Tomislav Merčep

Last updated

Tomislav Merčep (28 September 1952 – 16 November 2020) was a Croatian politician and paramilitary leader during the Croatian War of Independence who was later convicted of war crimes.


Early life and the Croatian War of Independence

A native of Vukovar, Merčep worked as an engineer before joining the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) in 1990. He then entered the local city government as the Secretary of People's Defense (Croatian : Sekretar narodne obrane), where he exerted considerable power in the local police and business, esp. in preparation for the impending war. During the war, he engaged in paramilitary activities which were subsequently investigated by the Hague tribunal [1] and covered by the (now defunct) Croatian newspaper Feral Tribune . [2]

At the turn of 1991, several properties owned by ethnic Serbs were blown up in Vukovar, and it was widely speculated that Merčep was behind this. In 1997 Feral Tribune released a document which confirmed exchanges of large quantities of explosive materials in September 1990 between Merčep and Branimir Glavaš. In August 1991, Merčep was briefly arrested by Croatian authorities and detained on undisclosed charges, but was soon released and moved to Zagreb together with his family, a week before the Battle of Vukovar started. [ citation needed ]

Merčep later became an officer in the Croatian Ministry of Internal Affairs and he participated in the other fronts of the Croatian War of Independence, being in command of thousands of paramilitaries which were responsible for killing and expelling thousands of ethnic Serbs from areas in and around Gospić, among other places (notably the Murder of the Zec family in Zagreb). The "Merčepovci" unit detained, tortured and killed several dozen Serb civilians at the Zagreb Trade Fair, Kutina in central Croatia and Pakračka Poljana in western Slavonia in late 1991. [3] A total of 46 civilians were killed by the Merčepovci, three went missing and have not been found, and six were tortured but survived. [3] A decade later, five members of his unit, Munib Suljić, Igor Mikola, Siniša Rimac, Miro Bajramović and Branko Šarić, were indicted on several criminal charges related to the Pakračka Poljana case, involving the killing of prisoners, mostly ethnic Serbs, in a field near Pakrac, and later convicted. [4] [5] Tomislav Merčep himself was not indicted in these proceedings.

Political career

Merčep became a HDZ member of the Chamber of Counties of Croatian Parliament in 1993.

In 1995, he became the leader of the "Association of Croatian Volunteer Veterans of the Patriotic War" (Croatian : Udruga hrvatskih dragovoljaca Domovinskog rata, UHDDR). As of March 2016 he remained at the head of that association. [6]

In late 1990s he quit the HDZ and instead founded his own party, the Croatian Popular Party (Hrvatska pučka stranka, HPS). In 2000 he ran as a HPS candidate in 2000 presidential elections, where he received 0.85% of the vote and was eliminated in the first round.

War crimes prosecution

In 2003, the Croatian weekly Nacional reported that the ICTY was "completing an indictment against Tomislav Merčep", after interviewing Franjo Gregurić, Mladen Markač, Hrvoje Šarinić and others. [7] There were media reports in 2006 that an indictment against Merčep himself, based on ICTY investigations, was forthcoming in the Croatian legal system. [8] In December 2010, Amnesty International recommended that Merčep should be prosecuted based on a series of public testimonies about crimes committed by his subordinates. [9] [10] The same week, the County Prosecutor in Zagreb brought up charges against Merčep and he was arrested. [11]

In May 2016, Merčep was sentenced to five-and-a-half years' imprisonment for failing to prevent the murder of 43 Serb civilians in Pakračka Poljana and other locations, committed by members of the unit under his command. [12] In February 2017, upon appeal by the State Attorney's Office, the Supreme Court of Croatia increased his prison term to 7 years. [13]


Merčep was conditionally released from prison in March 2020 due to a serious illness, and died on 16 November 2020. [14]

Related Research Articles

International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia UN ad hoc court

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was a body of the United Nations established to prosecute serious crimes committed during the Yugoslav Wars, and to try their perpetrators. The tribunal was an ad hoc court located in The Hague, Netherlands.

Rahim Ademi

Rahim Ademi is a retired Croatian Army general of Kosovar Albanian origin.

Ante Gotovina

Ante Gotovina is a Croatian-French retired lieutenant general and former French senior corporal who served in the Croatian War for Independence. He is noted for his primary role in the 1995 Operation Storm. In 2001, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) indicted him on war crimes and crimes against humanity charges in connection with that operation and its aftermath. After spending four years in hiding, he was captured in the Canary Islands in December 2005.

Feral Tribune was a Croatian political weekly magazine. Based in Split, it first started as a political satire supplement in Nedjeljna Dalmacija before evolving into an independent satirical weekly in 1993. It became a popular political weekly in the 2000s before ceasing publication in June 2008.

Croatian War of Independence War of independence following the breakup of Yugoslavia

The Croatian War of Independence was fought from 1991 to 1995 between Croat forces loyal to the government of Croatia—which had declared independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY)—and the Serb-controlled Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) and local Serb forces, with the JNA ending its combat operations in Croatia by 1992. In Croatia, the war is primarily referred to as the "Homeland War" and also as the "Greater-Serbian Aggression". In Serbian sources, "War in Croatia" and (rarely) "War in Krajina" are used.

