Vlado Trifunovic (1938 - 2017)

the general who refused to fight the Croatian enemy, choosing the path of dialogue

Vlado Trifunović was born in 1938 in Rakeljić, a village in Prijedor, Bosnia and Herzegovina. His career was in the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), where he became general.

In the summer of 1991, Trifunović was in command of the 32nd Army Corps
stationed in Varaždin, Croatia. Following the outbreak of conflict in September, the Croatian National Guard forces sieged the barracks where he was stationed, along with 220 soldiers and 60 officers. Trifunović chose to remain with them without water or electricity.

Belgrade's order was to resist and fight the enemy, but Trifunović chose the path of dialogue and refused to deploy his soldiers
. He ordered to make the weapons present in the barracks unusable, and, on September 22, 1991, he succeeded in obtaining from the Croatian authorities to hand over the barracks in exchange for the possibility to freely return in Serbia with his men, thus managing to bring all his soldiers and officers to safety.

Because of his actions, he was arrested as soon as he got to Serbia, on charges of treason and for having handed over the weapons to the enemies.

Thanks to an amnesty, he managed to leave prison in 1997, and, in 2010, he was completely acquitted. In Croatia, however, Trifunović was sentenced to 15 years on charges of a war crime, with a trial against him that was reopened in 2013.

Because of this, he used to say of himself, "I am the only general whom Croatia has declared a war criminal and whom Yoguslavia has indicted for refusing to commit a war crime." After the war, Trifunović fought every day against his label of "traitor and criminal", always remaining true to his ideals. "My first thought," he recounted, "would again be to save the lives of the people under my command". The general told his story in three books: My Fight for the Truth; The Stirring of a Conscience - in the Fight for Truth and the Rule of Law; and I Do Not Want a Pardon.

He was proud to have kept the promise he made to his mother; "My mother", he said, "made me swear that, once I completed my military education, my orders would have never caused a mother to grieve." For his actions, Vlado Trifunović received the Duško Kondor Civil Courage Award in 2014. Trifunović passed away on January 15, 2017, aged 79; the funeral took place in Rakelići, with a hundred people attending it.

This biography is taken from the archive of Duško Kondor Award for Civil Courage. We would like to thank Svetlana Broz for providing the material to the editorial staff.

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