June 1, 1991 i Osijek, Croatia
Josip Reihl Kir, born on 25.07.1955 in Sirač, Daruvar Municipality, in Croatia. Graduated from Faculty of Economy in Osijek, after which he worked in High School Center in Đakovo, and from 1981, he worked in police. From 31 July 1990 to 1 July 1991, he was the Chief of Police Station in Osijek.
He was murdered on 1.07.1991 in a political assassination in Tenja near Osijek.
The Duško Kondor Award for Civil Courage is given to Josip Reihl Kir from Đakovo, Croatia, posthumously, because he risked his own life every day to express his civil courage during 1991 by:
• Being an active opponent to war option in Croatia, which he talked against persistently
• Refusing politics to get priority over profession and influence the work of the Police Station Osijek, where he was the Head.
• Protecting the rights of every citizen regardless of their ethno-national or other background.
• Investing the personal trust of the citizens he had in peace, by convincing them continuously and successfully not to subdue to different harassments and to move the barricades they put of the roads between villages.
• Permanently presenting truth at press conferences and publicly challenging some immoral journalists with the facts that they heard the truth and twisted it and published it as a lie right afterwards in their media, thereby, already in 1991, being among the first ones to disclose the political instrumentalization of a great deal of media in function of harassment and manipulation of citizens.
• Publicly promising at the session of the Osijek Assembly in June 1991: “While I am the Head of Osijek – Baranja Police Station, there will not be any war between Serbs and Croats here.”
• Although aware that he would be killed, which he informed the then Minister of Internal Affairs about, going to negotiations in Tenja on 1 July 1991 and never coming back, because that day he was murdered in political assassination organized by those who were aware that while Josip Reihl Kir was alive, they couldn’t start the war in Croatia.
Interview with Jadranka Reihl-Kir
Political Activism of the Widow of Josip Reihl-Kir
Nacional, Zagreb, Croatia, September 12 1999
interview by Goran Flaunder
Jadranka Reihl-Kir (42), the widow of Josip Reihl-Kir, the tragically perished first chief of Police in Osijek, who was at the time also in charge of Police stations in nearby towns in Slavonija, surprised the Croatian public when recently she appeared as a SDP candidate in the fourth electoral unit. Although before the war she was totally apolitical, in 1991 circumstances forced her into politics when, as she says, her whole family became the object of a dirty game by the extremists in power. She went with her late husband through hell of his struggle for the preservation of peace in Slavonija in spite of powerful war mongering individuals on both sides, who were hoping for an armed conflict. The woman who has through all these years managed to preserve discretion, persistently seeking justice through courts, was totally disappointed after the murderer of her husband and two politicians who had been in a peace mission was acquitted due to the General Amnesty Law. After the local elections in 1997 she decided to become politically active. As a vice-president of the City branch of SDP in Djakovo and a member of the County Board of the Party she earned a prestigious fifth place on the list of SDP candidates for the national parliament. The daughter of Jadranka and Josip Reihl-Kir, Barbara (20), is a vice-president of the SDP youth and a member of the Chief Council. Answering the question about motivation for her political activism, Jadranka Reihl-Kir skillfully replied with a question: "How can you expect assistance from others, if you are not prepared to help yourself? I simply want to contribute to changes which, as all normal people in this country, I expect after the forthcoming elections. I have been supporting SDP since 1990, when that party organized the only free and fair elections until this day. Josip was at the time not a member of any party, since he believed that as a Police Chief he should not have been involved in politics, in order to be able to do his job well".
NACIONAL: What would you like to change?
It is easier to talk about what I would not like to change. I would definitely not want to change the status of those people who are still employed and receive some sort of a salary, if they are satisfied with their jobs. Only those who find a personal interest in that can still vote for HDZ; such people either do not care about common interests, do not think, or are still confused.
Why do you claim that you have become an object of dirty games of extremists from the ruling party?
Because of the murder of my husband on July 1 1991 and events which preceded the murder. I am convinced that that was a political murder.
That was not proven during the trial. On the contrary, the court concluded that it was a manslaughter...
Yes, yes, yes... I have my own opinion about that trial. I regret that all of that was not filmed, so that people can see what kind of trial that was. Psychologists and psychiatrists who could give interesting interpretations of the behavior of the Presiding Judge, Ruzica Samota, the state prosecutor, Miroslav Jukic and certain witnesses whose outbursts were tolerated by the judge, should have been present during the trial. One of these witnesses, a policeman, a subordinate of my husband's before his death, told the judge not to call him to testify in the future because he would refuse the summons, and demanded that the court pay for a tram ticket he had allegedly used to come to the hearing. That was a clear indication that witnesses felt more powerful than the court and were not concerned for consequences of arrogant behavior or false testimony, often totally contrary to what they had said at the first trial, conducted in absentia.
