Dayton Peace Process Back on Track
ICG Bosnia Project, 13 November, 1996
A year after the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) ended the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the civilian provisions of the peace process which were entrusted to the High Representative Carl Bildt are in crisis. Those indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) remain at liberty and continue to influence events behind the scenes; leaders responsible for the outbreak of war have been given a fresh mandate in what were clearly fraudulent elections yet which were certified by the international community; the joint institutions which were supposed to evolve out of those elections and help weld the country back together have failed to materialise in substance; and repatriation and reintegration, which was supposed to be a cornerstone of the DPA, has been limited to a trickle of returnees, all to majority areas.
While an end to the killing took events in Bosnia and Herzegovina off the television screens and the front pages of newspapers, the conflict has by no means been resolved and may yet spill over into bloodshed again. A window of opportunity remains half open, but unless the international community takes immediate and resolute action, the DPA may go down in history as an expensive cease-fire, not the basis for a lasting peace.
In anticipation of the forthcoming Peace Implementation Council meetings in Paris on 14 November and London on 4-5 December, the International Crisis Group (ICG) presents a set of recommendations to get the peace process back on track. We have assumed that the troop-contributing states will maintain sufficient military presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina beyond the end of the existing mandate to ensure that the provisions of the DPA have a chance to succeed.
One issue hangs like a sword of Damocles above the peace process, namely that of the continued freedom and impunity of persons indicted by the ICTY. No matter how much some in the international community might wish it to disappear, this issue will not go away and must eventually be tackled head on. Moreover, the sooner it is addressed, the better. For as long as those indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity including genocide, remain at liberty, there is no prospect of any justice in Bosnia and Herzegovina. And without justice it will be impossible even to begin the process of reconciliation which is so necessary if this country is to be put back together.
It is up to the Parties to the DPA to arrest those indictees and hand them over to the ICTY in The Hague. However, with the exception of the Bosniac authorities, the Parties have shown pronounced unwillingness to fulfil the chief obligations which they accepted in the DPA regarding persons indicted by the ICTY, namely to arrest those in their jurisdiction and surrender them to The Hague. At the same time, the international community has gone out of its way to avoid the issue and the Implementation Force (IFOR), which is likely to drop to one third of its original size by year-end, has sat back and repeated that it lacks the mandate from the North Atlantic Council to seek out and arrest the indictees.
Ironically, IFOR does have and always has had a mandate to arrest those indicted by the ICTY under the DPA, relevant Security Council resolutions and even more explicitly under the 1949 Geneva Conventions for the protection of war victims. The fault lies not so much with the IFOR command within Bosnia and Herzegovina, who represent all the most powerful countries on earth and are more than equipped for the task, but with their political leaderships at home.
All too frequently the international community has been able to mask its lack of political will to use the enforcement and compliance mechanisms which it has at its disposal by avoiding the diplomatically-controversial task of determining accountability. However, determining accountability is necessary to setting the record straight and constitutes a critical step towards reconciliation. The importance of establishing an historical record of the war is already widely-accepted and will require, among other means, an exhaustive search for the missing, the exhumation of mass graves, the prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity and the creation of some form of truth commissions. It is equally critical to maintain a record of current violations and to identify the responsible officials or parties.
Identification of guilty individuals and parties should help promote compliance with the DPA, especially if this process can be linked to an effective punitive mechanism. Once responsibility has been established, the High Representative should be able to call on the offending party or government to provide an effective remedy and, as a last resort, seek the dismissal from public service of the responsible officials.
In the past year, under the auspices of the World Bank, a framework for investment has been put in place which is already jump-starting the economy in the Federation and could do the same in Republika Srpska. The sums of money involved are massive. A total of $1.8 billion was pledged for Bosnia and Herzegovina at two donors� conferences early in the year, of which $1.5 billion is fully committed. Reconstruction contracts worth $1.02 billion have already been signed, $700 million had been spent by the end of October and if spending continues at the current rate, $950 million will have been disbursed by the end of the year.
