Baćin massacre

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Baćin massacre
Part of the Croatian War of Independence
Baćin massacre is located in Croatia
Cro-occup-lines-Jan92.svg
Baćin
Baćin

Baćin on the map of Croatia. Territories controlled by Serb or JNA forces in late December 1991 are highlighted in red.
Location Baćin, Croatia
Coordinates 45°12′20″N 16°44′50″E / 45.2056°N 16.7472°E / 45.2056; 16.7472Coordinates: 45°12′20″N 16°44′50″E / 45.2056°N 16.7472°E / 45.2056; 16.7472
Date 21 October 1991
Target Mostly Croat and some Serb civilians
Attack type
Summary executions
Deaths 75
Perpetrators Croatian Serb paramilitaries

The Baćin massacre was a war crime committed by Croatian Serb paramilitaries on 21 October 1991. It occurred in the village of Baćin, near Hrvatska Dubica in central Croatia, during the Croatian War of Independence. On 20 October 1991, 53 civilians were rounded up by Serb forces in the town and detained in a local fire station. Ten were later released either because they were Serbs or because they were connected with Serbs. Serb forces took the remaining 43 prisoners to a location near the village of Baćin the following day and at least 13 other non-Serb civilians from Baćin and Cerovljani were then brought to the same location. The detainees were placed on a bus and told that they would be released in a prisoner exchange. Croatian Serb paramilitaries instead forced them out of the bus and opened fire on them. All 56 detainees were killed. Their bodies were left out in the open and fourteen days passed before they were buried by Serb forces. Further killings of residents from Hrvatska Dubica, Cerovljani, and Baćin took place elsewhere that day. More than 75 people were killed in the massacre. Fifty-six corpses were exhumed from a mass grave near Baćin in 1997.

Background

In 1990, following the electoral defeat of the government of the Socialist Republic of Croatia by Franjo Tuđman's Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), ethnic tensions between Croats and Croatian Serbs worsened.1 Serbian President Slobodan Milošević used Tuđman's actions to his advantage, portraying the Croatian leader and the HDZ as reincarnations of the Ustaše.2 The Yugoslav People's Army (Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija – JNA) subsequently confiscated Croatia's Territorial Defence (Teritorijalna obrana – TO) weapons to miminize the possibility of resistance following the elections.1 On 17 August, the tensions escalated into an open revolt of the Croatian Serbs,3 centred on the predominantly Serb-populated areas of the Dalmatian hinterland around Knin,4 parts of the Lika, Kordun, Banovina and eastern Croatia.5 They established a Serbian National Council in July 1990 to oppose Tuđman's policy of pursuing independence for Croatia. Milan Babić, a dentist from the southern town of Knin, was elected president. Knin's police chief, Milan Martić, established Serbian paramilitary militias. The two men eventually became the political and military leaders of the SAO Krajina, a self-declared state which incorporated the Serb-inhabited areas of Croatia.6

After two unsuccessful attempts by Serbia, supported by Montenegro and Serbia's provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo, to obtain the Yugoslav Presidency's approval for a JNA operation to disarm Croatian security forces in January 1991,7 and a bloodless skirmish between Serb insurgents and Croatian special police in March,8 the JNA itself, supported by Serbia and its allies, asked the federal Presidency to give it wartime powers and declare a state of emergency. The request was denied on 15 March, and the JNA came under Milošević's control. Milošević, preferring a campaign to expand Serbia rather than to preserve Yugoslavia, publicly threatened to replace the JNA with a Serbian army and declared that he no longer recognized the authority of the federal Presidency. The threat caused the JNA to gradually abandon plans to preserve Yugoslavia in favour of expanding Serbia.9 By the end of March, the conflict escalated after the first fatalities occurred during an incident at Plitvice Lakes.10 The JNA stepped in, supporting the insurgents, and prevented Croatian police from intervening.9 In early April, leaders of the Serb revolt in Croatia declared their intention to integrate the area under their control with Serbia. This was viewed by the Government of Croatia as an intention to secede from Croatia.11 By early May, the conflict escalated in the region of eastern Slavonia, culminating in the Battle of Borovo Selo, just to the south of the village of Dalj.12 On 25–26 June, Croatian Serbs in Slavonia established the SAO Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Syrmia (SAO SBWS), declaring it an autonomous political entity.13 In the beginning of 1991, Croatia had no regular army and in an effort to bolster its defence, it doubled the number of police personnel to about 20,000. The most effective part of the force was the 3,000-strong special police deployed in twelve battalions adopting military organisation. In addition there were 9,000–10,000 regionally organised reserve police. The reserve police was set up in 16 battalions and 10 companies, but they lacked weapons.14 By July, the Croatian National Guard (Zbor narodne garde – ZNG) was established, absorbing a part of the special police force reorganised into four professional brigades,15 and police reserve force of 40,000 ZNG troops. The reserve units did not possess sufficient heavy or small arms to arm all of their personnel.14

Massacre

Serb forces took control of Hrvatska Kostajnica on 7 October 1991. Most Croat civilians had fled their homes when the town was first surrounded by the Serbs in September. Nevertheless, approximately 120 Croat civilians, mostly women, the elderly or the infirm, stayed in the villages of Hrvatska Dubica, Cerovljani, and Baćin. Serb forces rounded up 53 civilians in Hrvatska Dubica and detained them inside a local fire station on the morning of 20 October. Ten were released over the next day and night either because they were Serbs or because they were connected with Serbs. On 21 October, Serb forces took the remaining 43 prisoners to a location near Baćin. At least 13 other non-Serb civilians from Baćin and Cerovljani were brought to the same location.16

The detainees were placed on a bus and told that they would be released in a prisoner exchange. Croatian Serb paramilitaries forced them out of the bus and opened fire on them.17 All 56 detainees were killed.16 Their bodies were left out in the open and fourteen days passed before they were buried.17 Further killings of residents from Hrvatska Dubica, Cerovljani, and Baćin took place elsewhere on 21 October.16 Overall, more than 75 people were killed.18 Most of those killed were Croat civilians, although several Serbs were also killed while attempting to protect their neighbours.17

Aftermath

A monument to residents of Baćin killed during the Croatian War of Independence.

109 people, mostly civilians, were killed or went missing in the region of Hrvatska Kostajnica by February 1992. A mass grave containing the bodies of massacre victims was discovered in Baćin in 1997.17 Containing 56 bodies, it was the second-largest wartime mass grave in Croatia after the one in Ovčara.19 Twenty of the victims could not be identified. They were reburied in a joint grave at the Roman Catholic cemetery in Hrvatska Kostajnica.17

See also

Footnotes

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