Battle of Borovo Selo

The Battle of Borovo Selo of 2 May 1991, known in Croatia as the Borovo Selo massacre and in Serbia as the Borovo Selo incident, was one of the first armed clashes in the conflict which became known as the Croatian War of Independence. The clash was precipitated by months of rising ethnic tensions, violence, and armed combat in Pakrac and at the Plitvice Lakes in March. The immediate cause for the confrontation in the heavily ethnic Serb village of Borovo Selo, just north of Vukovar, was a failed attempt to replace the Yugoslav flag in the village with the flag of Croatia. The unauthorised effort by four Croatian policemen resulted in the capture of two by a Croatian Serb militia in the village. To retrieve the captives, the Croatian authorities deployed additional police, who drove into an ambush. Twelve Croatian policemen and one Serb paramilitary were killed before the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) intervened and put an end to the clashes.

Gospić massacre

The Gospić massacre was the mass killing of 100–120 predominantly Serb civilians in Gospić, Croatia during the last two weeks of October 1991, during the Croatian War of Independence. The majority of the victims were ethnic Serbs but also included some Croats, arrested in Gospić and the nearby coastal town of Karlobag. Most of them were arrested on 16–17 October. Some of the detainees were taken to the Perušić barracks and executed in Lipova Glavica near the town, while others were shot in the Pazarište area of Gospić. The killings were ordered by the Secretary of Lika Crisis Headquarters, Tihomir Orešković, and the commander of the 118th Infantry Brigade of the Croatian National Guard, Lieutenant Colonel Mirko Norac.

Vukovar massacre Massacre of civilians and prisoners of war following the Battle of Vukovar

The Vukovar massacre, also known as the Vukovar hospital massacre or the Ovčara massacre, was the killing of Croatian prisoners of war and civilians by Serb paramilitaries, to whom they had been turned over by the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), at the Ovčara farm southeast of Vukovar on 20 November 1991, during the Croatian War of Independence. The massacre occurred shortly after Vukovar's capture by the JNA, Territorial Defence (TO), and paramilitaries from neighbouring Serbia. It was the largest massacre of the Croatian War of Independence.

Vladimir Šeks Croatian lawyer and politician

Vladimir Šeks is a Croatian lawyer and centre-right politician. He has been as a representative in the Croatian Parliament since the nation's independence, and has held the posts of the Speaker of the Parliament, as well as Deputy Prime Minister of the Government. He also served as acting President of the Croatian Democratic Union and Leader of the Opposition from 5 January to 30 April 2000.

Veselin Šljivančanin Yugoslav National Army colonel and convicted war criminal

Veselin Šljivančanin is a former Montenegrin Serb officer in the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) who participated in the Battle of Vukovar and was subsequently convicted on a war crimes indictment by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia for his role in the Vukovar massacre. His prison sentence was changed twice, from five to seventeen to ten years. He has since been ordered released by the ICTY on time served and good behavior.

Lovas killings

The Lovas killings involved the killing of 70 Croat civilian residents of the village of Lovas between 10–18 October 1991, during the Croatian War of Independence. The killings took place during and in the immediate aftermath of the occupation of the village by the Yugoslav People's Army supported by Croatian Serb forces and Dušan Silni paramilitaries on 10 October, two days after Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia. The occupation occurred during the Battle of Vukovar, as the JNA sought to consolidate its control over the area surrounding the city of Vukovar. The killings and abuse of the civilian population continued until 18 October, when troops guarding a group of civilians forced them to walk into a minefield at gunpoint and then opened fire upon them.

Saborsko massacre

The Saborsko massacre was the killing of 29 Croat residents of the village of Saborsko on 12 November 1991, following the seizure of the village in a Yugoslav People's Army and Croatian Serb offensive during the Croatian War of Independence. The fall of the town occurred as part of a JNA and Croatian Serb operation to capture a Croatian-held pocket centered on the town of Slunj, southeast of Karlovac. While the bulk of the civilian population fled with the surviving Croatian forces, those who remained in Saborsko were rounded up and either killed or expelled. The bodies of the victims were retrieved from two mass graves and several individual graves in 1995.

Velepromet camp

The Velepromet camp was a detention facility established in the final days of the Battle of Vukovar during the Croatian War of Independence. The camp was set up by the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), which shared control of the facility with Croatian Serb rebels. The facility, originally an industrial storage site, was located on the southern outskirts of the city of Vukovar, in close proximity to the JNA barracks. It consisted of eight warehouses surrounded by a wire fence, and was established on 16 November 1991, when the first detainees were brought there.

Mladen Markač is a Croatian retired general. He was a Commander of Croatian Special Police during Operation Storm during the Croatian War of Independence (1991–1995), and afterwards held the rank of Colonel General. Later, he was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for war crimes committed during Operation Storm by Croatian forces against the Serbs from Croatia. In April 2011, the ICTY found him guilty and sentenced him to 18 years.

