Milan Levar – Croatia’s most outspoken critic of crimes committed by Croats against minority Serbs – was killed by a bomb in his backyard in Gospic on Aug. 28. 2000. – 15 years later and still nobody is even charged for this crime. No celebration in his honour. Dear Milan, we remembered you today and will continue your legacy.
Fokus, 1st September 2000.
The Levar case
Our reporter called Milan Levar by phone, directly before his murder. This thriling portrait is written by his friend and good connoisseur of dark games in Croatian hall of Haag.
The last conversation with Mićo
When on Monday, 28 August, around 17 o’clock, called a colleague and a friend from Novi list, Robert Frank, asked me if I could check an anonymous information, which arrived in his office, that Milan Levar committed suicide, I told him that I don’t have time for wasting on nonsenses. I talked with Mićo by phone that day around noon and he sounded to me livelier than ever. He made a comment on newspaper appearance of Mile Kosović, former commander of home-guard battalion from Gospić, who with general Rahim Ademi was Pedro of action Medački džep (Medack Pocket). Levar was thrilled by the fact that Kosović «began to talk, althought he said the hundredth part of the truth.» He made a comment:
«The relations are breaking among those who are responsible for that Croatian disgrace. Kosović didn’t speak directly about war crimes that are commited in the action, but it can be seen that he didn’t start to talk for no reason. He is afraid for himself and calls by name general Norac and Šušak’s double line of commanding of HV (Croatian army), and that’s something. There, at least Levar is not alone who is ready to talk about that things.»
Mićo warned me than about the difficult situation in which was sister of Zdenko Ropac, one of ICTY’s witnesses in Gospić case, who was, supposedly, under constant threats «because of brother’s betrayal», she looked for temporarily shelter in psychiatric clinic. «You don’t have to write about that, but it’s good that you know it», he said to me. He complained about one former politician from Lika, who «always calculates something, and about crimes in Gospić, he is ready to talk only when he is directly endangered, but you have to know, he is also responsible for certain crimes which took place in Lika.
»He announced our soon meeting and told me from whom I should look for certain documents about happenings in action Medak Pocket. He also told me that he would call me in the evening, because he had some job in workshop. He thought he was indestructible. But, as Mićo Levar was a person who loved black humour, at the end I finally decided to call him and ask him was it true that he made suicide.
There was no answer on his phone or on several mobiles he owned. That worried me a bit, but I thought that was possible that he went on some trip with his family, wife Vesna and son Leon, what was regular. Maybe they went to Karlobag for a swim.
I called one mutual acquaintance, former high-positioned person in headquarter of HV (Dragutin Frančišković), and throuhg the joke I asked him if he heard a rumours that Levar killed himself. The answer astonished me: »He didn’t kill himself, but he is dead. His wife Vesna called me and told me that a little while ago. He suffered adversity from the explosion in his workshop….»
In shock I passed the information to Frank in Rijeka. It was all clear to me and I didn’t doubt that he died in assassination, although soon came to me informations that he got hurt from incautious handling with gas bottle.
Than in panic one Levar’s friend from war called me, the employee of one Croatian secret services (Milan Mrla): «He is killed! I told him a few days ago that his liquidation was seriously preparing and that he should stop appearing in public. He went too far. He thought he was indestructible. He didn’t listen to me!»
The secret agent, as a broken record, was repeating that he said to Mićo to give up useless work. I hardly in a polite way ended the conversation.
Levar lived with conscience that he would be stopped with murder. But how and why could happen something like that after 3th January, which he was looking forward to as a little baby, saying that legal state knocked on Croatia’s door and that we didn’t need ICTY then. «We will be able to bring to court our criminals in our democratic and legal country…», he told me happily during short meeting after he, as a Mesić’s home friend, was on his president inauguration. Milan Levar since 1992. till today has given about hundred interviews to domestic and foreign medias, and since 1997. he has talket to ICTY about crimes which took place in Gospić in 1991. He was a victim of several assassination attempts, his born house was under fire, in which was his mother Katica and in the yard, in which he lost his life then. They also tried to poison him, and since then hi didn’t drink coffee with sugar. He had an artificial sweetner in hi pocket.Before the war, he participated in almost every fight in Gospić. From «Airforce Academy» in Mostar he was thrown out because in the age of 15, he attacked one captain, who offended his Croatian national pride. From the war he was remembered as a tough fighter. He fought on the first line of defenses of Gospić, together with 30 people who in summer 1991., as interventionist platoon of Pajo Šimić, holder the first lines towards Lički Osik.
