|04ZAGREB1624||2004-09-14 10:19:00||UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY||Embassy Zagreb|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS ZAGREB 001624
1. (SBU) State Secretary Tomislav Ivic of the Ministry of
Veterans and Family told Embassy officers on September 13 that the
Government's May 12 decision to give school allowances to the
children of Croats indicted by The Hague-based War Crime Tribunal
(ICTY) was based on "humanitarian considerations." Ivic denied
the decision was politically motivated. He said Minister Kosor had
passed it, in consultation with Prime Minister Sanader, strictly
on humanitarian grounds, to help the families of the indictees to
cope with increased expenses (travel to The Hague, frequent long
distance phone calls, etc.).
2. (U) The decision caused quite a stir in the Croatian press
during the slow news month of August. Human rights activists
charged that the decision was unconstitutional as it discriminated
against Croatian Serb indictees, as well as those being tried for
war crimes locally. Critics also argued that most indictees were
wealthy individuals in no need of state support, describing the
government's decision as a sort of payoff to those who helped it
improve its relations with ICTY by voluntarily surrendering.
3. (U) Ivic said that, contrary to public perception, most
families of ICTY indictees were not well off financially, adding
that the wealthier among them (e.g. General Cermak) declined such
support. When taking the decision, GOC bore in mind the
presumption of innocence, as the allowance applies only to those
indicted, not to those convicted. The allowance itself amounts to
500 kuna (about USD 80) a month for pre-school and school
children, and 1000 kuna (USD160) for college students. This year's
appropriation is 150,000 kuna ($25,000) through December 2004.
Ivic could not predict whether the program would be renewed.
Asked what would happen if an indictee were found guilty, Ivic
cited the case of General Blaskic (who was convicted, served time
and was released), whose children no longer received government
support, as a precedent.
4. (SBU) Given the minor amounts involved, we doubt there was a
real political quid-pro-quo involved in the GOC's decision.
Nevertheless it created a small local backlash and undermined to a
small degree the GOC's public commitment to doing the right thing
with indictees; a wiser minister might seek to provide allowances
for impoverished indictees' families though a less controversial
mechanism next year.