Yugo Digest: 1996-05-11

yugo_digest_logoThis Week: Tadic trial begins; crackdown in Croatia.

6 May 96, Mon

General Ronald Griffith, the Army’s second ranking officer, said Operation Joint Endeavor hampers the military’s ability to fight two regional conflicts as called for in the Pentagon’s national defense plan. The peacekeeping mission could also erode the soldiers’ war fighting skills. “Forces deployed in peace operations are not doing the same sorts of things they would be doing in war,” Griffith said.

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The U.S. is planning to begin exchanging heavy 1st Armored Division units for lighter, more mobile troops. With the Bosnian factions separated, their heavy weapons removed from the ZOS and their troops demobilized or in garrison, the nature of the military mission has changed. The need for firepower is being replaced with a demand for civil affairs, engineers and logistics as Bosnia’s reconstruction gets under way. The Clinton administration is concerned that the reconstruction must be well in progress by December to discourage a resumption of the civil war.

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American judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald will preside over the trial Dusan Tadic, set to begin tomorrow. McDonald worked as a civil rights lawyer in the 1960s. The Tribunal’s other two judges are Australian and Malaysian.


7 May 96, Tue

The trial of Bosnian Serb Dusan Tadic began at the Hague. It is the first war crimes trial since Nuremberg and Tokyo after World War II. Tadic is accused of murder, rape and torture. The defense claims that Tadic, who was not a soldier or police officer, could not have committed the crimes because he “was not involved in the camps in any capacity”. The ICTY is refusing to allow defense witnesses to testify via satellite from Bosnia.

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Two Russian soldiers were shot in Bosnia. One died, the other is critically wounded. IFOR claims there was “no evidence of hostile fire”. Two U.S. soldiers were critically burned when a mess hall stove exploded. The series of 15 explosions, which began just after 0200, was initially believed to be an attack. Two Dutch soldiers were injured while clearing mines near Turbe in central Bosnia. The blast blew one soldier’s leg off; the other had minor facial wounds.

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The U.S. granted an additional $27 million in support to Bosnia. The latest funding is targeted for jobs creation programs. The funding is a down-payment on a three-year, $278 million U.S. program to create a Bosnian Reconstruction Finance Facility.

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Croatia charged five Bosnian Muslims with attempting to kill deposed rebel leader Fiket Abdic. A Croat is charged with aiding “international terrorism”. The group accused of promising to kill Abdic in return for a 100,000 DM payment from the Bosnian government. Abdic, a Muslim, was supported by the Bosnian Serbs in his two year rebellion against Bosnia. He is currently living in Croatia.

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The political rifts among the Bosnian Serbs continue to deepen. Dragutin Ilic, leader of the Socialist Party, and an ally of Serbian President Milosevic, said Republika Srpska President Karadzic was responsible for ongoing violence against the opposition in the run-up to the September elections.

Meanwhile, the power struggle between Karadzic and the Banja Luka leadership has intensified. Banja Luka was known to the UN as ‘the heart of darkness’ during the war because of the Serbs’ ruthless ethnic cleansing and mosque bombings, but the leadership is now positioning itself as the reasonable alternative to Karadzic.

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The Zagreb-Belgrade E70 highway reopened today. The war had kept it closed for four years and seven months. Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Kostovic said the opening is the first step in both the reintegration of Serb-occupied Eastern Slavonia into Croatia and the normalization of relations with Yugoslavia. The Adriatic pipeline is also expected to reopen soon.

UNTAES said it would take until July, 1997, to return Eastern Slavonia to Croatia. Croatia wants it returned by January, 1997, the end of the original U.N. mandate. (The mandate can be extended by up to one year.)


8 May 96, Wed

A British soldier was found shot dead in his vehicle in Visegrad. He died of a single shot to the head. An investigation is under way.

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Croatia charged two journalists with criminal libel after they criticized a plan by President Tudjman to rebury the remains of World War II fascists near their victims.

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The Republika Srpska may face renewed economic sanctions if they keep harboring war criminals and blocking freedom of movement, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kornblum said.


9 May 96, Thu

In a near repeat of last week’s incident, Bosnian Serb civilians prevented Muslims and journalists from entering Rjecica Donja. “We’re not letting them through,” shouted one Serb. “Our blood was spilled here!”

Implying their departure could be dangerous if he wasn’t given what he wanted, the leader of the Serb crowd insisted on destroying all the film, video and audio tape of the clash before he would let the group continue its journey. IFOR helicopters then appeared and accompanied the group as it continued its journey. One TV camera was destroyed and a U.N. vehicle damaged.

The recent confrontations highlight the problems with freedom of movement, a frequently ignored lynchpin of the Dayton Accord. The trip had been approced by Bosnian Serb leaders after extensive negotiations.

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The ICTY began investigating a mass grave containing 20 human skeletons near the Sana River south of Sanski Most, in northwest Bosnia. The mass grave was discovered by NATO troops that were repairing a bridge over the Sana. Three other mass graves may be located within 500 meters of the current site. 2,500 people are still missing from the region, which was captured by the Serb’s 6th Krajina Brigade in June, 1992.

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The first Muslim taken into custody by the ICTY pleaded not guilty to the murders, rapes and torture committed against Serb inmates at the at the Celebici prison camp. Zejnil Delalic is not accused of committing the atrocities, but bears responsibility as the camp’s commander.

