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Return of Bosniaks to Srebrenica municipality
150 Bosniaks Returned to Six Settlements
by S. SMAJLOVIC
Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo, Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, B-H, April 27, 2001
On Friday, 150 Bosniaks returned to their pre-war households in the six settlements in the local commune Potocari, the Srebrenica Municipality. In the first phase the return targets the settlements of Babuljica, Lehovice, Brosevice, Milacevci, and Bacuta, where about 4,000 Bosniaks lived before the Srebrenica exodus. "The core of returnees has been formed in every settlement, and those who stayed there will, until their houses are reconstructed, live in improvised shelters," Fadil Banjanovic, the director of the office of returns of the Tuzla Canton said. Merhamet Srebrenica has provided food and toiletries for all those who have decided to stay and will return in groups every seven days, emphasized Husein Hadzic, the director of this humanitarian organization. The government of the Tuzla Canton has provided building material for the reconstruction of the objects needed for accommodation, as well as construction machinery for the reconstruction of 25 kilometers of roads. The return of the first sizable group of Bosniaks to the Srebrenica municipality passed without incidents. However, there were technical problems, as explained by Sadik Ahmetovic, the vide-president of the multiethnic municipal council of Srebrenica: "This is shameful and irresponsible of the High Representative for Bosnia-Hercegovina, Wolfgang Petritsch, the chief of the OHR mission, representatives of the UNHCR, and representatives of the governments of the Republic of Srpska and the Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina. We held about ten meetings and had detailed plans for this return. The UNHCR drivers, because of the bad road, refused to drive the buses with returnees to their destination. International organizations have the obligation to implement the Dayton Peace Agreement, but they participate in the return process only by providing plastic sheets for windows and plastic canisters for water. This is only a continuation of the exodus of Bosniaks from Srebrenica," vice-president Ahmetovic is convinced. He added that the passivity of the UNHCR and other international institutions in Bosnia-Hercegovina will not stop Bosniaks from Srebrenica and other places from returning to their homes. The process of return to Krusev Dol and Luka, near Srebrenica, will start in seven days, vice-president Ahmetovic said. Returnees were taken in jeeps from Donji Potocari to their villages, where trucks had brought construction material, food and other goods in the meantime. All objects and infrastructure in the mentioned villages have been destroyed. The village of Gornji Potocari has been preserved eighty percent but Serbs, who claim to have nowhere to go, live in the preserved houses. The returnees immediately started clearing the ruins and village roads. According to the mayor of Srebrenica Sefket Hafizovic, the return of about 2,500 Bosniaks is expected this year. The return to the town of Srebrenica will also be speeded up, as about twenty houses have been rebuilt there, and another twenty apartments freed for the return of their prewar tenants.
And Petritsch Will Oversee!
by Senka KURTOVIC
Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo, Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, B-H, May 11, 2001
High Representative in Bosnia-Hercegovina Wolfgang Petritsch said on Thursday at a press conference that the whole international community is consternated and shocked by the horrendous events in Trebinje and Banja Luka. He said it and disappointed all those who will for a while not recover from consternation and shock that took place in their own country. There is no need to explain with what tension all normal citizens of Bosnia-Hercegovina expected the end of the meeting of the Governing Board of the Peace Implementation Council. The least that could be expected, and we did, I admit, expect it, were punishments. We expected - one should be honest - a big stick. But instead of concrete, the most concrete decision, political directors of the Peace Implementation Council and the High Representative opted for all but a carrot. Carrot disguised behind condemnations, repeated phrases that we have heard so many times these days that we cannot comprehend where "our foreigners" find strength to repeat them like parrots - we are horrified, consternated, shocked. We are also