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Politics of Revenge in Bosnia's Una Sana Canton Systematically Violate the Dayton Accords and International Law

The Una Sana cantonal authorities in Bosnia are engaged in a campaign of intimidation, harassment and violence against their political opposition that violates both their commitments under the Dayton accords and their obligations under international law. In Bosnia and Herzegovina: Politics of Revenge: The Misuse of Authority in Bihac, Cazin and Velika KladusaHuman Rights Watch/Helsinki charges that Alija Izetbegovic's Party of Democratic Action (SDA) systematically persecutes non-SDA members, particularly those who fought on the Bosnian-Serb side during the war.

"The international community is obliged to become involved when the Dayton agreements are being flouted," declared Holly Cartner, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch/Helsinki. "Those who have abused their official positions to attack the political opposition should be held accountable. Any economic aid destined for the Una Sana canton should be conditioned on the end of these attacks on the opposition and compliance with both the Dayton agreement and international law."

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki investigations in the canton reveal a pattern of severe abuses. Opposition groups have little or no access to the media and are severely restricted in their pre-election campaigning activities and in their access to participation in local politics. Local police commit frequent abuses, including the beating of individuals at the time of arrest and torture and ill-treatment during interrogation, with individuals frequently targeted for their political opinions.

Cantonal judicial authorities are currently holding ten individuals in the Luka Cantonal prison in Bihac on charges of war crimes. These arrests are in violation of the "rules of the road" agreement signed in Rome by the parties to the Dayton Peace Accord. The "rules of the road" require that local authorities obtain prior authorization from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) before arresting anyone suspected of having committed war crimes or crimes against humanity. This authorization is designed specifically to avoid domestic prosecutions for war crimes that might be motivated by revenge and to ensure that the authorities possess sufficient evidence of individual guilt to warrant prosecution.

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki offers an extremely detailed set of recommendations to improve the human rights situation in Una Sana canton. Among them:

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki calls upon the Una Sana cantonal authorities, under Cantonal Governor Mirsad Veladzic, and including Bihac Mayor Adnan Alagic, Cazin Mayor Sabid Lipovic, and Velika Kladusa Mayor Ejup Alagic, to:

  • inform all cantonal and municipal employees publicly and in writing that discrimination, harassment, and attacks against persons based upon their political affiliation will not be tolerated, and will result in punitive measures;
  • end discrimination against non-SDA members in employment;
  • dismiss any and all officials who participate in or officiate over harassment, intimidation, or attacks against persons based upon their political affiliation;
  • cease immediately any and all direct and immediate incitement of acts of violence, discrimination or criminal harassment or intimidation against the opposition through television and radio;
  • ensure that all political candidates and parties have equal access to the state-owned media in the Una Sana canton;
  • provide security as necessary to ensure that the DNZ party members elected to the cantonal assembly can participate without fear of attack;
  • immediately establish cooperative relationships with the federation ombudsmen's office, and with all international organizations involved in the implementation of the provisions of the Dayton agreement, according to their obligations under the Dayton agreement and under the federation constitution;
  • grant equal access to humanitarian aid for all persons regardless of political affiliation.
  • comply with the letter and spirit of the Rome Agreement by ensuring that all orders to arrest persons suspected of war crimes are based on evidence that has been determined to be sufficient by the ICTY. Specifically, the files of individuals whose names appear on any local lists of war crimes suspects, but who have not yet been arrested, should immediately be forwarded to the ICTY for review;

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki calls upon the presidents of the local branches of the SDA, including cantonal SDA President Mirsad Veladzic , Biha SDA President Alaga Adinovic, Cazin SDA President Alaga Topic , and Velika Kladusa SDA President Ejup Alagic to:

  • cease immediately any and all intimidation, discriminatory practices, harassment or ill-treatment of persons not affiliated with the SDA and/or members and candidates of opposition parties, and their families. Publicly direct the SDA membership to cease any such practices;

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki calls upon the Una Sana cantonal judicial authorities, and specifically Hasan Pjanic, president of the cantonal court, to:

  • drop war crimes charges against those whose files are determined by the ICTY to contain unsubstantiated or inadequate evidence of war crimes;
  • ensure that those who appropriately remain in the custody of local cantonal authorities are guaranteed fair criminal justice procedures and protections. Specifically, immediately inform all suspects of their rights and the charges against them; allow immediate access to counsel of their choice; inform the suspects' families of their whereabouts within twenty-four hours of the detention, according to the provisions of domestic law; promptly bring detainees before a judge; subject each extension of detention to judicial review; ensure the right to trial within a reasonable time or release the defendant; guarantee public proceedings before an independent and impartial tribunal; provide adequate and thorough medical care for prisoners;
  • ensure that testimonies and confessions taken under duress or signed as a result of torture or other ill-treatment by law enforcement officials are not used in any court proceedings, except in proceedings against the perpetrators of the abuse.

