Human Rights Developments
The human rights situation in Bosnia continued to worsen throughout 1993. To varying degrees, all parties to the conflict were guilty of the practice of "ethnic cleansing"-the forcible deportation and displacement, execution, confinement in detention camps or ghettos, and the use of siege warfare, to force the flight of an "enemy" ethnic population. The forcible displacement of non-Serbs from Serbian-controlled areas of Bosnia continued, especially in Banja Luka and Bijeljina. In the Bosanski Samac region, non-Serbian women, children and elderly persons were held under house arrest and forced to do physical labor in a village controlled by Serbian paramilitaries. Serbian forces continued to detain hundreds, possibly thousands, of persons in detention camps. In March, as the humanitarian situation in eastern Bosnia deteriorated, Bosnian Serb forces repeatedly denied U.N. relief convoys access to tens of thousands of Bosnian civilians in besieged enclaves. In mid-1993, Serbian forces allowed the passage of humanitarian aid destined for Muslim populations through territory under their control.
The fighting between predominantly Muslim and Bosnian Croat forces (HVO) continued in 1993, beginning in January for a brief period and resuming in April, when Muslim forces in the Zenica area and Croatian forces in the Stolac area each forcibly displaced civilians from the opposing ethnic group. On April 16, HVO forces brutally executed over eighty-ninepersons in the village of Ahmici.
On May 9, Bosnian Croat officials began evicting, arbitrarily arresting and detaining thousands of Muslim civilians in the Mostar area. In early June, Muslim forces launched an offensive against Bosnian Croat positions in central Bosnia, and thousands of Croats were forcibly displaced from their homes. After a mutiny of Muslim soldiers in the HVO in late June, Bosnian Croat forces arrested Muslim men in western Hercegovina. Those arrested in May and June were detained in camps at the Rodoc heliodrome outside Mostar and at the Dretelj and Gabela camps near Capljina, where they suffered from malnutrition and were beaten and forced to work along the front lines. Bosnian Croat forces obstructed delivery of humanitarian aid to the Muslim-controlled area of Mostar for over two months. Relief convoys were attacked by Bosnian Croat forces near Travnik.
Muslim forces summarily executed civilians and disarmed combatants in the villages of Trusina, Doljani, Miletici and Uzdol and near the town of Konjic. Bosnian government troops beat prisoners in detention and forced them to work on the front lines. Muslim forces also obstructed humanitarian aid destined for wounded Croats in the village of Nova Bila.
The Right to Monitor
Human rights monitoring in Bosnia continued to be difficult and dangerous. Fighting between the warring factions and denial of access or restriction of movement by all parties to the conflict severely limited independent observers' ability to investigate reports of atrocities. Access to detention camps was denied by all parties to the conflict. Bosnian Croat forces denied the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other relief workers access to the Gabela and Dretelj camps for over two months. The HVO-operated prison at the Rodoc heliodrome also was closed to outside observers for several weeks. The field staff of U.N. Special Rapporteur Tadeusz Mazowiecki were shot at while investigating the massacre of Muslims in the village ofAhmici. Muslim forces prevented access to Croatian villages in the Konjic and Jablanica municipalities, and as of mid-November, Serbian forces continued to hold prisoners in areas that had not been visited by outside observers. Although it was not their primary responsibility, the European Community Monitoring Mission, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) monitored violations of human rights and humanitarian law to varying degrees. Occasionally, protests were issued to the authorities responsible for such abuses.
The Role of the International Community
The United Nations
U.N. efforts in 1993 focused on negotiating a peace, delivering humanitarian aid, enforcing a "no-fly" zone and establishing "safe areas" and a tribunal to try war criminals in the former Yugoslavia, including Bosnia. Despite much international activity, the UNPROFOR mission and the joint U.N.-E.C. Conference on the Former Yugoslavia became symbols of the world community's ineffectiveness in coping with the war crimes and crimes against humanity being perpetrated in Bosnia. The 9,000-troop UNPROFOR mission continued its operations in Bosnia in 1993 with a mandate that did not reflect reality in the field. Initially a peacekeeping force, the UNPROFOR mandate was amended to empower U.N. troops to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid. No efforts were made to revise the mandate to permit U.N. forces to prevent human rights abuses against civilians in Bosnia. U.N. personnel investigated human rights abuses in Bosnia, especially cases of summary execution by Bosnian Croat forces such as the Ahmici and stupni Do massacres. But U.N. personnel did not adequately investigate many other reports of egregious abuses, nor did they express much interest in such matters, claiming that the U.N. operation in Bosnia was understaffed and ill-equipped to deal with human rights issues.