Isn't it true that during the trial state prosecutor Miroslav Jukic was careful and supported your interests?
Not at all! He actually fooled me. I met Miroslav Jukic through Josip and at the time we had a coffee in a nearby café. After every hearing, during the trial, he talked to me and pretended to be my friend. He even invited me several times to have a coffee. I assume he wanted to get something out of me. On these occasions he would walk me to my car and several times he warned me to be careful when getting in a car in order to avoid an assassination attempt. Namely, in Osijek at that time cars were frequently blown up. I was very suspicious at the time and trusted very few people. Later, I concluded that Jukic probably simply wanted to scare me. He showed his real face during the repeated trial of Gudelj.
What was that face?
Miroslav Jukic simply sat on the wrong side of the aisle. His place should have been next to Antun Gudelj's attorney. I really admire my lawyer Slobodan Budak, who had nerves to sit next to such a man and respond to his outburst and aggressive behavior. The court refused to summon all ten witnesses proposed by us in order to clarify the background of the murder and true culprits, because Miroslav Jukic stood up and said that that was not necessary. It is interesting that his predecessor, Mihajlo Marusic, during the first trial in Gudelj's absence proposed that exactly the same witnesses be questioned, which was rejected by the judge. When my lawyer asked Jukic for an explanation, he almost went crazy. After that I went to get some documents from him. He went out to the hallway with me and said that he had interrupted some sort of a meeting because of me. He asked me: "Jadranka, Why don't you trust me?" "How can I trust you when you rejected all of our witnesses?" I responded. Then he told me to get affidavits from those witnesses and bring them to him, and then he would decide whether to use them or not. Isn't that unbelievable?
Gudelj is Free
When on one occasion I criticized Miroslav Jukic because of his behavior during that trial in front of well known politicians and public officials from Osijek, he replied that that was not true and that he had been your and your husband's close friend!?
No way, never! We only met by chance at that café and Josip only had business transactions with him. He has never visited our home, nor were we ever friends. We met for the second time at the trial. I needed some time to figure him out, but my lawyer Budak immediately realized whose interest Jukic was trying to protect.
State interests, wouldn't you say?
Of course, that's clear! [In the original "zna se", a HDZ election slogan]
Your case against Gudelj also went to the Hague. What happened with it there?
The Tribunal in the Hague put the case aside two years ago. It did not reject the case, but neither did it take it into consideration. The case is also at the Constitutional Court and I am awaiting its verdict. However, if we know the current composition of that court and that one of the leading judges is Vice Vukojevic, about whose morality a lot has been written recently... I am curious how he will vote when they make a decision. Namely, we claim that Antun Gudelj could not have been released by the application of the General Amnesty Law, since he committed a grave triple murder and such a crime cannot be covered by the amnesty. The state covered all of his expenses during the trial...
You did not only enter politics via the war, but also had a front line in your own house!
That is correct. During the last few months of his life, Josip spent most of his time in Osijek, and towards the end he spent all the time at work, even slept in his office. As early as the Spring of 1991 he worried so much about us that he left a gun for me at home, and taught me how to use it. He was mostly concerned about extremists and criminals, so that he showed me how to approach a door if someone knocks at night, how to shoot. He told me to move along the walls and to first shoot in the air if someone attacks me. During the last few months, he had a sentry in front of the door and a few days before his death he ordered a few policemen from Djakovo to look after Barbara and me.
Were you already prepared for a move, since your husband was supposed to take over the post of the director of the Police Academy on that tragic Monday, July 1 1991?
I did not even know that at the time! He refused to tell me anything, since we had moved into a new house shortly before then, and my mother was ill and living in Djakovo. But he had told that to Barbara a month before, and she told me approximately two years later! I was only aware that he had to change his job and get away from here, that he had been asked to move to the Ministry of Internal Affairs [Police] in Zagreb and that soon afterwards, as he said, we were going to change our lives. I gave him a deadline until July 1. That morning I called him and told him that it was July 1 and he responded that he knew and that starting with that day everything was going to be different. I had no idea how right he was and how everything was going to turn out. That morning Josip had a phone call from Slavko Degoricija, at the time the deputy Minister of Internal Affairs. Degoricija told him that he was supposed to be in Zagreb that morning and wanted to know why he was still in Osijek. Josip explained that he planned to go to Tenja to reduce tension and that he was going to travel to Zagreb the next day. However, then it happened...
