ICG Statement on Elections in Bosnia
ICG Bosnia Project, 4 June, 1996
We are six months into the Bosnia Dayton Peace Agreement and a critical decision is approaching: whether or not to proceed with the elections scheduled for September. ICG is in favour of going ahead with elections as soon as possible. We believe that elections can play an important role in the process of trying to re-establish a multi-ethnic Bosnian state. However, the basic elements for free and fair elections are not yet in place.
In the current circumstances, "free and fair" elections cannot take place. A decision to hold elections must be contingent on the ability of the international community to improve the conditions in which they may take place. That requires a resolute plan now. Most urgently, Radovan Karadzic and other senior indicted war crime suspects must be removed from political power and influence and delivered to the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. The OSCE should refrain from announcing that elections will proceed until these and other conditions have been met. To hold elections in the current circumstances runs the risk of conferring democratic respectability on the very individuals determined to obstruct the full implementation of the Dayton Agreement. The international community should make every effort in the next month to remove the current obstacles to progress so that the elections can be held by 14 September.
- most of the individuals indicted on war crimes charges remain at large; some,
particularly in the Republika Srpska, still maintain key positions of political power and influence.
- freedom of movement is severely restricted.
- freedom of expression and the freedom of the press,
especially in Republika Srpska and Herzeg Bosna, are equally restricted.
- very few refugees have been repatriated.