horrified, consternated and shocked by the decision of the peace implementation council. The least that the High Representative and his distinguished colleagues could have offered was a dismissal. If it did not occur to Sarovic, Cavic, Ivanic and Kalinic to offer resignations (for the sake of common decency) Wolfgang Petritsch had to be, as many times in the past, firm and fire at least one of senior officials in the Republic of Srpska. At least as a warning. At least to demonstrate what happens when the authorities "fail" to control the crowd. At least to demonstrate to all of us that nice words, advises and threats are useless in Bosnia-Hercegovina. That is why the explanation that the international community will not allow that 1992 be repeated in BH sounds so hollow. Really? Between 1945 and 1992 many generations were raised in Europe and had a chance to hear on many occasions that Auschwitz, the persecution would not happen again and that they would not get a chance to read some new diary of Anne Frank. And it did happen, again in BH, and before that in Croatia. The international community allowed Omarska, Srebrenica, Vukovar, Mostar... And that is why we do not trust them anymore! We do not trust cynical explanations that SFOR forces and international police are only extras in our horror. And unlike the movie extras, these, from the Stabilization Forces and IPTF are extremely well paid. Their job is to "oversee the local police". To perversely oversee while raging Chetniks in Trebinje beat up "our foreigner" Daniel Ruiz, while they throw pig heads into the yard of the medzlis in Banja Luka, while urged by the newly awakened pyromaniac instincts they set on fire buses in which Muslims arrived in their Banja Luka. Dear God, does that all important international community think that these "tribes" in Bosnia are so stupid and so obtuse that they will believe that the IPTF and SFOR also rely on the intelligence obtained by the local police? That is presumably why SFOR did not react. Their soldiers, comfortably leaning against their armored troop carriers, watched a live broadcast of war. Therefore, it was assessed that that was a police problem and that they could relax. At least they will have something to talk about when they return to their home countries. That will be an interesting story for neighbors, girlfriends, children and grandchildren. An interesting story from some Banja Luka in some Bosnia, where some people fought a war, for God knows what. SFOR clarified for us that "it would not have been suitable for us to prevent the Police from carrying out its duties". Cynicism? Insolence? What else? SFOR decided to allow the Srpska Police to take charge. We have seen that movie before. And almost did not survive watching. One guesses that in summer 1995 the then NATO forces in BH did not find it suitable to prevent Mladic's butchers from "carrying out their duties" in Srebrenica! Perhaps it "was not suitable" to prevent last year a raging mob from burning 100 houses and wounding 50 Bosniaks in Janja? Perhaps it was "not suitable" to prevent the SDS conjurers in Derventa from stoning Cardinal Vinko Puljic in 1998? Perhaps...! The explanation that in Banja Luka "the police did its best, saved the people and resolved the incident" can serve as a consolation for the fact that SFOR, IPTF, and the "consternated and shocked" international community are watching our horror without meddling. In the end, SFOR told us very seriously, no one was killed. Which, let us clarify, in their thinking, in Bosnia, is a miracle. There was a mob in the streets, those who were expelled came back to their city, and did not want anything but that which belongs to them. Come on, it is success that no one was killed! Consequently we understand the consternation and shock of the distinguished gentlemen from the international community. Especially na´ve tasks that they have come up with for the Republic of Srpska. They ordered the authorities there to set up democratization programs, reconciliation programs. Dreams, nothing but dreams! They ordered the authorities in Srpska to face war crimes. An illusion, of course! It is necessary to as soon as possible punish those individuals who were responsible for violence in Trebinje and Banja Luka. God willing! The High Representative and the Governing Board of the Peace Implementation Council gave themselves the task to - oversee. We've already seen that. In Srebrenica six years ago. In Trebinje and Banja Luka these days. War criminals did their job, and the international community oversaw. And it did not see anything!
