Human Rights Developments
Defending Human Rights
The Role of the International Community
The international community's close involvement continued to be necessary to move the peace process along, as witnessed by the many decisions and amendments imposed by the high representative. However, many in the international community were losing patience with the slow progress in Bosnia, and international attention was shifting to other areas.
Office of the High Representative
The OHR continued to take the lead role in coordinating the civilian aspects of the Dayton Peace Agreement. High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch maintained three objectives: strengthening Bosnian institutions and ensuring the rule of law, transforming the economy and stimulating investment, and enhancing the return of displaced persons and refugees. Although Petritsch made the idea that the responsibility for the future of Bosnia lies with the Bosnians and their leadership the basis of his tenure as high representative, he did not shy away from taking decisive action to further these objectives. Numerous political and government figures, including ministers and governors, were dismissed for failing to implement the DPA, and Petritsch imposed many decisions on issues as diverse as the R.S. Law on the Prosecutors Office, the Privatization Law, and the Law on Presidential Succession. Bosnian politicians continued to lack the political will to take these decisions themselves, and sustained international involvement remained necessary to continue the peace process and avoid a return to the brutal nationalist policies of the recent past.
The NATO-led Stabilization Force in Bosnia and Hercegovina (SFOR) continued to play a significant role in Bosnia in, among other areas, the return process. SFOR also detained more persons indicted by the ICTY than ever before, including Momcilo Krajisnik, the highest ranking politician apprehended so far. Despite fears that high-level arrests might create civil unrest, the situation remained relatively calm throughout Bosnia.
The strength of SFOR was reduced to some 20,000 troops, down from 30,000 the previous year, although its presence in Bosnia and Hercegovina appeared necessary for years to come: the peace remained fragile, and many feared that violence would break out again if SFOR withdrew. Moreover, as the local authorities continued to refuse to arrest ICTY indictees, it remained SFOR's duty to bring those indicted for war crimes to face justice.
The largest section of the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Hercegovina (UNMIBH) was the International Police Task Force (IPTF), charged with overseeing and restructuring the local police forces. Lacking exact information on who is engaged in law enforcement activities, the IPTF initiated a program to register, screen, and certify all police officers by the end of 2001, while working with the respective Ministries of the Interior to recruit minority police officers. These efforts met with limited success: according to the U.N. secretary-general's report of June 2, the federation had around 600 minority officers of a total of about 11,500 officers; the R.S. only had fifty-seven minority officers of a total of 8,500 officers.
The Human Rights Office (HRO) continued its work in monitoring human rights abuses at the hands of the police, and other measures to improve the human rights record of the police forces, such as an audit of arrest and custody procedures and instruction on the role of police at evictions. The U.N.'s Judicial System Assessment Program continued to monitor the functioning of the judiciary and published reports about problems related to implementation of amnesty legislation, delays and detention, and trials in absentia.
The United Nation's High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), together with the OHR, played a leading role in stimulating return in Bosnia, both by guiding the policy and through its own programs. Unfortunately, decreases in UNHCR's budget hampered its ability to operate effectively.
During its fifty-sixth session, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights adopted a resolution on Yugoslavia, Croatia, and Bosnia in which it called upon the authorities to work on human rights issues such as the return of refugees, independence of the judiciary, the role of the police, and freedom of expression. Moreover, the commission renewed the mandate of Special Rapporteur Jiri Dienstbier, whose December 1999 report once again drew attention to those and other human rights issues in Bosnia.
On November 15, 1999, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan published a report on the events in Srebrenica from the establishment of the Safe Area in 1993 through the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995, after which over 7,000 Bosniaks disappeared and were most probably killed. The report, which was surprisingly critical of the U.N.'s own role, was well received by many Bosnians, who considered it to be a recognition of what had actually happened and of the mistakes made by the international community.
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia
In March, Tihomir Blaskic, a Bosnian Croat general, was found guilty of crimes against humanity committed in the Lasva Valley and sentenced to forty-five years in prison. The Appeals Chamber in July dismissed Anto Furundzija's appeal and confirmed his ten-year sentence. After a trial marred first by prosecutorial misconduct in withholding evidence from the accused and then by disclosures that failed to respect victim amd witness privacy rights, Furundzija was convicted for aiding and abetting rape, among other charges. Zlatko Aleksovski saw his sentence on appeal increased to seven years, while Dusko Tadic's sentence was lowered to a maximum of twenty years. Goran Jelisic was convicted on all but one count and sentenced to forty years of imprisonment. In the Ahmici case, five Bosnian Croats were convicted and sentenced to prison terms of six to twenty-five years, while one indictee was acquitted.
