Dobrinja Serbs protest arbitration
Dozens of Serbs lit bonfires and chanted "Serbia, Serbia," Tuesday and Wednesday nights, protesting the new boundary line between Bosnia's two entities in the Sarajevo suburb of Dobrinja. The decision was handed down by international arbitrator and Irish Judge Diarmuid Sheridan Tuesday.
Dobrinja, which borders Sarajevo Airport, was the scene of heavy fighting between the Bosnian Army and Serb forces during the 1992-95 war. The Dayton Accords that ended the war divided Bosnia into the Muslim-Croat Federation and the Republika Srpska (RS), but the line in Dobrinja was drawn so that it went through the middle of apartment buildings. Bosnian authorities were supposed to figure out how to divide Dobrinja themselves. But five years after the war, nothing had been accomplished. High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch appointed Sheridan to the Dobrinja case at the beginning of February.
Sheridan's decision gave much of the territory to the Federation, leaving the RS with about 300 apartments out of 1100 in the disputed area.
"After hearing all the statements and reading all the letters, I am convinced that a large number of people, mainly those that are not Serbs, had been forced to leave their homes and became refugees," Sheridan was quoted in Oslobodenje. The decision, he said, was to try and correct the wrongs that had been done to those forced out. He said Serbs who are in their Dobrinja apartments legally have nothing to fear from the decision.
The Sarajevo Serbs' Democratic Initiative urged Serbs legally living in the area not to leave, saying that an exodus would be the worst way to deal with the situation. "This is our sending word to those who stayed in their homes in Sarajevo during the war, because the worst solution for them would be an exodus," stated the group. The UN, which controls the international police forces in Bosnia, and SFOR said they were not expecting any incidents in Dobrinja because of the decision.
But that night Federation police were blocked from entering that part of Dobrinja by about 50 Serb protesters. "A few people who were protesting at the barricades they made pelted police representatives with stones," Sarajevo Canton assistant interior minister Zejnil Lučkin told Oslobođenje. One of the protesters, a woman living on a street that is now part of the Federation, told the paper, "(The street) needs to stay, because we want to live with Serbs." SFOR and international and local police increased patrols Wednesday during the day, but when night fell, the protesters returned.
On Thursday 26 April, government leaders from both sides met and gave full guarantees for Serbs' safety in Dobrinja. Many of the Serbs living in Dobrinja I and IV came to the area from Sarajevo proper during the war, and many of them fought on the Serb side, so they are afraid not only of being evicted from their apartments but of being harassed or arrested by Federation police. The Sarajevo Canton and Srpsko Sarajevo governments agreed that no one would be evicted for a month and that Croat, Muslim and Serb officers in the Federation police would use unmarked cars for their patrols so as to not provoke Dobrinja residents.
Sarajevo Canton Prime Minister Juso Hadžidedić also said RS police living in the area should stay. "Their presence is not only normal, but it is useful, because it will give those citizens of Serb nationality in this area additional guarantees," he was quoted in Dnevni Avaz.
A UN spokesperson said the situation was under control and that it was not serious. "This is far from being the worst-case scenario, nobody has been hurt," UN spokesperson Douglas Coffman told OBN-TV news Friday night.
HDZ rumoured to be talking
"Well-placed sources" have popped up in nearly every Bosnian newspaper and magazine this week saying that a political party that has headed a two-month old Croat separatism movement is ready to start talks with the international community.
Some in the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) support moderate Božo Ljubić for the negotiating job, but the question is whether Ljubić has the support of the party's hardline members. A source told Oslobođenje Thursday that the party wants the international community to drop its threats to arrest separatist leaders and to consider the party's proposed election law.
"One can expect a dialogue that can, but does not have to, be controlled by (party leader) Ante Jelavić, who is, I must stress, the patron of the dialogue," the source said. "However, the question is only who will and in the name of whom do the talking, because the option exists that the negotiator will do the job in the name of the party and in the name of the HNS (Croat National Assembly), which the international community will not accept."
The Office of the High Representative, which in recent weeks has removed many of the Croat separatists from government functions, has stated that it wants dialogue but not with the agitators that have been removed. Those include Ante Jelavić, who was removed from the Bosnian Presidency after the self-styled HNS declared Croat self-rule at the beginning of March.
The international community dealt the HNS a heavy blow several weeks ago by freezing accounts in a Mostar-based bank thought to be directed money to the Croat separatist campaign. But separatists showed that they were not above using violent methods during the bank investigation—gunmen took investigators hostage at a bank branch in nearby Grude, and riots in Mostar left more than 20 people injured.
RS leaders in US
By Friday, it did not look like RS President Mirko Šarović and Vice-President Dragan Čović would be meeting with anyone in the Bush administration on their trip to Washington, DC this week. The Sense news agency reported that the US State Department has not answered the RS leaders' request for such a meeting.
Šarović told the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington on Thursday that the RS will "fully co-operate" with the International Criminals Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. On the question if that full co-operation will mean the arrest of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić, former Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladić and other indictees. Šarović first demanded that the court issues indictments against prominent Muslim and Croat leaders. "The court only judges Serbs," he said. Šarović also told the Center that the RS is looking out for its interests.
"We in the RS have our own interests, but those are not against the interests of BiH," he said. "We are not secessionists, but we have our own interests and we want to watch out for them. These interests do not undermine the territorial integrity or sovereignty of Bosnia and Hercegovina."
Beth Kampschror, 27 April 2001
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Sense News Agency