opportunity that is irresponsible to put on hold until the next anniversary or the next mandate, so we hope that the City will take it seriously - now.
GUIDELINES FOR COMMEMORATING THE ZEC FAMILY
The installation of the Zec family memorial is a form of memorialization of their suffering that is necessary for society in order to realize the rights to truth, justice, reparations, and the guarantees of non-repetition, the rights that make up the pillars of transitional justice. The installation of a memorial is a form of symbolic reparations to victims since recognizing the crimes committed is necessary to restore their dignity. However, memorialization is not only aimed at victims, but the entire society both in the present and future, given that it contributes to healing and confidence building and aims to prevent future violence.
In order for the process of creating and setting up the Zec family memorial to be in accordance with international standards, it is necessary to:
- to involve various social actors, given that the goals of memorialization concern building trust in the present and creating a future in which crimes are not repeated,
- to organize consultations with victims' representatives, civil society, and citizens in order to open a dialogue in society about the causes and consequences of this crime,
- to involve artists given their specific ability and skill to raise awareness of human rights violations and their consequences.
In order for the memorial to provide symbolic reparations to the victims and guarantee non-repetition of the crime, it is necessary for its appearance and content:
- to contribute to establishing the truth and accepting the facts,
- to contribute to inclusive memory through the memorialization of victims of minority communities, who are often omitted from official commemorative practices,
- to avoid relativizing or compensating for the crime committed with other crimes committed during the wars of the 1990s,
and when erecting the memorial, the highest state officials should:
- officially and publicly recognize crimes, take responsibility, and publicly apologize for crimes,
- contribute to a critical reflection of the past and connect events from the past to contemporary challenges in the field of human rights.
In order for the memorial to have a long-term positive social impact, it is necessary to:
- regularly organize commemorations, continuously and sincerely devoted to the commemoration of all the victims of the wars of the nineties,
- contribute to the definition of national identity through policies of pluralism that recognize different communities.