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From: OMRI-L <>

Open Media Research Institute: Pursuing Balkan Peace Directory




















    Vol. 1, No. 16, 23 April 1996


    NATO spokesmen said on 19 April that all three sides in Bosnia were doing a good job in trying to meet the deadline of midnight the previous night to demobilize some of their forces and return the rest to peacetime barracks, international media reported. The officials added that any shortcomings are due to the magnitude of the task rather than to bad faith. Some 150,000 troops are being demobilized and a similar number sent to barracks. The deadline is known as D-120 because it marks 120 days following the Dayton peace accords. Heavy weapons as well as soldiers are being withdrawn to some 600 IFOR-approved sites. -- Patrick Moore


    But catching war criminals has proven tougher than getting entire armies back to barracks. Interpol has now issued international want lists for the Bosnian Serb civilian leader Radovan Karadzic and his military counterpart Gen. Ratko Mladic, Onasa news agency reported on 16 April. Interpol's 176 member states are obliged to inform that organization about anything they know regarding such persons, including their possible apprehension. Bosnian Serb Vice President Nikola Koljevic told Reuters, however, that his people will not hand over their leaders to the war crimes tribunal "for money," an apparent reference to the international community's growing view that the Serbs in the Republika Srpska (RS) will not get much foreign reconstruction aid as long as they have indicted war criminals for leaders. Denmark's Foreign Minister Neils Helveg Petersen said flatly that there will be no Danish money for the Bosnian Serbs as long as the two men are in power, Onasa added. Bosnian Prime Minister Hasan Muratovic noted that there can be no progress in reintegrating the two halves of Bosnia as long as Karadzic is in office, Oslobodjenje reported on 17 April. -- Patrick Moore


    The Bosnian Serb leader nonetheless remains plucky and through an aide blasted the decision by British peacekeepers to move their headquarters from Gornji Vakuf to Banja Luka, the major Serb stronghold in western Bosnia. The aide, Jovan Zametica, telephoned the British on 20 April to say that Karadzic had not given "his permission" for the move, Onasa news agency reported the next day. The British replied: "So what? We're entitled to go where we want... We don't need his permission." Subsequently SRNA said that Karadzic "ordered an inquiry to find out who promised to set up the British divisional headquarters in Banja Luka despite the opposition of parliament and the leadership of the Republika Srpska.... Stationing of foreign troops in Banja Luka will be detrimental to this city, which is the most important cultural, university and business center in the Republika Srpska." Nasa Borba on 23 April also quoted Pale media as saying that such the British move was "strategic" and required the approval of the Bosnian Serb civilian and military leadership. At issue is a test of wills not only between Karadzic and the British, but also between the Bosnian Serb leadership in Pale and the one in Banja Luka, which wants their city to become the capital. Meanwhile in Stockholm, the chief justice of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Richard Goldstone, said that Karadzic and Mladic are becoming increasingly marginalized and that the chances of arresting them are improving. -- Patrick Moore


    Back in The Hague, the lawyer for Bosnian Serb Gen. Djordje Djukic said on 18 April that war crimes accusations against his client have been dropped because of Djukic's advanced pancreatic cancer. Djukic has lost 15 kg while in detention. The attorney added, however, that he felt the court was really freeing the general because it knew it had no sound evidence against him, Reuters noted. The lawyer further stated that Djukic had been concerned exclusively with logistics during the war, and that not even the Nuremberg tribunal dealt with supply officers. Also at The Hague, Croatian Gen. Tihomir Blaskic, who is under a kind of house arrest there, is to be allowed a better dwelling and more freedom of movement, Vjesnik reported on 19 April. That same day, the Croatian Sabor passed a law on cooperating with the tribunal, a measure that is expected to facilitate the extradition of suspects. Back in Bosnia, the government freed a group of Serbian detainees including Col. Aleksa Krsmanovic, who had been arrested with Djukic. The authorities concluded they did not have enough war crimes evidence to hold the men, international media noted on 21 April. -- Patrick Moore


