Croatian Ambassador to BH withdrawn for attending Dodik's celebration




Ambassador Ivan Del Vechio (left) with Milorad Dodik (middle)

Croatian Ambassador to BH was recalled after attending unconstitutional celebration of RS day, where the local government decorated a person convicted for war crimes in Croatia. The event was also attended by president of BH branch of HDZ Čović, though he will not face any consequences.

The brief account is that the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs was not informed of Ambassador Ivan Del Vechio's plans to attend a reception in Banja Luka on the occasion of the unconstitutionally proclaimed Republika Srpska Day. The Ambassador was thus 'recalled to Zagreb for consultations' on the explicit request of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

Without informing the Ministry and the Government, Del Vechio attended the celebrations although, back in 2015, the BH Constitutional Court had proclaimed the holiday unconstitutional and discriminating against Croats and Bosniaks.

Ethnic cleansing

In Republika Srpska, it marks January 9, 1992, when the self-proclaimed "Assembly of Serb People", run by Radovan Karadžić and Momčilo Krajišnik, ruled to proclaim "the Republic of the Serb People in B-H".

Also in Banja Luka was HDZ BH party president Dragan Čović, in the status of a respected guest.  Čović, a former Croat member of the tripartite BH Presidency, was recently awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Zagreb. His party offered extensive coverage, both text and photographs, of Čović's departure for the Banja Luka celebrations.

In the conversations we conducted with the people in the Croatian Government and the Presidency, we received the impression that they were genuinely unaware of Ambassador Del Vechio's plan to go to Banja Luka for an event that celebrated the establishment of a Serb political entity created by ethnic cleansing in which some 210,000 B-H Croats and 350,000 Bosniaks had been killed or expelled from their homes.

The scandalous nature of the move is underscored by the fact that all the other 27 ambassadors of EU countries have rejected Dodik's invitation. On the occasion, former Yugoslav Army officer Slavko Lisica, infamous for his wartime actions around Šibenik, was decorated, while Darko Mladić, son of war criminal Ratko Mladić, whose troops sowed death in Croatia during the war, was a guest of honor.

"The ambassador apparently decided to travel to Banja Luka in agreement with Dragan Čović", an associate of Prime Minister Plenković told us. "Čović was at the celebration as a BH political official. We have nothing to do with it. However, Del Vechio should not have done it."

War criminal

Foreign Ministry, led by Marija Pejčinović-Burić, has formally distanced itself from the move, issuing a statement stating that it "strongly condemns the decoration of former JNA officer Slavko Lisica, convicted in Croatia for war crimes committed in the area of Šibenik in 1991".

It also said the Ministry would investigate the circumstances of Del Vechio's attendance in detail. Earlier, two Croatian government ministers, Tomo Medved (Veterans' Affairs) and Damir Krstičević (Defense), condemned the presence of the Croatian ambassador at the event. "It was an inappropriate move", said Medved, "especially bearing in mind that a war criminal who had been sentenced in Croatia for a serious war crime was decorated at the event."

"It's a shame," commented Krstičević.

Del Vechio himself told the internet portal that he had indeed been in Banja Luka on January 9, on the occasion of the unconstitutional Republika Srpska Day.


"I can only say that I was not attending either the parade or the celebration ceremony," he responded briefly to the portal's question.

Condemnations have come from Sarajevo, too. Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia-Herzegovina [in the technical mandate] Denis Zvizdić announced that he would cease cooperation with the Croatian ambassador to BH. BH Presidency member Željko Komšić wondered: "Is Croatia taking part in the celebration of crimes against its own citizens?"

Condemnations have also come from the Social-Democratic Party (SDP). Former Deputy Foreign Minister Joško Klisović believes Del Vechio should not have been in Banja Luka.  Former Justice Minister Orsat Miljenić said: "The fact that HDZ member Čović attended is his problem and the HDZ problem -- you are what company you keep -- but for Croatia to send its ambassador to the celebration of establishment of Karadžić's creation and the decoration of a person who conducted attacks on Šibenik is a shame for us all."