Unfinished Business

Return of Displaced Persons and Other Human Rights Issues in Bijeljina

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More than four and a half years after the war ended in Bosnia and Hercegovina, many ethnic minorities are still unable to repossess their homes in the Bosnian Serb town of Bijeljina, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. An estimated 27,000 out of a pre-war population of 30,000 non-Serbs were expelled from Bijeljina during the war. Only a limited number have returned to the town, in part because their houses are occupied by Bosnian Serbs and Serb refugees from elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia. In certain cases, the police, some of whom are themselves occupying Bosniak houses, have actively discouraged returnees by "warning" them that their safety could not be guaranteed, and "advising" them not to return. In this report, Human Rights Watch documents how the Dayton Peace Agreement, which ended the war in Bosnia and Hercegovina, has not succeeded in restoring a multi-ethnic society. Instead, the authorities in Bijeljina continue to obstruct the implementation of the Dayton agreement, providing neither protection nor equal rights to the Bosniak community of Bijeljina, while actively deterring the return of Bosniaks who were driven from the city during the war.