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OMRI: Pursuing Balkan Peace, No. 44, 96-11-05

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

From: Open Media Research Institute <>

Pursuing Balkan Peace
No. 44, 5 November 1996




    In a major embarrassment to the international institutions supervising the implementation of the Dayton peace accord, the press last week found six Bosnian Serbs who had been indicted by The Hague-based tribunal for alleged war crimes. Most importantly, the six were working as policemen or officials in Prijedor, Omarska and Bosanski Samac. In a series of three articles The Boston Globe revealed the men's names and present positions in the Republika Srpska. Meanwhile, OMRI's own investigation unearthed an RS government document proving that officials in Pale had maintained official contacts with yet another indicted war criminal, Milan Martic. The letter, written on official stationery and signed by RS Information Minister Dragan Bozanic at the beginning of October, identifies Martic and refers to him as "President of the Republika Srpska Krajina," the title he had assumed until the defeat of his self-proclaimed statelet in August 1995. The document discusses Martic's wish to reclaim radio station equipment taken from his associates by the Bosnian Serb Army, which is at odds with the Bosnian Serb civilian leadership.

    Reacting to questions touched off by the reports in the Globe, spokesman Colum Murphy at first acknowledged that the Office of the High Representative (OHR) had known for "several weeks" about four of the indicted war criminals serving as policemen in Prijedor and Omarska. That office had even sent a letter on the matter to the Pale government. But IFOR, the UN International Police Task Force (IPTF) and the OSCE claimed to have no previous knowledge of these facts. A day later Murphy retreated from his earlier statement, now claiming that the OHR had found out about the whereabouts of these indicted war criminals only two days before and apologized for misleading the press by "citing from memory a wrongly dated document."

    And the plot thickened. That same day, the IPTF had to acknowledge that it has been informed of the details by the Globe more than a week earlier. On 31 October, IPTF Commissioner Peter Fitzgerald confirmed that the first IPTF report on this matter was in fact written more than three months ago -- on 12 July. He said, however, that the document remained in the files of IPTF's Banja Luka office and had never reached Sarajevo headquarters.

    Meanwhile, OMRI acquired another document confirming that monitors of the European Commission Monitoring Mission (ECMM) knew as early as the beginning of May that another indicted war criminal, Blagoje Simic, holds the position of vice president of the local governing Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) in Bosanski Samac. And an additional ECMM document made available to OMRI suggests that European Monitors have met with at least some officials in this town on several occasions since their first visit on 23 February. ECMM Sarajevo was unwilling to comment.

    All international representatives seem to have been caught unprepared by the press revelations. Aside from expressing verbal outrage, all their outlets and media representatives hurried to stress the limits of their specific mandates, repeating that Dayton leaves the responsibility for sending indicted war crime suspects to The Hague with the respective parties. To a man they also avoided any kind of criticism against the government of the Republika Srpska. So far, the strongest statement from the OHR was issued on Saturday and said only that "indicted war criminals running loose around the country unhindered, unaccountable and unsought by anyone" was "a scandal that haunts those who were negligent and that insults its victims." The OHR thus failed to let the RS government know publicly that its willingness to shelter and even employ indicted war crimes suspects amounts to factual noncompliance with the peace treaty and, as such, calls for immediate consequences.

    It has thus become increasingly difficult to believe the claims that neither IFOR -- with its professional intelligence structures organized down to regimental level -- nor the IPTF, ECMM, or OSCE -- with hundreds of officials in dozens of regional centers throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina -- are unable to identify in their areas of operation indicted war criminals holding public office or openly serving as policemen. Printed on the Tribunal's "wanted" poster are not only the photographs of some indicted war criminals but even their exact addresses. Still, Stevan Todorovic -- indicted for major atrocities against non-Serb civilian population during "ethnic cleansing" in 1992 -- manages to commute every day to his work as deputy commander of the state security police in Bosanski Samac on a IFOR-patrolled road, as revealed by the Globe. Twice a day he passes by the gate of the U.S. IFOR Camp Colt base where his photograph and full address on the Hague poster can be studied.

