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BOSNIA AND
HERZEGOVINA

 
  
  

 

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 6,963 5,249 4,800 104
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,540 1,270 1,240 123
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Bosnia & Herzegovina


 

Update No: 154 - (25/03/10)

Bosnia is a deeply scarred and haunted country, haunted by the ghosts of the 1992-95 war for a start. It has traumas galore.

One of them is about the massacre at Srebrenica in July 1995, as the war drew to a close, in which 8,000 Bosnian Muslim youths and men were slaughtered by Bosnian Serbs.

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This has given rise to an extraordinary controversy, stirred up again by recent claims.

Dutch in fury
The Netherlands has lambasted a US former commander of NATO for claiming that Dutch peacekeepers failed to prevent the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia because there were gays in their ranks.

Gen John Sheehan told a US Senate committee that the presence of openly gay soldiers in the Dutch military was one of the reasons the UN “safe haven” of Srebrenica was overrun in July 1995 by Serb forces who then massacred some 8,000 Muslims who had taken refuge there.

Speaking in opposition to proposals from US president Barack Obama to allow openly gay people to serve in the US armed forces, Gen Sheehan criticised post-cold war efforts in European countries to “socialise” the military and allow gays and lesbians to sign up.

“That led to a force that was ill-equipped to go to war. The case in point that I’m referring to is when the Dutch were required to defend Srebrenica against the Serbs,” he said.

“The battalion was under-strength, poorly led, and the Serbs came into town, handcuffed the soldiers to the telephone poles, marched the Muslims off, and executed them.”

Investigations into the Srebrenica massacre have found that the Dutch battalion’s efforts to protect the enclave were fatally hampered by a lack of troops and weapons and the United Nations’ failure to give it adequate terms of engagement or the air support that it urgently requested.

Gen Sheehan said Dutch leaders had told him that having gays in the military was “part of the problem” at Srebrenica, but officials in the Netherlands condemned his comments.

“The remarks were outrageous, wrong and beneath contempt,” said Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende. “Toward Dutch troops – homosexual or heterosexual – it is way off the mark to talk like that about people and the work they do under very difficult circumstances.”

Dutch Defence Minister Eimert van Middelkoop described Gen Sheehan’s comments as “disgraceful and unworthy of a soldier”, while Gen Henk van den Breeman, who was Dutch chief of staff at the time of Srebrenica, called his claims “complete nonsense”.

The Dutch ambassador to the US, Renee Jones-Bos, said she was proud “that lesbians and gays have served openly and with distinction in the Dutch military forces for decades, such as in Afghanistan at the moment”.

The head of the Senate committee, Democrat Carl Levin, said Gen Sheehan’s remarks were mystifying and “totally off-target”.

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Here is yet another hangover from the conflict from a former UK ambassador there:-

Charles Crawford: Bosnia will be the real loser in this messy legal battle
Once more, the London courts may find themselves making far-reaching legal rulings with momentous political implications for other countries. In 1998, the alleged crimes of Augusto Pinochet became the focus of the courts right up to the House of Lords when the former Chilean dictator was arrested in London.

Now we face the startling possibility that charges laid by Serbia against Ejup Ganic and the events of the Dobrovoljacka Street killings in Sarajevo in 1992 will turn into another protracted, bitter Pinochet-type legal drama. It may be a magnificent opportunity for top lawyers, but it is not a process likely to promote peace and reconciliation in the former Yugoslavia.

In April 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina proclaimed itself independent of what remained of Yugoslavia. This forced to the fore the status of Yugoslav military forces loyal to Belgrade but still on Bosnia's territory.

A violent lunge by the Yugoslav Army (JNA) aimed at seizing key Sarajevo buildings was beaten back. The JNA barracks in Sarajevo were then surrounded by Bosnian forces on 2 May. Meanwhile, Bosnian leader Alija Izetbegovic was captured by JNA soldiers at Sarajevo airport. The UN negotiated an arrangement with the Bosnian leadership – including Presidency member Ganic himself in Izetbegovic's absence – to free Izetbegovic in return for safe passage by the JNA soldiers out of Sarajevo.

It all went wrong. Bosnian forces attacked the JNA convoy – led by UN personnel flying UN flags – at point-blank range, reportedly killing a score or more (the numbers of casualties are hotly disputed). Izetbegovic escaped.

This action from the start was claimed by the Serbs to be the highest perfidy. Ejup Ganic, one of the most "Western" and indeed "Yugoslav" of the Bosnian leadership, was accused by the Serbs for ordering or at least presiding over the killings. He denied responsibility.

In the countless subsequent horrors of the Bosnian conflict culminating in the Srebrenica massacre, this episode has faded from memory in Western capitals. But Serbs in Bosnia and Serbia have not forgotten Dobrovoljacka Street.

Political tensions between Bosnia and Serbia are running high. Commendably Serbia has sent to the Hague Tribunal an impressive number of its former political and military leaders. But General Mladic, the Serb accused of the worst crimes of all, is still at large. Until he faces justice, Serbia's moral case for winning Mr Ganic's extradition hovers just above Absolute Zero.

That said, the Bosnians too have shown themselves unable and unwilling to confront massacres committed by their side. Mr Ganic will have all the resources he needs to fight extradition. Belgrade too will strive to insist that he be handed over.

If the issue is not resolved quickly a long and brutal legal battle will ensue. Just what neither Bosnia nor Serbia need.
Charles Crawford served as British Ambassador in Sarajevo from 1996-98 and then in Belgrade from 2001-2003. He has written extensively about former Yugoslavia on his website www.charlescrawford.

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This is the most extraordinary business of all:-

Virgin Mary comes to town
The Vatican has announced a commission to investigate claims that the Virgin Mary appears on a daily basis in a town in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Six children first reported the apparition in the town of Medjugorje in June 1981.

However, the sightings have not yet received official recognition from the Catholic Church. The 20-strong commission will report to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the top doctrinal body.

Long debate
For almost 30 years, the Virgin Mary has been said to appear daily in Medjugorje, dressed sometimes in a grey dress and veil and sometimes in gold, crowned with stars and floating on a cloud.

It is said she speaks in Croatian, uttering the words: "I've come because there are many true believers here. I wish to be with you to convert and reconcile the whole world."

It is also said that three flashes of light precede her apparitions, during which the voices of the visionaries can no longer be heard.

But the Catholic Church has long debated the credibility of the sightings.

There was a recent visit by a cardinal from Vienna, Christoph Schoenberg. But the bishop of neighbouring Mostar has frequently criticised unquestioning belief in the claims.

Until the commission reports back to the Church's top doctrinal body, believers are likely to continue to flock to this small Bosnian town. Around 30 million are estimated to have visited since the first sighting of what they call "Our Lady".

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