HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
NO JUSTICE NO PEACE
The United Nations International Police Task Forces
Role in Screening Local Law Enforcement
Vol. 8, No. 15 (D), September 1996
SUMMARY | RECOMMENDATIONS | TABLE OF CONTENTS
The United Nations International Police Task Force (IPTF) faces a crucial test, with little time remaining. From the international community it needs the necessary resources and political support to accomplish its goals: vetting the local police of Bosnia-Hercegovina and ensuring that they are respectful of human rights and free of officers implicated in past ethnic cleansing. If there is to be long-term peace and respect for fundamental human rights in Bosnia-Hercegovina, those who carried out serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law during the war must be removed from positions of power and held accountable for their abusive conduct.
Nowhere is this process more crucial than among the local police forces of Republika Srpska and the Bosniak-Croat Federation. The conflict in Bosnia-Hercegovina was characterized by massive human rights violations against civilians, and the perpetrators of the abuses were frequently members of local police forces. Furthermore, after the cessation of hostilities, demobilized soldiers and paramilitaries in some areas joined the local police. The existing local police force needs to be reduced, restructured and reformed. It needs to overcome not only its war-time past, but its communist past as well. But most of all, in order to be restructured, retrained and able to enjoy any degree of public confidence and trust, it must be purged of individuals with records of severe human rights abuses.
IPTF has a mandate to restructure and retrain the local police forces. While primarily charged with the oversight of law enforcement activities in the country that is, tasks related to preventing or decreasing the number of current human rights violations IPTF also has the potential to affect the future human rights situation, and accountability for past abuses as well. Created under the terms of the Dayton peace agreement, IPTF was charged with overseeing civilian policing activities in Bosnia-Hercegovina during the presence of international forces in the country, and with helping to create a new, democratic police force that will be left in place after international actors leave.
IPTFs mandate to vet the local police of Bosnia-Hercegovina gives it the opportunity to make a particularly important contribution to long-term security and respect for human rights in the country. If the vetting is done properly, IPTF can help to create a new, democratic police force. The importance of this aspect of IPTFs mandate cannot be underestimated. Local police will be left on the scene when international forces leave the area, and it will be the local police who will largely determine whether the human rights of citizens of Bosnia-Hercegovina are protected and upheld. If, however, before any restructuring and retraining takes places, candidates are not thoroughly screened, the whole process will be rendered futile, and all the significant resources invested in it, a waste.
As the three-quarters mark of the duration of IPTFs initial mandate approaches, this report examines aspects of the human rights role that IPTF has played and looks at the prospects for restructuring the local police and, in particular, the task of screening candidates for police jobs. Whereas restructuring is already underway in the Bosniak-Croat Federation, with a basic agreement reached in April and further details agreed upon in May, no such progress has occurred on the Republika Srpska side. In the Republika Srpska, no agreement has been signed as of this writing, and the entire process has been stalled. In this report, we make recommendations to enhance the IPTFs current effectiveness and maximize its ability to reform the local police.
Human Rights Watch urges the IPTF to:
TABLE OF CONTENTS
MANDATE AND STRUCTURE
IPTF RESPONSE TO CURRENT ABUSES
IPTF AND ACCOUNTABILITY FOR PAST AND CURRENT ABUSES
Abuses Against Civilians Perpetrated by Local Police or
Failure by Police to Stop Abuses
Failure to Cooperate with IPTF and Instances of Non-compliance
on the Part of Local Police
Threats Against and Acts of Hostility Toward IPTF by Local Police
Human Rights Watch September 1996 Vol. 8, No. 15 (D)
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