    OMRI interviewed three different IFOR sources about NATO's policy concerning war criminals. All of them told OMRI that in the case of Prijedor, British IFOR intelligence knew about "these and many more cases" since March. "We are soldiers and act upon orders. Since the very start of this mission there is one order which we nicknamed 'monitor but don't touch.' With a different order we could sack them [indicted war criminals] within hours," one of the sources said. IFOR's spokesman denied the existence of any such orders, claiming that the "mandate allows IFOR to arrest indicted war criminals only if they are encountered in the normal course of duties." In his Saturday's statement High Representative Carl Bildt said: "Infantry battalions are not designed and are not trained for criminal investigations or other law- enforcement activities. But if this is the case... we must look at ways of creating the instruments which will be necessary in selected cases in order to ensure that the one faction or the other simply does not make a complete mockery of the international community." Bildt's statement seemingly does not address those cases when the international community makes a complete mockery of itself.

    OMRI has obtained a copy of a document which proves that, in summer 1996, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office recommended Simo Drljaca, then Prijedor police chief, as possible invitee to a high-level "Bosnian Workshop on Reconciliation" in Great Britain later this year. Drljaca, who is under investigation by The Hague, has commanded three already indicted war criminals. He had to step down from his post after a showdown with an IFOR patrol revealed undeclared weapons in his car and office. The international organizers of this workshop have asked experts on Bosnia from all over Europe to name as possible participants only persons with an "open mind" and no "reputation for hard-line shouting." -- Jan Urban in Sarajevo


    Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic told U.S. human rights envoy John Shattuck that the four indicted war criminals recently identified as serving with the Bosnian Serb police will be fired (see above). She refused, however, to turn the men over to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, in response to which Shattuck threatened "negative political and economic consequences," Oslobodjenje reported on 5 November. -- Patrick Moore


    On a somewhat cheerier note, representatives of Bosnian Muslim, Serb, and Croat refugees who want to go back to their homes despite nationalist opposition have formed a group in Sarajevo to coordinate their efforts, Oslobodjenje reported on 31 October. The Coalition for Return says it rejects "the ideology of ethnic separation." Elsewhere, the president of the Community of Croatian Refugees in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Stef Masatovic, charged that none of the three sides is interested in letting refuges go home and that there is no infrastructure available for those people. He added that the only solution is to build new towns for refugees, Oslobodjenje wrote on 1 November. -- Patrick Moore


    Turning to military matters, President Alija Izetbegovic said that Deputy Defense Minister Hasan Cengic will be transferred to another job as part of a government reshuffle. Izetbegovic thereby apparently refused to bow to U.S. pressure and openly sack the minister, whose removal Washington said was a precondition to the resumption of U.S. military aid, AFP noted on 3 November. The public but murky imbroglio has dragged on for nearly two weeks. American spokesmen have given two differing reasons as to why they want Cengic to go: because he was allegedly blocking the integration of the Croat-Muslim joint command; or because of his purported links to Iran. Izetbegovic has denied that Cengic or any of the Bosnian military have links to Iran, saying that "we chose military cooperation with the United States [over that with Iran], because that gives more guarantees in preventing aggression in the future." The Americans, however, said they will not resume arms shipments until Cengic is definitely gone. Nor has Washington concentrated its attention purely on the Muslims. The U.S. and OSCE have charged that the Bosnian Serbs are violating the arms control provisions of the Dayton agreement by keeping a "significant number" of extra World War II tanks in service. The Serbs have exploited a loophole in the text that allows parties to hold onto such weapons if they are intended for export, research, or museums, Reuters noted on 30 October. -- Patrick Moore


    Meanwhile in Athens, Plavsic said that her government has no intention of turning over indicted war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic to the Hague-based tribunal, AFP reported on 29 October. That same news agency on 2 November noted that Greek television had interviewed Orthodox monks from Mt. Athos, who claimed that preparations are under way for Karadzic to take up residence in a monastery there. There has been no independent confirmation of the monks' story. In Banja Luka, Britain's Duke of Kent, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, met with top officials of the Republika Srpska on 29 October. A delegation of British businessmen is expected to follow. And in Pale, business links are developing in other directions, too. One of the biggest Russian exporters, Selkhozpromexport, held talks in Pale and Bijeljina about opening a $50 million credit for the RS and establishment of joint ventures. -- Patrick Moore and Jan Urban


