Date: Mon, 22 Jun 98 19:41:17 CDT
From: Greek Helsinki Monitor <email@example.com>
Subject: Bosnia:1998 Amnesty International's Report
(This report covers the period January-December 1997)
More than a million refugees and displaced persons were unable to return to their homes because of continuing human rights violations. Scores of people, including prisoners of conscience and possible prisoners of conscience, were detained on account of their nationality. Most were detained without charge or trial. Dozens of people charged with humanitarian law violations received unfair trials before courts in Bosnia-Herzegovina; trials of people from minorities within the separate political entities were also unfair. The whereabouts of more than 19,000 people, many of whom had “disappeared” in the custody of the police or armed forces, remained unknown. More than 100 people were ill-treated by police, and attacks on members of minorities appeared to be carried out with official acquiescence. At least one person was unlawfully killed by police. Scores of war crimes suspects remained at large.
Implementation of the 1995 General Framework Agreement on Peace (the peace agreement) continued, but animosity remained high between the Republika Srpska (RS) _ the primarily Bosnian Serb entity _ and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Federation) _ the Bosniac (Bosnian Muslim) and Bosnian Croat entity. Within the Federation the Bosnian Croat dominated authorities in some areas acted as a third territorial unit, and there was tension between the Bosniac and Croat-dominated authorities, particularly in the divided city of Mostar. The two entities, represented by a three-member presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina chaired by President Alija Izetbegoviš, a Bosniac, with Bosnian Serb member Mom.ilo Kraji▀nik and Bosnian Croat member Kre▀imir Zubak, came to agreement on a number of issues. Other key issues such as citizenship remained unresolved until December, when the High Representative was granted authority to issue binding decisions.
The authorities on all sides stalled on implementing, and sometimes ignored, recommendations made by the civilian organizations and officials overseeing implementation of the peace agreement, such as the High Representative, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and the UN International Police Task Force (IPTF). This was particularly the case with regard to human rights issues. A new High Representative, Carlos Westendorp, took office in June.
A power struggle, which on occasion resulted in violence, erupted in the RS between Biljana Plav▀iš, President of the RS, and Mom.ilo Kraji▀nik after President Plav▀iš initiated investigations of high-level governmental corruption in June. Support for each leader was concentrated in the west and east of the RS respectively. President Plav▀iš dissolved the RS Parliament in July. In parliamentary elections in November no party won an absolute
majority. Municipal elections organized and monitored by the OSCE in September resulted mainly in victories for the nationalist parties. However, only 18 of 109 municipalities had been certified by the OSCE by the end of the year. Three municipalities, Srebrenica (RS), Vare▀ (Federation) and █ep.e (Federation), did not meet at all. In many cases, lack of progress was due to political disagreement. However, in some cases elected councillors did not take up their seats for fear of violence or arrest if they visited the area (see below).
The authorities, in particular those in the RS and the Bosnian Croat dominated parts of the Federation, did not fully cooperate, and in some cases blatantly refused to cooperate, with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (the Tribunal). By the end of the year, 54 of 73 people known to have been indicted by the Tribunal remained at large; the majority were Bosnian Serbs believed to be living in the RS. Some of those indicted continued to exercise authority in a public capacity.
In April Zlatko Aleksovski (see Amnesty International Report 1997) was transferred to the Tribunal from Croatia and in October, after considerable international pressure on the Croatian Government, nine Bosnian Croat men surrendered themselves to the Tribunal. A 10th, Pero Skopljak, who had been arrested in Croatia in August, was also transferred to the Tribunal. In December he and two of the other Bosnian Croats were released after the prosecutor withdrew the charges on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence on which to try them. Charges against another Bosnian Croat were also withdrawn in December, when it was confirmed that he had died in October 1995. In July in the RS, the NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) arrested Milan Kova.eviš and shot dead Simo Drlja.a while attempting to arrest him; both were Bosnian Serbs who had been secretly indicted by the Tribunal in March. Vlatko Kupreskiš and Anto Furund.ija, Bosnian Croats, were arrested by SFOR in the Federation in December. Anto Furund.ija had been secretly indicted. However, despite these arrests and the apprehension of indicted Croatian Serb Slavko Dokmanoviš in Croatia by the UN forces serving there, states contributing to SFOR continued to defend their refusal to live up to their obligations under international law to seek and arrest all those indicted by the Tribunal.
