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Saborsko massacre is located in Croatia
Saborsko on the map of Croatia, 1991/1992. Serbian-held territories are highlighted in red.

A monument to victims of massacre in Saborsko

One of the identified mass-graves in Saborsko

The Saborsko massacre was a war crime committed during the Croatian War of Independence in Saborsko and two other Croatian villages in the region of Kordun by the Serb-led JNA and rebel Croatian Serbs' "Militia of Republic of Serb Krajina" in October and November 1991, in which they killed ethnic Croats residents.[1]


An important fact about the JNA was about its leadership, as well as its ethnical structure of troops (army obligants, reserves, officers). Although JNA (Yugoslav National Army) wore the name of Yugoslavia, the ethnical structure of JNA' soldiers engaged was not representing the ethnical structure of Yugoslavia; it had no army obligants from Croatia and Slovenia, nor Croats from Bosnia and Herzegovina, so the share of Serbs became extremely higher. That was because of ending of regular one-year military service - one of "big" classes ended its service at the end of August and the beginning of September, and after the December of 1991, the recruitmenet percentage from those republics sharply dropped. The class of June had no recruits from Croatian and Slovenia at all. The other important factors, that influenced changed army's ethnical structure was the deserting of army during the service (mostly non-Serb soldiers from Croatia and Croats from Bosnia-Herzegovina), higher percentage of relieving from army obligation (medical and other reasons) during the service (much higher than usual) and various evading steps undertaken before the start of military service. Additionally, reserve forces were recruited from Serbia and Montenegro (the latter were, however, engaged on southern Croatian battlefield). Similar was with army's professional personnel (officers, experts, tehnicians).

The assault on Saborsko region

According to the census of 1991, Saborsko had 1,701 inhabitants in 460 households. The majority were the autochthonous Croats. Local Serb paramilitaries had started with attacks on Croat villages on October 1, 1991, with military support of JNA forces from Knin. Among other attacks, these forces had attacked Saborsko, a small village located some 10 kilometers northwest from Plitvička Jezera. The assault, ICTY sources confirm, was a part of the ethnic cleansing plan. According to that plan, "all Croats and other non-Serbs were to be displaced from there, in order to get ethnically clean Republic of Serbian Krajina". Ethnically cleansed areas were used as jumpboards for the further assaults on other areas of Croatia.

""...Thus, the threat clearly expressed in Milan Martić's ultimatum in Kijevo was carried out in the territory of the SAO Krajina through the commission of widespread, grave crimes. This created an atmosphere of fear in which the further presence of Croats and other non-Serbs in the SAO Krajina was made impossible. The Trial Chamber has therefore concluded that the displacement of the Croat and other non-Serb population which followed these attacks was not merely the consequence of military action, but in fact its primary objective....
From August 1991 and into early 1992, these combined forces attacked several Croat-majority villages and areas, including Hrvatska Kostajnica, Cerovljani, Hrvatska Dubica, Baćin, Saborsko, Poljanak, Lipovača, Škabrnja and Nadin. Evidence shows the attacks were carried out to connect Serb villages and areas across non-Serb areas. During these attacks, the crimes of murder, destruction, plunder, detention, torture, and cruel treatment were committed against the non-Serb population..." [1]


On 28 October 1991, Territorial Defence Forces (TO) units killed seven civilians in the village of Lipovača,[1] located east of Saborsko and Rakovica.

On 7 November 1991, the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) and Serbian paramilitary units, in particular a special JNA unit from Niš, Serbia, entered the hamlet of Vukovići near Poljanak and executed ten civilians.[1] Poljanak is located southeast of Saborsko but southwest of Rakovica, around 10 km from both Lipovača and Saborsko.

On 12 November 1991, the attackers, consisting of members of "Martić’s Police", the JNA, and the TO, breached the defense lines of the village of Saborsko. After that, they went from house to house and killed peasants (in total 29 of them) that had been unable or unwilling to abandon the village. After that, all houses were plundered.

A Catholic church was blown up and the local graveyard was devastated by the attackers, presumably to remove all traces of previous Croat inhabitants.

Several of the villagers survived by sneaking three days through the forests into Bihać in neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina, where they were accepted and then transferred to Croatia by buses, where they were given shelter with other refugees in hotels.

Altogether, in Saborsko, 29 people were killed in this event.

The assailants came from the village of Plaški,[2] located around 10 km northwest of Saborsko.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Sentencing judgement: the case of Milan Martić, sentenced to 35 years for crimes against humanity and war crimes
  2. Anniversary of the crime in Saborsko from the site of Diocese of Gospić-Senj

External links

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