· Peace negotiations: In early January 1993, then-U.N. Special Envoy Cyrus Vance and European Community (E.C.) representative Lord David Owen began negotiating a peace proposal commonly referred to as the "Vance-Owen plan" with the leaders of Bosnia's warring factions. According to the plan, Bosnia was to be divided into ten semi-autonomous regions. However, on May 5, the self-proclaimed Bosnian Serb assembly rejected the Vance-Owen plan, and on June 18, Lord Owen declared that the U.N.-backed plan was "dead."
In late July, representatives of Bosnia's three warring factions entered into a new round of negotiations. On August 20, U.N. mediators unveiled a map that would partition Bosnia into three ethnic mini-states, in which Bosnian Serb forces would be given 52 percent of Bosnia's territory, Muslims would be allotted 30 percent and Bosnian Croats would receive 18 percent.
On April 1, Cyrus Vance announced his resignation as special envoy to the Secretary-General. He was replaced by Norwegian Foreign Minister Thorvald Stoltenberg on May 1.
· Humanitarian aid: To protest the failure of all sides to honor their agreements and provide safe passage for humanitarian aid, Sadako Ogata, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, suspended most relief operations in Bosnia on February 17. On February 19, U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali resumed relief efforts across Bosnia and implied that the blockade of supplies would be lifted as early as the next day, making clear that the UNHCR had acted without his approval. The UNHCR thus resumed its work with no new guarantees of protection by UNPROFOR troops or cooperation of the warring parties.
On March 4, the U.N. Security Council adopted a statement strongly condemning Bosnian Serb offensives in eastern Bosnia and demanding a cessation of killings and atrocities. On April 3, the Security Council issued another statement condemning Serbian offenses and calling for more peacekeepers in eastern Bosnia. Noticeably absent from both statements was a program of action should Serbian forces not comply with the Security Council's demands. In mid-March, following months of blockaded aid deliveries to Srebrenica, then-commander of U.N. forces in Bosnia, Lt. Gen. Phillipe Morillon, announced that he would remain in the town until a U.N. relief convoy was allowed to enter. On March 19, Serbian forces granted passage of the convoy into Srebrenica. U.N. Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali expressed anger at the general for "exceeding his mandate," despite the fact that the U.N. was empowered by the Security Council to use "all means necessary to deliver humanitarian aid." On April 14, French Defense Minister Francois Leotard confirmed that Morillon would be replaced as commander of U.N. forces in Bosnia.
After nearly two months of obstruction by Bosnian Croat forces, U.N. officials were able to deliver one truckload of medicine to the Muslim-controlled sector of Mostar on August 21. Five days later, a U.N. convoy of humanitarian aid finally reached the Muslim quarter of Mostar. Fearing that the departure of the U.N. convoy would result in resumed HVO shelling of the Muslim quarter, residents in the Muslim-controlled sector refused to allow U.N. personnel to leave the area. On August 28, the U.N. workers were allowed to leave the Muslim-controlled sector of Mostar but only after U.N. soldiers from the Spanish battalion agreed to remain in the Muslim-controlled sector of the city as a deterrent against further attacks by the Bosnian Croats.
· The no-fly zone: In October 1992, the U.N. Security Council declared a "no-fly" zone over Bosnia but, by March 1993, the flight ban had been violated nearly 500 times. The Security Council did not begin preparations to enforce the ban until March 18, after Serbian aircraft bombed two Muslim villages. However, action was delayed twice, apparently because of concern about weakening Russian President Boris Yeltsin's chances of political survival in his struggle with a Russian parliament sympathetic to the Serbs. Finally, on March 31, the Security Council authorized NATO to enforce the "no-fly zone", but the authorization proved to be a mostly symbolic gesture. While in the early stages of the Bosnian war, Yugoslav aircraft frequently attacked civilian targets, by April 1993, the destruction of civilian targets was being accomplished mainly by artillery, not aerial, bombardment.