Did your husband precisely determine the origin of real threats to his life?
Absolutely. He said that he was in danger from HDZ, and not from Serbs from the surrounding villages. That, of course, referred to the presidents of various local communes with whom he had contacts, rather than extremists among them. While he was alive, there were no casualties in any of the six police stations he covered. He was the first victim! He believed that he had to use the trust of well-meaning Serbs and that, if he left, there would be no one else to negotiate with them and a war would break out. A day before he was killed, he had been driven by his driver to the village of Bijelo Brdo to remove the barricade set up by the local Serbs. The next day, once the Serbs heard what had happened, they put the barricade back and there were no more negotiations.
Some distinguished HDZ politicians used the trust of Serbs as an argument against your husband.
And who did president Tudman negotiate with in Karadjordjevo and later in Zagreb? Which priest was after the war received on the Eastern Orthodox Christmas by Glavas? To whom did Glavas offer negotiations in Baranja and the Danube Valley region?
Last year, Branimir Glavas for the first time denied allegations that he had, with a group of high officials, fired a shoulder-launched rocket at a barricade in Borovo Selo in April 1991, as claimed by the former minister Josip Boljkovac. Because of that Glavas even allegedly sued Boljkovac?
He can deny that as much as he likes, but that is the truth and I know that they were there. Look, late Gojko Susak never denied that, although it was publicized while he was still alive. Besides the two of them, Vice Vukojevic was also present, but I am not sure about Vladimir Seks; however I do know that Seks phoned him a week before. My husband told me that the gun which was found at the spot from which they fired the rocket, and which was later shown on the Belgrade TV by General Adzic, had been lost by Glavas. In his book "Slavonian Blood" Branimir Glavas claimed that on May 2, when those 12 policemen were killed in Borovo Selo, he personally burst into Kir's office and asked him what he were doing, why he was sending them to be killed. That is a brazen lie, since at the time Josip was here, in the house. Barbara can confirm that his special phone rang and that he was informed about what had happened. I had never seen him so miserable. That was the first time he asked for a sedative. He grabbed his head and asked who had ordered them to go in front of rifles. Minister Boljkovac was also not at the time in Zagreb, but in Rijeka. The order for that action was issued by some of his subordinates. One of them, Vice Vukojevic, delivered a eulogy over my husband's grave...
Are you still in contact with Josip Boljkovac?
He phoned last night to offer congratulations regarding my political activism, as soon as he found out that I was running on the SDP list. Last night I was in a street between Osijek and Tenja, recently named after Josip Reihl-Kir. This was my first time there since the street has been renamed. I wanted to see the plaque with his name. I took Barbara to the place were Josip was murdered.
Governor of the Osijek-Baranja county Branimir Glavas also regularly visits the grave of his late friend, Goran Zobundzija, who died in the car with your husband. Have you ever visited his grave?
No, as far as I can recall. This year as well, a County delegation of laid wreaths on Zobundzija's grave, but they did not visit my husband's grave, nor would I like it if the governor visited Josip's grave. He was convinced that Josip was a wrong man in a wrong place and was against naming of one of the streets in Osijek after him...
As well as one of the streets in Djakovo...
That was another shock for Barbara and me. The explanation of the Djakovo city council was scandalous; they said that history had not yet evaluated the role of Josip Reihl-Kir in the Patriotic War. Mayor Darko Vrtaric told me they did not mean to say what journalists wrote, but I saw in the minutes of their meeting that that is exactly what they said. All those who are behind such a statement should be prosecuted. Radio Djakovo, owned by the city and several surrounding municipalities ruled by HDZ never invited me in the program to give my opinion, although during the last eight years I gave innumerable statements to both domestic and foreign journalists.
Djakovo traditionally votes for HDZ, especially the surrounding villages. At the first elections HDZ received almost 90 percent of votes in the Djakovo region. Why are you so convinced that this time it will be different?
That can be felt at every step. So many people are having a hard time, that even those who can make ends meet cannot be satisfied when they see all that misery around them. People are dissatisfied in the city, let alone in the villages which have been totally [economically] destroyed. I do not know where Prime Minister Matesa saw all those glorious tractors of Croatian farmers. I crashed into one of those tractors three years ago; it had neither lights nor a registration and I totaled my car. I do not feel that the farmer who drove that vehicle should be blamed, although he has the direct responsibility, since if these authorities provided conditions for him to honestly earn enough for his family, he would have certainly had enough money to repair his tractor and pay for insurance.
Translated on 3/24/00