This Week: Karadzic still in power?; Dutch commander grilled by ICTY; Serbs block Srebrenica investigation; confrontation in Han P.
30 June 96, Sun
Citing a document signed by Radovan Karadzic, E.U. representative Carl Bildt announced his resignation of as president of Republika Srpska. Vice-President Biljana Plavsic denied Karadzic had resigned, saying that he had merely transferred his powers to her. Bildt said it is illegal for Karadzic to continue exercising public functions, or for other Bosnian Serb officials to follow his instructions.
The confusion is common in dealings with the between diplomats and the Bosnian Serbs, with the diplomats announcing thier best case scenarios as fait accompli and the Bosnian Serbs making contradictory statements to deflect international pressure.
European officials say that U.S. National Security Adviser Anthony Lake and Secretary of State Warren have approached them about staging a snatch operation aimed bringing Republika Srpsksa President Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic before the ICTY. The White House denies the U.S. is planning a Bosnian repeat of the failed attempt to snatch Somali warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid. One official insisted the U.S. was merely “floating a trial balloon”.
Less than three months before country-wide elections, the independent television network crucial for fair elections is little more than a name. The ruling Muslim, Croat and Serb parties still firmly control the television in their respective regions. The new INTV is intended to alleviate the preponderance of government propaganda. Several Western nations, led by the U.S., are contributing set-up funds, along with Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros. The exact cost is not known, but will run into millions of dollars.
1 July 96, Mon
President Alija Izetbegovic’s ruling party edged Croat nationalists in local Mostar elections. The Party of Democratic Action (SDA) won 19 city council seats with a 48% plurality, while the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) took 18 with 45%. Opposition and Serb parties fared dismally, gaining no seats. Sixteen seats each were reserved for the two major parties with another 5 being decided by the elections. Voter turnout was higher than expected at 60%, primarily due to IFOR and the IPTF keeping a lid on violence. Though Muslims were happy with the vote, it did not alter the current municipal balance of power. One EU official said that “the vote did not give a fair choice to the different candidates. 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.”
A joint Croatian-Serb police force under U.N. supervision began patrolling Eastern Slavonia today. It is the last bit of Croatia still held by Serbs. The police force could eventually number up to 1,300 officers. It is the first time Croats and Serbs had policed the area together since May 1991, when the Balkan wars ignited in the Eastern Slavonan town of Borovo Selo.
Two Serbs were killed and 21 injured when a bus carrying civilians hit an anti-tank mine near Sipovo, in northwest Bosnia. The incident highlights the acute mine problem in Bosnia. IFOR said the bus was entering a marked minefield, but did not say if it was on a road when it hit the mine.
2 July 96, Tue
After a meeting with Republika Srpska President Radovan Karadzic and Vice-President Biljana Plavsic, E.U. representative Carl Bildt confirmed that Karadzic had “transferred his presidential powers” to Plavsic. Bildt made the announcement flanked by Karadzic and Plavsic. Bildt passed on the matter of Karadzic’s resignation as party boss, claiming it was not a public office and ought to be handled by the OSCE. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said that Karadzic’s SDS party would be barred from the September elections if he remained its leader.
Asked whether she would use her new powers to hand Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic over to the ICTY, Plavsic said extradition is forbidden by Bosnian Serb law. Plavsic said she could not be referred to as ‘president’ or even ‘acting president’. Bildt admitted it would be impossible to ensure that Karadzic was not simply giving instructions to Bosnian Serb officials over the phone, claiming the “transfer of power” was a significant step in the right direction.
The U.S. Army is changing the makeup but not the size of its forces in Bosnia. It is replacing two armored battalions with 1200 military police, doubling the number of MPs in country. The MPs will arrive in Bosnia around the end of August.
Comment: This is a moved aimed at beefing up low-level security prior to the September 14 elections.
The Council of Europe (CE) urged Croatia to quickly fulfill its pledges to abide by the Dayton Accord. The CE is delaying Croatian membership until it is in full compliance with the accord, “in particular, its attitude during the elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina.” The CE and the Croatian government have been at odds for months over Croatia’s record on human rights and media policy.
3 July 96, Wed
The U.N. Security Council criticized Croatia for failing to protect its Serb citizens from human rights abuses and for failing to provide adequate safeguards for them in its constitution. The council’s statement was Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s report on Croat discrimination against Serbs. The report specifically cited problems with employment; pensions; repatriations; looting and intimidation, sometimes conducted by Croat police or soldiers; and the failure to hand indicted Croat war criminals over to the ICTY.
“Not every crime against Serbs in Croatia can be treated as a human rights violation,” complained a Croatian diplomat. “Some are the consequence of natural rate of crime that no government anywhere would be able to eliminate.”
The Croatian government believes (probably with good reason) that an uncontrolled influx of ethnic Serbs would be a security risk for the country.
All political parties competing in Bosnia’s September elections must submit their lists of candidates by tomorrow. Radovan Karadzic’s Serb Democratic Party (SDS) is not expected to put forward his name, he was re-elected as party leader last Sunday. Under the Dayton Accord, parties which do not support the agreement are banned from elections; OSCE representative Robert Frowick said that Karadzic’s leadership could thus ban all SDS candidates from the ballot. If the SDS were banned, the Serbs would probably boycott the elections.
