Bosnia and Herzegovina's declaration of sovereignty in October 1991, was followed by a referendum for independence from the former Yugoslavia in February 1992. The Bosnian Serbs - supported by neighboring Serbia - responded with armed resistance aimed at partitioning the republic along ethnic lines and joining Serb-held areas to form a "greater Serbia." In March 1994, Bosniaks and Croats reduced the number of warring factions from three to two by signing an agreement creating a joint
Bosniak/Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. On 21 November 1995, in Dayton, Ohio, the warring parties signed a peace agreement that brought to a halt the three years of interethnic civil strife (the final agreement was signed in Paris on 14 December 1995). The Dayton Agreement retained Bosnia and Herzegovina's international boundaries and created a joint multi-ethnic and democratic government. This national government is charged with conducting foreign, economic, and fiscal policy. Also recognized was a second tier of government comprised of two entities roughly equal in size: the
Bosniak/Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Bosnian Serb-led Republika Srpska (RS). The Federation and RS governments are charged with overseeing internal functions. In 1995-96, a NATO-led international peacekeeping force
(IFOR) of 60,000 troops served in Bosnia to implement and monitor the military aspects of the agreement. IFOR was succeeded by a smaller, NATO-led Stabilization Force
(SFOR) whose mission is to deter renewed hostilities. SFOR remains in place at a level of approximately 21,000 troops.
Update No: 075 - (28/07/03)
The Bosnians remember the Srebrenica massacre
"The past is a foreign country," said L.P. Hartley, the English novelist and author of 'The Go-Between.' Not in Bosnia, however. There it is a very living presence, gnawing at people's perception of the present. The 12,000 SFOR troops deployed to keep the peace since the Dayton Agreement of 1995 and the large international commitment to the country are the proof of it.
On July 11th thousands of Muslims from throughout the republic gathered at the site of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre to commemorate the eighth anniversary of Europe's worst atrocity since World War Two and lay to rest 282 of its victims.
Mourners came from all over Bosnia and abroad to bid farewell to their husbands, sons and fathers, butchered by the Serb soldiery after being divided from the women. Some 8,000 Muslim males were slaughtered on July 11th 1995, an outrage perpetrated while NATO and the US surveillance planes flew overhead on patrol. When the Dutch commander of the troops under attack on the ground requested NATO air support it was refused. Not a shot was fired by the UN military forces for this town that had been declared to be under UN protection.
The pusillanimity of the NATO reaction was denounced around the world and became a direct reason why US ground troops were shortly afterwards deployed, bringing the ghastly conflict to an end. Some 240,000 had died and one and a half million became refugees.
The need to capture the culprits
The Serb commander on the spot was General Ratko Mladic and the politician behind him Serb Bosnian president, Radovan Karadzic. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has determined the crimes committed in Bosnia to meet the definition of genocide, a crime the US is committed under international law to "prevent and punish."
The international law in question is not that of the UN charter, but of the 1948 Geneva Convention on Genocide. It is remarkable that the US and the UK did not make invocation of this 1948 Convention the basis of their legitimacy for the recent war in Iraq rather than will-o'-the wisp weapons of mass destruction and tenuous, to say the least, links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. Doubtless a desire not to embarrass Russia over Chechnya and China over Tibet was part of the explanation; and the desire to duck the question 'why not all sorts of other regimes around the world?' another.
The Iraqi instance is highly relevant to Bosnia. It is daily more evident how welcome it would be to have solid proof of Saddam's death. Mladic and Karadzic have remained in the area, but as fugitives from justice for years. So long as they are about the Serb nationalists are encouraged and the Muslims unappeased. The rule of law moreover, is seen to have not yet arrived in this country.
The tribunal's chief prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, says she knows where they are hiding and many of their chief henchmen. Mladic is in Serbia, where he is protected by rogue elements in the security services. Karadjic is hiding right under the noses of US troops in eastern Bosnia, swearing he will never be taken alive. Sheri Fink, of the International Medical Corps in Iraq and author of 'War Hospital,' an account of the Srebrenica massacre, calls for the US to act now to apprehend them both. If it cannot get Hussein or bin Laden, it can surely get them.
Border control tightened up on Montenegrin frontier
In fact the pressure is being already applied. The NATO-led Stabilisation Force (SFOR) in Bosnia-Herzegovina has intensified its presence on the country's southeast, near the border with Montenegro. SFOR has increased the number of patrols in the Bosnian Serb-controlled area believed to be the shelter for Karadjic. SFOR officials, however, have refused to comment on details of the operation saying that more details could harm its execution.
The NATO peacekeepers launched two operations in the same area in March last year. The Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia indicted Karadzic in July 1995, charging him with genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war.
