Yugo Digest: 1996-06-08

yugo_digest_logoThis Week: Mob violence continues to rise; Frowick orders doctored reports; faint hopes for electoral fairness.

2 June 96, Sun

Representatives from the U.S., Europe and Bosnia’s factions held a summit in Geneva. Secretary of State Warren Christopher pressured the presidents of Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia to ensure that the fall elections are fair. He wanted assurances from Milosevic that Karadzic had been removed from power; from Izetbegovic that Iranian fighters have left Bosnia; and from Tudjman that Serbs would be allowed to return to Croatia. American Robert Frowick, OSCE chief in Bosnia, however, does not believe the elections can wait for a fully democratic environment. (Which will not happen before September 14, or even before IFOR is supposed to withdraw in December.)

Tudjman and Izetbegovic back down from threats to boycott the elections if Karadzic and Mladic were not arrest beforehand. Milosevic said that “all the conditions” for the elections would be in place in time for them to be held, to which Christopher replied that was “not enough”. He said the reimposition of sanction on Yugoslavia was “virtually automatic” if the Dayton Accord was not observed.

Comment: The media all seem to believe that Karadzic is the greatest threat to the fall elections. But no one has more to lose from cheating in those elections than Karadzic. All three sides are snakes. Muslim and Croat powerbrokers are bound to cheat. Even though he is not legally allowed to stand for office, Karadzic could probably win anyway, and so without cheating. Were he to do so — even if it was as a write-in candidate — it would give Karadzic tremendous leverage and put the West in a bind.


Secretary of State Warren Christopher said that IFOR troops would be start being “more proactive” in seeking out war criminals, such as Republika Srpska President Radovan Karadzic. He said IFOR could take on new responsibilities (mission creep …) because it had achieved its initial goals. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said IFOR troops would step up patrols in areas where Karadzic and Mladic are likely to be found, especially in Pale, the Bosnian Serb capital.


Mob Violence Continues to Rise

In separate incidents at Potocari and Teslic on Sunday, Serb mobs turned back busloads of Muslims and Croats trying to visit graves and former homes.In Potocari, the buses were stoned as they approached the town. IFOR troops and Serb police protected the visitors as a larger crowd gathered. The Serb civilians spat and cursed at the Muslims, then stoned the buses some more as they left. Several visitors were injured. “The next time we come, we’ll come with guns!” screamed one Muslim.

In Teslic, buses carrying Bosnian Croats were diverted by bridge that had been blown just last night. The buses, escorted by UNHCR, the IPTF and Serb police, were barred from entering the town by a drunken Serb crowd that was waving clubs and flags. The Serb police said they couldn’t control the crowd, so the Croats found it prudent to leave.

On Monday, the bodies of Croats killed by Muslims were exhumed at Odzak. The forensic investigators were observed by wailing Croat women and international officials as they unearthed the remains.

Nor are the Muslims and Croats the only victims of ethnic violence. The IPTF reported that the few Serbs who remained in Muslim-held Sarajevo after the mass exodus in March, are increasingly the targets of beatings and intimidation. In one incident, a 95-old Serb was beaten nearly to death. The IPTF says it is powerless to stop the violence.

Note: The International Police Task Force (IPTF) is a U.N. police observer mission. It is the responsibility of local authorities to enforce the laws, including the Dayton Accord.

Comment: The visits had been agreed to authorities on all sides. Even if their hearts were in the peace, there is little the authorities can do to erase four years of unbridled fratricide. The authorities may be sincere (which would definitely require a severe stretch of the imagination), but if they are not, the hatred with which the average Slobos on each side regard each other provides the authorities plenty of plausible deniability.

3 June 96, Mon

As voter registration for Bosnia’s fall elections began NATO agreed that IFOR would not start pulling out until after they are held on September 14. That means many U.S. troops would remain in country until well after Clinton’s end-of-1996 promise.

4 June 96, Tue

French troops had to rescue six U.S. soldiers who had been trapped in a police station by an angry Serb mob. The mob gathered after the Americans had detained Slavko Aleksic, a well-known Bosnian Serb army officer, for carrying a revolver and hand grenade in Lukavica, a Serb suburb of Sarajevo. Aleksic was talking to Serb police at the time. The police refused to arrest the Aleksic, so the group went to the police station to sort out the matter, where the Americans were trapped.

Speaker of the Republika Srpska parliament Momcilo Krajisnik said the confrontation “could have easily grown into a broader incident”.

