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OMRI Pursuing Balkan Peace, No. 27, 96-07-09

Open Media Research Institute: Pursuing Balkan Peace Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Open Media Research Institute <>

Pursuing Balkan Peace
No. 27, 9 July 1996




    SDS candidate Plavsic, who has just visited Milosevic (see below), will face at least six additional candidates in the election for president of the Republika Srpska, Nasa Borba reported on 8 July. Parliament speaker Momcilo Krajisnik will be the SDS candidate for the Serbian seat on the joint presidency with the Croats and Muslims. In the Croat-Muslim federation, federal President Kresimir Zubak will run on behalf of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), while Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic will head the list for his Party of Democratic Action (SDA). The SDA has also registered a candidate to run for the presidency of the Republika Srpska, namely Abid Djoric, a native of Srebrenica. -- Patrick Moore


    The OSCE head of mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Robert Frowick, said he will use his authority as supervisor of the September elections to bar the SDS from the vote if Karadzic remains its chairman, Onasa reported on 8 July. This reflects a growing consensus among international officials in Bosnia that the Dayton treaty's ban on indicted war criminals holding public office extends to their taking any role in public life. The international community's High Representative Carl Bildt is increasingly becoming the odd-man-out because he has been willing to accept Karadzic's withdrawal from the presidential race as sufficient. AFP quoted Bildt as saying that Frowick would have to overturn a 28 June decision by the OSCE on the elections if he intends to ban the SDS from the race. Frowick said he is willing to take the "risk" of the elections collapsing if the SDS is excluded. -- Patrick Moore


    That party's presidential candidate Plavsic meanwhile met on 4 July with Milosevic, Tanjug reported. She left the session saying publicly that the RS authorities would comply with the terms of the Dayton treaty, observing "now we are trying to involve all institutions and resources, needing to catch up for lost time, so as guarantee planned progress in implementing the Dayton peace accord. This is what we are working on in the Republika Srpska." According to SRNA reports, Plavsic also stressed that the SDS will partake in upcoming elections, owing to the fact that it has an allegedly "unique platform." Hinting that at least some of the discussions with Milosevic might have focused on the likelihood of some basis for cooperation between the SDS and members of the Milosevic-backed Socialist Party of the Republika Srpska (SPRS), Plavsic remarked: "Any [electoral] coalition between the SDS and the SPRS, or for that matter any party, is out of the question. The SDS will go into elections alone, and on [the basis] of its own program." -- Stan Markotich


    But the Bosnian Serb leadership has friends in the Serbian capital who are more reliable than Milosevic. A group of 126 rump Yugoslav army officers signed a letter which was sent to Milosevic and which contained the demand that under no circumstances should Belgrade permit Mladic's extradition to The Hague. On 3 July SRNA, citing the Belgrade weekly Nedeljni Telegraf, said the officers had sent their message to Milosevic ten days prior. The letter claims that Mladic's appearance at The Hague would constitute "yet another great defeat against the Serbian nation" and says "the tribunal was established to completely humiliate the Serbs and for that reason extradition of General Mladic should be prevented." Finally, the BBC noted that the chief of the rump Yugoslav General Staff, Gen. Momcilo Perisic, did not sign the six- page letter. -- Stan Markotich


    Back on the ground in Bosnia, Mladic's men have had other concerns of their own. Bosnian Serb troops removed heavy guns and vehicles from a NATO-approved collection point near the Serbs' military headquarters at Han Pijesak on 5 July. IFOR then sent 250 ground troops, plus 20 aircraft and attack helicopters to back up its demands that the Serbs put the weapons back. A tense atmosphere resulted, and the Serbs for the first time threatened to shoot down IFOR helicopters, AFP reported on 7 July. IFOR's commander, Adm. Leighton Smith, telephoned Milosevic. On 6 July villagers jostled U.S. soldiers, thinking they had come to arrest Mladic, the BBC stated. Later that day, the Serbs withdrew their weapons and IFOR left the area. One of the key lessons in the conflict that has often been forgotten by the international community is that firmness and a clear willingness to use force produce compliance. -- Patrick Moore


