Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Croatia's Secret Files

Franjo Tudjman's son is implicated in the reported disappearance of key documents about secret deals between his late father and Slobodan Milosevic.
By Drago Hedl

Efforts to substantiate rumours of collusion between late Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic have been dealt a blow by the alleged disappearance of key documents from the official archives.


In what is being described as "Croatia's Watergate", a host of documents and tapes have seemingly vanished following the recent change of leadership in Zagreb.


According to the Croatian press, the man responsible is Miroslav Tudjman, the late president's eldest son who, under the old regime, was also head of Croatia's intelligence services.


Officially, Miroslav Tudjman resigned in protest after the new Croatian president, Stipe Mesic, told a French journalist a joke insulting his father. In practice, Tudjman's resignation saved Mesic the job of dismissing him.


In the wake of Tudjman's departure, the Croatian press has alleged that some 70 kilos (154 pounds) of the most sensitive files - documents which might compromise or incriminate his father - have gone missing.


According to the weekly Nacional, which has been at the forefront of the media investigation of Tudjman's secret police, the missing documents - all strictly classified - concerned clandestine Croatian operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as discussions and agreements between Tudjman and Milosevic about the division of the republic.


Part of the missing material is reported to be details of secret conversations between Tudjman and Dario Kordic, then commander of the Croat Defence Council (HVO) in Bosnia and now one of the indictees awaiting trial in The Hague.


These documents are believed to reveal the extent to which Tudjman, who the Hague Tribunal confirmed had been under investigation for war crimes at the time of his death, was involved in and responsible for the Bosnian war.


Potentially the most revealing part of the allegedly missing material concerns the various conversations between Tudjman and Milosevic.


Nenad Canak, a Serbian opposition leader who attended the new Croatian president's inauguration ceremony on February 18 in Zagreb, said Mesic had promised him that he would make public the files containing conversations between Tudjman and Milosevic regarding the carve-up of Bosnia and even maps indicating the proposed division.


Such a move would strengthen the Hague Tribunal's investigation of the Yugoslav president.


Canak says that Mesic had told him that even during the heaviest Serb-Croat fighting during the siege of Vukovar in 1991, envoys of Milosevic and Tudjman, Smilja Avramov and Hrvoje Sarinic, met up to negotiate the division of Bosnia, drawing new borders on a map.


Miroslav Tudjman, who was head of the Croatian intelligence service for most of the time his father was president, denies that he has any involvement in the disappearance of the documents and says that evidence presented by the press has been fabricated.


He has not, however, indicated that he will sue either Nacional or the journalist who broke the story, which was what his late father, his sister Nevenka and his younger brother tended to do when similar allegations were published in the past.


Miroslav Tudjman's successor, Ozren Zunec, is yet to reveal details of the state of the intelligence services, but has promised to make his future findings public. Meanwhile, new Interior Minister Sime Lucin has confirmed that sensitive documents have been removed from the archives, without revealing which ones.


Lucin also revealed that he has inherited 95,000 dossiers on individual Croatian citizens from his predecessor Ivan Penic, Tudjman's long-time interior minister. It seems that the former HDZ government systematically monitored the activities of all opposition politicians, independent intellectuals, journalists and civil society activists.


When alive, Tudjman made it clear that he considered anyone with alternative views to be an enemy of the state. Indeed, in his speeches he frequently said that 15 per cent of Croatia's enemies were citizens. Citizens wishing to see their files will now be entitled to do so.


Drago Hedl is a regular IWPR contributor from Osijek.