US official's comments rile Bosnia
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told the Washington Post this week that American peacekeepers' work in Bosnia is "done," causing a stir in the country. About 3300 US soldiers are serving in Bosnia as part of the 20,000-strong NATO Stabilization Force (SFOR).
Former NATO European Allied Commander Gen Wesley Clark told Sarajevo's Dnevni Avaz Friday that the problem is that the Dayton Accords that ended the war have not been completely carried out.
"[US politics] do not reflect in only the attempts to withdraw the troops but also in the hesitations to do more to implement the civilian part of the Dayton Agreement, especially when the return of refugees is in question," he said.
This attitude couldn't come at a worse time, stated the International Crisis Group in a report on Tuesday. "Contrary to assertions by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the job of the military in Bosnia is far from 'done'," stated a press release on the report, parts of which were carried in various newspapers this week. The ICG said that though five and a half years have passed since Dayton, the international community has only shown its muscle in Bosnia in the past year and a half:
This new resolve... means that prospects for building a stable Bosnia and a self-sustaining peace are better than ever. The battle, however, is far from won. A period of robust implementation, focusing on concrete benchmarks, is necessary. Abandoning the full Dayton agenda now would mean consigning the country to a state of simmering unrest requiring near-permanent foreign military occupation or, at worst, to a renewal of hostilities following its desertion by the international community. NATO would then have to return in circumstances far less propitious than today's. The over-riding lesson of the past decade in Southeast Europe must be that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
The group recommended, among other things that NATO should not reduce its forces now, that SFOR should "pursue war criminals more assiduously," and that neither the US nor the United Kingdom should undermine SFOR by making disproportionate cuts in their forces.
ICTY: Criminals hiding in RS
The Republika Srpska is an "oasis" for war crimes suspects, a spokesperson for the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague told Banja Luka's Nezavisne Novine on Thursday.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) spokesperson Florence Hartman told the paper that there are about 26 war crimes suspects walking free in Bosnia's Republika Srpska, and that this was a large concentration of suspects in a small area. (Bosnia is about the size of the US state of West Virginia, and the RS makes up about half that.)
The ICTY prosecution has only recently announced the number of people—about a dozen—under secret indictments. Serb politicians and political parties in both Bosnia and Yugoslavia have often scare-mongered by announcing that any Serb could be under indictment without knowing it. Hartman told Nezavisne Novine that the prosecution, by announcing the number, was trying to emphasize that only those individuals bear responsibility before the court, not to feed politicians' and media's cries that the tribunal considers all Serbs collectively guilty.
Hartman said she couldn't answer whether any Croats or Muslims were under secret indictment. She did tell the paper that the difference between Croat and Muslim authorities and Serb authorities was the level of co-operation towards the ICTY.
"Those other countries [Croatia and Bosnia] are co-operating with The Hague tribunal," Hartman said. "There are no more fugitives in Croatia, because Croatia began to co-operate and to arrest all those who have been accused. We are also co-operating with the Federation of BiH... There is no sort of co-operation [from the RS government], not in relation to the investigation, arrests or extraditions of war crimes suspects to The Hague. That is why the RS has the largest concentration of war crimes suspects in the entire region."
She also said that the two most-wanted fugitives, Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić, are in the RS. She cited Karadžić's letter to Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Pavle this week, which gave the return address as the Republika Srpska, "without details, of course." Mladić, she said, has also returned to the area: "Unfortunately, they both have contact with the government in Banja Luka. Mladić is under the protection of a VRS [RS Army] military escort."
Sarajevo-born director wins Cannes award
Danis Tanović won the Prix du Meilleur Scénario (best screenplay prize) for his debut feature film Ničija Zemlja (No Man's Land) at the Cannes Film Festival last weekend. The Onasa news agency and Oslobođenje reported that the film received a 10-minute standing ovation and much interest from global distributors, though the movie only cost about USD one million to make.
The film portrays the absurdity of the Bosnian war, and from the reports, it seem that its seriousness is tempered by more than a few instances of typical Bosnian black humor. From Onasa: "At one point a Bosnian soldier shakes his head in disbelief while reading his paper. Friends think someone he knows might have died, but no. 'Oh, it's terrible what's happening in Rwanda,' he moans."
The newspaper known worldwide for publishing during the siege of Sarajevo stopped putting out a full paper for several days this week as its employees struck for back-pay and better management. The Oslobođenje union told a press conference Monday that they were trying to show creating a paper is impossible without the journalists.
Employees demanded their April salaries and a new editor. Nezavisne Novine called the six days of talks between the majority owners, the supervisory board and the strike board "exhausting," but the employees' demands were met. April salaries are forthcoming, and Senka Kurtović has been named new editor as of 28 June.
Presidency visits FRY for the first time
The BiH Presidency members went to Belgrade Tuesday and signed an agreement to form a co-operation commission between BiH and Yugoslavia.
"The agreement is a sort of lawful framework for co-operation between the two countries," BiH Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdžija was quoted in Nezavisne Thursday. "BiH has already had a similar agreement with Croatia for two years." He said he and Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić had a two-hour conversation about improving the two countries' economic relations and that he invited Đinđić to visit Sarajevo.
This agreement, and the fact that diplomatic relations have been established between the two countries, seem to point to a new era of good feelings between Bosnia and Yugoslavia, especially to the foreign press. But there are still problems. Belgrade still finances the RS military. Yugoslav President Vojislav Koštunica came under criticism recently for saying that rebuilding mosques in Bosnia should be avoided because it is too politicized. (This after organized mobs in the RS caused chaos at two different ceremonies marking mosque reconstructions earlier this month.) Koštunica also actively campaigned for the nationalist Serb Democratic Party (SDS) before the Bosnian elections in November.
Friday's Oslobođenje had two "In Memoriam" notices for former-Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito, whose birthday used to be celebrated on 25 May (though some say he was actually born 7 May 1892). An announcer on Sarajevo's IFM Student Radio reminded listeners Friday that Tito's birthday used to be Youth Day in old Yugoslavia. "But you probably don't remember," she said, given that many of the station's listeners are still teenagers.
Beth Kampschror, 25 May 2001
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