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BosNet Digest V5 #40 / Jan. 26, 1996

From: Nermin Zukic <>

Bosnia-Herzegovina News Directory





  • [04] Gorazde: A Gritty Survivor


    Representatives of the Bosnian government and Bosnian Croat forces failed today to reach agreement on redistricting Mostar. The city's EU-appointed administrator, Hans Koschnik, is expected to arbitrate the dispute. Bosnian Croat separatists have long obstructed the reunification of the city.

    IFOR has certified to the U.N. Security Council that the armed forces in Bosnia have withdrawn from the zones of separation in compliance with the Dayton Accords, but the Council has not yet suspended sanctions against the Bosnian Serbs as provided for in a November 22 resolution. The European members of the Council reportedly want more detailed information about the status of Bosnian Serb compliance. NATO officials have recently claimed that armed forces had complied with the Accords, only to then qualify their statements by announcing that a number of heavy weapons remained in the zones of separation.

    The World Bank called today for at least $510 million to be allocated for specific reconstruction projects in Bosnia. The Bank has estimated the cost of Bosnian reconstruction to be at least $5.1 billion over the next few years. Many observers and some potential lenders have expressed concern about committing too much funding before it becomes clear that the Dayton Peace Accords will hold.

    An amendment that would provide for the extradition of indicted war criminals from the U.S. to the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal has been attached to the Defense Authorization bill, which is expected to pass in the Senate Thursday or Friday. Such legislation is mandated by U.N. Security Council Resolution 827 (1993). Sponsors of the amendment and supporters of the Tribunal hope that the legislation will prompt the Administration to redouble its efforts to provide financial and political support for the Tribunal. They also believe that passage of the measure will encourage other states to adopt similar legislation. Many war crimes suspects are believed to be among the hundreds of thousands of Yugoslav refugees throughout Europe and elsewhere.


    Amnesty International today expressed serious concern that the multinational Military Implementation Force (IFOR) is failing to search for and arrest persons suspected of genocide, other crimes against humanity and serious violations of humanitarian law.

    "Half a century after the Nuremberg trial began, the international community must not allow those responsible for genocide to escape justice. There cannot be lasting peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina without justice," the human rights organization said.

    The refusal to search for persons who have been indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (the Tribunal) for grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions is a clear violation of international law. All states contributing troops to IFOR are obligated under the Geneva Conventions "to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts," the courts of another state or an international criminal court.

    Since the first IFOR troops arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina last year, spokespersons for IFOR and troop- contributing states have repeatedly stated that they would not search for persons indicted by the Tribunal, but would only arrest suspects if they encountered them.

    The refusal violates troop-contributing states' legal obligations to implement Security Council Resolution 827 of May 25, 1993 establishing the Tribunal. That resolution requires all states "to cooperate fully with the International Tribunal" and to "take any measures necessary" to implement the resolution, including compliance with Tribunal orders or requests for assistance.

    The Tribunal has issued 12 indictments against 52 individuals. Only one person indicted, who was in German custody, has been transferred to the Hague. None of the warrants issued by the Tribunal has been served. Most of the individuals indicted are believed to have remained in the former Yugoslavia.

    All the parties to the peace agreement are obligated under that agreement to cooperate fully with the Tribunal and IFOR is responsible for implementation of the agreement. However, the parties' cooperation has been limited. Bosnia and Herzegovina has enacted legislation and deferred prosecutions at the request of the Tribunal and Croatian authorities have permitted tribunal investigators to operate on their territory. In clear violation of the peace agreement, neither the Bosnian Serb authorities, the Croatian authorities, the Bosnian Croat authorities nor the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) have transferred persons who have been indicted to the Tribunal.

    Amnesty International is also calling for concrete commitments from IFOR that it will deploy guards at specific alleged grave sites whenever there is a risk that evidence will be destroyed.

    States have given conflicting statements about whether they would protect Tribunal investigators or mass grave sites. On Thursday, 11 January, United States Secretary of Defence Perry said that IFOR troops would protect international investigators seeking evidence of crimes, but on Tuesday, 16 January, a US Defence Department spokesperson said IFOR commanders would not ensure freedom of movement for investigators until IFOR was in place and considered that it had the resources to do so.

    On January 22, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, was reported as stating that NATO would "prevent the destruction of evidence", but he would not give details as to how. However, IFOR force commander Admiral Leighton Smith was also reported as stating that NATO would not guard specific sites, but would only provide security for teams investigating the grave sites when requested.

