Yugo Digest: 1996-06-01

yugo_digest_logoThis Week: First war crimes conviction; movement not so free; secret U.N. deal to stop air strikes; Iran-Bosnagate House testimony.

26 May 96, Sun

A Bosnian Serb crowd armed with sticks and stones prevented a busload of Muslims and Croats from entering Prijedor to plant ‘peace trees’ near the site of a former prison camp. The bus was severely damaged and two Muslims were injured. It was the Muslim groups’ third attempt to enter Prijedor in two days. The Serbs also attacked the IFOR troops who were acompanying the bus. Later, armed Serbs kept the IPTF from entering the Prijedor police station to discuss the incident. This weekend’s incidents are the fifth time that Bosnian Serbs have prevented Muslims from entering Serb-controlled towns, in violation of the freedom of movement called for in the Dayton Accord.

Comment: Last fall, I predicted this would happen. Peacekeepers are soldiers, not cops. Soldiers are trained to kill, not arrest, those who confront them. When confronted by passive, or non-deadly resistance, a peacekeeper has two options: fight or flight. If he flees, he loses his authority. The next time the resistors will press a little further, to see how far they can go. If they are determined enough, they will press until they are killed or wounded. The resistors would then have the martyr every resistance movement needs to rally around. Even if the resistors don’t use their dead as martyrs, the media will surely play up the incident, and bad publicity does not prolong the life of peacekeeping missions. If the peacekeeper fights, he will escalate the immediate incident. Outnumbered, it is likely he will be wounded. If he hurts one of the resistors, he is greatly outnumbered, and help is distant, he could even be killed. It’s a no-win situation.

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A Muslim couple were shot by an AK-47 wielding Bosnian Croat police officer after failing to produce Croatian vehicle registration documents. The Muslims had originally provided Bosnian documents. The incident occured on the Zepce-Zavidovici road. Bosnian Croat police authorities claimed they have a suspect in custody, but refused to provide the IPTF with details.

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Six Bosnian Croat HVO militia officers were detained by the Bosnian army near Croat-held Kiseljak.

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The first 120 Muslim refugees returned to Bosnia from Turkey. The rest of the 1,900 who fled to Turkey are expected to arrive back within a few weeks. Over 40,000 refugees have returned since the Dayton Accord was signed last December. It is estimated that two million Bosnians, half the country’s pre-war population, were displaced by the war.

Note: Technically, refugees are people who’ve not only left their home, but their country. Displaced persons have left their home, but stayed within their country.

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Cheap booze containing large quantities of methyl (‘wood’) alcohol has killed 21 Yugoslavs the last three months. The deadly booze is cut with the good stuff and sold in bottles bottles bearing the labels of well-known Serbian brandies or foreign liquors, leading to speculation that some of Serbia’s legal distillery’s are in on the scheme.


27 May 96, Mon

Six Muslims went on trial in Croatia for planning to assassinate rebel leader and war profiteer Fikret Abdic. The six were arrested last month while attempting to infiltrate Croatia, where Abdic has lived since being ousted from his stronghold near Bihac last Agust. Abdic, a Muslim, fought alongside the Serbs against the Bosnian government.

Secret U.N. Deal to Stop Air Strikes

A documentary co-produced by Reuters claims the U.N. made a tacit agreement with the Bosnian Serbs to stop air strikes in exchange for the release of peacekeepers the Serbs had seized as hostages.In May, 1995, the Serbs seized hundreds of peacekeepers in retaliation for NATO air strikes. UN Special Representative Yasushi Akashi said he authorized French General Bernard Janvier to meet General Ratko Mladic for talks. (At the time, Janvier was overall U.N. commander in Yugoslavia.)

Janvier and Akashi failed to pass on clear warnings that Srebrenica, which was nominally defended by 400 peacekeepers, was about to fall. Janvier then refused to use air strikes to stop the Bosnian Serb’s July attack on Srebrenica or to interdict the arms smuggling from Yugoslavia which was fueling it.

Janvier was reluctant to use air power given the vulnerability of the peacekeepers, a reluctance which enraged the United States and brought him into conflict with his subordinate, British General Rupert Smith, the commander of U.N. forces in Bosnia. Smith wanted to take a tougher stand, but was overruled by Akashi.

The documentary is based on interviews, secret U.N. documents, transcripts of radio intercepts and Bosnian military information.

28 May 96, Tue

A U.S. soldier died of severe burns suffered in a stove explosion earlier this month. Another soldier was also burned in the accident. The gasoline-fueled stove exploded while being turned on, setting off a chain reaction that included ammunition.

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Bosnian Croat authorities prevented a group of 200 Muslims from Mostar from visiting their pre-war homes in the southern town of Stolac. The Muslims protested by blockading a nearby IFOR headquarters. A Croat official said that he had fulfilled his obligations by allowing 600 Muslims to visit Stolac the last three days. The previous visits were the result of a UN-brokered deal.

