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June 13, 1996


Six months after Dayton's signing, the peace process is fast approaching a defining moment. On almost every front, significant barriers block further progress. Moreover, the time frame set by Dayton to put Bosnia on a secure path for moving toward a multiethnic state is unrealistic. That will take a number of years and requires continuing Western involvement. Unless Western governments take bold and resolute action to remove existing barriers, the integration process will simply not take place.

In anticipation of the upcoming Peace Implementation Council meeting in Florence on 13-14 June, ICG presents a summary of the key obstacles to Dayton's implementation and recommendations for overcoming them.


IFOR has established a militarily secure environment, a necessary precondition for the implementation of many of the civilian aspects of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA). However, the military security achieved by separation of warring parties is not the broader kind of security needed to put Bosnia on the path to unification, Dayton's long-term objective. As one senior military officer put it: "IFOR has completed 80% of its tasks on level ground but must now pursue the remaining 20% on a steep and slippery slope".

Thus far, military equipment has been placed in designated compounds, barracks are either occupied or under construction and demobilisation is well under way. This is welcome progress. Up to now, however, local armed forces have cooperated with IFOR because it is in their self-interest to withdraw and begin reforming, re-equipping and re-training. Cooperation is totally lacking for other necessary tasks, such as the apprehension of war criminals and facilitating the return of refugees and displaced.

IFOR and the arrest of war criminals. The continuation of indicted war criminals in positions of power remains the biggest obstacle to a successful peace process in Bosnia. Just six (three Muslims, one Serb and two Croats) out of 57 indictees are now in custody. Serb and Croat parties are reluctant to turn over indicted criminals out of a fear for their own positions, and the international community has been unwilling to take on the task itself.

IFOR has become sandwiched between the former warring factions on the inter-entity boundary between the Bosniac-Croat Federation and the Serb Republic. It has refused to adopt a policing role. IFOR commanders and their governments steadfastly resist a more proactive approach. Indications are that the major IFOR troop contributing countries will go on avoiding what they see as "mission creep" and give responsibility for making arrests to the even more reluctant civilian authorities.

See Review of DPA Annex 1B


The general election scheduled for mid-September is a major test of the Dayton process. Should the conditions obtaining today fail to improve significantly, Bosnia will be in no fit state to hold elections by mid-September. The continued ability of Bosnian Serb leader Karadzic and General Mladic, both indicted war criminals, to exert control over the Serb Republic dangerously distorts the elections environment. In today's circumstances, these men can pull strings from the sidelines. Croat-controlled areas of the Bosniac-Croat Federation stifle dissent with violence and intimidation.

ICG is in favour of going ahead with elections as soon as possible, but not under the current conditions. We believe that elections can play an important role in re-establishing a multi-ethnic Bosnian state. However, in addition to the failure to remove indicted war criminals, other basic elements for free and fair elections are not now in place:

  • freedom of movement is severely restricted
  • freedom of expression and of the press is restricted, especially
    in the Serb Republic and the self-styled Croat "state" of Herzeg Bosna
  • very few refugees have been repatriated.

A decision to certify elections must thus be contingent on the ability of the international community to improve present conditions. That means the West must call off the elections if the circumstances cannot be significantly improved in the next three months. IFOR has also yet to declare the level of its involvement in providing security for the end-June municipal elections in Mostar, a critical event for the survival of the fragile Bosniac-Croat Federation, and later for the Bosnia-wide elections that Dayton scheduled for no later than mid-September.

Mostar. ICG regards the decision to hold elections in Mostar on 30 June as inappropriate and potentially disastrous. The European Union Administration in Mostar (EUAM) was forced to delay polling day as neither they nor the local parties would have been ready to hold elections as originally scheduled on 31 May. Instead of seizing the opportunity to amalgamate the Mostar elections with the general elections, the EU settled on a compromise which will be difficult to administer and sets bad precedents for the general elections. The technical problems of organising elections in a short period of time may be beyond EUAM's ability, and the return of thousands of refugee voters into a still hostile environment poses huge security problems. The result may well be violence and confirmation of the political impasse.

See Review of DPA Annex 3

Bosniac-Croat Federation

As Mostar goes, so goes the troubled and fragile Bosniac-Croat Federation. Some freedom of movement and economic revival has occurred, although it has not happened in all areas of the Federation. Very little progress has been made in institution-building of the Federation. Stalling tactics by the Croat party are the main obstacle. A working Federation obstructs the hard-line Croat nationalist desire to become a part of "Greater Croatia". Bosniac officials have also been instransigent in establishing representative and democratic municipal councils. However, the proposed Federation Implementation Council, the body accepted in principle by the parties to Dayton at the last Washington review conference, could provide an important means for removing obstructionist officials.