    Although IFOR troops from the United Kingdom have provided temporary protection for at least one site which was threatened, the delay in providing freedom of movement to investigators and the US position that IFOR would not protect grave sites will impede the investigation of grave crimes and risk destruction of evidence.

    The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) and the Bosnian Serb authorities have not allowed Tribunal investigators access for any reason, including access to grave sites. IFOR is obligated under the peace agreement to establish a durable cessation of hostilities, which includes ensuring that the parties "cooperate fully with any international personnel including investigators ... including facilitating free and unimpeded access and movement and by providing such status as is necessary for the effective conduct of their tasks" (Annex I-A, Article II, para. 4).

    On November 24, 1995, Tribunal President Cassese and Prosecutor Goldstone stated that they "trust the Agreement will be fully and rigorously implemented by all the Parties concerned" and that "NATO forces, as well as the competent authorities, will render appropriate assistance to the Tribunal's officials to enable them to carry out their mission". As of today, this has not yet occurred.

    Amnesty International is calling upon IFOR and the parties to the agreement to fulfill their responsibilities under the Geneva Conventions, Security Council Resolution 827 and the peace agreement to carry out their law enforcement responsibilities to search for, arrest and transfer to the Tribunal all persons who have been indicted by the Tribunal. IFOR should immediately respond to requests by Tribunal investigators to have access to any place in Bosnia and Herzegovina and provide adequate security for all suspected grave sites, witnesses and other evidence.


    The Bosnian government, the Bosnian Federation, and the "Republika Srpska" today agreed to several confidence-building measures, including inspections of each other's armed forces. The agreement was reached in negotiations mandated by the Dayton Accords.

    U.N. War Crimes Tribunal Chief Prosecutor Richard Goldstone, who met yesterday with Secretary of State Warren Christopher, is expected to issue new indictments soon. Fifty-six individuals have been indicted by the Tribunal thus far.

    The U.N. Security Council yesterday linked the suspension of sanctions against the Bosnian Serbs to their compliance with the Dayton Accords' February 3 deadline for the withdrawal of all forces from territories to be transferred between the Bosnian Federation and the "Republika Srpska." Bosnian Serb forces have attempted to delay or avoid the surrender of sections of Sarajevo to the Federation, and some Bosnian Serb nationalist leaders have hinted that armed resistance might occur.

    [04] Gorazde: A Gritty Survivor

    By Roy Gutman - "Newsweek"

    Gorazde, Bosnia-Herzegovina - During Gorazde's darkest hour, a teenager thought up the contraption that became its symbol of resistance.

    Serbs had besieged Gorazde, cutting its links to the world and its electricity. By November, 1992, its food supply was running out. One of the frequent massive rocket attacks claimed the father of Almir Kuduz-Kuda, then 17.

    The teenager said he longed for music so he could have something he loved to replace all that had been lost. But without electricity, it seemed impossible. "A lot of people told me it couldn't be done," he recalled Friday. "But I was stubborn."

    Almir's idea was to build a floating miniature hydro-electric plant to produce electricity from the current of the Drina River, which cuts through the town. He started with the drum from the family washing machine, mounted it on bearings found in his late father's car repair shop and connected it to a car transmission and alternator ransacked from a demolished Skoda car. Scrap wood served as paddles. He fastened the equipment to a small platform and attached four "pontoons," water tanks from the bathrooms of burned-out houses. The project took about three weeks. The generator worked, and Almir, bass guitarist in a local rock band, had music once again.

    Today there are dozens of such plants, providing homes and cafes with enough electricity to power televisions, radios, and stereo systems. They have become a metaphor for Gorazde and its spirit of survival. A small hand-painted sign on the road that leads to town proclaims this a "city of heroes," but the appellation doesn't do justice to the town, saved not only by its defenders' courage but by the ingenuity of average citizens.

    Now that the United States and its NATO allies have proclaimed peace in Bosnia and dispatched 60,000 troops to enforce the Dayton, Ohio, accords, Gorazde faces a new challenge. It is the only government enclave in eastern Bosnia, the last Muslim settlement on the Drina valley. All along, European statesmen privately have said it was doomed.

    "We had no outside help during the war," Mayor Smajo Bascelija told Newsday. "We know we have to take our destiny in our own hands." He wants the town, a government island in a Serbian sea, to become the base for restoring a multi-ethnic society. He wants Muslim refugees (at least half the estimated 50,000 population) to return to their homes in eastern Bosnia, the scene of some of the worst ethnic cleansing.

