BELGRADE – The Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday handed a protest note to Croatian Ambassador in Belgrade Gordan Markotic in a vehement protest against the annulment of a 1946 conviction of Aloysius Stepinac, which it sees as a rehabilitation of fascism and the Ustasha Independent State of Croatia.
In the note, the ministry said the UN and the EU explicitly forbade restoration of fascism and fascist ideologies.
The Republic of Serbia is appalled by the rehabilitation of the Nazi Ustasha Independent State of Croatia. Stepinac’s words at the Easter of 1941 that “the Independent State of Croatia was created by the grace of God, the prudent and self-sacrificing work of the Leader (Ante Pavelic) and the Ustasha movement, as well as by the will of our allies (Hitler and Mussolini),” and that the “Independent State of Croatia is the most illustrious event in the life of the Croatian nation,” best speak about Stepinac and those rehabilitating him, the note said.
Through public statements and press releases, as well as the decision to annul the Stepinac verdict – which Ephraim Zuroff, director of the Jerusalem-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre, described as disgraceful – the Croatian authorities and the government are directly supporting those in Croatia who are against regional reconciliation and stability and who represent world views that are contrary to the basic principles of the civilisation and the foundations the UN and the EU rest upon, the note said.
The rehabilitation of Archbishop Stepinac, the vicar of the Independent State of Croatia’s genocidal regime whose “priests” and “nuns” were the commanders of the Jasenovac and Jastrebarsko concentration camps, is creating a climate and sentiments that are resulting in attacks against Serbs, the note said.
During his trial after WWII, Stepinac cynically defended the forced conversion of over 200,000 Serbs from Croatia to Catholicism by saying it had not been a conversion, but a “religious transition”, the note said.
The ministry expressed concern over the anti-Serb sentiment in the Republic of Croatia, which it said had been developing freely over the past years and had a clear tendency to escalate.
In 2016 alone, as many as 26 incidents and cases of hate speech against Serbs have been registered in Croatia, the ministry said in the note.