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki calls upon the Una Sana cantonal law enforcement officials, under the authority of cantonal Minister of the Interior Edhem Veladzic and Chief of Criminal Investigations Halid Velagic to:

  • bring an immediate end to torture and ill-treatment of detainees by the police in Una Sana canton.
  • institute and announce a policy that the beating and harassment of detainees is prohibited and that any officer suspected of violating the human rights of a detained person will be immediately suspended from duties, pending an investigation by IPTF and/or local police authorities; the officer will be permanently dismissed if found by either body to be responsible for abuse;
  • institute disciplinary measures and criminal prosecution for any and all law enforcement personnel who are found to have been involved in beatings or other serious abuses of human rights;
  • ensure that police take appropriate actions to stop attacks by others against persons based upon their political affiliation or ethnic origins, or based upon their employment with international organizations;
  • void any statements or testimonies taken under duress or signed as a result of torture or other ill-treatment by law enforcement officials;
  • ensure that conditions in the Luka Cantonal Prison continue to meet international standards of humane treatment, and that the rights of the detained are respected. Human Rights Watch/Helsinki commends the Una Sana cantonal law enforcement and judicial authorities on the maintenance of satisfactory conditions in the Luka Cantonal Prison.

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki calls upon the minister of education, science, culture and sports, Fahrudin Rizvanbegovic, and federation minister of health, Bozo Ljubic to:

  • insist that persons be chosen for employment in medical and educational institutions based solely on merit, and not on political affiliation or ethnic origin;
  • insist that educational and health facilities provide equal services to all persons regardless of political affiliation or ethnic origin.

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki calls upon the OSCE, the IPTF, and the Office of the High Representative (OHR) to:

  • form a civilian implementation council or task force, as recommended by the International Crisis Group, chaired by the OHR, which would have the authority to dismiss officials who have seriously obstructed or violated the Dayton Peace Agreement, as documented by the IPTF, the Stabilization Force (SFOR), the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsperson, the OSCE, or the OHR itself. Human Rights Watch/Helsinki recommends that such a council include representatives from the federation and from the Republika Srpska. Independent organizations and individuals, including human rights or advocacy NGOs or groups should be permitted to submit evidence to the civilian implementation task force.
  • protest at the highest levels all breaches of the "rules of the road" and/or violations of international human rights standards;
  • ensure that all proceedings in domestic war crimes cases are carefully monitored by qualified international staff with knowledge of human rights standards. Human Rights Watch/Helsinki commends those organizations-in particular the IPTF and the OSCE-that have monitored these cases, and encourages the continuation of such monitoring;
  • press cantonal officials and federation authorities to remove officials determined to have participated in or ordered the commission of human rights abuses;
  • use all political and diplomatic means possible to ensure the cooperation of the local authorities with the institution of the federation ombudsmen;

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki calls upon the IPTF commissioner to:

  • ensure that any and all law enforcement officers and officials found responsible for human rights abuses are expeditiously removed from the police force. The list of those to be considered for removal from the police should include but not be limited to cantonal Minister of the Interior Edhem Veladzic, Cazin Chief of Police Cazim Budimli, Velika Kladusa Chief of Police Fikret Hadzic , Bihac Criminal Investigations Inspectors Asmir Bakrac, Mujo Koricic, and Izet Sahinovic, Velika Kladusa Criminal Investigator Besir Rizvic, Velika Kladusa Deputy Station Commander Jasmin Aldiz, Cazin police officer Sanel Osmancevic, and Todorovo police officer Serif Celebic, cantonal Chief of Criminal Investigations Halid Velagic, Bihac police officer and former Cazin Chief of Police Sead Kaukovi . Allegations against these individuals are described in this report;
  • order IPTF in Bihac to conduct regular inspections of the Ministry of the Interior/Criminal Investigations building and the area behind the building, especially any garage facility or similar structure which has been used as a place of detention and abuse, and monitor the activities of the criminal investigations unit and inspectors working out of the facility to ensure that no one is detained or mistreated in that facility;
  • conduct a special investigation into police abuses in the Velika Kladusa and Cazin municipalities, and publicize the results;
  • due to IPTF's major role in the screening and training of the local police in Bosnia and Hercegovina, IPTF monitors have a special duty to publicize police abuses as they occur. IPTF should publicize any and all human rights abuses at the hands of the police in a way that will protect the safety and privacy of victims. The IPTF should make public the names of the police officers when its investigation reveals evidence of police abuses, and call for their prosecution. Human Rights Watch/Helsinki urges the IPTF to fulfill its commitment that it will "publish the names of the officers involved and will ensure that they no longer serve as policemen," as stated by IPTF spokesperson Alexander Ivanko at a June 3, 1997 press conference in Sarajevo;
  • publicize immediately any denial of access or obstruction of IPTF's mandate by local authorities;
  • immediately end the ban on sharing information on human rights abuses with other organizations, except in cases where the sharing of information would jeopardize the safety of specific victims. Information regarding human rights abuses should not be withheld due to political considerations;
  • resume the human rights training of the local police that had been taking place in the Una Sana canton until March 1997 by IPTF in collaboration with several international organizations, including UNHCR and the OSCE;

