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 »  Home  »  Media Watch  »  (E) HUMAN RIGHTS DEVELOPMENTS in B&H
(E) HUMAN RIGHTS DEVELOPMENTS in B&H
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  01/29/2002 | Media Watch | Unrated
(E) HUMAN RIGHTS DEVELOPMENTS in B&H
 
http://www.hrw.org/wr2k2/europe5.html 
Bosnia and Herzegovina 
 
HUMAN RIGHTS DEVELOPMENTS 
 
The return of displaced persons and refugees remained the principal 
unresolved rights issue confronting the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The 
major political development was the formation of non-ethnic-nationalist 
governments at the national level and in one of Bosnia's two constitutive 
entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The ethnic nationalists 
continued, however, to exercise effective power in majority Croat cantons in 
the federation. In the other entity, Republika Srpska, Serbian nationalists 
remained a leading political force. 
 
Bosnian nongovernmental organizations reported that the general elections 
held on November 11, 2000, were the best-organized elections since the 1995 
signing of the Dayton/Paris Peace Agreement. An "open list" system was used 
in elections for the federal House of Representatives, entity parliaments, 
and the cantonal assemblies in the federation. The system enabled Bosniacs 
and Croats in the federation to vote for candidates from the other ethnic 
group. The more numerous Bosniacs were thus able to influence the election of 
Croat candidates. Unsatisfied with the electoral law, the main political 
party of Bosnian Croats--the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ)--organized an ad 
hoc referendum on Croat self-rule on the same day as general elections. The 
party also refused to cooperate with the implementation of election results. 
 
On February 22, Bosnia's central parliament elected a cabinet (Council of 
Ministers) composed solely of the members of a moderate seven-party grouping 
dubbed the Alliance for Change. On March 12, the federation Parliament also 
elected an Alliance for Change government. On March 3, HDZ and its 
nationalist allies proclaimed self-governance in the territory inhabited by a 
Croat majority. The efforts to establish self-rule suffered a decisive blow 
on April 18, when Stabilization Force (SFOR) troops and OHR entered the main 
branch of the Hercegovacka Bank in Mostar. International auditors blocked the 
HDZ's access to funds in the bank, thereby cutting off the sources of funding 
for the Croat self-governance initiative. By mid-June, Croat soldiers who had 
left the joint federation army at HDZ's invitation renewed their contracts 
with the federation army. 
 
As the security situation and political climate for return improved, the U.N. 
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) registered 56,683 returns of 
minorities during the first nine months of 2001, an increase of almost 100 
percent over the same period in 2000. Most returns continued to be to in 
rural areas. The return of minorities was still not self-sustaining, however, 
as returnees continued to face scant employment opportunities and great 
obstacles to education for minority children. The international community 
continued to fail to respond adequately to the increased interest in return, 
with reconstruction funds falling far short of the amount needed. Although 
rates of property repossession by returnees grew in comparison to previous 
years, urban return remained modest. 
 
While the security situation generally improved, serious incidents of 
ethnically motivated violence continued to occur. In a dozen cases in 
Republika Srpska and, less frequently, in the Croat parts of the federation, 
unknown perpetrators blew up or set fire to reconstructed returnee houses, 
shot at returnees, or planted explosive devices under their cars. On January 
24, Zijada Zulkic, a forty-nine-year-old Bosniac woman from Banja Luka, was 
found dead in her apartment with a bullet wound. On May 7, some 4,000 Serbs 
beat and stoned three hundred elderly Bosniacs who came to Banja Luka for a 
ceremony to mark the reconstruction of Ferhadija mosque. At least eight 
people were taken to the Banja Luka hospital for medical treatment. One of 
them, Murat Badic, aged sixty-one, died on May 26 of head injuries. On July 
12, a sixteen-year-old Bosniac returnee, Meliha Duric, was shot dead by an 
unknown assailant in the village of Damdzici, near Vlasenica in Republika 
Srpska. In November, Seid Mutapcic, a Bosniac returnee, was killed in Pale in 
Republika Srpska. Again the motive and perpetrators were unknown, but the 
crime was disturbing to the returnee community. 
 
On April 6, an organized riot took place in west Mostar, Grude, Siroki 
Brijeg, Medjugorje, and Tomislavgrad, during an abortive international audit 
of the Hercegovacka Bank offices. A mob beat twenty-one members of SFOR and 
the Office of the High Representative tasked with implementation of civilian 
aspects of the peace process; two gunmen in Grude took eight investigators 
hostage and threatened to execute one of them. On May 5, Republika Srpska 
police in Trebinje did little to prevent several hundred Serb nationalists 
from throwing rocks and bottles at a delegation of state and international 
officials who came for a ceremony to mark the reconstruction of a mosque. 
 