    Nor are suspected war criminals the only legacy of the conflict to make news. Seeking to counter animosities generated by the vicious internecine Croat-Muslim war of 1993, Ejup Ganic told the Croatian daily Vecernji list of 17 April that Muslims and Croats have the same long-term interests and no alternatives but to be allies. He urged Croats to remain in Bosnia, an apparent reference to the fact that Croats in some central Bosnian areas under Muslim control have been leaving for Croatian-held regions and for Croatia proper. The Croats will want deeds as well as words, however. The same daily on 18 April drew attention to the now decimated Croatian community of Stup near Sarajevo, which wants its Croatian identity affirmed. Croats have lived in central Bosnia since the Middle Ages and boast historic churches and monasteries there, but they lost much land to the Muslims in 1993. They claim that Muslim authorities still discriminate against them despite the Croat-Muslim alliance and that the Muslims often bar Croatian refugees from going home. Bosnian Cardinal Vinko Puljic said that equality is the key to Bosnia's survival, Onasa news agency reported on 17 April. -- Patrick Moore


    Another area with a less than rosy future is Gorazde. The former Muslim "safe area" was spared the fate of Srebrenica and Zepa, and it is linked to the Croat-Muslim federation by a land corridor. But prospects for the future seem bleak due to the lack of jobs and the city's isolation. NGOs examining the situation said at a recent meeting that it is likely to become a city of old people and those unable to leave. The UNHCR still makes its calculations on the basis of a prewar population of 50,000, but others put the figure in the 29,000-33,000 range. A population survey in January 1996 showed a total of 41,000, suggesting that at least 8,500 have left since the war ended. -- Yvonne Badal in Sarajevo


    Moving northward to Brcko, up to 15,000 mainly Muslim refugees from the strategic town held a protest just south of there on federal territory on 15 April, western news agencies reported. Brcko controls the thin corridor by which Serbia is linked with Bosnian Serb territories around Banja Luka, and its fate will be decided later by international arbitration. Pale has settled many Serbs from Sarajevo there this year in hopes of influencing the mediators' decision. Mayor Munib Jusufovic said that arbitration will be feasible only when the people of Brcko have been allowed to go home, a message echoed by Ganic at the rally. International media also said that about 800 Muslim and Croat refugees scuffled with some 1,500 Serbs trying to prevent their return to their homes near Doboj on 21 April. The area is part of the Bosnian Serb entity, but the Dayton agreement allows all refugees to go home. Bosnian Television later said that 50 of the Muslims had gone missing. Refugee groups representing people of all nationalities now plan a campaign of more mass actions, Onasa said on 22 April. -- Patrick Moore


    In Bosnia as a whole, some 50,000 refugees have returned since the Dayton agreement was signed last December, UNHCR spokesman Soren Jessen Petersen said. The figures include 20,000 Serbs, who returned to Mrkonjic Grad and Sipovo in southwestern Bosnia. Also in the figures are 15,000 Muslims, most of them supporters of local kingpin Fikret Abdic, who returned to Bihac. Petersen said that one of the UNHCR's main problem is that no side is allowing refugees to return to places were they would form an ethnic minority, apparently in order to preserve the results of "ethnic cleansing." He added that the local authorities everywhere have regularly obstructed UNHCR attempts to organize visits for refugees to their homes, Onasa reported on 17 April. -- Fabian Schmidt


    But can anyone build a political bridgeacross the seemingly impassable divides? The leader of the ex-communist Union of Bosnian Social Democrats (UBSD), Sejfudin Tokic, thinks that his party is just what the war-torn republic needs, Nasa Borba reported on 16 April. The next day the same paper carried an interview with leading UBSD politician and mayor of Tuzla, Selim Besagic, who also underscored the same theme for the elections due across Bosnia by mid- September. Besagic stressed in particular that multi-ethnic Tuzla could serve as a model for the rest of Bosnia. Both men claimed that the UBSD has already begun to attract much attention from Serbs in the Republika Srpska (RS), who are fed up with the nationalists. Tokic later accused the governing Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) of aiding ethnic cleansing by encouraging Muslim refugees from Zepa and Srebrenica to settle in formerly Serb-held Sarajevo suburbs, Onasa noted on 20 April. Tokic said that the refugees should go back to their own homes instead. And the SDA has been on the campaign trail as well. President Alija Izetbegovic addressed a mass rally and march-past in Bihac complete with a military parade. Oslobodjenje on 22 April put the size of the crowd at 50,000. Izetbegovic and the SDA are anxious to take credit for the country's achieving independence and reversing its originally bleak military fortunes, as was the case with President Franjo Tudjman and the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) in last year's Croatian elections. -- Patrick Moore