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki calls upon the OSCE to:

  • urge the EASC to use its mandate in as broad a manner as possible to strike from the ballot any candidates for public office and political parties in the Una Sana canton, and throughout Bosnia and Hercegovina, who have violated the provisions of Annex III of the Dayton agreement and the Provisional Election Commission Rules, and to consider striking from the ballot candidates who have violated the provisions of the Dayton agreement other than Annex III. Among possible candidates whose names should be considered for striking from the ballot should be cantonal Governor Mirsad Veladzic, Bihac Mayor Adnan Alagic, Cazin Mayor Sabid Lipovic, Velika Kladusa Mayor and SDA President Ejup Alagic, Sanski Most Mayor Mehmed Alagic, Velika Kladusa Chief of Police Fikret Hadzic, Deputy Chief of Police Velika Kladusa Jasmin Aldiz, Cazin Chief of Police and SDA delegate to the cantonal assembly Cazim Budimlic, former SDA President of Cazin and Director of Cazin Hospital Selim Toromanovic, Director of Una Sana Cantonal Television and Radio Nedzib Veladzic, Director of Cantonal Criminal Investigations Halid Velagic, teacher Dzeko Bibujica, Cazin Minister of Education Jasmin Mureskic. Individuals who are struck from the ballot should be given the opportunity to have their cases heard in an independent review process in a manner which is in accordance with international legal standards;
  • consider striking the SDA party from the ballot in the municipalities of Bihac, Cazin, and Velika Kladusa due to eighteen months of ongoing discrimination against non-members and systematic attacks against opposition members and their families;
  • ensure that all political parties have equal access to media for the pre-election campaign period. If necessary, SFOR and IPTF should be requested to provide security through their presence for pre-election campaigning activities. The OSCE, IPTF, UNHCR, and SFOR should collaborate in monitoring and taking steps to prevent pre-election intimidation of voters;
  • ensure that the EASC penalizes immediately any party member or party which engages in voter intimidation, as was done in other towns and municipalities, such as Prijedor, Banja Luka, Kotor Varos, and Gradisa for the upcoming municipal elections;
  • develop a canton-specific plan, with the cooperation of SFOR and IPTF, for the protection and transition into office, of opposition members, DNZ or others, who may win in the municipal elections.

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki calls upon the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to:

  • expedite its review of all files submitted by the parties pursuant to their obligations under the Rome Agreement in order to facilitate the quickest possible arrest of individuals against whom the ICTY has found sufficient evidence;

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki calls upon the international community, and donor countries and organizations to:

  • cease immediately any and all economic aid to SDA-controlled institutions-such as transportation, postal and telephone companies, businesses and factories, medical and educational facilities-that are shown to deny equal opportunity for employment and equal services to individuals based on political affiliation or ethnicity. Any such institution that changes its discriminatory policy should be rewarded with the aid which had been previously withheld;
  • deny the award of small business loans or other international economic aid to individuals when they are determined to have participated in war crimes or human rights abuses;
  • ensure that the OSCE is provided with sufficient funding to carry out its election monitoring role, including enabling all parties to participate equally in pre-election campaigning activities, and voter education.
  • ensure that the EASC is provided with sufficient funding and resources necessary to perform its function.
  • ensure that the ICTY has the financial resources and personnel necessary to review all files submitted to it pursuant to the Rome Agreement in an expeditious manner.

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