    Turning to press matters, on 28 October representatives of the major independent Bosnian Serb media met in Banja Luka to discuss their response to a recent government campaign against dissident media voices. The representatives of Novi Prelom, Nezavisne Novine and Radio Krajina from Banja Luka, Alternativa from Doboj, and Extra Magazin and Panorama from Bijeljina debated coordinating their marketing, starting an independent journalists' union, and possibly setting up an independent printing house. The government- owned printing office Glas Srpski recently refused to print dissident periodicals. Radio Krajina faces attempts by the Information Ministry to take away its equipment and broadcasting frequency. Two Alternativa journalists face flimsy libel charges by two officials of the governing Serbian Democratic Party. -- Jan Urban in Sarajevo and Patrick Moore


    But at least Alternativa is again available on the newsstands. After Glas Srpski refused to continue printing it, the Dnevnik firm in Novi Sad decided to help and print one issue under rather clandestine conditions. This is obviously no long-term solution to the printing problems the independent newspapers face, but, as one Doboj journalist said to OMRI, "it proves the vitality and persistence of free minds -- and it produces a lot of puzzlement in the government as to how to deal with it." One way the authorities do deal with these "free minds" was shown in Doboj late last week when one seller of Alternativa was beaten up twice, including once by a policeman. -- Yvonne Badal in Sarajevo


    Nor is toughness in the RS reserved for the press. Dragan Kalinic, head of the Bosnian Serb parliament, threatened on 26 October to ban parties from the mainly Muslim and Croat Federation from taking part in municipal elections in the Republika Srpska, AFP quoted BETA as saying. Kalinic said the parties from the Federation must be registered according to RS laws defining the rights of national minorities, which include Muslims and Croats. Meanwhile, the Liberal-Bosniak Organization (LBO) said that more than 800 Muslims were expelled from their homes in Banja Luka during the previous month, Oslobodjenje reported on 29 October. -- Daria Sito Sucic


    Turning to broader issues facing the former Yugoslav republics, the UN ambassadors of Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Slovenia sent an appeal to Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali requesting that Serbia-Montenegro not automatically inherit the UN seat of Tito's Yugoslavia. The four asked that Belgrade be required to apply for membership like any other new candidate lest the move "make an impact on the division of common assets," Onasa noted on 30 October, citing BETA. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's Federal Republic of Yugoslavia claims that it is the sole successor to Tito's state and hence that it alone is entitled to its rights and properties, a point that the other four states dispute. -- Patrick Moore


    Mate Granic of Croatia and Milan Milutinovic of Serbia-Montenegro meanwhile met in Zagreb on 29 October to discuss the further implementation of the agreement on normalizing relations between the two countries, Croatian and Serbian media reported. The two ministers signed an agreement abolishing visa requirements for diplomats and government officials. But other federal Yugoslav citizens will still need visas to enter Croatia, and Croatians must pay border-crossing fees and deposit their passports at the border when they cross into Serbia- Montenegro. Granic and Milutinovic announced that a number of agreements regulating internal affairs and social and economic issues will be signed at the end of the year. Commissions for railway and road restoration will start in early November. During Milutinovic's visit, President Franjo Tudjman discussed the peaceful reintegration of eastern Slavonia into Croatia with him. Tudjman said Croatia could not accept a six- or 12- month extension of the UNTAES mandate but only a "three plus three" extension, because of pressure by the general public. -- Daria Sito Sucic


    Nor are only people living in the former Yugoslavia thinking about that region's strategic future. Russian Defense Council Secretary Yurii Baturin told the radio station Ekho Moskvy on 31 October that he would like to see a continued Russian military presence in the former Yugoslavia even after the eventual withdrawal of UN and NATO-led peacekeeping forces, including UNTAES. He said "it would not seem strange," if Moscow raised the question of having a military base in the area, since he claimed the U.S. is already planning to establish military bases there. He added that the idea of Russian bases "has become particularly topical in view of the proposed NATO expansion eastward." Baturin did not specify from which Yugoslav successor state Moscow might ask for base rights, although Russia has closer ties with Belgrade and Pale than with the other centers. -- Scott Parrish


    But the big story in Belgrade was the 3 November elections. With over half the votes counted, parties loyal to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic held a convincing lead as of Tuesday morning. Beta reported that 48.15% of votes counted went to Milosevic's coalition, 23.94% to the heterogeneous opposition Zajedno (Together) coalition, and 18.47% to the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS). In terms of representational breakdown for the 138-member legislature, Reuters reported that Milosevic's coalition so far is guaranteed 50 seats, while Zajedno has 21 and the SRS 13. Meanwhile, Montena-fax said that in the Montenegrin republican elections, the governing Democratic Socialist Party has an absolute majority of 45 out of 71 seats with nearly all ballots counted. Only in local voting did the opposition manage to make inroads. In Belgrade, Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic nearly won a majority in the mayor's race but will have to face a 17 November run-off. -- Stan Markotich.