The angry Serb reaction to the detention of a relatively unimportant army figure showed the strength of emotion that would be unleashed by the arrest of more prominent figures such as President Radovan Karadzic or General Ratko Mladic. (Rallies in support of the two attracted thousands in the Serb-held towns of Foca and Bijeljina yesterday.)


The spin doctors worked overtime today regarding NATO efforts to capture Bosnian war crime suspects.

State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said NATO commander General George Joulwan had told Secretary of State Warren Christopher that the patrols had indeed been expanded. But NATO spokesman Major Simon Haselock denied IFOR was increasing patrols in Pale, acknowledging, however, that IFOR troops would have a more visible presence throughout Bosnia. “We’re not going to mount a specific operation to go after Karadzic,” said Haselock.

As the driving force behind the Dayton Accord the U.S. has a political investment in ensuring success despite evidence of serious obstacles in the runup to the elections. NATO sources and Bosnian officials complain the U.S. wants to avoid any perception of failure, particularly during a U.S. election year.

5 June 96, Wed

OSCE Bosnia chief Robert Frowick, an American, admitted ordering his staff to change field reports to emphasize positive developments rather than concentrating on “negative human rights reporting.” “The effect will be to downplay all human rights violations and play up everything that can be used to promote the holding of elections,” an anonymous staffer said. Failure to hold the Bosnian elections before U.S. elections in November would make it difficult for Clinton to honor his pledge to bring the 20,000 American troops home by December.


U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry said NATO should consider what it can to provide security for Bosnia after IFOR leaves in December. IFOR commander Admiral Leighton Smith said that on December 20, “I will have an effective fighting force.”


UN investigators unearthed the first six bodies in the mass grave that is believed to contain the bulk of the Muslims massacred in Srebrenica last summer. Up to 2,700 people may be buried near Nova Kasaba.


IFOR armored vehicles surrounded President Radovan Karadazic’s house in Pale, the Republika Srpska capital. The vehicles left after a group of civilians gathered between the house and the armored vehicles.


President Franjo Tudjman’s ruling HDZ made good on its threat to sue Globus, an independent weekly that had accused the party of creating an enemies list. In addition to members of the independent media, prominent opposition politicians such as Vlado Gotovac of the Liberals and Ivica Racan of the Social Democrats are on the list. An HDZ lawyer said the party was suing to “protect law and order and the interests of the Croatian nation”, not to protect itself.


Bosnian Serb police in Lukavica threatened a bus driver for UNHCR’s Sarajevo inter-entity bus line. The UN is considering using foreign contract drivers, as it is doing on the Banja Luka-Zenica line. Only two people road the Banja Luka-Zenica bus today.


The U.S. Information service opened an office in Pristina, the provincial capital of Kosovo. The office is intended to ease tensions between the Serbs who control the province and it’s ethnic Albanian majority. Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova and Serb representative Aleksa Jokic shook hands at the ceremony.


Interior Minister Manfred Kanther said Germany will begin repatriating its 320,000 Bosnian refugees in October. About half of all Bosnian refugees fled to Germany. The repatriation had been scheduled to start next month.

6 June 96, Thu

IFOR commander Admiral Leighton Smith is leaving his post. Defense officials say his retirement is not the result of a policy dispute and does not reflect dissatisfaction with with his leadership of IFOR. Smith was one of the favorites to replace the late Mike Boorda as Chief of Naval Operations, the U.S. Navy’s top post, but he lost out to acting Navy chief Admiral Jay Johnson. Smith will be replaced by Vice Admiral Joseph Lopez, a Pentagon administrator.


Bosnia’s factions missed a Thursday deadline to conclude an arms control agreement. The negotiations involving Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Croatia hung up over two issues: One, the timeframes for reductions in aircraft and heavy weapons. Two, how to refer to the Bosnian Serbs. (The Serbs want to be to be identified in a way that implies they are independent; the Bosnian government wants them identified as part of Bosnia.) The negotiations are six months old.

7 June 96, Fri

ICTY investigators began excavating the ground around an aluminum plant in Brnica, six miles northwest of Zvornik. The ground is a strangely uneven patchwork of weedy, rocky and earthen segments that appear as if it has been disturbed in the recent past. A square mound of rocks, resembling a cairn, is in the middle. Nuemrous bullet casing litter the area. The site is believed to contain victims of the Srebrenica massacre.


