Bosnia and Herzegovina
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.
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.
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