1991 riot in Zadar
The 1991 riot in Zadar was an act of violence that took place in the Croatian city of Zadar on 2 May 1991. Following an incident in the Zadar hinterland in which a Croatian policeman was killed, reportedly by SAO Krajina militiamen, Croatian civilians vandalized, destroyed and looted properties belonging to ethnic Serbs and Yugoslav companies in the city.
Tensions between Croats and Serbs increased steadily through 1990 and 1991 following the electoral victory of Croatia's nationalist Croatian Democratic Union party, led by Franjo Tuđman. Many Serbs were deeply unhappy about the prospect of living as a minority in an independent Croatia. In the jostling for the future conceptions of Yugoslavia and territorial pretensions between the republics, there was an expectation among Serbs of military conflict and that that could lead to persecution of minority Serbs as had occurred during the Second World War. Such fears were promoted and emphasised in public speeches by local Serb leaders like Jovan Rašković, Milan Martić, Milan Babić and by propaganda coming from Milošević's regime.
In the summer of 1990, they took up arms in the largely Serb-populated regions of inland Dalmatia, calling the breakaway region "SAO Krajina", sealing roads and effectively blocking Dalmatia from the rest of Croatia. The insurrection spread to the eastern region of Slavonia in early 1991, when paramilitary groups from Serbia itself took up positions in the region and started to expel non-Serbs from the area, reportedly associated with the Serbian Radical Party. On 2 May 1991, paramilitaries killed a number of Croatian policemen in the Borovo Selo massacre and mutilated their bodies. This was, at the time, the bloodiest single incident in the Croatian conflict, and it caused widespread shock and outrage in Croatia. The killings produced an immediate upsurge in ethnic tensions.
On 2 May, a 23-year-old Croatian policeman named Franko Lisica was killed near Polača in northern Dalmatia. The police attributed his death to close range enemy weapons fire, presumably by Krajina Serb militiamen.
Later the same day, on 2 May 1991, a group of people entered Zadar from its southeastern suburb of Gaženica, starting a riot whose apparent aim was to damage and loot properties belonging either to ethnic Serbs or to Yugoslav companies such as those of JAT.
The rioting started in the afternoon and lasted for hours, while the damaged properties were still being looted by individuals the following day. One Đuro Kresović, at the time the head of the Criminal department of the Municipal court of Zadar, witnessed the effects of the riot on 3 May and assessed the number of demolished properties at over 130, given that an insurance company made a list of 136 destroyed properties.
Because there were many broken windows in the city centre streets, the next day the Zadar newspaper "Narodni List" printed the headline Zadarska noć kristala literally meaning "Zadar night of crystal". The event was later referred to as the kristalna noć of Zadar, meaning Kristallnacht of Zadar in Croatian.
The Croatian police response was inadequate, while the insurance company Croatia osiguranje agreed to compensate the Serb business owners for the riot damage. Đuro Kresović claims that the police station in Zadar and numerous of its uniformed officers were actively involved in the lead-up to the riot and the rioting itself. He himself was soon demoted and afterwards discharged from his position in the Municipal court.
Immediately afterwards, anti-Croat rioting took place in Krajina.
Đuro Kresović claims that the riot caused most of the Serb population of the city of Zadar to flee in fear for their lives, that some were later harassed and tortured, and that around a dozen people were subsequently killed.
In July, JNA and Serb forces launched the attack on Croatian-populated Dalmatia, starting the battle of Zadar, in which there were 34 casualties.
In 1995, the government of FR Yugoslavia made a report that claimed the number of properties destroyed to have been at least 168, and it accused local HDZ officials of having instigated the violence. It claimed that the riot was "organized by a number of the HDZ activists and the highest-ranking officials in Zadar, in the presence of highest-ranking HDZ officials Vladimir Šeks, deputy Speaker of the Croatian Parliament, and Petar Šale".
The Split county State Attorney's Office had an open case regarding the riot but it was closed with no charges filed in 2002.
The events in Zadar were not widely reported at the time in the Western media, though the Serbian media cited the "pogrom" as an example of anti-Serb sentiment in Croatia. Marko Atlagić referred to it in a similar context during the trial of Slobodan Milošević.[better source needed]
- ICTY, Prosecutor against Vojislav Šešelj, 15 January 2003
- James Gow, The Serbian Project and its Adversaries, p. 159. C. Hurst & Co, 2003
- Zadar police department (2011-05-02). "FRANKO LISICA - obilježena 20-obljetnica pogibije" (in Croatian). Ministry of Internal Affairs (Croatia). Retrieved 2013-06-26.
- "Kristallnacht – Zadar 1991.". Novosti (in Croatian) (535). 2010-03-20. Retrieved 2013-06-26.
- Jemera Rone, Ivana Nizich (August 1992). "Appendix C: Helsinki Watch Report on Human Rights - Abuses in the Croatian Conflict, September 1991". War crimes in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Human Rights Watch. pp. 249–250. ISBN 1-56432-083-9. Retrieved 2013-06-25.
- Bennett, Christopher (1995). Yugoslavia's Bloody Collapse: Causes, Course and Consequences. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. p. 152. Retrieved 2013-06-05.
- Soldier killed in Croatian protest Associated Press, 7 May 1991
- Sixth Report of the FRY Government on War Crimes committed in the territory of the former SFRY, December 1995
- Transcript of the testimony of one Marko Atlagić, The Prosecutor v. Slobodan Milošević, ICTY, 15 February 2006