NATO planes were instructed to use force only as a last resort, in order to lessen the possibility of a conflict with Serbian forces. Strict limitations were placed on pilots as to when they might fire. The Bosnian Serb military was unimpressed by the U.N. threat; on April 9, in blatant defiance of the flight ban, Bosnian Serb commander Gen. Ratko Mladic traveled to a meeting with U.N. General Morillon in a military helicopter.
· Safe areas: As part of a U.N.-brokered deal to prevent the fall of Srebrenica to Bosnian Serb forces, the Security Council declared Srebrenica a U.N.-protected "safe area" on April 17. Canadian troops entered the town the following day. The U.N. agreed to disarm the Muslim forces in Srebrenica and to protect the civilian population and disarmed combatants from Serbian attack. However, only 146 soldiers from the Royal Canadian Regiment and a dozen unarmed police officers were charged with protecting Srebrenica's approximately 30,000 residents from several thousand well-armed besieging Serbian troops.
In addition to Srebrenica, the Security Council issued a new resolution on May 6, declaringthe cities and towns of Sarajevo, Tuzla, Zepa, Gorazde and Bihac as "safe areas." On June 5, the Security Council passed a resolution authorizing the deployment of as many as 10,000 new troops to defend the declared "safe areas." The resolution also authorized the U.S. and its allies to use air power to protect U.N. troops defending the six enclaves. However, the U.N. did nothing in response to continuing Serbian attacks against the "safe areas" throughout the year. On July 26, Serbian troops attacked a group of French U.N. troops in Sarajevo during a forty-five-minute barrage involving sixty-eight tank and mortar missiles. Despite a mandate clearly allowing for the self-defense of U.N. troops, the U.N. did nothing in response to the attack.
· An international war crimes tribunal: On February 22, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 808 calling for the establishment of an international tribunal to investigate, prosecute, and punish those responsible for "grave breaches" of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their 1977 First Additional Protocol in the former Yugoslavia, including Bosnia. The resolution required the Secretary-General to present a proposal for such a tribunal within sixty days. The Security Council finally approved a statute for the war crimes tribunal on May 25 and declared that the site of the tribunal would be in the Hague.
A list of twenty-three judges was compiled by the Security Council. The General Assembly elected eleven from the twenty-three in ten rounds of balloting between September 15 and 17. On October 21, Venezuela's State Prosecutor, Ramón Escovar Salom, was appointed as chief prosecutor.
The European Community
The European Community's (E.C.) response to the crisis in Bosnia continued to be timid in 1993. While Germany favored tougher international involvement in Bosnia, Britain and France strongly opposed any such measures. French and British resistance was largely responsible for scuttling a U.S. effort in the spring of 1993 to arm the Bosnian Muslim forces and launch air strikes against Serbian military targets should the Bosnian Serbs reject the Vance-Owen peace plan. Following the demise of the Vance-Owen plan, the E.C. threw its support behind the establishment of U.N. "safe areas" in Bosnia. At a June summit, E.C. leaders pledged to donate more troops and money for the protection of these areas. Germany, constitutionally prevented from sending troops to Bosnia, has taken part in U.S.-initiated humanitarian airdrops over Bosnia while Greece, a traditional ally of Serbia, has avoided participating in the U.N. mission altogether.
Despite widespread expectations that President Clinton would adopt a more active stance than his predecessor toward the conflict in Bosnia, the new administration did little in reaction to the continued human rights violations occurring in the region. Indecision regarding Bosnia was arguably President Clinton's most glaring foreign policy failure in 1993. The Clinton administration vocally threatened to intervene militarily against Serbian forces three times only to renege on the threat each time. The appointment of a U.S. special envoy did nothing to facilitate the peace process. Internal disputes and lack of resolve further plagued the administration's policy toward Bosnia. Indeed, the Clinton administration's indecisiveness weakened the U.S.'s ability to influence its allies and to deal effectively with specific human rights problems in Bosnia.
The Clinton administration responded to the Vance-Owen plan when it was announced on January 30. Clinton officials considered that the Vance-Owen proposal was unjust toward Bosnia's Muslims. On February 10, however, Secretary of State Christopher said that the U.S.would engage in the Vance-Owen negotiations, that it had assigned Amb. Reginald Bartholemew to be the U.S. special envoy to those talks, and that it would seek to tighten the economic sanctions already imposed against Serbia and Montenegro. Promotion of wider delivery of humanitarian aid and the creation of a war crimes tribunal also were advocated. Christopher stopped short of endorsing imminent use of Western force or Bosnian government exemption from the U.N. arms embargo-steps that Clinton had previously endorsed.
