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BOSNEWS digest 477 - 23/11/95

From: Dzevat Omeragic <dzevat@ee.mcgill.ca>

Bosnia-Herzegovina News Directory

From: Dzevat Omeragic <dzevat@ee.mcgill.ca>


BOSNEWS Digest 477


CONTENTS

  • [01] The Dayton Agreement: Peace with Dishonor

  • [02] REFUGEES -- RETURN BY DECREE


  • [01] The Dayton Agreement: Peace with Dishonor

    by Stephen Albert, Montreal

    The agreement initialed in Dayton by the Presidents of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia was less a peace treaty than the legitimization of a political crime. For the last three and a half years the world has witnessed the planned systematic destruction of Bosnia, the targeting of civilians in Sarajevo, the organized rapes, the elimination of Bosnian cultural heritage. The death camps of Omarska, the scenes of carnage in a besieged European capital, the innumerable human rights abuses have crossed our TV screen and entered our hearts. The international community has cried its indignation over the horror in Bosnia but has been unwilling to sacrifice its soldiers to bring an end to that horror. The result of this willingness to defend human rights in principle while abandoning them in practice is the Dayton Accord.

    That agreement reads like an exercise in political schizophrenia. It declares that Bosnia will continue its existence as united country, than refugees have a right of return, and that war criminals have no place in a new Bosnia. Such a clear statement of principle respects the basic tenants of international law. It is contradicted by the details of the accord. The accord recognizes Bosnian Serb control of Srebrenica, the scene a few months ago the slaughter of most of the male population by General Mladic's militia.

    Can Mladic be brought to trial for those murders then the Dayton agreement rewards him with the fruit of those crimes? Can either Dr. Karadzic or General Mladic be tried as war criminals when the man who planned, ordered and supervised the campaign of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia is consecrated in Dayton as a men of peace?

    To ask these questions is to answer them. International law has meaning only if there are effective mechanisms for its enforcement. Secretary of State Christofer made it clear at the very beginning of the Dayton talks that the international tribunal at the Hague and the peace talks were proceeding on two separate tracks. Thus the tribunal was relegated to the role of side-show. To separate the real world of political deal making from the principles of international law is to turn that law into little more that a vague statement if intent. The failure to punish those responsible for war crimes in Bosnia and Rwanda has made the International Convention on Genocide a dead letter.

    Do the long term consequences for the system of international justice outweigh the benefits of peace in Bosnia? To answer that question one must contemplate the spectacle of the initialing in Dayton. President Milosevic of Serbia was surely the star of the show, lecturing his audience on the virtues of peace, compromise and tolerance. It is worth remembering that while this apostle of peace was preparing his triumphal entry into Dayton he sent Arkan to the region of Banja Luka to eliminate the few non-Serbs who might have the misfortune to still be residing there.

    The American and European officials present at the ceremonies were unabashed both in their description of the historic import of the moment and their role in bringing it about. This after years of moaning about how their own inaction led to the destruction of the credibility of the international community. A compromise with basic principle as fundamental a that reached in Dayton can only be justified by the argument of political neccesity. To crow about it, as if it were a victory of principle, is to invite further breaches of international law like those which are ratified by this treaty.

    The proponents of this treaty maintain that it was brought about by the firm resolve of the West during the recent air campaign against the Bosnian Srebs and by the effect of the Croatian offensive in Krajina. Recent events have shown that Serbia was losing its war of aggression in Bosnia and Croatia. The military balance of power in the region had changed.

    The West could not fail to act in some way after the fall of Srebrenica. The credibility of international institutions was a stake. What is more, by showing the vulnerability of the Serbs, the Croatian victory in Krajina made western inaction seem all the more ridiculous.

    The result of bombing campaign and the Croatian-Bosnian offensive punctured the myth of Serbian invincibility. Serbia needed these talks more than any of the other `parties to the conflict'. In this context making the Vance-Owen concept of dividing Bosnia the basis of a negotiation was pure folly. Such a strategy require pressuring the Bosnian Government to sign a treaty that froze an unjust situation in place. The Bosnians were given the choice of fighting on alone or signing.

    The American initiative marginalized Sarajevo and made Belgrade the key to peace. It thus consolidated the regime that was responsible for the war in the ex-Yugoslavia. Consolidating Mr. Milosevic's power is recipe for future instability in the region.

    The Dayton treaty is thus both unwise and unprincipled. Nobody can calculate the consequences of our collective lack of will when it come to applying the principles of human rights.

    [02] REFUGEES -- RETURN BY DECREE

    ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND TO GO HOME BY THE END OF THE MONTH

    ZAGREB -- By the end of November, some 122 thousand refugees are to return to the areas they abandoned in the face of the Serbian secessionist militias. This concerns the small towns and villages located in the former Serb Krajina, now rechristened the Banovina, and in Western Slavonia, the territories retaken by the Croatian army and where mines and high explosives of various kinds have been cleared away. A start has already been made on refurbishing infrastructure and railway lines, and to the repairing public buildings and houses destroyed or damaged during the fighting or by vandals.

    The "compulsory repatriation" edict was one of the last actions of the Valentic government before the elections of 29 October, a decree that caused much dissatisfaction among the refugees themselves when it was promulgated. It was for this reason that Jure Radic, the then Vice Premier and Minister of Reconstruction, made haste to explain the purpose and details of the provision, to soothe anxieties. .

    According to Minister Radic, the return of refugees will take place only to areas deemed secure and will affect not only Croat refugees but also those Bosnians (who can, or rather must, return to the liberated areas of Western Bosnia). Another major element is given by the fact that the "decree to counter an exodus" also covers Croat or Bosnian refugees with Croatian passports who have been located in Germany or other European states and who until a few years ago resided in areas now controlled by the secessionist Serbs: in all some 90,000 people (for Germany alone).

    The only persons not concerned by the repatriation decree for the moment are the refugees from Eastern Slavonia, where return is obviously impossible given the continuing Serbian occupation. But with an agreement in Dayton, the new Matesa government in Croatia will issue a similar provision. This affects some 77 thousand persons still housed in reception centres or hotels requisitioned by the government. Not included in the provision either are Bosnian refugees from areas still occupied by the Serbs or still in combat zones.

    Under the Zagreb government edict, repatriation should have taken place by 30 November, and refusal or failure to comply with it will result in the immediate revocation of refugee "status" and loss of all benefits in social welfare and health matters, monthly assistance payments, humanitarian assistance, free transport, etc. In other words, those refusing to return will have to fend for themselves. On the other hand, to ease reintegration, refugees returning will receive subsidies for repair or rebuilding of destroyed homes, finance contingent on claims being submitted by 30 November.

    Under the Croatian government decree, finally, preferential treatment will be provided to those who agree to resettle in houses or dwellings provisionally requisitioned in the former occupied areas (defined as being of "strategic importance") belonging to the Serb population. In these so-called "strategic areas" five thousand dwellings are being built and next year another 20 thousand are to be made available.

    The government still has not provided details concerning the numbers of refugees who have so far complied with the decree, though several thousand expellees are known to have left the Rijeka area, Istria and Dalmatia.

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