A register of Croatian soldiers who fought in the 1990s Homeland War -- complete with classified combat data -- has found its way online for all to see.
By Natasa Radic for Southeast European Times in Zagreb -- 13/04/10
Croatia's war veterans’ are at the centre of a new scandal. [Getty Images]
A police investigation is under way to find out who is responsible for the biggest military scandal in Croatia in memory. It involves the online leak of a secret document listing the names of 501,666 war veterans.
The register appeared April 6th on a website set up specifically to publicise the information. The data included military history and privileged information such as specific combat units, the names of those in Special Forces and intelligence units, and duration of service during the 1991-1995 Homeland War.
Analysts warn that when sensitive information like this is made public it can lead to bias and possibly be used for retaliation and other hostile purposes.
Once the scandal broke, the website was visited so many times that it frequently crashed. The site server is said to be US-based, with the person who paid for the domain currently unknown.
Marko Rakar, a Croatian blogger, web expert and former aide to Croatian President Ivo Josipovic, was questioned by police during the first 48 hours after the scandal broke but was not charged.
"I am completely innocent," Rakar told reporters after returning home from the police station. He said he went to the police voluntarily after seeing on several internet forums that he was listed as a possible suspect.
"This is outrageous. The data I found on the website, once I finally entered the domain, were wrong and does not correctly show where I was and where I served," War veteran Damir M told SETimes.
Damir said he has no need to hide his military past but does not want problems at border crossings with neighbouring countries.
Most of the public feels that the document has been kept secret to protect military personnel who served behind desks instead of on the battlefield. Veteran status brings privileges such as higher pension, stakes in the Croatian Veterans' Fund and financial support in starting a business.
There are nine government ministers listed as war veterans. Some public figures who never served during the war were shocked to find their names on the list.
The debate about whether the registry should be made public has dragged on for years in Croatia. President Ivo Josipovic has favoured making it public but not under the current circumstances.
"Let the police do their work. I still support the idea that the veterans' registry should be public but not without consent and proper regulation," he told Zagreb daily Jutarnji List.