Independent journalists received explicit threats from nationalists in both 
entities. The Bosnian Helsinki Committee reported that journalist Ljuba 
Djikic from Tomislavgrad was threatened with lynching after her son Ivica 
Djikic, also a journalist, expressed his opinion about the situation in 
Croat-controlled parts of the federation. Mika Damjanovic, a journalist of 
the Sarajevo daily "Dnevni Avaz" and reporter-cameraman of the Federation TV, 
was attacked in Orasje by an HDZ activist who accused Damjanovic of being a 
"Croatian traitor." A bomb exploded in the doorway of an apartment belonging 
to journalist Zoran Soviljs, causing only property damage. The International 
Police Task Force concluded that his coverage of trafficking and prostitution 
had motivated the attack. In April the Organization for Security and 
Cooperation in Europe's Free Media Helpline registered an alarming increase 
in complaints from radio and television stations in Croat-dominated areas 
about pressure, threats, and intimidation of editors and staff made by the 
HDZ and other Croat self-rule supporters. 
 
SFOR apprehended two war crimes suspects, both indicted by the International 
Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in connection with crimes 
committed in Srebrenica in July 1995: Col. Dragan Obrenovic was arrested on 
April 15, and Col. Vidoje Blagojevic on August 10. NATO officials repeatedly 
claimed that NATO did not always know the whereabouts of indicted wartime 
Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and former Serb army commander Ratko 
Mladic. In the alternative, NATO officials suggested that the two were in the 
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and thus out of reach of NATO troops. 
 
On August 4, the federation government surrendered to the tribunal three 
Bosniac officers of the Bosnia and Herzegovina army, Enver Hadzihasanovic, 
Mehmed Alagic, and Amir Kubura, charged with war crimes against Bosnian 
Croats and Serbs during the 1992-1995 war. Bosnian Minister for Refugees 
Sefer Halilovic surrendered to the tribunal voluntarily on September 25. The 
Republika Srpska had still not apprehended and surrendered to the tribunal a 
single war crime indictee. The Tribunal Office of the Prosecutor stated in 
October that at least seventeen indictees were at large in Republika Srpska. 
Two indicted Bosnian Serbs, former Republika Srpska president Biljana Plavsic 
and Serb Army officer Dragan Jokic, voluntarily surrendered to the tribunal, 
on January 10 and August 15 respectively. On October 2, the Republika Srpska 
National Assembly adopted a law on cooperation with the tribunal. 
 
 
DEFENDING HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
Local and international human rights organizations were generally free to 
monitor and report on the human rights situation. Due to concern for 
researchers' safety, however, some organizations were unwilling to conduct 
research into corruption in the country. The Helsinki Committee for Human 
Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Helsinki Committee in Republika 
Srpska continued to be among the leading human rights groups in the country. 
The office of the Ombudsman for Republika Srpska became fully operative in 
November 2000. A similar institution had already been in existence in the 
federation. Most decisions by the national Human Rights Chamber, Bosnia's 
human rights court, pertained to repossession of houses and apartments by 
their pre-war owners. 
 
Lara, an antitrafficking NGO in Bijeljina, continued to offer assistance to 
women trafficked into Republika Srpska for forced prostitution and received 
threats after launching a nationwide antitrafficking campaign. 
 
 
THE ROLE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY 
 
 
Office of the High Representative (OHR) 
 
On June 21, the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board extended the 
mandate of High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch for another year. 
Responding to the March 3 proclamation of Croat self-governance in Bosnia and 
Herzegovina, on March 7 Petritsch removed Bosnian Croat leader Ante Jelavic 
from his seat in the national Presidency and barred him from holding any 
official or elected public office or post within political parties. Between 
March and June, the high representative also dismissed three leading HDZ 
politicians and four top-ranking police officials in Croat canton seven 
because of their obstruction of the implementation of the Dayton/Paris Peace 
Agreement. The overall number of dismissals declined in comparison to the 
previous year, reflecting the OHR-advocated principle of ownership, whereby 
indigenous actors--rather than international supervisors--were to take the 
initiative in the implementation of laws. 
 
 
United Nations 
 
In a resolution adopted June 21, the Security Council extended the mandate of 
the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH), including the 
International Police Task Force (IPTF), for an additional twelve-month 
period. The IPTF strength (around 1,800) remained below the authorized number 
of 2,057. UNMIBH completed registration of all Bosnian police personnel in 
May 2001 and granted provisional authorization to over 9,300 officers to 
exercise police powers. Twenty-three police officers had their authorization 
withdrawn for professional misconduct or for human rights violations. UNMIBH 
expected that by late 2002 all law enforcement officials would have been 
appropriately vetted prior to receiving UNMIBH final certification. 
 
In February, UNMIBH dismissed the police chief and the chief of the crime 
department in Bratunac, a municipality in Republika Srpska where incidents 
against Bosniac returnees were frequent. In May, UNMIBH also dismissed six 
top-ranking police officials in the Croat part of the federation who refused 
to accept the authority of the federal Ministry of Interior during the Croat 
self-rule campaign. 
 