    Still in federal Yugoslavia, despite a wave of arrests since early October, the shadowy Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) continued attacking Serbian government officials, mainly police officers. In the latest case the group shot a Serb police officer and a civil servant on 25 October near Podujevo.

    The UCK first made itself known when it firebombed Serb refugee homes in Kosovo on 11 February. Since then, it is believed to have killed at least nine people and injured many more. The group has already claimed responsibility for most such attacks, which were carried out in a similar manner. In its latest letters to Kosovar media, the UCK also threatened to kill any ethnic Albanians whom they regard as collaborators with the Serbian authorities.

    The group, which uses mostly automatic weapons and hand grenades, has so far aimed its attacks primarily at smaller police stations, police cars or individuals. It has not attacked prominent or well-protected representatives or institutions of the Serbian administration, which suggests that it is avoiding waging highly sophisticated operations. Instead, they prefer easy targets which pose no or minimal risk. In probably the most violent incident, in April they sprayed machine-gun fire at a street cafe popular with Serbian policemen, killing three persons. While the way it carries out its operations suggests some things about the group, it is not known when the UCK was set up, how many members it has, who funds it, or who its leaders are.

    The first 15 arrests of suspected members of the Liberation Army came in early October. Nonetheless, subsequent killings proved that the group was still able to operate, and it remains highly doubtful whether the police actually arrested the real culprits or just some young Albanian males as scapegoats and as a way of demonstrating success in investigations. After the 25 October attack, police arrested over 30 people in Surkis near Podujevo, but it remains unclear if there is any evidence linking these Albanians to the armed group.

    In its declarations, the UCK denies being nationalistic. It claims to fight against an occupation force, arguing that the abolition of the province's autonomy in 1989 was a violation of then-Yugoslav constitution, which dated from 1974. The group says its aim is the independence of the self-declared Republic of Kosovo from Serbia, but not unification with Albania. They are thus more moderate in their political program than some other small and extreme right-wing political parties in Kosovo and Albania, which want an "ethnic Albania," including parts of Montenegro, Serbia proper, Macedonia, and Greece, as well as all of Albania and Kosovo.

    The Liberation Army says instead that the shadow-state's official strategy of non-violent resistance has failed, but it does not challenge the shadow- state's overall goals. The strategy of the UCK seems to be to create a climate of fear, rather than to gain rapid military victories. It apparently hopes not just to prevent reconciliation between Albanians and Serbs, but to aggravate tensions. This could ensure that the Albanians grow increasingly reluctant to compromise on independence.

    In a next step, the Liberation Army could destroy the basis of the broad social consensus supporting non-violent resistance and recruit more supporters for an armed struggle for independence. So far the group has been very effective in aggravating tensions. Before the funeral of the last victims on 27 October, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Nikola Sainovic, and Serbian Interior Minister Zoran Sokolovic visited representatives of the Serbian community in Podujevo. Sokolovic promised that a police intervention unit would be stationed in the town, and said he would ask the federal government to set up a Yugoslav army garrison in Podujevo. -- Fabian Schmidt


    Meanwhile in Bulgaria, electoral politics were in the news. Petar Stoyanov of the united opposition will assume office as the next Bulgarian president on 22 January 1997. He and his running mate Todor Kavaldzhiev handily won the second round of elections on 3 November. The opposition not only retained the presidency but also seems to have a realistic chance of winning early elections, should they take place. The governing Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), meanwhile, will probably have to think about the serious consequences of this humiliating defeat.

    Stoyanov and Kavaldzhiev received 59.96% of the vote in the runoffs, according to preliminary results from the Central Electoral Commission the following morning. The BSP candidates -- Culture Minister Ivan Marazov and Deputy Foreign Minister Irina Bokova -- trailed far behind, getting 40.04%. The turnout was 61.72%.