    Meanwhile, others have been gathering evidence that might be used against Mladic and Karadzic in The Hague. Bosnian Serb police on 2 July barred the way to Finnish forensic experts who wanted to examine the remains of Muslims lying in a field on a hill near Srebrenica, where the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II took place after the town fell on 11 July 1995. The Serbian authorities had earlier given the Finns permission to enter the area. The BBC said that a Serbian vehicle had been carting off any weapons lying about and that the incident was yet another humiliation for the international community at the hands of the Serbs. Subsequent attempts by the Finns to continue their work proved equally futile, but they later simply ignored the Serbs and managed to recover nine bodies, the International Herald Tribune reported on 6 July. -- Patrick Moore


    Just a few days later, experts from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia exhumed the first body from a mass grave at Cerska near Srebrenica on 8 July, the BBC reported. The 20-strong team hoped to determine whether those buried there and elsewhere were victims of a massacre. The Serbs claim that any dead Muslims fell in the fighting for the town and in an alleged internal conflict between the Muslims themselves. AFP quoted the French daily La Croix as saying, however, that U.S. spy satellite and U-2 photos at the time clearly showed that a massacre of Muslim males by Serbs was taking place, and that these pictures were readily available to NATO allies on 13 July. The first photos showed "men standing, surrounded by other men with weapons. The following image showed them lying dead on the ground." The U.S. and its allies have claimed that what little they know about the deaths came from testimony and photos taken later. -- Patrick Moore


    In The Hague itself, investigator Irma Oosterman told the court about the Serbs' systematic and deliberate policy of rape, Reuters reported on 2 July. Sexual crimes were carried out against women as young as 13 and also against males as part of the program of ethnic cleansing. Her testimony came in the context of the hearings against Karadzic and Mladic in an effort to keep up the pressure for their arrest and extradition. On 6 July the BBC stated that witnesses to the Srebrenica massacre gave testimony, and that one said that he actually saw Mladic present at the killings. This story is in keeping with eye- witness interviews in press reports that emerged soon after the fall of the town. -- Patrick Moore


    Then on 8 July, prosecutor Mark Harmon criticized the international community for failing to arrest the two key criminals and demanded international arrest warrants for them. The BBC said on 8 July that the current warrants apply only to a handful of countries. Those states include Serbia, however, where the authorities have repeatedly turned a blind eye to Karadzic's and Mladic's presence. The prosecutor added that rump Yugoslavia should be reported to the UN Security Council for its failure to arrest the two, Reuters noted. Nasa Borba quoted Harmon as stressing that the tribunal was not condemning "the Serbian people." -- Patrick Moore


    Returning to military affairs, the Clinton administration recently said that foreign Islamic fighters have finally left Bosnia-Herzegovina (see ), but on 7 July the Washington Post reported that "several hundred" are still there. According to the Dayton agreement, all foreign troops were to have left in January, but many Iranians and other fighters from the Muslim world stayed on in central Bosnian villages. The Post said that some had obtained Bosnian citizenship through forced marriages to local women, that they had seized homes and apartments, and that they constitute a paramilitary guard for President Alija Izetbegovic's Party of Democratic Action. The paper linked the unpublicized visit to Bosnia of CIA director John Deutch on 5 July to Washington's concern about a possible threat to U.S. forces by the militants in the wake of the recent terrorist attack on an American base in Saudi Arabia. It is not clear if the Post story will affect U.S. plans to begin training the Bosnian army in a program contingent upon the foreigners' leaving. -- Patrick Moore


    On the diplomatic front, Bosnian Premier Hasan Muratovic, speaking on Bosnian television on 6 July, suggested that relations between his government and Slovenia's were strained. He noted specifically that the introduction of visa requirements for Slovenian citizens, effective 10 July, was taken as a retaliatory step. AFP quoted Muratovic observing: "This is our reciprocal measure because of Slovenia's sudden and unprovoked decision to introduce visas for our citizens. You know that Slovenia is a transit country for many of us and that these are going to be very expensive for our citizens because many of them cannot afford to pay for them." Muratovic also said that economic relations between the two countries would suffer due to the visa dispute, stopping just short of calling for a boycott of Slovenian products. "In any country in this type of situation, companies and citizens are loyal to their government. After this kind of decision why should our citizens buy Slovenian goods in shops if they can buy products of other origin? I believe that citizens and companies will react to this until Slovenia suspends the visa regime for our citizens," he said. -- Stan Markotich


    Elections, however, have been the big story, including those that just took place in Herzegovina's largest city. The Mostar vote has been widely regarded as a trial run for the Bosnian ballot slated for the fall. The issue has been whether the election could serve to break down the ethnic polarization resulting from the war, especially from the Croat-Muslim conflict of 1993. The Muslims, moreover, hoped to regain a strong place in the city government through the ballot box. The Croats, for their part, wanted the elections to help them consolidate what they won in the war and give the Herzegovinian Croats at least one sizable city they can call their capital.

