Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina made some progress toward the return of displaced persons, accountability for war crimes, and constitutional protection of its citizens regardless of their ethnicity. In each of these areas, however, much remained to be done before the country could be considered a stable democracy genuinely respectful of human rights.
In April, constitutional amendments entered into force giving the three major ethnic groups the status of constituent peoples on the whole of the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The amendments established mechanisms for protection of the so-called vital national interests of each constituent people, such as those pertaining to education, religion, language, promotion of tradition and cultural heritage, and a public information system. In addition, they provided for ethnically balanced representation in the entity parliaments and highest courts, based on the 1991 census taken prior to wartime forced changes in the ethnic composition of various parts of the country. Implementation of the new constitutional rules remained a challenge.
Elections were held on October 5 for the Bosnian central Parliament and presidency, as well as for the assemblies in the Bosniac- and Croat-controlled Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Serb-controlled Republika Srpska. For the first time since the 1992-95 war, after six rounds of previous elections arranged and supervised by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a permanent Bosnian election commission organized the elections. The election campaign was mainly devoid of the ethnic violence seen in recent past elections. Bosniac, Serb, and Croat nationalist parties won the most votes in the parliamentary elections, and their candidates were elected to the Bosnian three-member presidency.
The year saw continued incremental progress toward war crimes accountability. The NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) arrested four Bosnian Serbs indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY): Momir Nikolic (on April 1), Darko Mrdja (June 13), Miroslav Deronjic (July 7), and Radovan Stankovic (July 9). On February 28 and March 1, SFOR troops twice attempted to arrest Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic in remote mountain villages in the east of the country. On August 14 and 15, SFOR conducted a new operation in the area, purporting to investigate the network of persons who were helping Karadzic hide. In falling short of bringing Karadzic to justice, however, SFOR efforts drew criticism from the ICTY Prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, who characterized them as "public relations operations." Pasko Ljubicic, a Bosnian Croat accused of persecution of Bosniacs in central Bosnia in 1993, surrendered voluntarily to the tribunal on November 21, 2001. Wartime prison commanders and guards in Serb-run camps near Prijedor, Dusan Fustar, Momcilo Gruban, and Dusan Knezevic also surrendered on January 31, May 2, and May 18, 2002 respectively.
The authorities in Republika Srpska continued to refuse to cooperate with the ICTY. They denied having knowledge of the presence of Radovan Karadzic or any other Bosnian Serb indictee in the entity's territory. Republika Srpska President Mirko Sarovic and Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic condemned the SFOR actions in eastern Bosnia in March and August. In the beginning of September, the Republika Srpska Government Bureau for Liaison with the ICTY issued a report concerning the 1995 events in Srebrenica, during which the Bosnian Serb Army was believed responsible for the killing of more than seven thousand Bosniac men and boys. The report claimed that only one hundred Bosniacs were killed in violation of law, and 1,900 died in combat or of exhaustion.
Domestic war crimes trials continued in the Federation, sometimes marred by judges' ethnic bias and inadequate witness protection measures. No war crimes trials were conducted in Republika Srpska, but in November the ICTY authorized Republika Srpska authorities to proceed in a case against eighteen Bosnian Serbs on war crime charges. In both entities, public prosecutors initiated dozens of war crimes cases against persons belonging to the local ethnic minority.
Between January and the end of August, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) registered 69,550 minority returns to pre-war homes, a 30 percent increase over the same period in 2001. The year also saw improvements in the return of property to its pre-war owners. As of the end of August, housing authorities had solved 62 percent of property claims in the Federation and 54 percent in Republika Srpska, while at the end of 2001 the respective figures had been 49 and 31 percent.
Property rights violations remained widespread, however. Many people, including public officials, continued to occupy others' property. Authorities in Republika Srpska encouraged or tolerated Serb construction of houses on land owned by displaced non-Serbs.
Violent incidents against returnees in Republika Srpska continued. In Prijedor, Zvornik, Doboj, Bratunac, Derventa, Modrica, and other locations, unknown perpetrators planted bombs under returnees' cars or hurled explosives into their yards and houses. A sixty-six-year-old Bosniac returnee to Srpsko Gorazde was shot at on September 16. Also in September, during a celebration of a Yugoslav national team victory at the World Basketball Championship, local Serbs vandalized houses and business premises of Bosniac returnees in Prijedor and Bijeljina. During the year, unknown perpetrators planted explosives or threw bombs at Muslim religious shrines in Bijeljina, Gacko, and Kozarska Dubica. In most cases the police failed to identify and arrest the perpetrators.
Although freedom of expression was largely respected, independent journalists faced defamation suits and threats from public officials and other individuals. Between February and September, the Free Media Help Line, operated by the international community's high representative, registered forty-eight cases of abuse suffered by journalists, in line with rates in 2000 and 2001.
Roma continued to suffer discrimination and other forms of abuse, while the authorities failed to undertake adequate measures to address these problems. The newly established National Advisory Commission on Romani Issues, a body consisting of representatives of relevant ministries, the Romani community, and international organizations to elaborate a coordinated response to problems faced by Roma, had the potential to bring about some positive change, but it was too early to assess its effectiveness as of this writing.
Trafficking of people into Bosnia continued unabated in 2002, as did the corruption that allowed it to flourish. The United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH) de-authorized eleven local police officers in October for using sexual services in nightclubs. In several of the cases the officers had tipped off bar owners to upcoming raids; one of the officers, a team leader in the anti-trafficking force, faced one month's imprisonment for using his position to sexually abuse a number of women. In a letter submitted to a United States (U.S.) Congressional committee on the eve of an April hearing on United Nations (U.N.) complicity in trafficking into Bosnia, the U.N. admitted that eighteen officers of the International Police Task Force (IPTF, part of UNMIBH) faced repatriation for "incidents of sexual misconduct." In February, a U.N. spokesman announced that an Office of Internal Oversight report found no evidence of "widespread or systematic involvement of U.N. police monitors in trafficking activities." Nongovernmental organizations criticized the U.N.'s public pronouncements on the report for failing to address allegations that a small number of police monitors had purchased trafficked women from brothels. The report was not publicly released.
A new demining law was approved in February 2002. With donor mine action funding of U.S.$16.6 million, demining operations in 2001 cleared 5.5 to 6 million square meters, and surveyed 73.5 million square meters.
Refugee associations and human rights groups continued to be active. The ombudsmen of the Federation and the Republika Srpska continued to receive thousands of requests for assistance, the majority relating to violations of the right to housing; discrimination complaints ranked second. The Human Rights Chamber, Bosnia's human rights court, had over ten thousand cases pending as of October 2002. On January 17, the chamber issued an injunction to halt removal of six Algerians sought by the U.S. for alleged involvement in terrorism, but the Bosnian government ignored the chamber decision and handed over the six on January 18. (See also below.) The Bosnian human rights movement suffered a blow when differences over the surrender to the U.S. led to a split in the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights.
Office of the High Representative
On May 27, Paddy Ashdown succeeded Wolfgang Petritsch as high representative overseeing civilian aspects of the Dayton Peace Agreement. While the priorities of the former high representative had been accelerated refugee return, institution building, and economic reform, the new high representative declared that the fight against organized crime and regeneration of the Bosnian economy would be his main areas of focus.
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