Croats secede from Federation Army
The Croat part of the Federation Army, in effect, seceded this week amid condemnations from the international community and more watchfulness on the part of the 20,000 international troops stationed in Bosnia.
Dnevni Avaz reported Tuesday that 14 high-ranking Croat officers refused to recognise the new Federation government's appointment of a moderate Croat as deputy commander of the Federation Army. The paper also quoted General Major Zlatan Mijo Jelić as saying that 90 percent of Croat officers had left the joint Muslim-Croat army. He called on the rest of them to follow their example.
The pullout follows the self-styled Croat National Assembly's (HNS) 3 March declaration to carve out separate Croat self-governed areas from the Federation they currently share with the Bosnian Muslims. The keynote speaker at the HNS was Croat member of Bosnia's three-man Presidency Ante Jelavić, whom the international community sacked several days after the event. Jelavić's party, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), has been saying that they are only protecting Bosnian Croats' "vital national interests." But the HDZ's rabble-rousing is widely seen as manipulating Croats' legitimate concerns to benefit the party's leaders.
The status quo of the past six years—shady HDZ financial dealings and unrivalled party rule in Croat areas—has received two crippling blows. First, party patrons in Croatia proper no longer have the power or ability to funnel cash into the Bosnian HDZ. Second, the party lost seats in the Federation and BiH governments in the November elections. HDZ leaders do not see a comfortable future within the Federation.
And now the Croat military is pulling out of the Federation as well. New Federation Defence Minister Mijo Anić told Avaz that the secession must have been a long time coming, because all documents related to the Croat part of the military had been removed before he took office.
SFOR warned Thursday that any moves to create a separate Croat military would violate the Dayton Peace Accords. "A Bosnian Croat armed force outside the federal structure is not permitted under Dayton. I ... strongly urge anyone considering any form of anti-Dayton military activity to abandon it immediately," SFOR Deputy Commander Major General Richard Dannatt told a press conference Thursday.
SFOR was reported to have stepped up inspections and patrols of Croat-dominated military bases. One high-ranking Croat officer at a base near Livno told BH Press this week that before the self-rule proclamation, SFOR would announce its visits ahead of time. Now, he said, patrols were doing unannounced inspections after working hours and at night.
The Federation government made a move Friday to hit the HDZ where it would hurt the most—by dismissing its loyal customs officers on the border with Croatia. Smuggling is suspected to be a major source of income for party leaders. Federation customs director Filip Andrić was canned Friday, and Oslobođenje cited his obstructionism and potential harm to the customs service if he remained on the job. Andrić and 18 other Croat customs heads had renounced their loyalty to the Federation the day before.
The paper said it had "unofficially discovered" that FBiH Finance Minister Nikola Grabovac had been planning to fire the 18 officials as well but was counting on them to backpedal by Monday. More than 400 Croat customs officers in Hercegovina and central Bosnia declared their support for Andrić and the "legitimate leadership of the Croat people in BiH."
International bodies condemning the separatist HNS declaration included the UN Security Council, the European Union and the Peace Implementation Council's steering board. They all urged Bosnian Croats to use constitutional, legal ways to take care of their problems.
New Croat Initiative (NHI) president Krešimir Zubak proposed Friday that the entities co-ordinate their legislative structures so that Croats, Muslims and Serbs would be assured equality throughout the country. He said one way to do this would be to give the Republika Srpska (RS) Parliament a House of Peoples like the one in the Federation Parliament. Or, he said, neither entity should have them, and entity constitutional commissions can address equality issues. Zubak said that this should clear up any doubt about the position of Bosnian Croats.
Concentration camp commanders' trial begins
The trial of three Bosnian Serbs accused of running a wartime concentration camp near Prijedor began Monday at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Monday. Duško Šikirica, the alleged Keraterm camp commander, and shift commanders Damir Dosen and Dragan Kolundžija are accused of torturing, murdering and raping Muslims and Croats in the camp in 1992. All three have pleaded not guilty.
In other ICTY news, Serbian police were reported to have arrested the wartime mayor of Prijedor near Belgrade Thursday night. Milomir Stakić was Prijedor mayor from 1992 to 1995, and is widely believed to be under ICTY indictment for condoning and authorising crimes against Prijedor's non-Serbs during the war. Stakić's flight from the town in 1997 was supposedly prompted when his close friend, the former Prijedor police chief, was killed while resisting arrest by SFOR.
Ferhadija Mosque reconstruction gets permit
Banja Luka authorities gave the Islamic community a permit to rebuild the Ferhadija Mosque that used to stand in the town. The 400-year old mosque and 15 others in the town were destroyed in 1993 by Bosnian Serb forces. Party for BiH member in the RS National Assembly Dževad Osmančević told Oslobođenje Friday that this was a significant day not just for Muslims, but for all of BiH, because it marked a return to normal life.
RS Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic told Glas Srpski this week that the border between the RS and the Federation in the Sarajevo neighbourhood of Dobrinja should remain as it is. BH Press reported Friday that the Party of Independent Social Democrats said the same thing at a press conference. The Dayton Accords-agreed border had a problem on the ground—it ran through the middle of apartment buildings, and for more than five years there has been a de facto border that divides different parts of Dobrinja into the RS and the FBiH. The issue has been under international arbitration for about a month.
Beth Kampschror, 23 March 2001
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