In May the Tribunal found Du▀an Tadiš (see Amnesty International Report 1996) guilty on 11 of 31 counts of serious violations of humanitarian law and crimes against humanity. In July he was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment. Both the defence and the prosecution appealed against the decision. Other trials continued throughout the year. In October the Appeals Chamber held that the 1996 plea of guilty by Dra.en Erdemoviš (see Amnesty International Report 1997) was not fully informed and that the case must be sent back to a different Trial Chamber to permit him to enter a new plea.
Approximately 1.4 million people from Bosnia-Herzegovina remained refugees or internally displaced because it was still not safe for them to return to their homes or because they were prevented from doing so by bureaucratic obstacles. Approximately 110,000 refugees returned to Bosnia-Herzegovina, most of them to areas where their national group was now the majority. Germany forcibly repatriated more than 800 Bosnian refugees. Many other refugees who returned from countries which ended temporary protection for Bosnian refugees also did not return voluntarily and suffered, or were at risk of, human rights violations (see below). In some cases their repatriation prevented others from returning to their homes. At least half of the refugees who returned voluntarily or forcibly did not return to their pre-war homes and became internally displaced.
Human rights violations were widespread and occurred throughout the year. Most victims were members of minorities, although members of the political opposition were also targeted. Hundreds of homes were deliberately destroyed to prevent returns. Violent attacks by civilians on minorities, including displaced persons, were reported almost daily. The authorities frequently either encouraged or did little to discourage such attacks. In one incident, an 80-year-old Bosnian Serb died after he was severely beaten with sticks and stoned by a group of displaced Bosniacs in March. He was visiting a graveyard near Visoko (Federation) with his wife, who was also beaten.
In a few incidents large numbers of people were targeted. Violence against returnees was particularly severe in areas such as Doboj (RS) and the ═apna area (RS) when Bosniacs attempted to return to or repair their houses near the inter-entity boundary line. Scores of Bosnian Serb houses were also deliberately destroyed in Drvar (Federation). Displaced Bosniacs
in the Sarajevo suburbs (Federation) violently attacked Bosnian Serbs who attempted to return to their homes; Bosnian Serbs who had remained in the area were also attacked throughout the year. In August Bosnian Croats attacked Bosniacs who had returned to villages near Jajce (Federation) (see below). Hundreds of Bosniacs were forced to flee again and many of their homes were burned. At the same time, in another village in the area, a Bosniac man was shot dead in his house. Some Bosniacs who had been forcibly expelled from Jajce but later returned found that fresh land-mines had been set around their homes.
Scores of people, including prisoners of conscience and possible prisoners of conscience, were detained on account of their nationality. Few were formally charged with offences, but in February a Bosniac in Tesliš (RS) was sentenced to one month's imprisonment for singing “Islamic” songs; he was a prisoner of conscience. The various authorities continued to detain people from other national groups travelling through areas which they controlled (see Amnesty International Report 1997). Some were arrested on nationally defined war crimes charges, in violation of a procedure agreed with the Tribunal in 1996 whereby no one would be detained on such charges until their case had been reviewed by the Tribunal Prosecutor. Ivan Mija.eviš, a Bosnian Croat, was arrested in May while on the way to a cemetery in the RS and was charged with war crimes in connection with the bombing of Modri.a (RS) in 1993. He was released in June, possibly in exchange for six Bosnian Serbs released from detention in Croatia several days earlier. In August a Bosnian Serb man imprisoned in Bihaš (Federation since October 1996 was released after the Tribunal found that the evidence upon which the authorities had attempted to bring charges against him was insufficient. Some councillors elected in the September municipal elections were threatened with arrest on war crimes charges, particularly in Br.ko (RS), Srebrenica (RS) and Velika Kladu▀a (Federation), although their cases had not been reviewed by the Tribunal Prosecutor.