In 2000, the ICTY commenced trials in the Keraterm and Omarska case, the Srebrenica case, and the Foca case. Miroslav Tadic, Simo Zaric, and Milan Simic were provisionally released in May 2000, because two years after their voluntary surrender a trial date had still not been set.
The R.S. slowly improved its cooperation with the tribunal. R.S. authorities reportedly released files to the ICTY, and several high-ranking R.S. officials visited the tribunal, including Prime Minister Dodik, who promised that the R.S. would soon pass the Law on Cooperation with the ICTY.
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
The conditions for the municipal elections organized by the OSCE were better than in the past, although candidates continued to face harassement and press freedom was limited. Despite OSCE's campaign encouraging Bosnians to "vote for change," both the Bosnian Croat and Bosnian Serb ruling nationalist parties largely managed to hold on to their positions.
The OSCE, together with OHR, drafted a new electoral code to replace the election regulations formulated in the DPA, which had been criticized for encouraging ethnic clientelism. However, the draft was criticized for a number of reasons, and subsequently some provisions were amended, while discussion of the most contentious issue, the election of the three-member presidency, was deferred to a later date. Even this amended draft could not count on parliamentary support, and it seemed unlikely to be passed without delay.
The OSCE's Human Rights Department, with officers throughout the country, continued its important work in monitoring human rights abuses in the field and working on policies to curb such abuses.
Council of Europe
In May 1999, the Council of Europe rapporteurs for Bosnia announced a list of conditions to be fulfilled for Bosnia's accession to the Council of Europe. New rapporteurs Laszlo Surjan and Anneli Jaatteenmaki, appointed in late 1999 and early 2000 respectively, like the high representative took a prudent approach, stressing that far too many of the conditions had not been met. In a worrisome development, however, Petritsch and the rapporteurs for accession seemed to have identified three "priority" conditions: the functioning of the common institutions, adoption of a new election law, and progress on some human rights issues. Emphasizing these conditions at the expense of others previously identified risked squandering the opportunity for change represented by the conditions for Council of Europe membership.
The European Union's policy was based on the idea of the eventual integration of Bosnia and Hercegovina into Europe. The Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, which uses the prospect of integration into Europe to foster good neighborly relations and accelerate transition into stable democracies in the Balkans, was launched in mid-1999. A concrete step toward integration was taken in March when the E.U. commissioner for external relations, Chris Patten, handed the Bosnian authorities a "road map" of conditions for a feasibility study for E.U. membership, which largely overlapped with the Council of Europe's conditions for Bosnia's membership. The prospect of closer ties with the E.U. represented a possibly strong incentive for the authorities to meet these conditions as soon as possible.
The E.U. and its member states remained the biggest donors of reconstruction aid in Bosnia. At the Regional Funding Conference held in March, the E.U. and its member states pledged over one billion euro in aid, of which a substantial part was targeted for projects involving Bosnia. In 2000, the European Commission invested around 100 million euro in programs in Bosnia, mostly for returns projects. However, the withdrawal of the European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO) strongly affected return programs, because ECHO's large budget (56 million euro in 1999) had been very flexible and able to follow developing return patterns. There was a need for other donors to fill this void: since most of this year's return was spontaneous, there was an increased need for flexible funding that would follow return movements as they developed.
The United States, which forged the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the war in Bosnia, continued its close involvement in Bosnia, although it let the E.U., and in particular High Representative Petritsch, take the lead role. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited Bosnia and Hercegovina in March this year to attend the official inauguration of the Statute for the Brcko District, which was imposed by Petritsch. During the visit, Secretary Albright also announced U.S. $7 million in budget support for the R.S. government of Prime Minister Dodik, the recipient of continuous political and financial backing by the United States despite his government's often disappointing record on crucial human rights issues.
United States assistance focused on four issues: private business development, democratic reform, economic transformation, and municipal infrastructure and services. The municipal infrastructure program was increasingly geared toward enhancing minority return, and its successor, the U.S. $70 million Community Reintegration and Stabilization Program (CRSP), was designed to focus exclusively on reconstruction of public infrastructure in return areas. Continued debates in the U.S. Congress over the ongoing U.S. military presence in Bosnia raised concern that support for the peace process might be waning, just as the investment was beginning to pay off.
Relevant Human Rights
Unfinished Business: Return of Displaced Persons and Other HR Issues in Bijeljina, 5/00
Republic of Belarus
Bosnia and Hercegovina
United Kingdom / Northern Ireland
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
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Human RIghts Watch