Books on Bosnia & Herzegovina
Update No: 093 - (28/01/05)
Key events in late 2004
A major development in late 2004 was that the Bosnian Serbs expressed contrition
for the atrocities perpetrated by their side in the 1992-95 civil war, which
left 240,000 dead and over one and a half million refugees. On 11th November the
B-H Serb government issued a formal apology for the Srebrenica massacre.
This came after the government of the Serb Republic in Bosnia-Herzegovina (B-H)
had accepted the final report of the Srebrenica commission on 29th October, and
forwarded it to the human rights chamber of the B-H constitutional court. On 9th
November the Office of the International High Representative welcomed the
largely positive assessment by the human rights commission of the B-H
Constitutional Court of the final report of the Srebrenica Commission as
accepted by the RS authorities. Included in the report is a provisional figure
of 7,800 for those missing presumed dead during the month of July 1995, when the
massacre by Serb nationalist forces took place.
The Serb authorities have also begun to cooperate in hunting down war crimes
suspects. On 16th November they arrested 8 minor war-crime suspects indicted by
B-H courts with approval of ICTY and handed them over to Sarajevo police for
local trial. General Ratko Mladic, not yet apprehended, is one of the most
notorious of war criminals in the Balkans, the Bosnian Serb general indicted by
the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague for his role in the massacre of
8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in July 1995. Mladic's personnel file,
revealed on 30th November, shows he was on the armed forces payroll of the Serb
Republic until 2002.
The EU, meanwhile, proposed a future integrated police force for B-H on 25th
Ashdown in rumpus
Leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina's ethnic Serb community in early January set
themselves on a collision course with the EU and the US over the future of the
divided country. The International High Representative, Paddy Ashdown, Bosnia's
chief administrator, appointed by the US, the EU and other signatories of the
1995 Dayton Accord, had already shown his mettle on 27th November, when he
repealed the Law on Pardons, describing it as a great hole in the judicial
system through which corrupt politicians and others escape.
The real crisis began when Ashdown sacked nine Bosnian Serb police and security
officers. Lord Ashdown accused the officers of harbouring war crimes suspects,
including Mladic; Bosnian Serb authorities have failed to arrest a single major
war crimes suspect, despite repeated pledges to co-operate with the
international tribunal on the former Yugoslavia. 'I have no other option but to
act, as every week new evidence of obstruction comes to light,' said Lord
Ashdown. The US government, apparently acting in concert with Lord Ashdown, also
imposed a visa ban on the leaders of the two Bosnian Serb political parties.
In response, Dragan Mikerevic, Bosnian Serb prime minister, quit in protest. He
was followed by Mladen Ivanic, Bosnian Serb foreign minister, and Borislav
Paravac, the Serb member of Bosnia's tripartite presidency. All three officials
cited Lord Ashdown's dismissals when resigning, but observers thought the
dispute is more deeply rooted in the desire among Bosnian Serbs to resist the
consolidation of government institutions in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is
essentially split among the three main ethnic groups of the country.
Olli Rehn, European Union enlargement commissioner, was scheduled to arrive in
Sarajevo. He was expected to engage in talks aimed at defusing the crisis. EU
officials showed no sign of backing down. Javier Solana, EU foreign policy
chief, gave his support to Lord Ashdown. 'Our position is to be calm and let
things develop,' said a spokeswoman for Mr Solana. 'When Lord Ashdown agreed
this package of decisions, he did so on behalf of the European Union.' The EU
also tacitly supports the US visa ban.
The stability of Bosnia is a top priority for the EU, which has taken control of
peacekeeping operations from Nato in its biggest military deployment. Few fear a
return to violence, but the confrontation could mean that after nearly a decade
of peace in Bosnia, the blueprint laid down by the Dayton Accord may have little
life left. Many Bosnian Serbs worry that the international community seeks
ultimately to dissolve Republika Srpska, their name for the ethnic Serb portion
Economy still destitute
The economy is still in a dire state; poverty and unemployment still blight
the lives of much of the population; returnees are still at risk from Zvornik to
Stolac; foreign officials still express hypocritical surprise about Serbia's
continued financing of the Bosnian Serb army, including Mladic's pension, or
about the latter's presence in his old wartime lair at Han Pijesak; the
all-Bosnian Zemaljski Muzej with its priceless treasures still has to close its
doors to the public (for the first time!) for lack of any state support.
But the sale of the Zenica steelworks and the Omarska iron mine complex to a
single foreign investor speaks of a much-needed confidence in Bosnia's future
and could herald the start of economic regeneration and reintegration - though,
of course, the demands of the Omarska camp victims for an appropriate memorial
and protection for ongoing and future exhumations would have to be met. The
recent assessment by Mirsad Tokaca, head of Sarajevo's documentation centre,
that the total of B-H war dead was probably fewer than 150,000 is further
positive news. Now that the international community seems finally to be
accepting that the nation's future cannot forever remain in thrall to those who
aided and abetted the 1992-5 aggression and war crimes (including that of
genocide, as established by ICTY), it is permissible to hope that 2005 may prove
a turning point on the way to a better future for Bosnia-Herzegovina - hence
also for its neighbours and Europe as a whole.
South Korea to provide US$20m loan to Bosnia
South Korea will provide a US$20m loan to Bosnia to help it implement a state
project to expand medical services, the Ministry of Finance and Economy said
recently, Yonhap News Agency reported.
The 30-year loan from Seoul's Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) will
have a grace period of 10 years and carry an annual interest rate of 1.5 per
cent, the ministry said.
The soft loan calls for the purchase of medical equipment for three state-run
hospitals in a country that has suffered from civil war.
The ministry said the loan extension is part of an international effort to help
repair the war-torn country and will contribute to raising South Korea's image
It added that because the funds will also go into buying South Korean medical
equipment, it will help local manufacturers.