Serbian leader visits massacre site

Serbian President Boris Tadic has apologized at the site where more than 200 Croats were massacred in 1991.

President apologizes for 1991 atrocity against Croatians

Serbia's President Boris Tadic and his Croatian counterpart, Ivo Josipovic, laid wreaths Thursday at the mass grave of more than 200 Croats slain by Serbians in eastern Croatia in 1991.

Serbian President Boris Tadic pays respect at a former pig farm where more than 200 Croats were dragged out of a nearby hospital and slain by Serbs in eastern Croatia in 1991. ((Darko Bandic/Associated Press))

The ceremony was held at Ovcara to remember the victims of the atrocity that began in nearby Vukovar in November 1991 at the end of a three-month Serb bombardment that levelled the city and forced scores of Croatians to flee.

Serbian forces had seized patients from a Vukovar hospital before taking them to the Ovcara pig farm, where they were gunned down.

After laying a wreath labelled, "To the innocent victims," Tadic, the first senior Serbian leader to visit the site since the massacre, said he had come to apologize and to "bow down before the victims."

"I am here to pay respect to the victims, to say the words of apology, to show regret and create a possibility for Serbia and Croatia to turn a new page," Tadic said.

"Our children must not be burdened by policies of the 1990s. Serbia wants good neighbourly relations and co-operation," he said in reference to the bloody, post-communism breakup of Yugoslavia.

A few hours later, Josipovic laid a wreath at the graveyard of 18 Serbs killed by Croats in 1991 in a nearby village of Paulin Dvor. Josipovic said that "those who are left behind those victims deserve our apology."

"A crime has no justification; revenge cannot be justified by a crime," Josipovic said. The slaying in Paulin Dvor came a month after the massacre at Ovcara.

With files from The Associated Press