Establishing a monopoly of violence
There are numerous illegally-held weapons in Bosnia and SFOR troops have a big job on their hands to expropriate them all. But they are being energetic in doing so.
The German-Italian Battle Group of SFOR has seized illegally-held weapons near the eastern Bosnian Serb town of Rogatica. According to reports, SFOR seized one howitzer, two infantry mines, three hand grenades, seven rifle grenades, two bayonets, 2,245 bullets and four electric detonators. The German-Italian Battle Group has already seized significant quantities of illegal weapons in the Rogtica area in operations that started in early June.
Pope in Bosnia
Pope John Paul II stepped down for a day in Baja Luka, the Bosnian Serb capital, on June 22nd. The visit was his second to Baja-Luka, the other being in April 1997. Then he gave support to the predominantly Croatian Catholic Bosnians. This time he called for the return of the Bosnian Croats to their pre-1992 homes.
But he brought a message of peace and tolerance for all. Bosnia needs all the spiritual support from outside it can get.
Bosnian, World Bank officials sign two loan agreements worth US$7m
Bosnia-Hercegovina Finance and Treasury Minister Ljerka Maric, Bosnian Serb Republic and Federation presidents, Dragan Cavic and Niko Lozancic respectively, and the director of the World Bank mission in Bosnia-Hercegovina, Joseph Ingram, signed in Sarajevo on 7th July two loan agreements to a total amount of US$7, SRNA News Agency has reported.
The first agreement is a development loan for the Social Insurance Technical Assistance Project [SITAP] between the International Development Agency [IDA] and Bosnia-Hercegovina and the IDA and the Serb Republic and the Federation, to the amount of US$5.2m special drawing rights [SDR].
The second agreement is a development loan for the project of development and protection of forests between the IDA and Bosnia-Hercegovina and the IDA and the entities, totalling SDR US$2.8m.
Bosnian, Macedonian leaders set on boosting economic cooperation
Bosnia-Herzegovina Presidency members Dragan Covic, Sulejman Tihic and Borislav Paravac met on 9th July in Sarajevo with Macedonian Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski and assessed relations between the two countries as good, Onasa News Agency web site has reported.
The Presidency said in a statement that the officials expressed the need for signing a larger number of bilateral deals aimed to improve the cooperation and remove obstacles for future investments.
Covic called on the Macedonian authorities and businessmen to attend an international conference on foreign investments in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which will take place in Mostar in February next year.
Crvenkovski said that his country is ready to back and assist Bosnia-Herzegovina for the membership in Partnership for Peace and joining the Adriatic Charter.
Bosnian agency, UK firm sign deal to prepare sale of four strategic companies
The Privatisation Agency of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Federation and IMC consultancy [IMC Consulting Limited] from Great Britain have signed a contract worth over KM600,000 [convertible marks] to prepare and sell four strategic companies in the Federation. These are Bihac-based BIRA, Tesanj-based ENKER, Zenica-based Metalno and Jablanica-based GRANIT Shareholding Company, BHTV1 has reported.
Bosnia-Herzegovina has taken a loan from the World Bank worth US$20m with which it will pay consultancies to prepare and sell strategic companies in the country.
The consultancy is tasked with preparing a company for its sale and finding a strategic partner to buy it.
The UK consultant said: "Our goal is to strike as high a price for the company as possible but also lay good foundations for successful business in the future."
The TV reporter said that regardless of how successful the consultancy proves to be in selling the companies, the consultancy will get the previously agreed KM600,000. The total value of state capital in firms it is selling is US$13m.
The privatisation of these four companies, with help from the IMC consultancy, should be completed in six months and the Privatisation Agency plans to privatise all 56 strategic companies in the Bosnia-Herzegovina Federation in this way.
Croatian premier, Bosnian officials discuss construction of European corridor
Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan, who is leading a Croatian delegation on a two-day visit to BiH [Bosnia-Herzegovina], said during his meeting with the members of BiH parliamentary collegia that it is important to Croatia for the Vc [5c] corridor BiH section to be constructed as soon as possible, Onasa News Agency has reported.
"Croatia has offered assistance in the construction of the Vc corridor," said Racan, adding that his government will shortly propose a model and programme for the corridor.
Speaker of BiH House of Representatives, Sefik Dzaferovic, said it is high time for the issues of Ploce port and Neum to be resolved. He told Racan that the Croatian government should be more active in implementing the agreement on property relations between the countries, as well as the agreements on social insurance and veterinary cooperation.
"The issues of border traffic between the countries and environmental protection need to be resolved more efficiently," said Velimira Jukic, Speaker of BiH House of Peoples. Her deputy Goran Milojevic said the payment of pensions arising from the agreement on social insurance must be accelerated.
Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Martin Raguz said the two countries should soon discuss the enforcement of the Dayton Agreement, and especially the annexe on refugee returns.
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