    "We have not given up Gorazde, or Foca, or Visegrad," he said, referring to two nearby towns now under Serb control. "We have to find a way for our people to go back there."

    He said he wants Serbs to return to Gorazde as well. "God decided for us to live in this area together. Any other way of life is unthinkable." His predecessor, wartime mayor Ismet Briga, agrees. "We have to reactivate Gorazde, not as a war victim but as a factor to reintegrate Bosnia," he said in a candlelight interview.

    At Dayton, Gorazde gained a wide land corridor linking it with the capital in Sarajevo. In the past, corridors have been a formula for tensions leading to war.

    But Bascelija thinks the "very worst" is over. That was exactly three years ago, when they had no food. "We made bread from nettles, if you could find nettles." As many as a thousand townspeople trekked nightly along a treacherous mountain path, 25 miles in each direction, to bring in basic foodstuffs. In February, 1993, 28 people froze to death in minus-15 degree weather as they crossed the mile-high mountain pass.

    Others were killed by landmines, Serb snipers or in ambushes. Almir went twice, carrying each time 72 pounds of flour on his 170-pound frame. The mayor was twice "honored" to carry food to the city, and he said a friend traveled the route 30 times.

    The route was closed in the summer of 1993 when the Bosnian army lost the crucial Trnovo region to the Serbs, and from then until April, 1994, U.S. food dropped by parachute saved the city.

    Once a picturesque town of red-tiled roofs nestled in the river valley, Gorazde had a per-capita income of $4,000, a car in nearly every household, a million roses planted in public an private gardens and a successful machinery export industry.

    Today Gorazde is but a shell of itself. Every roof appears to have been hit by mortars or fragments, and hardly a pane of glass is to be found. Ham radio is still the only means of communication with the outside world. There is no electricity, or water, no newspapers, and no vehicular traffic because there is no gasoline.

    Yet Gorazde functions. When buses arrived from Sarajevo Thursday with relatives and returning residents, a moment of high emotion, thousands lined the route or the arrival area and waved, but they stayed orderly way behind police lines.

    Bascelija said it is not imposed order but self-discipline. "People understood the position we were in, like an enormous concentration camp, a hunting resort where people instead of rabbits are being hunted."

    There is heat, thanks to makeshift wood stoves. Logs are stacked in courtyards of apartment houses as if on display. Except during the heaviest offensives, schools operated throughout the war. People even grew their own tobacco.

    How did Gorazde survive? Former Mayor Briga believes it was fear of the alternative. "I once went to the front lines. I told the men that your children, your mothers are in the valley below. For each of you there are five you are protecting. If you fail, they will suffer humiliation like the people in Bijeljina and Visegrad.

    "That saved Gorazde: activating people's inner resources to defend their dignity. That was my biggest fear; humiliation, not death. That has always motivated people for great heroism."

    It certainly motivated Briga, who in the midst of a fierce Serb offensive in April, 1994, publicly appealed to President Bill Clinton over a ham radio hookup to have NATO jets bomb Gorazde citizens rather than allow Serbs to conquer the town. Briga today feels a deep personal satisfaction that Gorazde survived, but he notes that amidst the many personal tragedies, no one is euphoric. The extent of the losses struck some, including his son, for the first time on New Year's Eve.

    Vernes Briga, 15, was with his friends when a boy arrived with his mother to join in the traditional exchange of congratulations just at midnight. "He embraced her and started to cry." Vernes recalled. "When we saw him crying we all started as well." Not until that moment had they realized that six of the eight boys had lost their fathers.

    Almir Kuduz-Kuda, now 20, lost his youth on the front lines defending the town. Like many young men, he wants to get out of Gorazde, not necessarily for good but long enough at least to get the engineering education he missed.

    "This is my town. I love my town, et cetera, et cetera," he said. For the moment, he said he would settle for a pair of Levi's 501 jeans, a denim jacket and some strings for his Fender guitar.

    The challenge, according to Briga, is to hold on to the 300 or so university-educated engineers, doctors, lawyers, and professional people who never left.

    "The demand is on us. We have to use our brains and have clear aims," he said.

    The odds against success seem high, but Bascelija, like Briga, sees no alternative. "Why shouldn't I be an optimist?" said Bascelija. "We paid a high price for our survival here. Many people lost their brothers, their husbands, their arms, their legs, their eyes. Now, after so many crimes, so many victims, so many mass graves, to abandon what we have done, to tread on it, to break it, makes no sense."

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