The Continuing Influence of Bosnia’s Warlords

Vol. 8, No. 17 (D), December 1996



The human rights abuses that constitute “ethnic cleansing” are still being used to intimidate and harass ethnic minorities in Bosnia-Hercegovina in the post-Dayton period. This has been observed by and is well known to the NATO-led Implementation Force (IFOR), international monitoring organizations and the governments that have sponsored the Dayton Peace Agreement. By opting to remain silent about many of the abuses and the identity of the abusers, the international community has become complicit in the continuation of serious human rights abuses and the final stages of “ethnic cleansing.” Many of those who incited ethnic and nationalist hatred and were responsible for the massive atrocities committed during the war remain in power today. This is particularly true in the Republika Srpska (RS), where the control and influence of persons responsible for massive violations of human rights and humanitarian law during the war, increase the chances that human rights abuses will continue to be carried out in a systematic fashion until Republika Srpska is ethnically “clean.”

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki has collected strong evidence and obtained confirmation from IFOR sources in Bosnia-Hercegovina as well as from several international monitoring organizations there that, since the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement, underground Bosnian Serb paramilitary organizations are being led by the ruling nationalist-based party—the SDS [Srpska Demokratska Stranka—Serbian Democratic Party] in the entity of Republika Srpska. According to an IFOR source recently interviewed by Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, the plans of this underground paramilitary network include “destabilizing the peace process, creating opposition to IFOR and international agencies within the Bosnian Serb population in Republika Srpska, stirring up general animosity towards the other entity—the Bosniak-Croat Federation—and destroying any moderate-line Serb elements including Bosnian Serb opposition parties and individuals not affiliated with the SDS.” Furthermore, as several international monitoring officials informed us, “liquidation units” have been formed to eliminate specific high-ranking people, moderate Bosnian Serb leaders and specific non-Serb minorities either still living in Republika Srpska or who may return there.

These underground paramilitary organizations operate throughout the Republika Srpska. This report focuses on two towns—Doboj and Teslic—where underground paramilitary cells exist that are directly connected to the SDS, Karadzic and possibly Mladic [see Appendix A]. IFOR sources and members of international monitoring organizations reported to us that this underground paramilitary organization receives financial support and arms through at least three companies in the Doboj area that funnel money and arms from sources in Europe.

Doboj and Teslic are under the absolute, autocratic control of a group of local Bosnian Serb political leaders, police chiefs, party leaders, officials and civilians who have established an underground mafia-type network bridging the two towns. At the moment, this underground network of nationalist-extremist Doboj and Teslic authorities is tightening its grip on the area in order to resist any possible undesirable results of the Dayton peace process and the municipal elections scheduled for the spring of 1997. They view the Dayton peace process as a direct threat to the power base they created during the war. According to representatives of a number of international monitoring organizations, the group is so powerful that they feel comfortable doing whatever they want. Almost a year after the Dayton Peace Agreement was signed, and in the very presence of IFOR soldiers and the International Police Task Force (IPTF), the non-Serb residents of Doboj and Teslic are still subject to the kind of psychological and physical terror that existed during the height of the war in 1992-1994. According to an IFOR source:

In order that he exercise complete control over everything in Republika Srpska, Karadzic has made sure his political party—the SDS—runs, controls and owns the entity's police, court system, media, major industries and local NGOs [non-governmental organizations] such as the Red Cross. Furthermore, Karadzic has exclusively employed the power of the entity's Ministry of Internal Affairs [Ministarstvo Unutra njih Poslova—hereinafter referred to as MUP] in order to keep all internal problems in check, and this underground paramilitary organization has emerged from within its very ranks. In the Doboj and Teslic area, this underground paramilitary group is composed mainly of members of the special police of the regional ministries of internal affairs. The underground organization also actively recruits new members from the large numbers of demobilized and mostly unemployed Army of Republika Srpska [Vojska Republike Srpske—hereinafter referred to as VRS] soldiers. It doesn't even matter that Karadzic was publicly banned from political office by Holbrooke and the Americans; he still continues to exercise complete control over all events in the Republika Srpska.

