Thousands of Croat soldiers
walk out of barracks
As many as 7000 Croat soldiers were reported to have left the Federation Army this week after a call from the secessionist Croat National Assembly (HNS) Tuesday for Croat military personnel to leave the Muslim-Croat Federation military. Croat forces in Kiseljak, Tomislavgrad, Drvar and other areas were reported to have abandoned their bases, saying that they will not return until the political crisis in the Federation has ended.
Hard-line Croat parties, mainly the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), declared Croat self-governance at the 3 March HNS session. The move violated the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords that place Croats in a federation with Muslims. (Dayton also created the Bosnian Serb entity, the Republika Srpska.) Croat member of the BiH Presidency Ante Jelavić was dismissed for anti-Dayton activities by international officials.
The HDZ's separatist calls have been brewing since October, when the international community imposed an election law that the party said disenfranchised Bosnian Croats. Since then the party has refused to participate in a single Bosnian or Federation institution, saying it would instead create its own.
Several Croat officers told a press conference in Mostar Wednesday that the day was a day of great sorrow and disappointment, but also one of pride and defiance.
"We could not believe that we would have to temporarily leave the Croat barracks," said Maj. Gen. Zlatan Mijo Jelić. "But we are convinced that this is the only correct way to preserve our Croat component from illegal and occupying authorities who wish to transform it into something for what it was not designed for, into something to serve the interests of someone else instead of the Croat people for whom it was formed."
"Be convinced that the Croat people will not allow anyone else except a Croat soldier to live and work in Croat barracks," he said. Jelić said the Croats would return to their barracks once the Croat people are equal to the other two constituent peoples in BiH.
The international community has continued its past month of warnings to the separatists. Office of the High Representative (OHR) spokesperson Alexandra Stiglmayer told BH-TV Thursday night that the actions of the HDZ extremists were directed towards destabilising BiH at a time when the country is on the road to recovery. She called on the army to stay loyal to BiH's constitutional structures. She also said that secession would break the law.
The OHR will investigate and find out who has organised the secession so far, but said only the leaders of the attempted secession would be punished. "In this case we have individuals, and such individuals should bear the consequences," Stiglmayer said.
SFOR spokesperson Andrew Coxhead has stated that all the weapons and equipment of the Croat component are being well-guarded. He said SFOR had no idea how many of the Croat soldiers were following the HNS's secession calls and how many were still loyal to the Federation. FBiH Defence Minister Mijo Anić has continued removing the ringleaders of the secession, including three more Croat commanders on Thursday.
Jelavić's verbal war with the international community also continued this week with a scathing letter to UN special representative Jacques Paul Klein. Jelavić said that Klein's interpretation of recent events were "repeated lies" and said Croats were only reacting to the illegal establishment of new authorities following the November elections.
"You are trying, consistently and without any arguments, to portray me as a criminal, a dangerous enemy of the Dayton Accords, a morally questionable individual leading the Croat people into disaster purely motivated by personal interests," Jelavić wrote. He also accused Klein of ordering the arrest of four "innocent people" and "foolishly accusing" them of being involved in the 1999 assassination of a Federation official. (FBiH Deputy Interior Minister Jozo Leutar died on 28 March 1999, from injuries in a car-bombing earlier in the month.)
UN spokesperson Douglas Coffman said the next day that out of all the letters Klein has received, this letter was the least worthy of a response. He said Klein considered it "shameful" that Jelavić criticised the arrests of those charged with the Leutar assassination on the very anniversary of Leutar's death.
New Presidency members chosen
Beriz Belkić and Jozo Križanović were confirmed Friday to become the Muslim and Croat members of the three-man Presidency. Both men are considered political moderates, and this marks the first time that any members of the Presidency do not belong to nationalist political parties.
Belkić, a member of the Party for BiH (SBiH), will replace Halid Genjac, who has been acting Presidency member since long-time Muslim leader Alija Izetbegović stepped down in October. Križanović belongs to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and will take over the spot left vacant when Ante Jelavić was dismissed several weeks ago.
ICTY prosecutor visits Bosnia
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) chief prosecutor said Monday that the Republika Srpska (RS) has to adopt a law that will allow it to co-operate with the tribunal. "I am waiting for the RS to adopt this law...and this is to happen in Belgrade as well," said Carla Del Ponte in Banja Luka.
She believes the RS should follow Belgrade's example. Del Ponte announced that the ICTY would open an office in the entity and that indictments against several Muslim leaders would be issued in the next few weeks. Bosnian Serb leaders have stated that they will not turn over any of their culprits (and indeed, they have not arrested a single suspect) until indictments come out against those who committed crimes against Serbs.
In Sarajevo, Del Ponte told Federation leaders that they had so far been very co-operative with the ICTY, and said the co-operation must continue even after new indictments come out. FBiH Prime Minister Alija Behmen said suspects needed to be arrested regardless of their nationality. He pointed out that at large war criminals are a major obstacle to people returning to their pre-war homes.
Del Ponte said after meeting with officials from both entities and from BiH common institutions that she was pleased that co-operating with the court is no longer a debatable issue. About former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić, who is still at large, she said SFOR and RS authorities always say he is in Belgrade, but Belgrade officials say he is not there. "I await Karadžić's arrest," she said. "Unfortunately, I do not have my own apprehension forces, therefore I need help from local authorities and SFOR."
Former ambassador to UN accused of
The BiH Foreign Ministry is pressing charges against former BiH Ambassador to the UN Muhamed Šačirbegović, because 6.5 million KM (about USD 3.25 million) of the mission's budget has not been accounted for. A ministry commission found strange bookkeeping errors when doing an investigation of the mission's books in the middle of March.
Šačirbegović said the money was justifiably and purposely spent, and that he used the money to pay rent for consulate employees, postal services and attorneys in The Hague who are representing BiH in its lawsuit against Yugoslavia. The commission stated that Šačirbegović has not presented any documents supporting these claims.
The commission also alleges that Šačirbegović had two secret accounts filled with a total of about USD two million that may have come out of donations to BiH.
Beth Kampschror, 30 March 2001
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