The various authorities exchanged dozens of prisoners, among them possible prisoners of conscience. For example, in August Federation authorities exchanged three Bosnian Serbs, two of them juveniles, for a Bosniac held by the RS; they may have been prisoners of conscience. Also in August, nine Bosnian Serbs detained in connection with the conflict, who had been held without trial since 1995 in Croatia, were released in exchange for nine Bosnian Croats convicted of common crimes in the RS (see Croatia entry).
In April the “Zvornik Seven”, Bosniacs charged with the murder of four Bosnian Serbs in 1996 (see Amnesty International Report 1997), were found guilty by an RS court in a grossly unfair trial. All the men appeared to have been tortured in custody and were denied lawyers of their choice. Dozens of people tried in courts in Bosnia-Herzegovina for nationally defined war crimes did not receive fair trials. Among them was Miodrag Andriš, a Bosnian Serb sentenced in August to 20 years' imprisonment, who was not able to call witnesses from the RS to testify in his defence, thus violating his right to “equality of arms” in his defence.
Ill-treatment by the police was widespread, particularly where the detainee was a member of a minority. More than 100 people reported to international organizations that they were ill-treated by police. For example, a Bosniac man was beaten during his arrest in October in Sarajevo (Federation); he also claimed that he was handcuffed to a radiator overnight and coerced into signing a statement during interrogation. The authorities in the RS stalled in their investigations into the death in custody of Hasan Kova.eviš (see Amnesty International Report 1997). Police reportedly participated in attacks on minorities and returning refugees or displaced persons, including in Mostar (see below) and Jajce. In many cases the IPTF found that the police had not adequately protected civilians from these attacks.
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross the authorities clarified the fate of 500 missing people, but more than 19,000 people remained unaccounted for; many of them had “disappeared” or were otherwise believed to have gone missing after detention or abduction by the police or armed forces. Among the “disappeared” were Roman Catholic priest Father Tomislav Matanoviš and his elderly parents, who had been detained by police in 1995 (see Amnesty International Report 1997). The RS authorities failed to provide information on the case by October, in defiance of an order from the Human Rights Chamber, a national human rights body established under the Constitution, and at the end of the year the case remained unresolved. Exhumations carried out during the year by the local authorities and international organizations in some cases provided evidence that the victims had probably been deliberately and arbitrarily killed. At least four men who had “disappeared” were found alive. Two men of Arab origin “missing” for six months reappeared in January; they had been held incommunicado and without trial in Livno and Mostar by the Bosnian Croat authorities. In August, two Bosnian Serbs who had been secretly held in Zenica Prison (Federation) for almost two years (see Amnesty International Report 1997) were found there by the IPTF and released.
In February Bosnian Croat police officers in west Mostar (Federation) shot into a peaceful crowd of Bosniacs visiting a cemetery, killing ═efik Sulejmanoviš and injuring dozens of others. Other members of the crowd were beaten by the police. The Bosnian Croat authorities charged three officers with a minor offence and ignored calls from the High Representative for those responsible for the shooting and injuries to be properly brought to justice.
Despite commitments under the peace agreement, legislation permitting the death penalty remained formally in effect in both entities. No executions were known to have been carried out.
Amnesty International addressed the authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina on several human rights issues and recommended to the international organizations implementing the peace agreement that they put human rights at the centre of their agenda.
In March Amnesty International published Bosnia-Herzegovina: ‘Who's living in my house?’ detailing the obstacles to the return of refugees and displaced persons. In December it published Bosnia-Herzegovina: Righting the wrongs, which called on states hosting refugees to extend their protection to all Bosnian refugees unable to return to their pre-war homes. Throughout the year Amnesty International called on SFOR to arrest those indicted by the Tribunal, and in October it issued a report, Bosnia-Herzegovina: How can they sleep at night? Arrest now!