    Stoyanov garnered 70-75% in Sofia and in his hometown of Plovdiv, both of which are opposition strongholds. He also managed to win around two-thirds of the vote in the other big towns. More telling, Stoyanov also appears to have won a slight majority in many small towns and villages, which traditionally backed the BSP. Marazov seems to have come out on top only in the traditionally leftist northwest of the country, and even there only by a relatively narrow margin.

    In his first election night statements, Stoyanov said he will act as president of all Bulgarians, stressing that drawing Bulgaria closer to the EU and NATO are his foreign policy priorities. Meanwhile, the leaders of the united opposition--Ivan Kostov of the Union of Democratic Forces, Anastasiya Dimitrova-Mozer and Stefan Savov of the People's Union, and Ahmed Dogan of the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom -- made a display of unity during their election night press conference. This suggests that they consider Stoyanov's triumph just the first in a series of victories for the non- socialist camp.

    Indeed, the next opposition goal is to work toward early 1997 parliamentary elections and drive the Socialists from power. Political analysts and activists close to the opposition have already started working on electoral strategies.

    The BSP, meanwhile, has to recover from its most humiliating defeat since 1990. Prime Minister and party chairman Zhan Videnov refused to say on election night what consequences there may be for the government and the BSP. Several Sofia newspapers nonetheless reported Videnov will try to dispel pressures from inside the party and ask for a confidence vote as party leader at an extraordinary congress at the end of the year or in January. Influential BSP circles -- mostly with a Social Democratic orientation -- have repeatedly called for Videnov's resignation and threatened to split the party. Whether Videnov can hang on until the end of the year remains unclear. A plenary meeting on 11 November will discuss the election results and should give a first indication of the party's future course. -- Stefan Krause


    But there was more to the story, namely a rather unexpected development in the first round. Bulgarian Business Block Leader (BBB) and populist figure Georges Ganchev won the surprisingly high share of 21.87% of votes in the first round of the 27 October presidential elections. He finished third after Stoyanov- Kavaldzhiev (44.07%), and Marazov-Bokova (27.01%). The real surprise was not that Ganchev came in third, but that his showing was so strong, especially in regions with an ethnically mixed population and regions that were once bastions of the BSP.

    In the 1992 presidential elections he had garnered only 17% of the vote, but even then he nonetheless managed to present the results in his typically flamboyant style as some sort of stunning political victory. In the 1994 parliamentary elections came what was really his biggest political success to date, namely overcoming the 4% hurdle. He has declared many times that he had abandoned his successful business and promising artistic career in the West for the sake of Bulgaria. He even seemed to believe his own rhetoric, which he often expressed through media sound-bites replete with songs and picturesque language. With "a big bludgeon in hand" and "within 45 days" he promised to stop street crime -- if elected president in 1996 -- as well as help small- and medium-sized companies out of the doldrums that characterize Bulgaria's economy.

    In the 27 October balloting Ganchev capitalized on the negative attitude of those disillusioned with both the governing Socialists and the opposition. Analyses by polling agencies after the first round showed that the nationalist vote, which traditionally goes to the BSP, is shifting to Ganchev. He himself has adopted a nationalist stance, stressing his "patriotism." Two major pollsters (NOEMA and MBMD) describe Ganchev as a "dangerous" phenomenon, comparable with that of the rightist French political leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen.

    It thus should not come as a surprise that Ganchev is popular in regions with an ethnically mixed population and among people with a relatively low educational level, since many of them seem receptive to his formulas of easy solutions to complex problems. But his supporters cross many social and demographic lines, too. Around 28% of them were young people, including ones with higher education, whom he promised to create a "positive climate" in order to stem the brain-drain. In short, his radical-sounding promises appealed -- especially in the last six months -- to Bulgarians who are in their most economically productive years (18-50) but who are suffering under adverse economic conditions.

    Both the BSP and the opposition tried to woo Ganchev and his supporters in the tense week between the two rounds of the presidential vote. The BBB leader defined himself at a press conference after the 27 October election as being closer to the right than to the left on the political spectrum. But Ganchev, after a meeting with BSP officials on 30 October, said he would simply ask his supporters to vote their conscience in the second round. Polls suggested that, in the second round about half of his supporters would not bother to vote, and the remainder would support Stoyanov over Marazov by a 2-1 margin. -- Maria Koinova

    Edited 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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