On February 25, President Clinton ordered U.S. aircraft to begin airdropping food and medical supplies to civilians in besieged Bosnian towns. In early April, a team of experts sent to Bosnia by President Clinton to investigate the humanitarian situation produced a draft report recommending the use of international military force to protect Bosnia's civilians and urged the Clinton administration to consider a plan to establish internationally protected "safe havens" in Bosnia. At the instruction of senior administration officials, however, the committee omitted all recommendations of military force from closed-door briefings with Congress. The State Department, facing pressure after news of the incident was leaked to the press, made the report public on April 15.
On April 14, after a meeting with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, U.S. special envoy Reginald Bartholemew warned that if the Bosnian Serbs did not sign on to the Vance-Owen peace plan, the international community would make Serbia a "pariah state." He also stated that should the Serbs not comply, the U.S. would press for the exemption of the Bosnian government from the U.N.- imposed arms embargo. On April 19, in a move strongly supported by the U.S., the U.N. Security Council voted to impose tougher sanctions against Yugoslavia.
As the Bosnian Serb parliament continued to reject the Vance-Owen proposal, and as Bosnian Serb forces continued to attack Muslims in eastern Bosnia, President Clinton again began to contemplate military action against the Serbs. The administration was still deeply divided over what, if any, measures would be appropriate in Bosnia. Twelve State Department experts on the Balkans sent Secretary of State Christopher a letter in late April in which they urged military intervention on the side of the Bosnian government. In an April 23 news conference, President Clinton stated that the U.S. should take the lead on Bosnia but he qualified his statements by insisting that the U.S. would not act unilaterally and would not send ground troops to Bosnia.
In early May, President Clinton instructed Secretary Christopher to gain the agreement of European allies to arm Bosnian Muslim forces and to launch air strikes against strategic Serbian positions. After the secretary failed to persuade a number of European allies, most notably England and France, to endorse the U.S. proposal, President Clinton retreated from his threat of more forceful action and renounced a leadership role for the U.S. with regard to Bosnia.
On May 22, Secretary Christopher asserted that the U.S. would offer air cover to protect U.N. peacekeepers-but not Bosnian civilians-in the six U.N.-declared "safe areas." Only two weeks earlier, Christopher had criticized the "safe areas" plan, claiming that it condemned Muslims to ethnic "ghettos" and rewarded the Serbian policy of "ethnic cleansing." On June 17, President Clinton indicated that the United States was prepared to accept the partition of Bosnia into three separate states, acknowledging that such a partition would reward Serbian aggression.
On July 21, as Serbian forces continued to attack "safe areas" and appeared within reach of capturing Sarajevo, Christopher indicated that the U.S. would take no new initiatives. On July 22, President Clinton strongly endorsed the forthcoming peace talks in Geneva and stated that the U.S. would assist in the enforcement of any agreement that the Bosnian government would sign.
Following a Serbian attack on U.N. troops in Sarajevo, however, the U.S. began once again to contemplate military measures against Bosnian Serb forces. On July 26, a State Department spokesman insisted that the U.S. was prepared to protect peacekeepers in Bosnia with air power. On July 28, President Clinton met with senior military advisers to discuss possible U.S. airstrikes in Bosnia. On July 30, the President sent a letter to the U.N. Secretary General urging him to authorize the use of Western airpower. On July 31, administration officials announced that Clinton had given his final approval to an air strike plan and was seeking allied support. On August 3, U.S. officials intensified the U.S. threat by announcing that the U.S. intended to start bombing Serbian positions within a week unless Serbian forces eased their siege of Sarajevo. In response, Bosnian Serb forces agreed to withdraw their troops from two strategic mountains near Sarajevo and to open two main roads into the city to all U.N. aid convoys.