This report offers evidence that the national and local political leadership of the Republika Srpska as well as the state organs and agencies under its control—including the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the local police force, and the VRS—are responsible for directing, aiding and abetting continuing human rights abuses in post-Dayton Bosnia-Hercegovina on an RS-wide scale. Over the past eleven months, RS forces and agencies, along with the underground paramilitary organization (comprising members of the aforementioned agencies as well as local political authorities), have committed widespread human rights abuses in the Doboj-Teslic area against non-Serb minorities and even moderate Bosnian Serbs involved in opposition movements. Specifically, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki has documented acts of pre-meditated murder, “ethnic cleansing,” expulsions, obstruction of freedom of movement, obstruction of the right to remain, the continued practice of forced labor, beating and torture in detention, threats and intimidation, looting and the destruction of property. The majority of these abuses are perpetrated in a highly organized fashion.

This report is based on a Human Rights Watch/Helsinki mission conducted in the months of July, August and September 1996, with a field update completed in November. Interviews were conducted with approximately a dozen international representatives from a number of organizations taking part in monitoring and/or carrying out the provision of the civilian component of the Dayton Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Hercegovina, including officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), European Community Military Monitors (ECMM), United Nations Civil Affairs (UNCA), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Office of the High Representative (OHR), the International Police Task Force (IPTF), and the Implementation Force (IFOR). Furthermore, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interviewed a number of individuals familiar with the Doboj and Teslic region who worked in Bosnia-Hercegovina under the United Nations mission. Some of these sources, recognizing the need to publicly expose the activities of local political leaders and regretting the fact that their own organizations are not doing so, provided Human Rights Watch/Helsinki with much information that their organizations have not made public. For that reason, these individuals asked that their names and the areas where they are based not be disclosed. Human Rights Watch/Helsinki agreed to maintain these sources' confidentiality.

The events and practices documented in this report indicate not only the ongoing control exerted by war-time organizers of “ethnic cleansing” in the Doboj-Teslic area and the human rights abuses that are a result thereof, but also that the whereabouts and abusive activities of these persons are well known to the international representatives present in the region. If these international bodies are truly interested in verifying the allegations in this report, they have no better place to look than to their own internal documents and reports and the knowledge possessed by their own field staff. We confirmed much of the information provided by international sources through interviews with dozens victims of human rights abuses from the Doboj-Teslic area. Because of their legitimate fear for their safety and that of their families, many of these individuals also asked that their identities be kept confidential.



Human Rights Watch/Helsinki urges:

the OSCE chairman-in-office and the Office of the High Representative (OHR) urgently to call on the Bosnian Serb authorities to make clear that full and immediate compliance with the Dayton Peace Agreement is expected, pointing to the specific obstacles for the full provision of the civilian component of the agreement, outlining specific steps the authorities must take, creating a timetable for compliance, and making clear that non-compliance will be met with immediate punitive measures, such as the withholding of economic aid and/or the reimposition of sanctions. Should the Bosnian Serb authorities fail to meet the specified bench-marks by a specific time period, the United Nations Security Council must implement Security Council resolution 1074 which considers the imposition of sanctions if any party fails significantly to meet its obligations under the Dayton Peace Agreement.

IFOR, the OHR, the OSCE and other international organizations operating in Bosnia-Hercegovina to clearly articulate a duty of their representatives to expose all continuing human rights abuses, as well as to name the perpetrators, even if they are high-level political authorities and police officials. Moreover, any international official witnessing human rights abuses should inform IFOR and IPTF, so that in conjunction, they can intervene to end such abuses and uphold the human rights guarantees spelled out in the Dayton Peace Agreement.

that the operations of IFOR, the OHR, the OSCE and other international bodies that impact on human rights be completely transparent. While sources and other information must obviously be protected, reports of human rights abuses should not be withheld from the public for political reasons, and disclosure should be timely.

IFOR to become more proactively engaged in guaranteeing and protecting the security, safety and human rights of non-Serb minorities and targeted Bosnian Serbs in Republika Srpska, and displaced persons and refugees wishing to return to their place of origin. The absence of “robust” and proactive protection has only emboldened hard-line Bosnian Serb authorities and local police officials to carry out human rights abuses with impunity, thus maintaining an environment of abuse and fear.

