P R E S S R E L E A S E
ICG's Review of the Dayton Peace Agreement in Bosnia is released
The International Crisis Group (ICG)* today releases the first comprehensive review by an independent body of progress towards implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement in Bosnia. ICG has a team of 16 staff in Bosnia, based in Sarajevo, Mostar and Banja Luka. The team's task is to monitor implementation of the Dayton Agreement, identifying potential obstacles and devising and building up the necessary support for strategies to overcome them. Today's report follows months of investigations and will form the basis of a lobbying effort by ICG board members directed at key decision-makers in the international community.
Releasing the report, ICG president, Nicholas Hinton, said "The Dayton peace process is approaching a defining moment. Significant barriers remain in the way of further progress on almost every front. Unless bold and resolute action is taken now to remove those barriers, we firmly believe that the international community is looking at the imminent disintegration of Bosnia and a probable re-ignition of war in the Balkans. The stakes could not be higher. A collapse of the Dayton peace process and a renewal of fighting would have massive repercussions stretching far beyond the hills and valleys of central Bosnia. The neighbouring countries of the region, the European Union and NATO will all be at serious risk if we fail in the task before us."
The report details progress under a number of key headings: security; war crimes; elections; repatriation; economic renewal; human rights; and reconstruction. In each case, the document sets out where the main problems lie and what action is needed to address them.
On elections, Nicholas Hinton said "The general election scheduled for mid-September will be a major test for the Dayton peace process. ICG is in favour of going ahead with elections as soon as possible, but they must be free and fair. The basic elements of free and fair elections are not yet in place. Key political and military leaders indicted for war crimes remain in positions of influence, determined to do everything possible to smother attempts to establish alternative political movements and independent media. Freedom of movement and expression both remain severely restricted. Freedom of the press, particularly in the Serb and Croat parts of Bosnia, remains limited. Finally, very few refugees have been repatriated. At this rate, Bosnia will be in no fit state to hold elections by mid-September."
A number of steps need to be taken if elections are to proceed on track, Mr Hinton argued. "These include the removal of leading war crime suspects to the International War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague; increased support in the form of personnel, equipment, facilities and protection for war crimes investigators whose task it is to examine the sites of mass graves, exhume bodies and gather evidence from the field; more staff and resources for the OSCE, the body responsible for organising the September elections; more support for the independent media in both parts of Bosnia; a commitment by NATO to provide security cover during and after the elections; and support for the proposed Federation Implementation Council, a body intended as an instrument for rooting out those obstructing further progress in the implementation of the Dayton Agreement," Mr Hinton said.
Senator George Mitchell, chairman of ICG, endorsed the report and emphasised the urgency of removing from the scene those indicted for war crimes by the International War Crimes Tribunal. "Discussion of the whole Dayton peace process is becoming overshadowed by the continued ability of Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic to exert influence in the Serb part of Bosnia. It is not enough to marginalise them, as some claim, because they will continue to exert influence from side-stage. They will do all they can to prevent conditions being put in place for free and fair elections by September. They are determined to prevent a reintegration of Bosnia. They remain the most significant obstacle to a lasting peace in Bosnia. They must go," Senator Mitchell said.
The International Crisis Group is a private, multinational organisation created to reinforce the capacity and resolve of the international community to prevent crises arising from human causes. Members of the ICG board include former heads of state and government, foreign ministers, MPs and leading figures in business and the media. ICG is chaired by the former US Senate majority leader, George Mitchell.