Croat Presidency member sacked
High Representative for Bosnia and Hercegovina sacked the Croat member of the three-man BiH Presidency Wednesday night, reported various radio stations in Sarajevo. Wolfgang Petritsch called a special press conference that night to announce that Presidency member Ante Jelavić was dismissed from his post and would also be permanently banned from holding any public office in the future. Petritsch also dismissed three other Croat officials.
"Mr Jelavić and his associates have worked to undermine the Dayton Peace Agreement for a long time now in order to protect their privileged interests," Petritsch said at the press conference. "They tried to spread fear among Croats in BiH, claiming the position of Croats was not equal. This is of course an argument that has been used in the past by nationalist leaders—I don't need to remind you that the war in former Yugoslavia started based on this agreement."
The sacking came in response to Jelavic's role in organising the self-styled Croat National Assembly in Mostar on 3 March, at which several hundred leaders of the nationalist Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and six smaller parties declared that three Croat-majority cantons would be self-governed and no longer be part of the Muslim-Croat Federation. The Federation is one of Bosnia's two post-war entities (the other, Republika Srpska (RS), makes up the other half of Bosnia's territory) created by the Dayton Peace Accords that ended the 1992-95 war. The Assembly also gave the international community 15 days to repeal an election law established in October (see news reviews from that month for more details).
Hrvate i Hravtice
BH-TV televised the Assembly's proceedings in full that night, showing the Assembly functionaries seated in the Croatian Cultural Centre in Mostar underneath the Croatian flag and making plans for their self-government, from an inter-canton council that would govern the Croat areas to tax collection. One speaker addressed the audience as "Hrvate i Hravtice," (Croat men and Croat women) and said the time had come for "our government for our people on our land." BH-TV also showed the scene outside the building. Hundreds of people stood in the drizzle, waving Croatian flags and cheering.
Office of High Representative (OHR) spokesperson Chris Bird said on the channel's news that night that while Petritsch would have to closely examine documents coming out of the Assembly session, at first glance the declarations obviously violated both the Federation and the BiH constitutions and the Dayton Accords.
In the days following the session, several political parties said the Assembly decisions brought back the not-so-long-ago days of Herceg-Bosna, referring to the Croat separatists who declared their own statelet in 1993 and began ethnically cleansing Muslims from Hercegovina and central Bosnia. Other parties clamoured for Petritsch to do something about the situation. Petritsch's office was granted king-like powers to implement Dayton's civilian aspects. In the past, he has used those powers to impose laws, dismiss leaders (RS President Nikola Poplašen in March 1999) and to ban entire political parties (the Serb Radical Party before the April 2000 local elections). Papers speculated about repercussions—that Petritsch would ban the HDZ entirely, or that he would freeze all the companies in Hercegovina (the area of heavy HDZ activity).
When the bombshell dropped Wednesday night, international organisations hailed the decision. Thursday's Oslobodenje quoted the spokesperson of Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Sanela Tunović-Bečirović, as saying that OSCE Head of Mission Robert Barry did not announce any sanctions nor the closing of any BiH companies. According to UN Mission to BiH spokesperson Douglas Coffman, his boss, Jacques Klein, said that Jelavić had for a long time been leading the Croats into isolation, a fate that the Croats did not deserve.
"Once again we are witnesses to unscrupulous leaders hiding personal interests and illegal functioning under the flag of nationalism," Klein was quoted.
But the dismissed officials did not seem to care. Ivo Andrić-Luzanski, for example, told Oslobodenje the same day that "Petritsch must know that we will not respect this decision."
Dnevni Avaz speculated Friday that Social Democratic Party member Jozo Križanović would replace Jelavić in the Croat Presidency spot. BiH law dictates that the state House of Representatives has to nominate a Croat candidate from the Federation and the House of Peoples then votes to confirm or deny.
If the House of Peoples refuses two nominees in a row, the third candidate nominated by the House of Representatives automatically becomes the Croat Presidency member. Another option is to hold new Presidency elections, but Muslim Presidency advisor Kasim Trnka told Avaz that this would be impossible because BiH has neither a permanent election law to deal with such an election nor the money to finance one.
Yugoslav President Vojislav Koštunica visited Banja Luka on Monday 5 March to sign a special-relations agreement with Republika Srpska officials. Such agreements are legal according to the Dayton Accords (the Federation has a similar agreement with Croatia, for example), but the agreement came under fire from both Bosnia's main Muslim political party and from the president of Croatia.
Both the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) and President Stipe Mesić said the agreement smacked of 1990s "Greater Serbia" ideas, and the SDA pointed out that non-Serbs (meaning Muslims) were left out in the cold on every aspect of the agreement—mostly because the very day of the signing was the first day of Kurban Bajram, one of the Islamic calendar's most important holidays.
RS authorities said Mesić's comment was a blatant interference in Bosnia's internal matters, and said the agreement, which regulates co-operation between the RS and FRY in every detail, was the "most important to the RS since the Dayton Accords."
Brčko District marks one-year anniversary
International officials listed refugee returns, demilitarisation and multi-ethnicity as accomplishments of the Brčko District's one year in existence Thursday. Belonging neither to the RS nor the Federation, the District was created to be a multi-ethnic example in which Muslims and Serbs share control. High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch said at the ceremony Thursday that he hoped the new BiH and entity parliaments would follow the District's example. Brčko Supervisor Gary Matthews said there are many reasons why Brčko citizens could expect a bright future.
But, like many things in Bosnia, there is another side of the coin. Just a few months ago hundreds of Serb high school students and their parents took to Brčko's streets to protest sharing a school building with Muslim students. Papers reported that students destroyed shop windows and hurled eggs and stones at whatever took their fancy (see news from 23 October), and Brčko authorities called off school for several days to calm the situation.
Those feelings are still simmering for some Brčko residents. Avaz reported that the day of the anniversary dawned with some parts of town plastered with Cyrillic obituary notices that read, "After a long and difficult illness, the Brčko District passed away."
Six charged in Leutar case
The Sarajevo Canton prosecutor's office charged six men Friday with the March 1999 assassination of FBiH Deputy Interior Minister Jozo Leutar. Four of the suspects are in custody in Sarajevo. The man charged with being the ringleader in the murder, Ivan Andabak, is currently in a Croatian prison serving time for drug charges, and Croatian authorities have so far refused Bosnian requests to extradite him. Another man charged remains at large, and Sarajevo prosecutors told BH Press Friday that both he and Andabak would probably be tried in absentia.
The men are charged with planting a bomb in Leutar's car on 16 March 1999. He died in the hospital towards the end of that month from injuries sustained in the bombing.
Beth Kampschror, 12 March 2001
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