ICTY President Antonio Cassese wants the EU to impose sanctions against Republika Srpska and maybe even Yugoslavia because neither is cooperating in the apprehension of war criminals. He disputed the U.S. position that free and fair elections can be held in what he referred to as an environment polluted by war criminals. The U.S., however, is not yet ready to reimpose sanctions. State Department Spokesman Nicholas Burns said that Milosevic should be given a chance to exercise his influence on Karadzic. And Admiral Leighton Smith ruled out any IFOR attempt to capture indicted war criminals, saying there was “zero” political will on the part of the factions to make any move toward reconciliation.


The remaining substantive issues blocking an arms control agreement for Bosnia were resolved early this morning. But the agreement has not been signed because the Federation and the Bosnian Serbs still cannot agree on what the Republika Srpska should be called. Under the agreement, Yugoslavia, the Republika Srpska and Croatia would have to reduce the number of their military aircraft and heavy weapons. Since Bosnia has few of either, it has no cuts to make and would in fact be allowed to build up those forces.


The Council of Europe demanded that Croatia arrest and hand over war criminals to the ICTY before it is admitted as a member. (Croatian General Ivica Rajic and Bosnian Croat General Tihomir Blaskic were mentioned by name.) The demand was one of 14 conditions for Croatian membership in the Council, which promotes democracy and human rights in Europe. Other conditions include facilitating free elections in Mostar, amnesty for POWs, allowing return of Serb refugees, stop interfering with the independent media, and scheduling elections in Zagreb.

Croatia released the 60 Serbs President Franjo Tudjman pardoned last week. The Serbs, originally from Krajina, left for Serbia upon their release. The other conditions have not been met.


President Alija Izetbegovic pledged to expel all foreign Islamic fighters who remain in Bosnia. (Something he has promised several times before and which he is required to do by the Dayton Accord.)


The Muslim-Croat Federation parliament adopted 21 amendments to its constitution. However, the substantive amendments relating to defense, customs, diplomatic missions, and the governance of Sarajevo were not passed. The biggest fight continues to be over the integration of the Croat and Muslim armies.


Boden Dzovanovic, a prominent member of the Serb Sarajevo Democratic Initiative in Bosnia, was arrested for war crimes by the Bosnian police. In so doing, Bosnia broke its promise that it would not arrest people who had not been indicted by the ICTY.

8 June 96, Sat

Croatian police arrested Zlatko Aleksovski, one of nine Bosnian Croats indicted by the ICTY. It was the first time Croatia arrested a Croat wanted by the ICTY. Aleksovski is one of six suspects accused of killing Moslems in the central Lasva valley during the Moslem-Croat war in 1993.


Faint Hopes for Electoral Fairness

U.S. and Western leaders say that Bosnia can develop its democracy gradually, believing that the elections will force Bosnian leaders to take all the steps called for by the Dayton accord. “They need to elect their new leaders, their new leaders for peace,” said EU representative Carl Bildt. “And these new leaders for peace must then come together and set up new governments and new structures.” (And hold hands and sing “Kumbaya” …)The factions are either worried about the fairness of the elections, or determined to see that they are not fair. Refugees are afraid to return to their hometowns to vote; the parties in power keep a tight rein on information; the people do not know what the electoral process is.

Because most of the news still comes from state-run media, the reporting promotes the people already in power. The people who also waged the war. Election monitors, speaking off the record, confirm the stranglehold local leaders have on the media.

Freedom of movement is not high any leader’s agenda either. If people are allowed to vote in whatever district they happen to be in, it no more behooves a leader to allow possible supporters to leave than it does for him to allow possible opponents in. “What the whole thing boils down to is the voting demographic,” said one election monitor. “If people return to certain areas it will effect the vote, and that’s bad for those who stand to lose power. We’re seeing it everywhere.”

Even Muslims feel that the elections could be the worst way to seal the peace. And they are determined to return to their pre-war homes, whether they can do so freely, or have to go to war again.

Serbs are equally pessimistic: They are outnumbered, soon will be outgunned, and have no desire to flee to Serbia. “When IFOR leaves they will come, and there are too few of us here now, but we don’t care. We fought for this and we will not go,” said one Serb. “This is our Repulika Srpska, we will die here.”

(A Muslim I spoke to said as much. When asked in February if or when he thought the factions would fight again, he said the spring after IFOR leaves. And, he added, “This time we will kick their ass.”)


“[It’s] obviously been a bigger problem than I anticipated.” (James Pardew, director of U.S. military aid to Bosnia, on the problems posed by Muslim-Croat antipathy)

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