IFOR to redouble its efforts to ensure “complete” freedom of movement as spelled out by the Dayton Peace Agreement.

the IPTF to urgently press Republika Srpska to sign an agreement regarding the restructuring of the local police, including the screening process, parallel to the one signed by the Federation in April 1996. Failure to do so immediately should be declared non-compliance with the Dayton Peace Agreement and should trigger punitive measures, such as reimposing sanctions and withholding economic aid.

the IPTF to increase patrolling activities uniformly throughout the Doboj and Teslic regions so as to reduce the human rights abuses in areas where international monitors have been absent. IPTF should coordinate their patrolling strategy and schedule with IFOR to ensure that their work will not be obstructed by local elements.

the IPTF to instruct stations in the Doboj and Teslic municipalities to record, report and make public all instances of continuing human rights abuses and non-compliance with the Dayton Peace Agreement by members of the local police.

the IPTF to establish mechanisms to protect individuals who provide information on abusive officials to the IPTF. Without concrete protection mechanisms, intimidation will prevent civilians from reporting continuing human rights abuses at the hands of the authorities.

the IPTF to ensure that all police officers responsible for post-Dayton human rights abuses, harassment of, or threats against, minorities, or who have failed to investigate and punish those responsible for human rights abuses committed under their jurisdiction, be ineligible for police posts and be removed from their positions. Acts of non-compliance should be understood to include, but are not limited to the obstruction of freedom of movement, failure to protect the right to remain and violation of an individual's freedom of expression and association.

the IPTF to ensure that all local police who threatened or committed acts of violence against IPTF, as well as those police officers who refused to comply with or obstructed other provisions of the Dayton Peace Agreement, be ineligible for police posts and be removed from their position.

the IPTF to publicize the vetting process of the RS police structure through the international and, most importantly, local media. Create mechanisms through which the local population can furnish the IPTF with information regarding abusive police officers and paramilitary members.

the IPTF to pass on all information of human rights abuses carried out by local police officials to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), with an agreement to exchange information on records in the ICTY on police officials, politicians and members of paramilitary groups in the area.

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki urges the United States, Russia and the European Union to:

allow and fully support the OSCE and the OHR to carry out the above mentioned recommendations.

disclose all available information, including intelligence, that implicates any of the ruling parties in running, supporting, supplying, or directing the organized commission of human rights abuses through local political, police and military bodies, agencies or branches.

exert pressure on the Pale authorities to ensure that the Republika Srpska respects and upholds the human rights norms spelled out in the Dayton Peace Agreement. The granting of any kind of reconstruction assistance to the entity of the Republika Srpska should be linked to strict respect for human and minority rights and the creation of real return options by the Bosian Serb authorities for non-Serbs. Aid should be granted in a manner that ensures minority rights in, and the repatriation of persons “ethnically cleansed” from, the Republika Srpska. Also, such aid should be disbursed in a non-discriminatory manner that ensures that assistance is given both to displaced non-Serbs, Bosnian Serbs, and Serb refugees from Croatia in the Republika Srpska.

establish an Office of the Ombudsman in the Republika Srpska identical to the one operating in the Federation entity of Bosnia-Hercegovina, to act as a legal representative for individual victims of human rights abuses and charged with obtaining remedies for such abuses from governmental authorities.

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki urges the authorities of the entity of Republika Srpska to:

arrest, prosecute and punish all the local Doboj and Teslic authorities, police officials and VRS members responsible for ongoing human rights abuses against the non-Serb minority population, non-Serb returnees, as well as against Bosnian Serb civilians who are perceived as opponents of the SDS authorities.

allow non-Serb displaced persons and refugees who wish to return to their homes—a fundamental right outlined in the Dayton Peace Agreement—to do so without any impediments and without fear of persecution.

allow international human rights and police monitors to maintain an unimpeded presence and operate freely in the Doboj and Teslic areas.




Politically and Ethnically Motivated Killings, Beatings,
   Evictions, Arbitrary Arrests and Detentions
Obstruction of Freedom of Movement and the Right to Return
Obstruction of Freedom of Association

APPENDIX A: Confidential IFOR Document on the “Organization
   Structure in Doboj”
APPENDIX B: Translation of Permit for Movement, Republika Srpska

Human Rights Watch      December 1996      Vol. 8, No. 17 (D)

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