    The Croats, however, seem to be disappointed, for now at any rate. According to Onasa on 2 July, the mainly Muslim List of Citizens for a United Mostar led by East Mostar's mayor Safet Orucevic won 28,505 votes for the City Council. The Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) got 26,680 votes, while the third largest force -- a list of anti-nationalist parties of Jole Musa -- received only 1,937 votes. Two Croatian right-wing radical parties received 619 and 386 votes, respectively. The two main parties each gained the absolute majority in the three districts located on their respective sides of the divided city. The press figures include ballots from Oslo, Stockholm, Bonn and Bern, but there are no official results so far. This is because the HDZ has lodged complaints over alleged irregularities in Oslo and Stockholm, and no final figures can be issued until all such challenges have been dealt with.

    An EU official who did not want to be identified told OMRI that the suspicion is that the Croats are stonewalling in order to prevent both the publication of the results and the formation of a city council with a majority from Orucevic's list.

    The HDZ's apparent attitude seems to have been prompted by the EU administration's decision on 7 July to declare the elections valid, despite irregularities. The HDZ had called for an election re-run after 26 more votes than voters were found in the ballot box in Bonn, where 4,045 mainly Muslim refugees cast their votes. Despite these irregularities, EU-appointed city ombudsman Constantine Zepos agreed to take the votes from Germany into the general calculation, thereby declaring the Bonn balloting valid.

    The HDZ's anger, however, seems to be aggravated by the fact that it won a majority of voters actually in Mostar while the foreign returns tilt the balance in favor of Orucevic's list. The HDZ had won 25,936 votes in Mostar while Orucevic's list received only 22,377 votes there. The foreign returns, however, gave the HDZ only 744 votes, while Orucevic's list got 6,128 votes and may gain 21 out of 37 seats in the city council. No other party apart from these two is likely to gain a seat.

    These results are a disappointment for the HDZ which had first welcomed the returns as a "victory of peace, tolerance and the spirit of the Dayton agreement," apparently expecting a larger share of representation on city council. Onasa on 2 July quoted a HDZ official as arguing that the Dayton agreement has "offered the possibility to both nations [Croats and Muslims] to preserve their religious, cultural and national particularities," and that "the two nations are also connected through trade, infrastructure and capital objects. There will be no Berlin Wall in Mostar."

    Orucevic also praised the ballot and said it would "lead towards the triumph of reason and a united Mostar." He went even farther in his predictions and said that "Mostar has been and will remain a town of three nations and this victory has shown that no one has all exclusive right to Mostar."

    The international community's deputy High Representative Michael Steiner likewise expressed his satisfaction after the vote and pointed out that "absolute freedom of movement was established in the whole town during election day, and what happened at the polling stations, under conditions given, was unquestionably professional." He concluded that "these are good signs which show the elections could be held in Bosnia with minimal conditions obtained. That is a great incentive for the elections set for 14 September, and I am very glad because of what I have seen."

    But flattering words cannot eliminate lingering doubts over Mostar's future, especially among the anti-nationalists. The Social Democrats said the polls had become a census of the city's inhabitants along ethnic lines. An EU official, who did not want to be named, told AFP that the Mostar elections indicate that the deep ethnic divide in Bosnia is likely to remain after September's nationwide ballot. The official also pointed out that "the vote did not give a fair choice to the different candidates" and concluded: "I don't know why the September elections are likely to be any better. This is a fake success.... The result is that the division of the town has been legitimized." During the election campaign opposition parties, especially in the west of the city, had nearly no access to mass media which was dominated by the nationalists.

    Social Democrat deputy leader Senad Avdic said that "the magnitude of the national ghetto in Mostar is so immense, that not even the City Council will be able to work on Mostar's reintegration." The apparent obstruction by the HDZ gives clear hints that these problems have already begun.