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Bosnian Serbs are also continuing to ethnically cleanse Muslims by expelling them from Teslic to make room for Serbs that fled Sarajevo this spring. Over 100 people have left the last two weeks because of harassment, which has included threatening phone calls and having explosives thrown at them.

“We are extremely worried by it,” said UN spokesman Kris Janowski. “The hostility there is quite substantial, and it would be rather naive to assume that there will be any major returns by refugees and displaced persons to areas controlled by their former foes.”

NATO officials say they are in a dilemma: If the Serb obstruction continues, the peace could collapse as soon as IFOR leaves at the end of 1996. But if IFOR were to arrest Bosnian Serb war criminals — particularly President Radovan Karadzic — the peace would fail immediately if angry Serbs began attacking IFOR peacekeepers.

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Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic with Bosnian Serb leaders to decide the fate of Republika Srpska President Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic. Milosevic has offered to remove the indicted war criminals from Bosnia’s political picture if they will not be prosecuted. So far, NATO isn’t biting.

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President Franjo Tudjman’s ruling party, the Croatian Democratic Council (HDZ), said it will sue the independent Globus over a story the paper ran alleging that the HDZ intends to smear opposition politicians. This and other legal harassment of the independent media show that the HDZ is anxious over its prospects in upcoming local elections because of voter impatience with recurrent reports of corruption, authoritarianism, and strong-arm tactics.

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Unidentified forces damaged a bridge linking the Republika Srpska and Bosnia. The bridge connected the town of Teocak Muni to the Tuzla-Bjeljina road. An investigation is underway. IFOR engineers are clearing the bridge of other explosives.


29 May 96, Wed

Clinton named long-time political ally Richard Sklar to coordinate the U.S. reconstruction effort in Bosnia. The program has been budgeted at $550 million. Sklar is currently the president and chief operating officer of a construction management firm. His responsibilities will include humanitarian assistance, economic revitalization and reconstruction, refugee resettlement, the conduct of elections and strengthening public security.

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The ICTY indicted Drazen Erdemovic for of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war for his part in the Srebrenica massacre last July. Erdemovic, a ethnic Croat, admitted to killing 70 civilians while serving in the Bosnian Serb army. He is the first person indicted for crimes committed during that massacre. He is currently in custody and his trial begins this week.

The ICTY cannot impose the death penalty. The most severe sentence it can hand down is life in prison.

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Croatian President Franjo Tudjman used the occasion of Statehood Day to pardon 78 people charged with armed rebellion. Fifty-seven had charges against them dropped; 21 in prison were paroled. How many of the pardoned are Serbs, Muslims or Croats was not revealed.

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Serbia’s health, social and state administration employees ended a 10-day strike after reaching a deal with the government over a pay raise.

Iran-Bosnagate House Testimony

Testifying before the House International Relations Committee on May 30, U.S. Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith the U.S. deliberately ignored Balkans arms smuggling. Galbraith’s testimony was consistent with his appearance before the Senate last week. Galbraith said Croatian officials asked him in April, 1994, if the U.S. would object to Croatia allowing regular small arms shipments to pass through its territory from Iran and other Muslim nations to Bosnia. He was told to reply that he had “no instructions”. When the Croats didn’t catch that wink-wink, nudge-nudge, Galbraith made it clear that “It was to mean that we were not objecting”.

Former U.S. negotiator Charles Redman, said he explained to Croatian officials that “It is your decision to make. We don’t want to be put in a position to say no.”

Galbraith confirmed Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott’s testimony that he was not permitted to formally report the Croat inquiry, but tried to brush it off with the explanation that the most sensitive diplomatic exchanges are often not reported in writing.

30 May 96, Thu

The U.N. security Council extended UNPREDEP’s mandate to keep the peace in Macedonia until November 30, 1996. The votes was 14-0; Russia abstained. The security situation has improved since last fall’s attempt on President Kiro Gligorov’s life.

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Bosnian Serb police arrested an eighth suspect in the murder of four Serb woodcutters near Milici. The Zvornik 7 were the first suspects arrested in the case. All are Muslims.

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The Bosnian Croat HVO militia retaliated for Sunday’s incident near Kiseljak by detaining two Muslim soldiers. The Bosnian government retaliated to that retaliation by suspending suspending talks aimed at creating a Muslim-Croat federation joint military.

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The United Arab Emirates gave Bosnia $15 million to re-arm its army. The UAE also gave Bosnia some military hardware. The UAE also donated to Bosnia’s army during the war.

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EU negotiator Carl Bildt ruled out cooperating with Dr. Biljana Plavsic, the recently appointed proxy of Republika Srpska President Radovan Karadzic. Bildt spokesman Colum Murphy said, “The international community cannot accept contacts with Dr. Plavsic in her function as assisting a person who is seeking to hang on to public office in clear violation of the peace agreement.” Bildt’s snub is the latest diplomatic attempt to undermine Karadzic.