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NATO and the ICTY finally agreed on the role IFOR would play in assisting war crimes investigations. Though the negotiations lasted for months, they merely codify what has long been practice on the ground. IFOR will continue to hand over suspects that fall into its hands and it wil continue to provide security to ICTY investigators. NATO said the reason it took so long to agree to do what IFOR is already doing is that it wanted all 32 IFOR members to agree to do it. Russia held out. NATO eventually went ahead anyway. “Russia said it will neither approve nor disapprove of the memorandum. We will have to see what that will mean in practice,” a spokesman said.

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IFOR, OSCE, UNHCR and the IPTF have all chosen Banja Luka as their base in the Republika Srpska. They are hoping to boost the fortunes of Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Rajko Kasagic, who is running against Karadzic in the fall elections. Kasagic, a Milosevic ally, is considered a moderate. They also hope that the more politically and economically important Banja Luka becomes, the more the Bosnian Serbs will see the futility of Karadzic’s isolationist policy.

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Bus service resumed across Sarajevo’s former frontline. Though the bus was escorted by NATO troops, fear prevented all but one curious passenger from riding it. The buses are painted white, with U.N. symbols, and will be accompanied by U.N. vehicles. Similar bus links are also being planned for northern Bosnia.

Crackdown in Croatia

The International Press Institute (IPI) protested to Croatia President Tudjman’s crackdown on Croatia’s independent media. Feral Tribune staffers have been charged with libelling Tudjman. Feral is a satirical and investigative weekly. The weekly Panorama has been closed. Rijeka-based daily Novi List will go bankrupt if a government fine survives a court appeal. (It was fined $2.5 million.) The editor of weekly Nacional, was questioned by police this week and a reporter for that paper was detained for hours after reporting that police were bugging the phones of independent journalists.

Croatia recently passed legislation outlawing publication of state secrets without defining what they are and a bill banning “slander” of the state leadership.

The crackdown extends beyond just the media: Financial aid to Croatian Serbs for home rebuilding is significantly less than that provided to Croats with similar damage. Croatia is also demanding its Serbs pay back taxes accumulated during their five years of independance. Both Serbs and Croatia’s small Italian minority recieve inadequate education.

In other Croatian press news, the head of the Croatian branch of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, Ivan Cicak filed a libel suit against the state-run Vjesnik newspaper. It hads accused him being an agent for UDBA, the former Yugoslav secret police.

The crackdown threatens Croatia’s admittance to the Council of Europe, which had tentatively approved its membership.

The IPI is a global network of editors and media executives from newspapers, magazines, broadcasting organisations and news agencies in 85 countries.

10 May 96, Fri

The U.S. will indefinitely remain deeply engaged in civilian activities in Bosnia, even if military forces leave by year’s end, a senior U.S. official said. New tasks could also be found to necessitate keeping American troops in Bosnia beyond Clinton’s one-year deadline, he added, predicting a “very bumpy period” in Bosnia until elections are held as the factions’ candidates jockey for political advantage.

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Seven Muslim soldiers accused of war crimes were captured near Zvornik, a Serb town, by U.S. forces. The Muslims were detained for bearing illegal weapons. Their capture prompted a demonstration by 3,000 people. The detainees were then turned over to Bosnian Serb police.

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Four Republicans and three Democrats were named as the members of a House select subcommittee to investigate the Clinton administration’s role in Iranian arms shipments to Bosnia and Croatia. They join Henry Hyde (R, IL), who was named last week to chair the six-month investigation. The full House approved creation of the subcommittee authorized it to spend $1 million on the probe.

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Croatia’s highest court ruled 6-4 in favor of an opposition suit against President Tudjman’s dissolution of the Zagreb city council. The suit was filed after Tudjman vetoed all four of its proposed candidates for mayor. Tudjman, an ex-communist general, said he would not allow the capital to be run by “enemies of state policy”. The latest court decision appears to be a milestone display of independence by the judiciary, which has generally been regarded as an instrument of the ruling HDZ.

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U.S. secretary of State Christopher warned Yugoslavia that the “outer wall” of sanctions would remain in place until it showed substantial progress in Kosovo. Most of the U.N. sanctions imposed on Yugoslavia were removed after last November’s Dayton Accord. But an “outer wall” — relating to renewal of Yugoslavia’s membership in the U.N., the World Bank, the IMF and OSCE — remains in place.

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A Muslim was wounded in a shooting incident on the dividing line between Moslem-Croat and Serb parts of Sarajevo. The incident occurred in the western suburb of Dobrinja where the exact location of the “inter-entity boundary line” bisects apartment blocks and even some individual apartments.


11 May 96, Sat

Croatia and Bosnia reached an agreement on a pilot program for the return of refugees to four central Bosnian towns: Muslim-held Bugojno and Travnik, and Croat-held Stolac and Jajce. They also agreed that Bosnia would have access to the Croatian port of Ploce and Croatia vehicles would be allowed to transit the Neum coastal strip, which divides southern Dalmatia from the rest of Croatia. Similar agreements have failed in the past due to the opposition of local warlords.

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Premier Radoje Kontic urgently requested that the IMF and World Bank resume talks with Yugoslavia. The talks collapsed last month after Yugoslavia demanded that it be recognized as the sole successor state of ex-Yugoslavia as a condition for further negotiations. National Bank Governor Dragoslav Avramovic instead advocated obtaining international loans as soon as possible, resulting in his replacement as chief negotiator with the IMF. Avramovic is now demanding Kontic’s resignation.


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