Implementation of the Bosnia-Hercegovina Constitutional Court decision
Is Federation Giving Up House of Nations?
by S. SEHERCEHAJIC
Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo, Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, B-H, May 26, 2001
The Constitutional Commission of the lower house of the Parliament of Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina (FBH) will pass yet another deadline by which it was supposed to adopt proposed amendments of the FBH Constitution in accordance with the decision of the BH Constitutional Court about the constituent character of nations. The job was not finished at the last meeting of the commission scheduled for this month, held two days ago. The next session will most likely be held on June 5 or 6. Let us remind our readers that in late April, after the OHR managed to fill all the spots on the commission by appointing two representatives of the Croat nation, the commission president Jakob Finci promised that the commission would finish its job within a month (by May 31). However, the meetings held so far were not in vain. Many amendments have been agreed and according to the most optimistic commission members, these amendments could enter the procedure in the FBH parliament in mid June. The commission reached agreement regarding amendments specifying that all three constituent nations as well as "others" will be mentioned in the FBH Constitution, both the Latin and the Cyrillic alphabet, as well as the Bosnian, Croatian and Serb language will all be official, all federation units will be listed in the Constitution, the institution of four ombudsmen, of which at least one can be from the ranks of one of constituent nations or others, will be introduced, equal number of Bosniak, Croat and Serb judges was introduced in federation courts...
Lack of Consensus
However, there is still no consensus regarding the future status of the House of Nations of the Federation BH Parliament and, in connection with that, the mechanism for the protection of vital national interests in this entity. Members of the Commission spent a lot of time at every meeting so far discussing solutions that have somewhat earlier been reached in the Republic of Srpska. The Constitutional Commission in the neighboring entity has finished its work. It only needs to go over the proposed amendments one more time. The house of nations will not be introduced in the neighboring entity in the future. The issue of the protection of vital national interests was left to the Constitutional Commission. That is why the Federation BH Constitutional Commission has been increasingly leaning towards the solution that would remove the house of nations in the Federation BH. As proposed by the international working group the house of nations would be replaced by the house of cantons. The upper chamber of the parliament would be reduced to 50 from the current 80 members. Representatives in the house of cantons would be elected by the cantonal assemblies based on the proportional representation of individual political parties in the cantonal assembly. Ten federal units would elect five representatives each for the house of cantons. The protection of the vital national interest would become the duty of the Constitutional Commission. The Commission would be for the first time introduced in the constitution, and its activities would be regulated by a separate law. The Constitutional Commission would have 20 members, five each from each constituent nation and five representatives of "others". However, one must wonder whether that means that the Constitutional Commission in the Federation BH would thereby simply adapt to the solutions adopted in the Republic of Srpska? OHR representatives have been promising harmonization of the solutions proposed by the both constitutional commissions and reject this doubt. Chair of the House of Nations of the Federation BH Parliament Ivo Komsic believes that it is necessary to adopt a document that will be acceptable for the Parliament. He keeps repeating that the political parties with representation in the Parliament FBH will only accept identical solutions in both entities and advocates adoption of such solutions that will make the organization of the two entities as similar as possible.
Entities are not states!
"Either the Republic of Srpska will introduce a house of nations, or the Federation will abolish its house of nations," says Komsic. "We above all, must specify how the composition of the House of Nations at the state level, as well as how the entity constitutional commissions will protect vital national interests". The Constitutional Commission in the Federation frequently encounters problems that surpass the mandate given to them by the High Representative in BH. For example, there is a dilemma whether, within these changes, it should propose the abolishment of the Human Rights Court, introduction of the Federation prosecutor in the constitution etc. Commission members who are at the same time representatives in the parliament, advocate wider approach to the changes of the constitution, while others mostly stick to the view that the commission should not overstep its mandate. Thus, the representatives will eventually receive two documents - the first one about the constitutional changes directly related to the decision of the BH Constitutional Court and the other one that will deal with other proposed changes.