The U.N. Commission on Human Rights adopted a resolution on April 18 on human 
rights in parts of southeastern Europe, in which it welcomed the 
establishment of non-nationalist parties in Bosnia and in the federation and 
condemned the continued harassment of minority returnees. The chairman of the 
Commission appointed Jose Cutileiro of Portugal as a special representative 
to examine the situation of human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the 
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. 
 
In the first conviction on genocide charges before the U.N. International 
Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Bosnian Serb Army General 
Radislav Krstic was sentenced on August 2 to forty-six years in prison. The 
tribunal found Krstic responsible for the murder of between 7,000 and 8,000 
Bosnian Muslim men and boys after the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995. On 
February 22, the ICTY convicted Bosnian Serbs Dragoljub Kunarac, Radomir 
Kovac, and Zoran Vukovic for rape, torture, and enslavement committed in Foca 
during the Bosnian war. This case marked the first time in history that an 
international tribunal brought charges expressly for crimes of sexual 
violence against women. The decision also marked the first time that the ICTY 
found rape and enslavement to be crimes against humanity. On August 1, the 
tribunal sentenced Stevan Todorovic, former police chief in Bosanski Samac, 
to ten years in prison for persecution of Bosniacs and Croats in 1992. 
Bosnian Croats Dario Kordic and Mario Cerkez were sentenced on February 26 to 
prison sentences for crimes committed against Bosniac civilians in 1992 and 
1993. 
 
 
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) 
 
The OSCE-chaired Provisional Election Commission (PEC) organized general 
elections on November 11, 2000. In response to the illegal referendum on 
Croat self-rule on the day of the elections, the PEC's Election Appeals 
Sub-Commission (EASC) nullified the mandates of the two HDZ candidates who 
received the most votes among the party's candidates for each of five 
cantonal assemblies. The EASC also banned reallocation of their mandates to 
other candidates. The EASC ceased operations in April 2001 as part of the 
process of transferring responsibilities from the PEC to the permanent Bosnia 
and Herzegovina election commission, which commenced its work on November 20, 
2001. 
 
On April 10, the OSCE Mission released its 2000 Free Media Help Line report, 
including a detailed review of cases reported to the Help Line in 2000. The 
report established that the most cases of threats and intimidation reported 
in 2000 were committed by government or public officials (34.6 percent), 
followed by anonymous and unaffiliated individuals (with 25 percent each). 
 
 
Council of Europe 
 
At a November 2000 session the Committee of Ministers of the Council of 
Europe welcomed the progress achieved by Bosnia and Herzegovina toward 
meeting the criteria for accession to the Council of Europe and added that 
further progress was needed, including the adoption of an electoral law. The 
ministers in May 2001 invited the newly established governmental structures 
in the country to accelerate the implementation of the required conditions 
for membership. The Bosnia and Herzegovina House of Representatives adopted 
an Election Law on August 21. On September 27, the Political Affairs 
Committee of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly recommended that 
the Committee of Ministers invite Bosnia and Herzegovina to become a council 
member. 
 
 
European Union 
 
The Presidency of the European Union condemned unilateral moves of the Croat 
nationalist parties in March to establish a self-governing structure. The 
Presidency also supported the decision of the high representative to remove 
Bosnian Croat leader Ante Jelavic from his post in the Bosnian presidency. At 
meetings in May and June in Brussels, the E.U. General Affairs Council 
condemned all forms of separatism and nationalist violence in Bosnia and 
Herzegovina and supported the high representative's responses to these 
developments. During a visit to Sarajevo in May, Chris Patten, the E.U. 
External Relations Commissioner, and Anna Lindh, Foreign Minister of Sweden 
(which held the E.U. Presidency at the time), stated that Bosnia's accession 
to the Council of Europe was a precondition to further negotiations on a 
stabilization and association agreement with the European Union. 
 
 
United States 
 
During the year, the United States reduced its contingent in the 
Stabilization Force from 4,400 troops to 3,300. A spokesman for the U.S. 
contingent stated in early October that U.S. troops in Bosnia would not be 
pulled out to engage in the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan. State 
Department officials refused to meet with Republika Srpska President Mirko 
Sarovic and Vice President Dragan Cavic during their visit to Washington in 
April. Sarovic and Cavic are leaders of the Serbian Democratic Party, which 
was founded by indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic. The United States also 
endorsed the elections of a non-nationalist national government and expressed 
support for the decision of the High Representative to dismiss Ante Jelavic 
from office. 
 
DynCorp, Inc., the U.S. contractor responsible for employing U.S. IPTF 
officers and SFOR contractors, faced two lawsuits for wrongful termination 
after dismissing two DynCorp employees who raised allegations that DynCorp 
personnel had engaged in human trafficking-related activities. The lawsuits 
were still pending at the time of this writing. 
 
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