    Electoral activities are also proceeding apace in the Republika Srpska, but Karadzic's deputy Koljevic called them "chaotic and irregular." Onasa on 20 April also quoted him as saying that this is a "product of the proverbial arguing among the Serbs and of political intolerance." Koljevic said that IFOR is trying to break Serbian unity, noting that "IFOR representatives without our knowledge and contrary to our will talk with people in Banja Luka, Trebinje, Rogatica, Brcko, and many other places." Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, meanwhile, has apparently organized his own bloc of parties to compete with Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) in the RS And from the anti-nationalist opposition, Miodrag Zivanovic of the Social Liberal Party said that Bosnia must be unified and not divided into the Croat-Muslim Federation and the RS. He argued that "if the Serb entity would join Serbia, Banja Luka and the Bosnian border area would again become a military region. Our children would be destined only for weapons and we would be a people without any opportunities." -- Patrick Moore


    The OSCE, for its part, on 22 April issued a 12-page booklet setting down the rules for those elections. Called "the most complex elections in history," balloting will involve seven levels of government from the presidency of the republic to local officials. Election supervisor Robert Frowick said that the vote will require freedom of association, expression, and movement, as well as a politically neutral atmosphere. This is quite a tall order for Bosnia and it is not clear whether the elections will actually take place. The Bosnian government representative Kasim Begic was not happy with provisions in the rules allowing for refugees to vote in their new places of residence if they wish rather than in their prewar homes, as specified in the Dayton agreement. Begic also wanted tighter controls on participation by parties from Croatia and Serbia, Oslobodjenje said on 23 April. -- Patrick Moore


    Regardless of who outpolls whom in the upcoming vote, the politicians will not be able to duck the huge problem of demobilizing at least an additional 150,000 soldiers across Bosnia. The key issue is providing a proper livelihood for men who have chiefly known only fighting in a country with few jobs. As a starting point, the Bosnian government has tried the novel approach of issuing the men bank savings books for their back pay calculated at DM 400 per month (see earlier story). That is a very good wage by Bosnian standards, but it is not clear exactly how the men or their families will be able to translate the savings into cash because the government has little money. Stjepan Kljuic of the opposition Republican Party asked "whether there are financial resources and what is the source of revenue with which the state can cover its debt toward the army?" Another official of that same party, Boris Tihl, said that "bonds need to be introduced instead of the bank books and new jobs created for the demobilized soldiers," Onasa reported on 18 April. Vjesnik, furthermore, quoted top officials of the Bosnian Croat (HVO) general staff as saying that the bank books should be issued to HVO veterans as well, and not just to men who fought in the government army. -- Patrick Moore


    Meanwhile on the international circuit, the EU is looking into cases of corruption surrounding its administration in Mostar, AFP reported on 16 April. A spokesman said, however, that it was simply a case of "irregularities" amid difficult circumstances and apparently not one of widespread graft. Former EU Administrator Hans Koschnick defended his record and told the Berliner Zeitung that it was simply a question of "technical accounting matters. There is no suggestion of any misappropriation of funds." Elsewhere, the OSCE expressed concern that there might not be sufficient funding to promote independent media amid Bosnia's nationalist-dominated media landscape, Reuters noted. There seems to be interest from a number of sources, but few commitments of specific sums (see OMRI Special Report, 16 April 1996). Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has signed a $3 million agreement to repair Bosnia's railways, Onasa said. The governor of Bosnia's Central Bank, Kasim Omicevic, added that he is anxious that the international community's pledges of money be translated into deeds. "Only then will we see how much they like us." Elsewhere, the office of the international community's High Representative Carl Bildt told some hard- line Croatian and Muslim officials in four towns that they will get no reconstruction aid. Croatian-held Stolac and Capljina, and Muslim- controlled Vares and Bugojno were targeted for failing to set up the executive and legislative structures required under the Dayton agreement, Reuters said on 19 April. -- Patrick Moore