See Mostar Election Agreement

Repatriation and Return

The present leaderships of the Serb Republic and the self-styled Croat "state" of Herzeg Bosna have adopted ethnic purity as their central organising principle. They do everything possible to frustrate the return of refugees from other ethnic groups and manipulate displaced persons into ethnically homogeneous areas. Returns of refugees have been almost exclusively to the areas of their own ethnicity.

The removal by IFOR of some 140 fixed and hundreds of mobile checkpoints and the reconstruction and repair of many bridges have led to an increase of local cross-boundary traffic. Some organised visits to former homes have been quietly and successfully arranged. However, many others have been violently disrupted, often at the instigation or at least the connivance of the local authorities. UNHCR stands ready to carry out repatriation but for want of local cooperation is completely stymied.

There is no mechanism in the Dayton Agreement for penalising political leaders for seeking to prevent repatriation and reintegration.

See Review of DPA Annex 7

Human Rights

The general situation is unsatisfactory and has been well documented in a variety of reports by human rights organisations, although some improvements have been made in Dayton compliance on the territory of the Bosniac-Croat Federation. Most troubling is the failure of the parties to protect the right to liberty and security of the person, especially in the Serb Republic, where ethnic cleansing continues under IFOR's nose and where harassment and violence among ethnic groups remain a comon problem. There is a tendency in areas controlled by the Bosnian government, especially Sarajevo, to intimidate the remaining Serb population into leaving. DPA mechanisms are now in place for dealing with registered cases of abuse, which need to be prosecuted vigorously.

See Review of DPA Annex 6


The World Bank's efforts are beginning to show some results after an inevitable period of preparation. However, the use of development aid as leverage for securing compliance by the parties with the DPA has not yet proved its effectiveness. The hard-line Bosnian Serb leadership has refused to accept the US $1.4 bn because to do so would have meant accepting that it was subsidiary to the State of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The former Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Kasagic who was prepared to accept the funds was dismissed by Karadzic. Similarly, the administrations of four towns threatened by the High Representative with the cessation of all further aid for non-compliance have so far refused to yield. This does not, however, mean that his approach is to be written off as a failure, only that it will require more time and firm resolution. Another major problem is the lack of coordination within the donor community. This leads to duplication of effort and more pledges than cash, and even unintended assistance in partition of the country.

See Bosnia Policy Framework Report


Western governments are not meeting their responsibility to ensure that the Dayton Accords are carried out. If they do not summon the will to do so, the Accords ultimately will collapse and the division of Bosnia will be made permanent.

The first priority of the international community is to act quickly to ensure that conditions are put in place for free and fair elections by mid-September. Western governments have insisted on sticking to the original timetable for a September 1996 election in spite of warnings that the country will not be ready. They must redouble their efforts to prove their critics wrong. To that end, ICG has reached the following recommendations:

  1. Continuing Intenational Security Presence. We see no possibility, even if free and fair elections are held in mid-September, for peace in Bosnia to be maintained without an international security presence for an extended period. The Western forces mandate must be extended beyond end year.

  2. War Criminals. Step up pressure on the Yugoslav and Croatian Presidents to detain and surrender all indicted war criminals. Failing this, IFOR should use its considerable power before the elections are held to remove them. Governments have also not taken the International War Crimes Tribunal seriously. Resources and political support need to be provided.

  3. Elections. The OSCE, which is responsible for preparing and facilitating the elections faces two major obstacles. Member governments are pressuring it to certify that the conditions for free and fair elections are in place when that is patently not the case. And, it has not been given the resources - both financial and personnel - to undertake its technical tasks. The international meeting in Florence should address these issues candidly and honestly.

  4. Independent Media. In both the Bosniac-Croat Federation and the Serb Republic, government control of the media is stifling. Vigorous effort is needed to encourage, support, and defend an independent media sector open to multi-party and public opinion in both the Bosniac-Croat Federation and the Serb Republic. The creation of new and independent Bosnia-wide media is moving too slowly because of lack of funds. It is incredible that governments are depending on private funds for this effort.

  5. Refugees and Displaced Persons. Ensure that IFOR creates better conditions for refugee repatriation and the return of displaced persons to their homes. The complex process of repatriation and return, however, will realistically take a minimum of several years. Repatriation of refugees thus requires patience on the part of refugee hosting governments in Europe. Governments should support the concept of allowing refugees to make assessment visits to their former homes without prejudice to their refugee status. It is important to support the establishment of the Federation Implementation Council as an instrument for disempowering officials who obstruct freedom of movement, including for purposes of visitation, repatriation and return.

  6. Reconstruction. Donor countries have to a large extent been vigorous in their attempts to implement some of the more essential projects which have been defined as priority tasks. However, haste has in some instances led to a lack of coordination and could work against a a strategy of only providing benefits to those parties who comply with the DPA. It is clear that governments and international institutions must be more careful to ensure that their reconstruction efforts do not work at cross purposes to Dayton's overriding goals.

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