He was facing death too often, so his black humour was hard to understand for people with sensitive stomach. Laughing, he was telling me about gravediggers who were carrying on their backs half-rotten bodies of war crime victims, and «worms of crisps size, so called crispies, were crawling on gravediggers’ back.»
He told me that he left army when he got verified warrant to kill civilians. «I didn’t enter the war to kill grandmothers, like these who in blood and money compensate their Croatian spirit», was the sentence which became his favourite saying.
Mićo and redeemers of UDBA’s past
He hadn’t been drinking alcohol for 15 years, since his father died. Only coffee and mineral water. You could talk to him for hours and watch him drinking those beverages. Those who didn’t like him saw in that the sign that he was not normal. One former HDZ politician, last winter, drinking his tenth beer, was persuading me that Milan Levar was not a real man, because «real man don’t drink mineral water» and «who can endure that for hours, besides his physical health, his mental health must be damaged. »One day before his death, I was on the terrace of hotel Dubrovnik in Zagreb and talked about case Medak Pocket with two men from Lika, one secret agent and one former high-positioned HDZ functionary, and both of them started to convince me that Milan Levar was mentally insane. Why can’t he keep his mouth shut for once? The world is based on agreements. Why doesn’t he except what is offered to him? He could live nicely for a long time now, if he was smart. He thinks he is Jesus?! Nothing could be proved only with his words, the papers are needed! There are lots of different bones on Lika’s area, even from the time of Turks, over some massive graves are woods!I knew from before that his until recent allies are turning their backs, and everything that his internal enemies were talking about him, I accepted as someone wishes me a good day. Not particularly surprised by words of those two men from Lika, I passed him one part of their words. He was not surprised.He sent them to hell, concluding «that all of them want to redeem their bad UDBA’s past, and they are not much better from those who made and ordered crimes. They talk about crimes only because of their personal benefit or personal pay offs. Poor is Croatia if people like them will be participating in government.»
His friends turned their backs also
Several times, when he got mad on some of his allies, he confided to me who from former Croatian state or military top, were witness in ICTY – «secretly, to save their own skin.» And added: «I do everything publicly and I don’t trade with someone’s misery, like many fake protectors of human rights.» His friends often turned their backs on him, because they couldn’t stand his uncompromisingness and persistence. He got on the wrong side with ICTY and those public persons who, from Croatia contacted closely with prosecution authorities in Haag. After he, with two defenders of Gospić, Zdenko Ropac and Zdenko Bando, in 1997. gave testimony in ICTY and then they couldn’t make agreement about status of protected ICTY’s witnesses, they gave a press conference and attacked ICTY because of inefficacy. Ropac, Bando and Levar’s best man, inspector in police from Gospić, Tomislav Orešković, anyway later went to Germany, with some alleged guarantees of ICTY, and Levar stayed to talk about Gospić. I met him that way at the beginning of last year, when he called me offering new witnesses and war crime stories in Lika, because he had a hunch that case ICTY – Gospić were standing on deadlock.
Based on those several texts which I published last year, former state attorney, Berislav Živković, started an investigation. When he was retrieving from his job last summer, he boasted with that, because under them «State attorney reacted even on newspapers titles.»
Nevertheless, Milan Levar, was not called on informative conversation to tell them what he knew, not in that investigation, nor later, in April, when ICTY’s investigators started to dig on Gospić area.
Opponents were afraid of him. They were afraid of his physical strength, agility and determination. He didn’t wear his gun for self defence, only unfolding knife. «They have right to soot me only once. If they miss, they know what is waiting for them», he told me once, without blinking. By lots of things he had impulsive temper, but he knew that he had to avoid «accidental witchcraft on the street or cafe», so he didn’t put himself in situation to kill somebody or to be killed in some shooting which would be shown as one in the coffeehouse.
They stopped him anyway
He called me last summer, shouting that a woman slapped him on the street. I calmed him down, so he continued: «I just drove to my mother’s house, when a tiny woman got out of the car with Zagreb registration and asked me if I’m Milan Levar. I asked her what did she want. She rushed into me and slapped me, shouting that she was wife of Tihomir Orešković, and that I ruined her family with my jabbering. I couldn’t believe that Tiho was such a coward and incited his wife on me. I called you, because I don’t want to search through cafes and make some nonsense, and make all this that I said to fall into water.»