Note: A Serb electoral boycott led to the outbreak of war after the last elections in 1991.
For the first time since the end of the war, Bosnian officials ventured into Serb-held territory to visit one of the killing fields near Srebrenica where thousands of Muslim men were slain last summer. In all, 27,000 people are still missing from all sides. Bosnian Serb police prevented a Finnish forensics team from entering the Republika Srpska. The Finns are investigating the massacres. The Serbs were seen carting off evidence, including weapons that had been left on the ground.
Secretary of Defense William Perry said Slovenia is a strong candidate to be in the first group of ex-communist nations to join an enlarged NATO. He said Slovenian membership would be voted on in the first half of 1997. “Slovenia can be a model to other Eastern bloc and central European countries … because of its successful implementation of a democratic government, a market economy and resolving disagreements with its neighbors,” he said.
Slovenia is already a full member of the CE and an associate member of the European Union (EU), to which it has applied for full membership. The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland are considered the leading candidates for membership in NATO.
4 July 96, Thu
Defense Secretary William Perry spent the holiday in Tuzla, at the headquarter’s of America’s Bosnia peacekeeping force. The American celebration included a basketball tournament, 5k foot race, barbecue, live music and the San Francisco 49ers’ “Goldrush” cheerleaders — but no fireworks and no beer. Troops out in the boonies will be experiencing the party on a smaller scale.
Comment: Count on headquarters to take care of itself first — both with regard to entertainment and booze too.
SDS leader Radovan Karadzic decided not to run for office in Bosnia’s September elections. The SDS instead nominated Biljana Plavsic, a hardliner appointed by Karadzic to be his proxy as Republika Srpska president. As leader of the SDS, Karadzic is responsible for choosing the party’s candidates, and it is his leadership of the party which is causing controversy. The OSCE and EU are at odds over Karadzic’s continued SDS leadership: The OSCE believes it constitutes a holding of public office by an indicted war criminal, which is banned by the Dayton Accord, while the EU says party leadership is not a pubic position.
A U.N. staffer was beaten by Serbs in Banja Luka. The staffer works for the bus service across the inter-entity boundary line. The U.N. views the attack as a deliberate attempt to stop the service.
5 July 96, Fri
Croatia , which is under Western pressure to hand over war crimes suspects, formed a committee to supervise cooperation with the ICTY. The panel will carry out “expert and administrative tasks” under a law passed in April allowing the extradition of Croatian citizens. Despite many pledges to cooperate Croatia has failed to extradite suspects, saying they lived in Bosnia, beyond the reach of Croatian police. One of them, Dario Kordic, was recently seen at a concert in southern Bosnia, sitting in the first row near Croatian President Franjo Tudjman.
“Despite not receiving promised authorizations from Serb authorities” the Finnish forensic team began working near Srebrenica. They cleared mines from the Kravica site, visually identified 35 bodies, and recovered nine more. The Finns are working for the U.N. Center for Human Rights. Another team, working under the auspices of the ICTY, will begin excavating additional mass graves in Bosnia and Croatia next week. They will begin in Srebrenica. IFOR is providing the investigators with security and logistics support. The objective of the three-month mission is to recover Muslim remains, identify them individually and hand them over to Bosnian government authorities in Tuzla for burial.
Drazen Erdemovic, a Croat convicted of war crimes for participating in the Srebrenica massacre, testified for his “peace of mind” for the prosecution against Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic at the ICTY in The Hague. Erdemovic’s testimony was a repeat of that at his own trial. When asked how many people he had killed, Erdemovic said, “I can’t estimate. But to be quite frank, I’d rather not know …” Closing statements will be heard Monday, after which the ICTY will likely issue an international arrest warrant for Karadzic and Mladic.
A survivor of the killings also testified that General Mladic was present at at least some of the killings.
6 July 96, Sat
A tense stand-off with the Bosnian Serb army ended after U.S. tanks and helicopters moved into Crna Rijeka, the BSA headquarters near Han Pijesak. The 24-hour stand-off began yesterday afternoon when a IFOR helicopter spotted Serb tanks and armored vehicles in an unauthorized location near the headquarters. (Under the Dayton Accord, armor must be kept in registered cantonment sites.) The BSA Chief of Staff ordered the first Americans to leave, they refused, and the confrontation was on. After the U.S. show of force, the Serbs returned their armor to the cantonment site.
Comment: This incident was not the “hiccup” that NATO officials describe it as. It was a test. The second in a series that began with a similar incident in February when the U.S. 2nd Brigade commander stared down Serbs in the same area after they refused to allow him to inspect their storage site.
Bosnian Serb authorities ordered the Finnish forensics team to stop removing Muslim bodies from the hills near Srebrenica. The order came after investigators took some of the remains to a hospital in Tuzla for identification and burial. The Bosnian Serbs are not happy with the operation. Their police from nearby Zvornik have refused to guarantee the investigators’ security, despite assurances from acting Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic.
“The major powers are so exhausted by Bosnia their instinct is still to build a fence around the problem. Principle, other than the principle of containment, was abandoned long ago. Everyone, including the Serbs, know that and they exploit it.” (Anonymous western diplomat)
“Not for the first time, Radovan Karadzic … is making a fool of all those important people who like to make statements about the ‘will of the international community.'” (Financial Times)
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