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Republic of Croatia : Overview of ICRC activitiesFebruary - September 2001

20-11-2001 Operational Update





The ICRC has been working in Croatia since 1991. Throughout the various phases of the conflict it regularly adapted its operations to meet humanitarian needs and now that the guns have fallen silent it is continuing to deal with the effects of war in various ways. In 2001 the ICRC has been involved in three main areas of activity:

  •  providing direct assistance to the civilian population suffering from the lasting consequences of the conflict in fields where the ICRC has specific expertise such as tracing missing persons, visiting people detained in connection with the conflict and assisting communities in mine-contaminated areas;

  •  supporting and cooperating with the Croatian Red Cross in its ongoing efforts to raise people's awareness about the danger of mines and propagate Red Cross values;

  •  promoting knowledge of and respect for humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles among military and police forces and within academic and government circles.

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 Persons unaccounted for in connection with the conflict  


Today, ten years after armed conflict broke out in Croatia and six years after it ended, many families are still looking for their missing relatives. The ICRC continues to assist these people and to remind the authorities of their obligation to clarify the fate of missing persons.

The ICRC supports the efforts of the Government Office for Detained and Missing Persons and cooperates closely with the Croatian Red Cross. Information on solved cases and on newly opened ones is regularly forwarded to the ICRC so that it can update its database. The ICRC is also in contact with family associations and with individuals who approach it directly to obtain news of their missing relatives.

Regarding persons reported missing between 1991 and 1992, the ICRC continues to take part as an observer in meetings between the government bodies of the Republic of Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and supports the work of the Croati an Red Cross tracing agency. 

 Persons reported missing between 1991 and 1992 - Tracing requests  



 1 Feb. -  

 30 Sept. 2001  
















 Family members fill in tracing requests for missing relatives, which are then submitted to the relevant authorities.  

With respect to persons reported missing in the former UN sectors between 1992 and 1995, the ICRC continues to collect tracing requests and reports of deaths and to submit them to the authorities.

In 2001 the Government Office for Detained and Missing Persons asked the ICRC to help it locate the families of over 300 persons whose bodies were about to be exhumed. The exhumations are currently being carried out by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the Croatian authorities in the Gospic area and at the New Cemetery in Knin. The families will eventually be asked to identify the bodies. So far, six bodies exhumed in the Gospic area have been identified. The ICRC has located all the families and provided the Government Office with the addresses of those living in Croatia so that they can be kept informed of the identification process.

 Persons reported missing in the former UN sectors - Tracing requests  




 1 Feb.-  

 30 Sept. 2001  
















 Family members fill in tracing requests for missing relative, which are then submitted to the relevant authorities.  


 Persons reported missing in the former UN sectors - Reported deaths  





 (49 transferred from tracing requests)  





Regarding persons reported missing in the former UN sectors, the ICRC also issues letters to families confirming that it is tracing their missing relatives. Between February and September 2001, the ICRC issued 20 such letters, which are mainly needed for resolving various status-related or property issues.

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 Detention-related activities  


The ICRC carries out regular visits to detainees held in connection with the conflict in Croatia. The purely humanitarian purpose of such visits is to assess the detainees'physical and psychological condition, distribute basic assistance and arrange for detainees with relatives in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to receive visits from them. The ICRC is currently visiting 119 people in 13 places of detention in Croatia.

In order to improve the quality of life of long-term detainees, the ICRC has provided those in need with dental prostheses, books, equipment for outdoor and indoor games, clothes, shoes, cigarettes and phone cards. From February to September 2001, over 300 certificates of detention were issued to former detainees who were either registered by the ICRC or brought to the ICRC's attention by the detaining authorities. Such documents are required for resolving various status-related issues.

Family visits are regularly organized for detainees in th e Republic of Croatia whose relatives live in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and for detainees in the latter country whose relatives live in Croatia. So far this year, ICRC representatives have accompanied 319 people on family visits to 46 detainees. Given the importance of establishing and maintaining links between detainees and their relatives, the ICRC has increased to five the number of family visits which it organizes for each detainee.

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 Mine-awareness programme  


The Red Cross mine-awareness programme was introduced in Croatia in spring 1996 in response to widespread mine contamination affecting 14 out of 21 counties. The aim of this programme is to reduce the risk of death and injury by promoting safe behaviour among people living in mine-affected areas. The plan is to build a sustainable programme which can eventually be taken over and run by the Croatian Red Cross for as long as the danger exists.

The strength of these mine-awareness activities lies in their extensive support network. For four years now, 100 mine-awareness instructors from local Red Cross branches have been teaching affected communities and groups at risk about the dangers of mines. So far, over 300,000 people have taken part in such mine-awareness sessions.

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 From a community-based programme to projects devised by communities  


The mine-awareness programme is being developed by local communities so as to ensure that it is sustainable and that mine awareness becomes a way of life. The ICRC supports and facilitates various local initiatives. These projects, which are often innovative, promote mine awareness in a way that is adapted to the local situation.

The ICRC’s role is to provide support, technical expertise and, where needed, materials, logistics and access to the authorities.   Among various initiatives that have been taken, an interactive play and a puppet show have proved successful in getting messages across to younger audiences. Other efforts include a national campaign in which TV spots were   broadcast daily and an animated film for children entitled " Mines are invisible killers " .

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 The ICRC supports mine action  


Lobbying, demining, assistance to mine victims and mine-awareness programmes are complementary approaches to solving the mine problem and the ICRC is convinced that only through integrating these approaches can the danger of mines be effectively decreased. All efforts in this area need to be adapted to the local situation and affected countries should be helped to build up their capacity to take charge of mine-related activities.

The Ottawa Treaty calls upon all countries to do their utmost to ensure that mine victims are cared for, rehabilitated and reintegrated into their communities and to raise awareness about the danger of mines. The ICRC, for its part, strives to improve the assistance given to all war-wounded people, particularly mine victims, who will need care and assistance for the rest of their lives. It also endeavours to reduce civilian casualties in mine-contaminated areas through community-based education programmes about mine risks.

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 Red Cross values programme  


" Promoting humanitarian behaviour in Croatian schools " is a programme that was started in 1996 with the aim of fostering respect for humanitarian principles. The ICRC supports training workshops aimed at Red Cross youth leaders and teachers who coordinate Red Cross activities in schools. The methods involved include group work, discussions, role playing and structured activities.

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 Promotion of international humanitarian law  


In its role as guardian of the Geneva Conventions, the ICRC has the basic task of supporting countries in their efforts to promote and ensure respect for international humanitarian law. This involves working with military and police forces, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, academic circles and youth groups.


 Police forces  


The ICRC has initiated cooperation with the Croatian Ministry of Interior, the aim being to provide the Croatian police with training in various aspects of international humanitarian law and human rights law that relate to their activities. Recently, three four-day courses were held for 65 police officers in coooperation with the Croatian Police Academy in Zagreb. The courses were a first step in support of the Ministry's efforts to ensure that the provisions of international law are taught to the police, especially at operational and tactical levels.

Specialized ICRC literature and other material on humanitarian law have been systematically made available to universities and distributed free of charge to government offices and police and military forces. Beforehand, the Hague Conventions and other legal instruments on the law of armed conflict were translated into Croatian and published in cooperation with distinguished Croatian law scholars.