Since the bulk of the money to reconstruct Bosnia and Herzegovina comes in the form of grants, the international community is both entitled to and should use economic assistance as a tool to achieve political ends. The western tax-payers who are effectively financing the reconstruction programme deserve assurances that their money is spent wisely. As a result, it is only worth putting money into the country, if and when visible and concrete political progress is made. Rebuilding Republika Srpska without first resolving key political issues, in particular the arrest and surrender of persons indicted by the ICTY, amounts to throwing money at a problem, not dealing with it. Given the European Union�s experience of the divided Croat-Bosniac city of Mostar, where more than 260 million DM - close to 5,000 DM per inhabitant - was invested to no avail between 1994 and 1996, such a policy would surely be both costly and doomed to end in failure.
Repatriation and reintegration were ostensibly cornerstones of the DPA. Guaranteed in the constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Annex IV of the DPA) as well as Annex VII of the DPA, the return of refugees to their homes was already supposed to be under way by the 14 September elections. In the event, however, it was not. To date about 220,000 Bosnians have returned to their homes out of more than 2.5 million, almost all to municipalities in which they belong to the majority nationality. Yet at the same time, a further 90,000 belonging to minority communities have been forced out of their homes. The Parties to the DPA are refusing to comply with their commitments and consequently the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the international agency charged with organising repatriation, has been unable to start the process.
An alarming trend which has become especially acute in the past month is the systematic destruction of now vacant homes owned by displaced minorities. This goes far beyond the vandalism which has plagued house reconstruction in much of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the past year and effectively makes return a physical impossibility. As the existing housing stock disappears, the prospects for return become increasingly bleak.
Given the critical role that the media played in the destruction of both Yugoslavia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the on-going role they play in fanning the flames of ethnic hatred, the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina has attempted to influence their output during the first year of Dayton. Despite some frenetic activity, however, there have thus far been few breakthroughs in this field.
The most ambitious media project sponsored by the international community was that to create an alternative television network spanning Bosnia and Herzegovina. Costing $11 million, which was all donated by foreign governments and George Soros�s Open Society Institute (OSI), TV-IN was rushed on to the air on 7 September - barely a week before the elections in an attempt to create the appearance of a free media. However, the station was not ready to begin broadcasting and, since it was based on a network of small Bosniac stations, its structure was fundamentally flawed. Nevertheless, though the station has to date failed to make a tangible impact, it does have significant potential which could be realised if legs could be added in Republika Srpska and Croat-controlled Federation territory.
Otherwise, the international organisations operating in Bosnia and Herzegovina have thus far focused their public relations on the international media, for whom they hold daily English-language briefings, and not on the Bosnian media. It is as if selling policies to the international public is more important than explaining them to the Bosnian public. The exception to this rule has been broadcasts of war crimes trials from The Hague which - courtesy of OSI funding - have been beamed into the homes of ordinary Bosnians by satellite and are avidly watched. In effect, these broadcasts amount to a public relations campaign which could in time become especially significant among Bosnian Serbs, because it helps them to learn of what has taken place in the former Yugoslavia during the past five years.
As documented in ICG�s report Elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the 14 September elections were deeply flawed. Voter registration in Republika Srpska was marred by massive electoral engineering and many thousands of voters were prevented from casting their ballot on the day. Some were disenfranchised beforehand because of technical errors in the registration process; others were disenfranchised on the day through errors in the voter lists; yet others failed to cross the Inter-Entity Boundary Line (IEBL) because of fears for their security, confusion over transport and restrictions on seeing their former homes. In addition, tens of thousands of Serb refugees were bussed into Republika Srpska from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to vote where instructed or lose their refugee status and benefits. Worse still, once the ballots were counted, it became clear that turn-out was improbably high.
Getting the municipal elections right will be all the more difficult because of the mandate awarded to nationalists in the 14 September poll. Nevertheless, it is critical that the international community remains in Bosnia and Herzegovina and retains charge of the municipal elections. For if municipal elections are left entirely up to the parties, the standards by which they are organised will be even lower than those at the national level.
The protection of human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina is primarily the responsibility of the parties to the DPA. However, until those indicted by the ICTY are brought to justice and the recommendations found in this document in the sections on accountability and political conditionality are implemented, any real progress in this area will prove impossible.