Catholic Bishops Cautiously Criticize War Crimes Verdicts for Former Leaders

Following the guilty verdicts for former leaders of the Bosnian Croat statelet, handed down by the U.N. war crimes court in The Hague this week, and the suicide of one of the defendants, Slobodan Praljak, Bosnia’s Catholic bishops called on predominantly Catholic Bosnian Croats to “not lose hope” and “not be afraid”.

“(W)e reiterate what we have said during the (Bosnian) war: we oppose and condemn any crime, and every crime must be punished. We also remind that we were most saddened by the (war) crimes committed by persons baptized in the Catholic Church. Being consistent and aware of the world we live in, and of all the interests and injustices that made entire small peoples victims, we do not want to comment on the judgments of The Hague tribunal,” the bishops said in a statement.

The bishops said, however, that ever since the Washington and Dayton agreements were signed, Bosnian Croats had been told implicitly that Bosnia is not their homeland and that they have no place being there.

“Could (the Wednesday verdicts) be part of that plan? We find that to be immoral and unacceptable, and dangerous for the future of this country and its peoples. That is also a crime, for which many of those who send such messages and threats to (Bosnia’s) smallest people should be held responsible for. But, unfortunately, we do not believe that they will be held accountable, just like nobody was found responsible by The Hague tribunal for the crimes committed against Croats”, the bishops said.

“We encourage Catholic Croats to not lose hope and be afraid. They should not forget that there were times more unjust and burdens heavier. But with the strength of confidence in God and the love for the homeland, we have survived. This will all pass, and only the good deeds that we did, with faith in God and love for man, will remain. For all of you and all people of this country, for all those who died, we pray to the good and merciful God,” said bishops Vinko Puljić, Franjo Komarica, Ratko Perić, Tomo Vukšić, Pero Sudar and Marko Semren in a statement.

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