Corner stone for the church of St. Marko in Plehan laid
Church Symbol of Croat Return
by Sa. MUSTAJBEGOVIC
Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo, Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, B-H, June 23, 2001
The corner stone for the church and monastery, hope for the future and better tomorrow, was laid on Saturday in Plehan, the Derventa Municipality, at the location occupied by the mediaeval Franciscan monastery and the church of St. Marko the evangelist, which was destroyed in 1992. "This reconstruction will heal wartime wounds, encourage the construction of family homes, because the church is the symbol of community," Cardinal of Vrhbosna Vinko Puljic said at the ceremony in Plehan. Several thousands of residents of Plehan came from Bosnia-Hercegovina, neighboring Croatia, and other countries to give their support to the Franciscans who decided a few years ago to start working on the dream about the return of Croats to Plehan. The Plehan guardian, Fr. Ivan Curic, came the initially in 1998 and later other Franciscans joined him. Fr. Curic lived for a while in a container. Later a small church and house were built at the location of the former shed. By the way, in Plehan one can see only a few houses under roof and a lot of ruins. Smoke still does not rise from the local chimneys. "The essence of the laying of the corner stone is to encourage the return of Croats to this part of the Sava valley region," Cardinal said, emphasizing that next to this house of God it is necessary to build courage and summon strength for the reconstruction of houses. Cardinal's address to the gathered faithful was based on three segments - the unity of Croats, return and reconstruction of their prewar homes. He explained that "something" can be built only if it is built with unity, and that that is the essence of the reconstruction of the church, which will provide impetus for the return. "The Church of St. Marko is a symbol of a historical center as well as the whole Derventa or Plehan region," Puljic said, adding that that is at the same time an impetus for the reconstruction of Vrhbosna bishopric churches that were destroyed. Their reconstruction is at the same time the renewal of the cultural and spiritual life, as well as of our roots. In his address, the Cardinal called on the Croat officials in Bosnia-Hercegovina to remain united and keep mutual understanding. Namely, before the start of the holy mass, Croat officials who were in the Franciscan house, and are members of different political parties, ignored each other. They even refused to greet each other. Later, when Fr. Curic greeted every attending Croat official individually in front of the gathered crowd, the crowd also responded based on its political beliefs. Nevertheless, political misunderstandings did not diminish the importance of this historically symbolic house of God, which was in its history destroyed and reconstructed many times. "To build a church is a subtle issue. It can be a place gathering people around good, but it can also bring disunity," Fr. Miro Dzolan said, suggesting that in Bosnia-Hercegovina there are numerous richly endowed religious objects that serve only as markers for occupied territories. He expressed hope that the church in Plehan will wake up all positive energies in the people so that they can realize their dreams about return. Besides rain, which did not diminish the strength of love for ones birthplace, the residents of the Sava valley region could not be surprised by anything yesterday. On the road between Doboj and Plehan there were numerous patrols of the Republic of Srpska Police, and only one access road to this holy site was open. Police patrols blocked all other access roads and returned the uninformed persons without explaining why they could not continue on that particular road. Two years ago, when Cardinal Puljic served a holy mass in Plehan, there was an incident.
The biggest political crisis in Bosnia-Hercegovina so far looming
What Is More Important - Election Law Or Constitutional Amendments?
by Resad DAUTEFENDIC
Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo, Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, B-H, June 28, 2001
Judging by the currently totally different political views, only big optimists in Bosnia-Hercegovina are currently hoping that the election law will be adopted by September. Currently there are attempts to change the order of steps needed to be taken in order to adopt the law that is a condition for the entry of Bosnia-Hercegovina in [the Council of] Europe. The Alliance for Changes demands that the decisions of the Bosnia-Hercegovina Constitutional Court regarding the constituent character of nations be first included in the Constitution of Bosnia-Hercegovina, which would imply changes in the entity constitutions, and that the election law be adopted only after that. The Alliance believes that it is good that the current proposal of the election law was not adopted, because in the end they decided that that proposal was discriminating against all the citizens, and they also realized that after the state Constitution this is the most important law. Legal experts consulted by Oslobodjenje believe that the current entity constitutions have so many loopholes that they from the legal point of view do not even look like constitutions, so that they should have been changed even before the decision of the Bosnia-Hercegovina Constitutional Court. That is why many of them blame the international representatives in Bosnia-Hercegovina, and their message for the Council of Europe is that they should have first forced local politicians to implement changes of the constitution and then adopt the election law.