Lots of people think that Milan Levar is a betrayer and indulge with his death. If I’m a betrayer, and former Yugoslavs from Gospić, communists and Serbs, who changed names and surnames, bigger Croats than I am, so be it. But I will never give up the intention to wipe out the name of my Croatian people, and to accuse certain persons from Croatia for crimes, but also the members of foreign secret services, who are responsible for deaths of about hundred of my fellow-citizen Serbs, but also Croats. If I’m a betrayer because I don’t want to my whole nation in next 50 years be named as genocidal, so be it. In attention the whole truth to be known about what was happening here, won’t stop me ICTY, nor Washington, or Moscow, and not to mention some of local cowards and jerks, whose intelligence is on room temperature level!»
Some of people, thought that Levar was trained secret agent and saw in that basics and motives of everything he was doing. On that accusations he didn’t consider. He only added:» What kind of secret agent am I, when I hate secrets. I would prohibit by law all secrets.»
If in Gospić, on Monday was killed anybody else, Milan Levar would make effort to make clear how he was killed, who killed him and who ordered the murder.
Mićo, I’m still waiting for your call.
Milan wanted to come out and talk with those who called his name as a betrayer, and the policemen asked him not to do that, because they will lose their job. In that moment, his son Leon called and asked that «ma or pa» come to pick him up from school. The school ended, and he couldn’t break through alone to the house. Vesna Levar took the car keys, but the policemen stopped her, claiming that they have strict order that nobody can leave the apartment and that they were there to take care for security of Milan and Vesna Levar. The woman asked them, surprisingly, were they aware what they were talking, because her son’s safety was endangered, but the policemen were persistent that nobody can leave the apartment, not even the police. Than Milan Levar got mad and in his style, demonstrated the usage of media in useful purposes. He asked the journalists of Slovenian national television to record his phone call with the chief of police, Novak, to whom he sweared lots of things and treated him that he would beat his policemen if they didn’t let his wife to get their son.
Fokus, 11th August 2000.
Group portrait with corpse
ICTY has photos of Bobetko and Krpina in Medak Pocket
In big tumult around alleged ICTY investigation against general Petar Stipetić, when the responsibility for alleged war crimes in action Medak pocket in 1993., was mentioned, almost unnoticed went the information of Slobodna Dalmacija that in Haag were photos of general Janko Bobetko and brigadier Drago Krpina. Two of them, supposedly, were on photos next to about ten corps of Serbian civilians and rebels in Medack Pocket. Slobodna is speculating that the photo is enough for starting ICTY investigation.Drago Krpina, in critical times, the chief of IPD service of Ministry of defense, and today HDZ Parliament member, didn’t want to comment the text in Slobodna. He shouted at journalists, claiming that those were nonsense. Fokus couldn’t come to general Bobetko, also. Milan Levar, to the public known as a ICTY witness in case Gospić, confirmed to Fokus the existence of that photograph.
– Investigators of ICTY have shown us some other photos, which showed that after military action Medak pocket, there was «cleaning of the area» from houses and people.
* Do you know how the photo with Bobetko and Krpina appear?
– After the Unprofor, because of committed crimes, protested with Croatian government, on the field the Parliamentary commission stepped out, who were led by Luka Bebić, at that time, president of Parliamentary committee for internal politics and national security. In the commission were general Bobetko, brigadier Krpina, Perica Jurič and others. I don’t know who took pictures of them with corps, but the fact is that the photos exist. I know reliably that similar photos came to president of Parliament and todays president Mesić.
* What did Bebic’s commission do?
– It was seen that the crime is impossible to cover so the responsibility was thrown on other people. Instead of Mirko Norac, as sacrificing goats were good Mile Kosović, whom Šušak in a hurry named as a commander of 118. Brigade, and then, «because of suspicion of violating Geneva convention in Medack Pocket», retired, and todays general Rahim Ademi, who is also retired.
* Who is really responsible for Medak Pocket?
– It is not on me to judge that. I can only say that about crimes in Medak Pocket were informed all state structures at that time, and there are evidences for that. Who will be accused, who will only testify – will ICTY decide.