Dalj massacre

The Dalj massacre was the killing of 56 or 57 Croats in Dalj, Croatia on 1 August 1991, during the Croatian War of Independence. In addition to civilian victims, the figure includes 20 Croatian policemen, 15 Croatian National Guard troops and four civil defencemen who had been defending the police station and water supply building in the village. While some of the policemen and the ZNG troops died in combat, those who surrendered were killed after they became prisoners of war. They tried to fight off an attack by the Croatian Serb SAO Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Syrmia Territorial Defence Forces, supported by the Yugoslav People's Army and the Serb Volunteer Guard paramilitaries. The SAO SBWS was declared an autonomous territory in eastern Croatia following the Battle of Borovo Selo just to the south of Dalj.

Drago Hedl

Drago Hedl is a Croatian investigative journalist.

The murder of the Zec family occurred in Zagreb, Croatia on 7 December 1991, during the Croatian War of Independence, when a squad of five Croatian militiamen shot dead three members of a Serb family: Mihajlo Zec, his wife Marija, and their 12-year-old daughter, Aleksandra. Two other Zec children escaped. The murderers were apprehended, but released after a controversial court decision in 1992.

The Trial of Gotovina et al. was a war crimes trial held from March 2008 until November 2012 before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), set up in 1993. The ICTY indicted Croatian Army (HV) generals Ante Gotovina, Ivan Čermak and Mladen Markač for war crimes, specifically for their roles in Operation Storm, citing their participation in a joint criminal enterprise (JCE) aimed at the permanent removal of Serbs from the Republic of Serbian Krajina (RSK) held part of Croatia.

Paulin Dvor massacre

The Paulin Dvor massacre was an act of mass murder committed by soldiers of the Croatian Army (HV) in the village of Paulin Dvor, near the town of Osijek on 11 December 1991 during the Croatian War of Independence. Of the nineteen victims, eighteen were ethnic Serbs, and one was a Hungarian national. The ages of the victims, eight women and eleven men, ranged from 41 to 85. Two former Croatian soldiers were convicted for their role in the killings and were sentenced to 15 and 11 years, respectively. In November 2010, Croatian President Ivo Josipović laid a wreath at the graveyard of the massacre victims and officially apologized for the killings.

The Pakračka Poljana camp was a makeshift prison camp where Croatian Serb civilians along with some Croats were held, tortured and executed by members of the Croatian Special Police commanded by Tomislav Merčep during the Croatian War of Independence. It was located Pakračka Poljana, near the town of Pakrac.


  1. "IWPR Tribunal Update No. 545 - Six Croatians indicted for war crimes". Institute for War and Peace Reporting . 2008-04-08. Retrieved 2010-01-05. The arrests are based on evidence originally gathered by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, during its investigation of Tomislav Mercep, the commander of reservist police units.
  2. "Dossier: Pakračka Poljana". excerpts from Feral Tribune . May 19, 1995.
  3. 1 2 Milekic, Sven (12 May 2016). "Croatian Police Official Mercep Jailed for War Crimes". BalkanInsight. BIRN.
  4. Davor Butković (2005-09-17). "Pobjeda pravde". Jutarnji list (in Croatian). Retrieved 2010-01-05.
  5. "Vrhovni Sud Republike Hrvatske-Presuda i rješenje broj: I Kž 81/06-7" (in Croatian). Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia. 2006-05-10. Retrieved 2010-01-05.
  6. "Tepeš: Ne vidim problem između Domoljubne koalicije i Mosta oko proračuna". Novi list. Retrieved Nov 18, 2020.
  7. Mladen Pleše (2003-03-12). "Merčep going to the Hague, Gregurić before investigators". Nacional . Archived from the original on 25 July 2012. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
  8. "Uskoro optužnica protiv Merčepa?". Jutarnji list/Nova TV (in Croatian). 2006-09-01.
  9. "Amnesty o ratnim zločinima: Zašto su Šeks, Merčep i Domazet nedodirljivi?". Jutarnji list (in Croatian). 2010-12-08. Retrieved 2010-12-09.
  10. "Croatia urged to speed up war crimes prosecutions". Amnesty International. 2010-12-09. Retrieved 2010-12-09.
  11. Lukić, Slavica (2010-12-10). "Zbog ratnog zločina iz 1991. uhićen Tomislav Merčep!". Jutarnji list (in Croatian). Retrieved 2010-12-10.
  12. "UBISTVO SRBA U PAKRAČKOJ POLJANI: Tomislavu Merčepu samo pet i po godina robije". (in Serbian). 2016-05-12. Retrieved 2017-04-30.
  13. "Supreme Court increases prison term for Mercep to 7 years". HINA. 13 February 2017. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  14. "Preminuo je Tomislav Merčep". Nov 17, 2020. Retrieved Nov 18, 2020.