Discrimination in Election of Presidency Members
Let us start with the election of the members of the Presidency of Bosnia-Hercegovina. If every constituent nation elects only its representative, as was the practice until now, then even a lay person can see that there is no equality for any of the nations, and especially if we consider the position of the citizens. The injustice could be removed, for example, by organizing two rounds of elections. Thus, in the first round all citizens of Bosnia-Hercegovina would vote for all members of the presidency, while in the second round representatives of nations would pick one out of two top vote getters from each constituent nation. While the changes of the constitution are not implemented, for which the political will is lacking in at least one half of the state, discussions about these issues could last ad infinitum. However, if foreign experts were given this task, everything could be finished in ten days, the legal experts claim. They believe that it could be even possible to create a unicameral assembly on the entity level, while if needed the assembly could be split in the houses of nations. That would be the way to avoid asymmetry in the organization of authorities in the two entities, which also applies to the judiciary and the police. Finally, the internal organization we have now at the state level should be copied at the entity level. The Office of the High Representative and the OSCE demand that the election law of Bosnia-Hercegovina be adopted by July 15, 2001. It is impossible to fulfill this demand within twenty days left until this deadline. Vice-president of the SDP Sead Avdic: "The OSCE is concerned about the holding of elections in November 2002 and in that context it has obligations that it has to fulfill, from the organization of the election commission to providing financial resources for the holding of the elections, but this is not a concern of the Parliament of Bosnia-Hercegovina. We respect the OSCE's concern and their deadlines, but honestly we were given the 'hot summer' by the Council of Europe to reach consensus about the election law, because the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will meet in mid September in Georgia. I believe that the election law will have been adopted by then. Any insistence on any deadline can only be viewed as pressure exerted by the OSCE on the Parliament of Bosnia-Hercegovina. I above all ask the OSCE to do all in their power to make sure that the process of the alignment of the entity constitutions with the constitution of Bosnia-Hercegovina be completed and that we have a complete election law that will be used for the elections in the November of the next year".
Interpretations of Legal Experts From Europe
If European legal experts are consulted, Avdic concludes, we could very quickly reach consensus and provide a European election law for Bosnia-Hercegovina. "The Political Committee of the Council of Europe supports the Alliance in its assertion that the proper order of steps would be to first implement constitutional modifications and only then write an honest election law," Avdic says. Dr. Safet Halilovic, secretary general of the Party for Bosnia-Hercegovina, explains that there are many controversies regarding the election law. The public has the impression that the SDS and the HDZ, the parties that did the most on the dissolution of Bosnia-Hercegovina, supported the election law and entry in the Council of Europe, which is an obvious lie. That indicates that the OSCE, the organization that forced the Council of Ministers to insist on such a reductionist [sic] model of the election law, made a mistake. According to the SBiH, a mistaken approach was adopted. Instead of building a house from the foundation, we started with the roof. The Party for Bosnia-Hercegovina submitted eight amendments to the election law and demanded that the stipulations referring to the form P2 be corrected. Among other that form implies that 650,000 individuals who live in somebody else's homes can vote in their current residences. Robert Frowick, as an OSCE president, as early as in 1996 gave written guarantee to Haris Silajdzic, emphasizes Halilovic, that that form will never be used. Halilovic complains that the solutions for the Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina and the Republic of Srpska are not symmetrical, regarding the House of Nations (instrument for protection of collective rights). Also there are discriminatory solutions that do not give equal chances to voters regarding the voting for the members of the Presidency of Bosnia-Hercegovina. The Republic of Srpska does not have a presidency with two deputy presidents, one a Bosniak and the other one a Croat, who would rotate at the position of the president of the presidency, while such a solution should be adopted in the Federation. Safet Halilovic believes that it is the joint job of the international community and the local politicians to resolve the mentioned problems in a packet, because until now there were too many unfulfilled promises.
Translated on November 20, 2001