    Iran used the occasion of the Sarajevo aid meeting on 9 and 10 April to open a cultural center, which will also coordinate reconstruction work, local dailies reported. The Iranian foreign minister and his ambassador to Bosnia had made it clear to the press in the course of the week that Iran's previous aid to Bosnia had not been limited to civilian needs. Iranian and Bosnian officials alike, however, stressed that future projects will center on development. That same week American media followed up on a Washington Post story that the Clinton administration had deliberately "turned a blind eye" to Iranian efforts during the war to arm the Bosnian military in violation of the UN arms embargo. Croatia took a cut of the weapons, which had to pass through its territory to reach Bosnia, the story added. The matter has subsequently turned into an election year issue, with Senator Bob Dole -- who himself favored arming the Bosnians to let them defend themselves -- and other Republicans promising an investigation. It was widely known during the war, however, that at least Iran and possibly other countries were helping Bosnia level the military playing field, on which the Serbs had a marked advantage in everything except manpower. It was, moreover, impossible that such shipments could have escaped the notice of Washington's -- and NATO's -- intelligence community. Some Iranian- supplied arms were demonstratively seized at Zagreb airport during the war in an apparent move to "prove" that neither Croatia nor its Western backers tolerated such deliveries. It was nonetheless obvious to anyone following the conflict closely that something was indeed going on, and hence the latest American press revelations should come as no big surprise. -- Patrick Moore


    On the heels of this politically-related controversy comes another story of arms from the Islamic world. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait have pledged a total of $100 million to help train and equip the Bosnian military, AFP reported on 18 April. The pledges were collected by White House aide Thomas "Mack" McClarty on a recent trip to the region despite European objections. The Arabs had been reluctant to provide funds lest some go to the Croats, but Bosnian envoy Muhamed Sacirbey accompanied the Americans and told the Arabs that there is no alternative to the Croat- Muslim alliance. President Bill Clinton said he was "deeply gratified by the generosity and understanding" of the Gulf states, a spokesman noted. -- Patrick Moore


    Moving to Serbia, a bomb attack that severely damaged Belgrade's Bajrakli Mosque and shattered windows of surrounding buildings on 16 April has disturbed the Muslim community in rump Yugoslavia. The attack was the third on the mosque since 1992 and produced no casualties. The head of the Helsinki Committee of Sandzak, Sefko Alomerovic, accused the government of "creating a political climate in which one can kill and kidnap Muslims and burn their houses and religious facilities." Alomerovic then reacted to a statement by opposition Democratic Party President Vojislav Kostunica, who had said that the bombing caused "great diplomatic damage." The Sandzak leader commented: "more or less all [Serbian political forces] stated that the bomb caused a major injury to the Serbian people" but added "of course they don't [really] believe it." Alomerovic said that the attack "fits very well into the mosaic of the regime's general conduct and discriminatory policy against [Muslims] in Serbia," and called it a part of "a political and peaceful approach... [aimed at] the ethnic cleansing of [Muslims] in Serbia," Beta reported on 17 April. He added that the announcements of sorrow and concern for the Muslims in Serbia by the representatives of "the government, the Church and the spokesmen of the parties show the perfidy of ... [official policy] towards the Muslims. " Mufti Hamdija Jusufspahic, who is known as "Milosevic's Mufti" for his loyalty to the Serbian president, called the bombing "the most powerful attack on the mosque and on the Islamic community in Belgrade." He said the explosion caused substantial damage outside and inside the building. He added "the goal of the attack was not to intimidate, but to destroy the mosque." No one has claimed responsibility for the incident. Mayor Nebojsa Covic visited the scene soon after the explosion and promised the Mufti full cooperation. The head of the Muslim Party of Democratic Action of Sandzak, Rasim Ljajic, issued a statement saying the bomb was aimed at "increasing the psychosis of fear and insecurity among the [Muslim] population" in rump Yugoslavia. This insecurity has apparently been increased by the complete failure of the Interior Ministry to send police forces to protect the few other Muslim facilities in Belgrade. Ljajic strongly condemned a statement by the spokesman of the United Yugoslav Left (JUL) Aleksandar Vulin, who suggested that both Serbian and Muslim extremists might have thrown the bomb. Ljajic replied that "while the fascist Karadzic assured us for four years that the Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina were killing themselves, the communist Vulin now assures us that those {Muslims] in [rump-Yugoslavia] are destroying their own houses of God." -- Fabian Schmidt


    That journalists from both sides of the Bosnian divide should be among the first to meet again was evident: since they helped instigate the war, they should also help end it.

    Throughout January and February, attempts were made to arrange a meeting of ten journalists from Sarajevo and Pale. However, the overwhelming reaction was that "it will take a miracle, and that anyhow it is too soon" to realize such a meeting. While most maintained that it was simply a mad idea, a handful of independent Sarajevo journalists were willing if security guarantees were given.