Then, the U.S. came into conflict with the U.N. when it sought a consensus on giving NATO control of any possible air strikes. U.N. Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali asserted that only he had the authority to authorize air strikes, and Canada and France set up other obstacles. The final plan of August 9 represented a watered-down version of the U.S.'s original proposal: not only would the U.N. Secretary-General have to authorize any military action, but the NATO allies would also need to reconvene and unanimously approve the start of air strikes. The decision to start bombing would be contingent upon the judgment that the besieging Serbian forces were actually tightening their stranglehold on Sarajevo and other areas. In late August, the U.S. agreed to provide half of the proposed 50,000 NATO troops that would be deployed to enforce a future peace agreement in Bosnia. However, in September, President Clinton said that he would seek Congressional approval before deploying U.S. troops.
Throughout 1993, the U.S. Department of State sent reports it had compiled on war crimes in Bosnia to the U.N. Security Council. However, the reports were not detailed and often did not indicate the specific source of the information. Three State Department officials resigned in August to protest U.S. policy and inaction in the Balkans.
In early November, Madeleine K. Albright, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., issued an important statement in support of the war crimes tribunal. According to Ambassador Albright, the Clinton administration would "not recognize-and we do not believe the international community will recognize-any deal or effort to grant immunity to those accused of war crimes." Should governments refuse to hand over persons indicted by the U.N. tribunal, she said, sanctions should be imposed upon them.
The Work of Helsinki Watch
In January, Helsinki Watch and the Women's Rights Project of Human Rights Watch sent a mission to Croatia and Yugoslavia to interview women who had been sexually abused in Bosnia. An article titled "Bosnia: Questions of Rape," appeared in The New York Review of Books on March 25. Helsinki Watch representatives traveled to Bosnia throughout 1993 to investigate violations of the rules of war by all three parties to the conflict.
Helsinki Watch published several reports and newsletters on Bosnia in 1993. In April, Helsinki Watch published Volume II of its series on War Crimes in Bosnia-Hercegovina. The 422-page report documented violations of the rules of war by the three parties to the conflict. Helsinki Watch published further information concerning abuses in Bosnia in a July 1993 newsletter titled "Abuses Continue in the Former Yugoslavia: Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Hercegovina," and in September, released a newsletter on "Abuses by Bosnian Croat and Muslim Forces in Central and Southwestern Bosnia-Hercegovina." Also, on January 25, Helsinki Watch and Human Rights Watch sent a letter to Vladimir Lukic, the prime minister of the self-proclaimed Serbian state in Bosnia, protesting the murder of Bosnian Deputy Prime Minister Hakija Turajlic by a Bosnian Serb soldier as Turajlic was returning from the Sarajevo airport in a U.N. vehicle.
Throughout 1993, Helsinki Watch and Human Rights Watch wrote letters to U.N. officials asking that the U.N. address human rights concerns in Bosnia. On January 14, Helsinki Watch and Human Rights Watch sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali asking that the UNPROFOR mandate in Bosnia be expanded to allow for the use of force to ensure deliveryof humanitarian aid. On February 3, a letter was sent to then U.N. Special Envoy Cyrus Vance, urging that U.N. peace negotiations not continue unless a neutral body such as the ICRC certified that grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions had been halted and that the parties to the conflict allowed and facilitated delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians in besieged communities. Also on February 3, Helsinki Watch and Human Rights Watch sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher calling on the U.S. government to support Helsinki Watch's stand regarding continuation of the peace negotiations. On April 22, a letter was sent to U.N. Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali expressing dismay at the delay in presenting a proposal for a war crimes tribunal and asking that the establishment of such a tribunal be expedited. Throughout 1993, Helsinki Watch continued to supply evidence of war crimes in Bosnia to the U.N. Commission of Experts, which was established by the Security Council in 1992 to collect such evidence.
Helsinki Watch kept up a constant pressure for the establishment of an international tribunal to try those accused of war crimes in Croatia and Bosnia. On August 1, Helsinki Watch released "Prosecute Now!," a newsletter which summarized eight cases that would be strong candidates for prosecution by an international war crimes tribunal. Also in August, Helsinki Watch published "Procedural and Evidentiary Issues for the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal: Resource Allocation, Evidentiary Questions and Protection of Witnesses." On September 7, Human Rights Watch sent a letter on the tribunal to U.N. Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali urging the selection of a chief prosecutor with exceptional human rights and prosecutorial credentials and suggesting names of possible candidates. On August 25, Human Rights Watch submitted an amicus curiae brief in opposition to Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic's motion to dismiss charges of human rights abuse brought against him by two Bosnian women in a U.S. court.