Books on Bosnia & Herzegovina
Update No: 117 - (22/02/07)
Bosnia, the prototype of a new global rule of law?
World politics is dominated by events in Iraq and Afghanistan, which engage many
of the great questions, the role of the US, that of the UN, the nature of
international law, the right to violate it on occasion in the name of a higher
court of justice, that of legitimacy and humanity. Bosnia exemplified them all
in the 1990s.
In the strict eyes of international law the West had no justification in
meddling in Bosnian affairs then. Any more in fact than the Vietnamese had in
beginning to rid Cambodia of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in 1978 or the
Tanzanians in more promptly ridding Uganda of Idi Amin in 1979.
Intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign state is always illegal in
this regard and has been since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1848 - excepting in
one case only, when the state in question has intervened or threatens to do so
in the internal affairs of the state or states exercising the right to intervene
in the internal affairs of itself. Say - Afghanistan in 2001 after September
The fact that millions died under Pol Pot and hundreds of thousands under Idi
Amin is from a legal point of view utterly irrelevant. This is why the Chinese,
the Americans and the British continued to back the Khmer Rouge and prolong the
agony of the Cambodian people - or at least why they said that they did. That
they had their own vested interests in doing so is a matter of course.
By 1995 the world became horrified at the civil war in Bosnia and disgusted with
the refusal of international, especially European, forces to intervene to
prevent further violence. The worst case was that of the battalion of Dutch
troops based there to 'guarantee' the city's UN 'protection' and their European
force commanders, who might have stopped or even forestalled the Srebrinica
massacre, in which Serb forces executed circa 7,500 Muslim male prisoners
forthwith. This more than anything inspired the intervention by the US to do
something about it, leading to the Dayton Agreement and modern Bosnia.
But there is no denying that in doing so they were on shaky legal ground,
whereas the Dutch had been on firm ground legally, even if not in most people's
eyes morally. There is a higher court of justice than that of international law,
namely humanity and so legitimacy.
Law is a human construct itself of course, but like all human institutions
fallible and open to justified reform.
But being guided by the dictates of humanity and natural justice in overriding
actual law - in other words taking the law into one's own hands - is a perilous
thing to do. The Vietnamese pulled it off in Cambodia, few would doubt that now,
as the Tanzanians in Uganda.
But did the Americans in Bosnia? Or Iraq?
Most people's common sense would say 'YES' in Bosnia and 'NO' in Iraq. Why?
In these two clear-cut cases American intervention stopped a civil war in
Bosnia, while it started one in Iraq. The outcome decides everything.
But can this pragmatic consideration be a better basis for international law
than the precepts of the Treaty of Westphalia, of course long since refined in
subsequent treaties of more general application?
Obviously not, because the justification is inevitably retrospective. It only
comes after the event, while international law functions in a highly uncertain
world before the event.
Yet it could be for refining the judgments of the bar of history, which has
always recognized the sometimes salutary role of the outlaw, the Robin Hood of
legend or the Vietnamese and Tanzanians of fact.
PM: Bosnian Serbs will not accept verdict of ICJ
That international law is in a highly uncertain and unsatisfactory state is
shown by the reactions of the Bosnian Serbs to demands emanating from The Hague.
They mostly regard its precepts and prescriptions as victors' justice - period.
Bosnian Serbs will not accept any verdict from the International Court of
Justice (ICJ) in a genocide case filed by Bosnia against Serbia and Montenegro,
the Bosnian Serb prime minister said on February 12th.
Bosnia-Herzegovina filed the case with the world court in 1993 - the first time
a state, rather than individuals, had been charged with genocide. It is seeking
compensation for the loss of life and property during the 1992-95 war, when an
estimated 200,000 people were killed and when entire Muslim towns and villages
No figure was named, but Serbia and Montenegro could be obliged to pay billions
of dollars if found guilty. Milorad Dodik, prime minister of the Bosnian-Serb
mini-state, said that "whatever it will be, Republika Srpska will not
accept the verdict and will not implement it." Dodik, who has just been
re-elected, is an ardent populist.
Police search home, office of suspected fugitive supporter
But Republika Srpska is prepared to cooperate with the world community in
specific cases. Bosnian-Serb police on February 12th searched the home and
offices of a bank manager from Banja Luka who is suspected of supporting one of
the six remaining war crimes fugitives wanted by the UN tribunal in The Hague.
Radovan Bajic, manager of the NLB Development Bank, is suspected of involvement
in a network helping Stojan Zupljanin, the wartime commander of Bosnian-Serb
police in Banja Luka, said the town's police spokeswoman. The UN war crimes
tribunal has been seeking Zupljanin, who is on the run, on charges of genocide,
crimes against humanity and violating the laws or customs of war. The indictment
accuses Zupljanin of overseeing detention camps where Serb forces held Muslims
and Catholics, many of whom were tortured and killed.
NATO launched a dawn raid on the house of a Bosnian Serb suspected of
helping top war crimes fugitive Radovan Karadzic and seized some material for
further investigation, its spokesman in Bosnia said on February 10th.
US troops, backed by European Union peacekeepers, sealed off parts of Karadzic's
wartime stronghold of Pale, east of Sarajevo, and searched the home of his
wartime commander Radomir Kojic.
Neftegazinkor buys oil refinery and retail network
Neftegazinkor, a part of Russian state company Zarubezhneft, has bought an oil
refinery, a lubricant-manufacturing facility and a retail network in Republika
Srpska, one of the two regions forming Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bosnian private news
agency Onasa said, cited by Interfax News Agency.
An earlier report valued the deal at 121 million Euro, while Neftegazinkor is to
pay 42 million Euro for an 80 per cent stake in the Bosanski Brod refinery, 67
million Euro for a 75.6 per cent interest in the lubricant mill in Modrica, and
10 million Euro for an 80 per cent stake in the Petrol retail network. It has
also pledged to invest about one billion Euro in the assets it is acquiring, it
was reported. It was also reported earlier that Zarubezhneft planned to increase
the refinery's annual output to 4.2 million tonnes and increase the Modrica
mill's output to 130,000 tonnes per year. Russia's Vneshtorgbank (VTB) is slated
to finance all the purchases and the subsequent investment. Republika Srpska
Prime Minister Milorad Dodik approved the sales on behalf of his region,
Interfax News Agency said
Serbian Telekom buys out Bosnian Serb Telekom
Serbian Telekom became the owner, on January 19th, of Bosnian Serb Telekom as
its representatives signed a document in the city of Banja Luka to buy shares
belonging to the Bosnian Serb government in the second largest
telecommunications company in Bosnia, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) reported.
The director of Serbian Telekom, Drasko Petrovic, and the head of the Bosnian
Serb Privatisation Agency, Vladimir Mackic, signed the contract, according to
which the company would pay 646 million Euro for 65 per cent of shares owned by
the government of the Bosnian Serb entity, the Srpska Republic. The Srpska
Republic's government gave the green light to the purchase last year after
Serbian Telekom won in a bid for the telecommunications company over Telecom
Austria, which offered 467 million Euro. The signing ceremony in Banja Luka was
attended by high officials from Serbia and the Bosnian Serb republic, including
Serbian Premier, Vojislav Kostunica, and Bosnian Serb President, Milan Jelic,
and Prime Minister, Milorad Dodik.