The following was prepared by Refugees International September 21, 1995 for Lionel Rosenblatt's testimony at a hearing of the House International Relations Committee, International Operations and Human Rights Subcommittee. The hearing is being re-scheduled. We want to share with you highlights from our draft testimony:
During the last 41 months of fighting in Bosnia, Refugees International has urged strong action against the Bosnian Serbs to deter further crimes against humanity. The recent, sustained NATO air strikes are an important watershed, and we commend President Clinton's leadership in contrast to the previous, unconscionable inaction of both the Bush and Clinton Administrations. Should we falter again, should our commitment to seeking peace and protecting basic human rights in Bosnia once again prove to be temporary and illusory, NATO and the UN will suffer a permanent loss of prestige and credibility. The victims of our vacillation have been, of course, the Bosnian people who have already suffered from the worst humanitarian catastrophe in Europe since World War II. In short, we believe that the NATO air strikes are an important and positive break-through, provided we demonstrate our will to follow through to achieve peace and to protect the human rights of all the people of Bosnia.
THE SAFE AREAS:
The current situation in Sarajevo, while improved, remains unacceptable. The murder of innocent civilians by snipers continues, utilities are shut down, and the free movement of people is still constricted. The Bosnian Serbs must: * Desist from all attacks on civilians; lift the sieges of Sarajevo, and all other safe areas, to allow free passage for supplies and people; and open up the flow of electricity, gas, and water. Gorazde, the only remaining Bosnian area in Serb-held Eastern Bosnia, and Tuzla, with its economic importance and high concentration of displaced, must be protected vigilantly. * Supply routes to Gorazde continue to be blocked. The UN must resupply and continue to protect Gorazde. * The Tuzla airport should be re-opened and the UN must protect the recently re-opened roads into Tuzla for humanitarian and commercial traffic. Eight thousand men and boys are still missing from Srebrenica and up to 3,000 more are missing from Zepa. * Account for those missing in Srebrenica and Zepa and permit free access for the ICRC and international forensic teams to interview survivors and to investigate apparent grave sites. The Banja Luka region is a powderkeg ready to explode. Over 30,000 Krajina Serbs have resettled in Banja Luka. As a result, Bosnian Serb authorities have expelled 15,000 Muslims and Croats from the area. Now, the ongoing Bosnian/Croatian offensive is further jeopardizing regional stability. More than 100,000 Bosnian Serbs have been displaced in Central Bosnia during the past few days and the numbers are rising. The Muslim and Croat minorities in the region are sure to suffer as they become targets of Bosnian Serb aggression. * No civilians of any ethnic group should be displaced by the current offensive. * Bosnian Serbs must stop their campaign of ethnic cleansing in Banja Luka and elsewhere. * Humanitarian organizations, such as UNHCR and ICRC, must be allowed to investigate all charges of human rights violations, especially the detention of Muslim and Croat men and boys, and broker arrangements to reunify families, and provide safe evacuation out of Banja Luka if necessary. * Relief organizations should provide assistance to refugees and displaced of all ethnic groups - including the recently arrived Bosnian Serbs in Banja Luka.
THE CROATIAN AND BOSNIAN GOVERNMENTS:
I want to say a word here about proportionality. Many distinguished commentators on Bosnia have consistently reminded us that no party to the conflict has clean hands. This truism cannot be used as an excuse to overlook human rights atrocities by the chief aggressor, the Bosnian Serbs, against the principal victims, the Bosnian Muslims. That being said, Croatian and Bosnian government forces must act with utmost restraint. The danger already exists that Bosnia, weak and small, may be crushed between a resurgent Croatia and Serbia. * Governments of all warring parties must cooperate with international humanitarian organizations and guarantee free movement and unrestricted access to all conflict zones for international monitors.
HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE INTERNATIONAL WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL:
Any peace settlement must safeguard the human rights of civilians. The international community must support the work of the International War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague to investigate and prosecute war crimes and to guarantee that monitoring of human rights violations is thorough and unobstructed. * The Tribunal needs full UN budgetary and administrative support to perform its functions efficiently; a senior official at UN Headquarters should be named to enhance this. * The U.S. should provide maximum help to the War Crimes Tribunal by increasing its voluntary contributions and by contributing lawyers and investigators to facilitate its work. * Neither the U.S. nor the international community can allow any consideration of amnesty or weakening of the War Crimes Tribunal in any final settlement package.
RECONSTRUCTION, REINTEGRATION, AND RESETTLEMENT:
Close to three million Bosnians have been displaced or are now dependent on humanitarian aid for their survival. Many have sought refuge in other countries. Croatia alone has received over 200,000 refugees from Bosnia and is now sometimes making it difficult for new refugees to enter. Accordingly, the U.S. and other countries should act to resettle some cases from Croatia to ease the pressure and to insure that no newly arriving refugees who face life-threatening circumstances are turned away or that others are forcibly repatriated. It is in the international community's interest to encourage a multi-ethnic and economically stable Bosnia. To insure this, we must contribute to the reconstruction and development of post-war Bosnia. Maximum emphasis should be placed on stimulating local production and using local expertise and labor. Projects should be conceived jointly with local officials. * We recommend that the U.S. increase this total to 20,000 in 1996; the State Department should increase its FY 1996 proposed refugee admissions figures by 5,000 rather than redistributing the existing allocations. * European countries and the U.S. should convene a regional conference to better coordinate and accelerate reintegration and resettlement by allocating funds and resettlement places for Bosnian refugees by UNHCR and other agencies.
In closing, I want to reiterate our view that the recent NATO air campaign is a positive step toward peace in Bosnia and throughout the former Yugoslavia. The tragedy of Bosnia has taught us that peace and justice will not be achieved without U.S. leadership and a credible threat of NATO air action to back up the efforts of our diplomats and peacemakers. We compliment the Clinton administration for its belated recognition of these facts. Continued vigilance by your committee will assure that our government, the UN, and our NATO allies remain steadfast.
Today, we have an opportunity to stop the slaughter of civilians and advance towards peace. If we let the opportunity slip away--as so many opportunities have in the last three and one-half years--the U.S., NATO, and the UN will be severely damaged and the consequence will likely be a wider war.
Phone: 1 202 828-0110 Fax: 1 202 828-0819 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Staff: Paula Ghedini, Barrington King