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The National Assembly of Serbia continued the recent shakeup at the top levels of Yugoslav political power. The ministries of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management; Labor, Veteran and Welfare Issues; Science and Technology; Transport and Communications; Information; Tourism; and Trade recieved new leaders. A new vice prime minister was also appointed. The new cabinet (not so surprisingly) found that economic stabilization and growth were “progressing as planned”.

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First War Crimes Conviction

Drazen Erdemovic became the first person to be convicted of committing war crimes in Bosnia when he confessed to killing civilians in Srebrenica.In tears, Erdemovic, a Croat, said he would have also been killed by the Serbs if he had not participated in the massacre: “If I had refused, I would have been killed. They told me that if you feel sorry for the Muslims, then line up with them and we will kill you too.”

At one point he turned to a fellow Croat and said, “God knows that one day all this will fall back on us.”

The other fellow replied, “Shut up and shoot. Otherwise you know very well it will be our turn, we’re only Croats.”

Erdemovic is cooperating with the ICTY by providing evidence against other war criminals, including Republika Srpska President Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic. He testified that the bus drivers who ferried the victims to the execution site were forced to kill at least one Muslim each so that they would not be tempted to testify in future criminal proceedings.

Of the 58 war criminals indicted so far, 46 are Serbs, nine are Croats and three are Muslims. Only six are in custody.

Erdemovic told Le Figaro he personally killed about 70 people. “I tried to kill as few as possible,” he said.

Erdemovic will be sentenced in July.

31 May 96, Fri

The mayor of Banja Luka, Predrag Radic, dodged an attempt to remove him from office. Radic, though considered a ‘moderate’ Serb, is a member of President Radovan Karadzic’s ruling Serbian Democratic Party (SDS). Radic successfully argued that the proposal to fire him was invalid because it was not included on the city council’s the legislative agenda.

Upcoming Summit in Geneva

The U.S. has been desperately trying to remove Republika Srpska President Radovan Karadzic, who it considers the biggest threat to free elections in Bosnia. Yet Karadzic has proven to have the tyrant’s talent for self preservation.Frustrated, the Clinton administration may be willing trade Karadzic’s continued, but reduced, presence to ensure that the Bosnian elections are held on time. (When they could still be portrayed as a foreign poicy ‘achievement’ in the U.S. presidential elections.)

Secretary of State Warren Christopher said the elections could be held as long as Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic were not candidates.

The elections are considered crucial to the success of the U.S.-brokered peace agreement. However, election monitors believe the elections will be a sham unless the factional governments allow free of movement and of the media.The OSCE, which is responsible for monitoring the elections, said it is being pressured by the U.S. to declare Bosnia ready for elections by this fall.

Croats and Muslims may boycott the elections if Karadzic remains in power. If they did try to boycott the elections, the U.S. could still strongarm them to the polls by threatening to withhold military aid.

The West has tried to enlist Serbian President Solobodan Milosevic in its campaign to oust Karadzic. After today’s meeting with Milosevic, Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum said Milosevic had promised to “demonstrate” in Geneva that Karadzic was longer in charge. Even if Milosevic manages to oust Karadzic, hardliners who share his goal of a permanent ethnic partition in Bosnia will remain firmly in control on Serb territory.

1 June 96, Sat

Bosnian Croat police in Mostar warned Croats not to use certain streets to avoid being assaulted by Muslims after Muslims harassed Croats and stoned their cars. The Muslims were protesting the arrest of a Muslim by Croats. Bulevar Avenue, which saw some of the worst fighting during the 1993-94 Muslim-Croat war, is now the demarcation line between the recalcitrant allies.

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U.S. ‘Contractors’

The State Department officially announced that a U.S. firm, Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI) of Alexandria, Virginia, was chosen by Bosnia as the primary contractor (re:mercenaries) to lead the U.S. effort to train and equip the Bosnian military. The U.S., Turkey and other Islamic states will also provide Bosnia with almost $100 million in U.S. tanks, helicopters, guns and communications equipment.A company run by retired U.S. military officers, MPRI has had tremendous success in its short life. MPRI contractors reorganized and retrained the Croatian army, putting a recognizable American stamp on its strategy and style. The result was Operation Storm, the 1995 Croat blitzkrieg that recaptured Krajina and drove to within miles of Banja Luka.

MPRI will be much more involved in Bosnia that it was in Croatia. It will develop strategy, train Bosnian officers, develop a logistics system and coordinate weapons distribution. (The Dayton Accord allowed small arms imports to begin in March; heavy weapons may be legally purchased starting June 14.)

Comment: This goes to prove what I’ve been saying since the Dayton Accord was signed back in December — that while the ostensible reason for U.S. intervention in Bosnia is to bring peace to the Balkans, the real reason is buy Bosnia enough time so that it can go toe-to-toe with the Serbs.

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