    Meanwhile, administrator Ricardo Perez Casado asked Brussels to extend the EU mandate after it runs out on 23 July, and a EU ministers meeting will decide the issue on 15 July. French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jacques Rummelhardt made clear that "prolonging the European Union action in Mostar remains subordinate to pursuing the reunification process in the city." -- Fabian Schmidt


    "Wild Boys," once read war graffiti on the OSCE headquarters in Sarajevo; a similar slogan was also sprayed onto a wall of the quarters of Carl Bildt, the High Representative. For locals, these two words always seemed a perfectly appropriate label, indicating the tendency of foreign representatives to make impulsive decisions without really understanding the situation on the ground. The tag never seemed more justified than it does now. The international actors in the Bosnian drama appear to have forgotten their scripts and now stumble across the stage contradicting each other with badly improvised lines. This unplanned act of a play originally written in Dayton might still contain some unexpected twists.

    Suddenly, the collective body known as the "international community" appears to consist of individuals who seem to have decided to preserve their personal dignity and to break from the consensus to which the Bildt faction stubbornly clings. The issue threatening to tear things apart is the role of Radovan Karadzic in Republika Srpska political life.

    The Dayton agreement explicitly states that war criminals cannot hold "public office." When Karadzic delegated several of his duties to Plavsic, Bildt stated that the transfer of just "some powers" was unacceptable. But he did not go on and press for Karadzic's exclusion from politics. In the High Representative's interpretation, the "public office" clause applies exclusively to government posts.

    Many others disagree, insisting that the leadership of the ruling party in a totalitarian state essentially controls all public power. After Bildt told the G-7 leaders in Lyon of Karadzic's resignation, OSCE mission head Robert Frowick opined that indicted war criminals should also be removed "from positions of ongoing political influence." The G-7 agreed and then demanded on 29 June that the Bosnian Serb leader "renounce definitively and immediately all public functions." The use of the term "functions" could be seen as an attempt to end the furious debate about the Dayton term "public office." Speaking the same day in Sarajevo, George Soros also declared his deep anger about Bildt's interpretation and asked: "Do any of you remember who were Stalin's presidents?"

    On 30 June, Bildt announced: "As of today, Mr. Karadzic cannot exercise any public functions or public powers as president." But, only a few hours later, Plavsic declared that Karadzic "remains president, and I am the vice president." The next day, the newly elected SDS council unanimously approved Radovan Karadzic as the party's election candidate. In its evening news, Pale TV broadcast Karadzic's threat that, in case the SDS does not receive two- thirds of the vote, the Serbs may again be forced to take up arms.

    Bildt spent much of the morning of 2 July in Pale, talking to Plavsic; she later told journalists that all problems had been solved. Bildt said he felt "that all presidential powers were transferred." But later that afternoon, Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Gojko Klickovic told BiH TV: "Radovan Karadzic is the president of the Republika Srpska until the elections." Accordingly, Pale TV continued to speak of Karadzic as president, supported by another Bildt statement that he did not particularly care about titles.

    Confusion continued to dominate over the next few days, as the OSCE's Frowick agreed with Bildt's rebellious deputy, Michael Steiner, that Karadzic's SDS role was clearly a public function. The U.S. State Department also recommended that the OSCE not accept the SDS list of candidates if Karadzic remained the party's leader. After three days of silence, on 4 July, Bildt's spokesman Murphy made a remark that conflicted with all previous statements, including his own 1 July comment that Karadzic's leadership of the SDS violated the spirit of Dayton. Bildt, said Murphy, would recommend the acceptance of the SDS with Karadzic as head, because he still held the opinion that this was not a public office. The journalists present at the press conference jumped off their seats. Once again, Bildt had contradicted his own deputy, the OSCE chairman, and now also the U.S. State Department (see ). The Sarajevo press requested the presence of Bildt, Steiner and Frowick to discuss their clearly stated differences. None appeared in the following days.

    Private talks with international representatives in Sarajevo clearly show that Bildt has maneuvered himself into an increasingly isolated position. The new consensus among the majority of international representatives in Sarajevo is that the Dayton agreement cannot be the last word when its phrasing was not carefully enough reviewed. The plain fact is that the chair of the SDS is of immense political influence, whether it is a "public office" or not. Yet the Serbs appear to have made up their minds: Plavsic for president, but Karadzic as party leader.

    There are no easy answers. A ban of the SDS would probably lead to an election boycott in the Republika Srpska, and therefore to invalid overall results. It is a very open question whether the international community will move on the Karadzic situation when its highest priority remains holding the scheduled elections. -- Yvonne Badal in Sarajevo

    Compiled by Patrick Moore

    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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