by Perica BUNDALO
Experiences from here and abroad indicate that providing security for gatherings of citizens, especially those with the high degree of security risk, is the most complex and most difficult job police can do. Inter-ethnic tensions are inherently a lasting cause of high risk of gatherings of citizens of different ethnicities. That must be taken into account in the selection of content, prevention work and general preparation of these types of gatherings. Otherwise there is the danger that the police can end up being only one of the participants in the disturbances, even if it behaved in accordance with the law and specified procedures.
The police is the last to intervene, and use force, whose effect is always unpredictable. If the use of force is not carefully adjusted to the situation at hand, rather than to previously made plans, then force can significantly worsen the consequences, even result in casualties among the citizens. Before any assessments by the competent ministry, experts for police issues from the IPTF and neighboring countries gave positive assessments of the police work in the recent incidents, with the assertion that the police could not have done much better in the existing circumstances which were outside its influence. A number of officials of the international community also stated that the police more or less did all it could. The general assessment is that the special police forces executed an excellent evacuation of the citizens and representatives of the international community and prevented much worse consequences.
The assessment of the Banja Luka mufti that "mosques are being constructed without any trouble" in Kozarac, Gradiska, Kozarska Dubica and Prnjavor and that religious gatherings on those occasions were "well organized" is typical. At the same time, during the last month some events in Bosnia-Hercegovina, such as arrests of ethnic Serb citizens, the arbitration decision which gave Dobrinja to the Federation BH and others, caused dissatisfaction among the citizens of the Republic of Srpska and increased tension in inter-ethnic relations.
Aware of the significance of the recent events for the internal relations and the international position of the Republic of Srpska, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, immediately after the incidents took place, initiated numerous steps with the goal of improving the readiness of the police. The police chief in Trebinje was fired, and five officials and one policeman in the Banja Luka police station were suspended, while other activities seeking to establish individual responsibility for recent incidents are also under way.
I offered my resignation at a government session, as a personal and professional act that can contribute to remove all formal and essential limitations in the process of correcting the consequences of the recent incidents. The Banja Luka police chief did the same by submitting his resignation to me.
The police is currently fully engaged in identification, finding and taking into custody of vandals and providing evidence for their prosecution. Criminal courts have been submitted evidence sufficient for indictments against 34 individuals, 13 of whom had already been in custody. The Police station in Trebinje has already charged four individuals because of well-founded suspicion that they behaved violently during the incident there, while another 10 persons have been charged with violating public peace and order. A large number of unidentified individuals are being sought based on the photo and video documentation of the events in Trebinje and Banja Luka. Also the police is gathering information about criminals who abused the disturbances for committing crimes in Banja Luka.
Unfortunately the past unfortunate events have been widely manipulated by the media and politically abused, which only throws oil on the fire of the lowest human instincts everywhere in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Each time this happened in Bosnia-Hercegovina, her citizens were the principal victims.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs has already taken measures to provide additional protection for individuals and property that are deemed endangered.
I am convinced that in this joint task we shall be assisted by all those who can and must do so, the international community, authorities, political parties, media and all the citizens. I believe in that, because that is the price of the survival of all of us in the Republic of Srpska and Bosnia-Hercegovina.
The author is the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Srpska