    For weeks, we acted as mediators, rushing the road from Sarajevo to Pale trying to get state media representatives to participate in the meeting. However, the self-declared "state journalists" said they were not keen to "meet the oppressor" and were unwilling to act against the supposed orders of their superiors. They would not even meet with us without first receiving approval from their Information Minister Dragan Bozanic. Weeks of talks and cognac with this youngish, cordial minister and a cosmopolitan ex-Sarajevo journalist did not bring us any closer to the miracle. Yet, Bozanic did give us some advice: "There is no way you will succeed in Pale. Go to Banja Luka. I hear there are some so-called independents there." We had heard this too.

    The media scene in Banja Luka is as simple as it is confusing. The only TV station in the city is under absolute Pale control. Its Karadzicism is matched only by its unprofessionalism. Another dull propagandist machine is the state-run Radio Banja Luka. While the most popular radio station, Radio Big, is supposedly closely tied to the Interior Ministry and primarily plays music, it has an independent streak, occasionally broadcasting news based on reports overheard from CNN and Belgrade stations. Also, 078 Laktasi Radio has an independent reputation even though it is owned and run by the chief of the Republika Srpska Army Press Center. There is no daily newspaper in Banja Luka and so the government weekly Glas Srpski dominates with its unshakable Pale line, even if it employs a slightly more cultivated language. The independent biweekly Nezavisne novine is run by reformed former ultranationalists who, in their wish to become "market-oriented," concentrate on scandals not excluding the corruption of officials from the ruling SDS.

    The only decent publication is the "dissident" biweekly Novi Prelom that was reestablished after Pale banned it at the end of 1995. Government officials seem to detest it less for its officially declared ties to Zivanovic's opposition Social Liberal Party than for its habit of questioning all sacred nationalist cornerstones of the Republika Srpska. During the war, its journalists faced death threats and were frequently sent to the front lines. Today, the official distribution agency has boycotted the paper, making it available only through street vendors. Nonetheless, Novi Prelom sells over 3,500 copies per issue, a figure which government-controlled Glas Srpski does not beat. Novi Prelom manages this with only one typewriter and the enthusiasm of a few devoted individuals.

    Banja Luka "independents" reacted overwhelmingly positively to the offer to meet with their Sarajevo colleagues. In the end, the miracle happened. On 10 April, the first meeting of journalists from both entities took place after four years of war. It happened under the auspices of OMRI and with the logistical support of the OSCE. All it took was a few brave Muslims and Bosnian Serbs, some petrol and perseverance.

    The meeting's tone was set by a journalist from Banja Luka who said: "No theme shall be untouchable among us." There were many moving moments in those few hours, but concrete results as well: four days after the event, two young independent Banja Luka journalists attended a seminar at the Soros Media Center in Sarajevo, which they had learned about from colleagues at the meeting; the following week, Novi Prelom received thousands of dollars worth of computer equipment donations; and all who attended agreed to exchange articles and photographs, and to continue meeting.

    The pro-Milosevic Belgrade daily Politika got it all wrong. Not revealing its information source, it claimed on 13 April that some 20 Sarajevo journalists met in Banja Luka with IFOR bulletproof vehicles under a mandate from Carl Bildt to "start breaking the national ice." In reality, six journalists arrived in one OSCE minibus and an old OMRI 4- wheel drive, both very soft-skinned. Politika was equally mistaken in thinking that OMRI is an OSCE affiliate and that Carl Bildt and IFOR even knew that this meeting was convening. Finally, Politika reported that Nezavisne novine planned to merge with Dnevni avaz, a Sarajevo paper close to the ruling SDA --wrong again.

    Banja Luka also became the subject of unfounded rumors spurring fear among some participants. Two local journalists who were present for the first part of the meeting and seemed to enjoy the interim lunch, deny having met with anyone from Sarajevo. Despite the visible hardening of the Pale government's stance in Banja Luka, there are nonetheless some journalists who are courageous enough to move forward. "If we do not take peace seriously, adhering to every detail of the written treaties, it will never become a reality. The Dayton accord is only a minimum. We must go much further and who else but journalists should do that?"--says the oldest and most famous of the Banja Luka independents, the editor- in-chief of Novi Prelom, Spasoje Perovic. More miracles are needed, but some are already under way. -- Jan Urban and Yvonne Badal in Sarajevo

    Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved.

    This material was reprinted with permission of the Open Media Research Institute, a nonprofit organization with research offices in Prague, Czech Republic.
    For more information on OMRI publications please write to

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