ICG Bosnia Project, 20 June, 1996
A high-ranked EUAM official had an unofficial meeting with Dr.Slobodan Lang, advisor to President Tudjman, involved in human rights issues, on 03 June 1996 in Dubrovnik and shared the details of the meeting with ICG. This initiative, albeit in a semi-personal capacity, is a valuable attempt to save the security situation in Mostar. In their overt discussion they talked at length about the ineffectiveness of the Croat police of Mostar West, and in particular their leader Soldo. EUAM expressed their suspicions that the police of Mostar West were involved in the gangs and crime in the city, and stressed that little progress could be made until Soldo was removed. The power of gangs and people like Vinko Martinovic Stela was broached and the sinister intimidation of the population of West Mostar under the rule of organised crime as well. After a lengthy discussion on possible ways ahead Lang said that he strongly believed that the best way forward was for the EU to invite Tudjman formally "to take part in the Mostar project". He said that the matter could be then followed up with talks in Brioni in a relaxed atmosphere as to how best to tackle the problems".
IFOR and IPTF will assist the Unified Police Force of Mostar during the elections. The number of people involved in the exercise is still unknown. There is only one point that is certain: they will be deployed throughout the city, with the emphasis on the locations of the polling stations. However, as the local authorities were unable to name all the polling stations in Mostar, it was impossible for IPTF/IFOR to produce a precise plan of deployment.
Reno Kovacevic (ref. two previous reports) is still in prison. Despite Orucevic's intervention, the High Court refused to release him. ICRC is now handling the case. Reno is the son of a very powerful Serb pre-war mafia boss from Mostar (who is presently in Belgrade): it is probably the reason why this affair has not been turned into a political matter yet. But, it could well become one...In any event, it is not promoting a confidence building climate for the forthcoming elections.
The voters' lists were flown to Bonn, Bern, Oslo and Stockholm on 12 June. However, a delay of at least three days was envisaged (the lists should be checked by 15 June) already at that moment, since everybody in the EUAM was aware the electoral commissions/committees would not be in place to check the identity of voters at the polling stations abroad.
It is clear that the local parties are in charge of organising transport from abroad into Mostar. Nobody has a clear idea on how many people will be bussed in and how much the operation will cost. The EUAM made it clear that they were not providing financial support for the transport of those who will vote abroad (that is, within Germany and Norway; there is a chance the Swedish Government will pay for the transport of Bosnians in Sweden who will vote in Stockholm). Postal vote is not possible, because there is no way to check the identity of voters in post-offices abroad.
The candidature of Mijo Brajkovic, the self-proclaimed mayor of West Mostar, has been withdrawn, according to the announcement given by Jadran Topic, the President of HDZ Mostar, and that due to vigorous complaints by the German political leadership. They did not like the part Brajkovic played in the riots in West Mostar against the Administration in which Koschnick was assaulted and a number of EUAM cars devastated by the raging crowd.
It appears that the Mostarians in Republika Srpska are not eager to travel to Mostar for the elections, reports UNHCR. No amendments to the existing agreement are envisaged (i.e. postal vote) for the moment. However, there is a meeting between the representatives of the refugees from Mostar in Belgrade/Serbia with the EU Administrator in Mostar scheduled for 17 June.
The joint list of candidates presented by the parties from East Mostar is not a formal coalition of parties, according to Dr.Hamid Custovic, the leader of the Liberal Party in Mostar. He says the parties maintain their political programmes and a certain independence. It was, according to Dr.Custovic, to the benefit of the city that the different party leaders decided to present a joint list, in spite of the differences still present.
Mr.Villanueva, the Legal Advisor to the EU Administrator, is now in process of identifying international monitors for the elections in Mostar. There will be 100 or more of them needed: one for each of the 75 polling stations in Mostar, a mobile team of 25, and some to sit in the Administration and study the processed information on the elections. There will be no report published by the EUAM about the elections - it will be limited to documents for internal use only - since the elections are entirely run by the local sides and only supervised by the EUAM. In case of a problem, the supervisory commission will be consulted, and if they cannot deal with the problem they will address it to the Ombudsman of the EUAM, Ambassador Zepos. On 18 June Villanueva is having a meeting with OSCE in Sarajevo who also offered monitors. He is very grateful for the ICG offer of assistance, and will probably inform us on the number of people he still needs after his meeting in Sarajevo.
Interim municipal authorities in Stolac are still an outstanding problem: according to the international arbitration of Schwarz-Schilling, 19 seats belong to Croats and 18 to Bosniaks and the democratic majority decides. The Bosniaks want the Mediator to endorse their categorical wish to have the municipal council sit only if there are two thirds of the members present. They do not want the reflection of the situation in Capljina where the municipal council exists and sits without the Bosniak representatives, since Croats already have the majority of votes anyway. The President of the Municipality of Stolac in exile in East Mostar, Mr. Mehmed Dizdar, says the same structure of authorities, true, exists in Bugojno, to the benefit of Bosniaks, and for the reasons of reciprocity, the Mediator wanted the same in Stolac. But, Mr. Dizdar says it does not make any sense to try and organise authorities unless you actually live in that place, or have freedom of movement to go there. For the moment, there is no freedom of movement, the visits of displaced natives of Stolac were stopped by the Croat authorities. Mr.Dizdar hopes that the pilot-project by UNHCR will be completed successfully and that 100 Bosniak houses will be inhabited by their owners. He wants to see it as a beginning of a more massive return. However, he still expresses his concern at the possibility of Croat authorities forming a ghetto for those who return, with controlled and measured movement. In that case, he says, Bosniaks will not insist to stay in a hostile environment where there is no respect for human rights.
There are still so many things unknown and undone concerning the elections in Mostar, which makes the outside observer apprehensive of their result. It is mainly up to the parties to tie up the loose ends, and there are so many: the logistical issues such as the number of buses required, where the voters will be shipped from, how to organise accommodation in Mostar, etc. There is still a dilemma whether the host-countries of the elections will let Mostarians from the neighbouring countries vote on their soil (will those residing in Italy, France or Spain be allowed to vote in Switzerland?) As Mr.Villanueva said: "The parties lack experience - it takes them time to realise what they need - but then we (the EUAM) are also slow to respond to their requests, to tell you the truth."
Mostar certainly deserves full international focus. There are many weak spots of the election exercise in Mostar, but there is no turning back now, and the efforts should be consolidated to make sure that the best possible is achieved. ICG can give its impact in producing an analysis which could define weaknesses and strong points of the exercise in Mostar, which could be most useful for the local elections countrywide.