The Horrific War Crime against Croats in Pecki during the Homeland War

On 16 August 1991, in the village of Pecki near Petrinja, rebel Serbs committed one of the most horrific crimes of the Homeland War.

Pecki, a small village in the Banovina region caught up in the winds of war became the first line of defense after Serbs occupied numerous villages south of Petrinja in mid-July of 1991. The circumstances caused Croatian civilians to evacuate the hamlet of Bjelovac above which Croatian forces established defensive positions. Opposite them were the strongholds of insurgent Serbs in Gornja and Donja Bačuga as well as Luščani. As Serbs did not enter Bjelovac, Croats occasionally returned to feed the cattle and visit those who did not leave their homes.

Four members of the reserve staff of the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Croatia, brothers Ivica and Andrija Bugarin and brothers Đuro and Mato Horvat, went to visit the village in the afternoon of 16 August. They surveyed the hamlet, checked livestock and prepared to return to their positions when they were attacked by Serbian rebels. Andrija Bugarin managed to escape while the others were brutally killed. They were not the only victims of this bloody attack as Stjepan Horvat, who lived there his mentally handicapped daughter Marija, was killed as gunfire tore through his basement. His daughter miraculously survived.

The next morning, Croatian forces entered the village where horrific scenes awaited them. In addition to gunshot wounds, the enemy brutally massacred the bodies. Half of Mato Horvat’s face was chopped of with an axe, Đuro Horvat’s nose and fingers on one had were cut off and Ivica Bugarin’s heart was cut out and an arm severed from his body. As a result, remaining residents evacuated their homes after which the Serbs looted and set fire to the entire hamlet. A week later, Croatian President Franjo Tuđman came to Pecki to visit his soldiers, boost their morale and inform them about the situation on the frontlines.

Serbs from the village of Jošavica, namely Nikola Radišević “Tito”, Simo Plavljanić, Dušan Paunović and Jovo Zubanović were sentenced in absentia to 20 years in prison for this massacre, which was the maximum possible sentence at that time. In 2009, the State Attorney’s Office of the Republic of Croatia sent a proposal to the Supreme Court to revoke the verdict because the conviction was based upon testimony that could not be used as evidence in criminal proceedings. The proposal was accepted, the indictment amended and a new trial began in 2009. However, the State Attorney’s Office soon dropped the indictment and nobody was held criminally responsible or convicted for this crime.

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