26 February 2004

Original: ENGLISH

[30 January 2004]

Independence of the judiciary, administration of justice, impunity
Impunity for war criminals in Bosnia-Herzegovina must cease

Almost nine years after the war ended Bosnia is still not a state governed by the rule of law. The basic preconditions for implementing the Dayton Peace Agreement (1995) - the return of the refugees and the arrest and delivery of indicted war criminals to the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague - have yet to be fulfilled.

2.2 million people were forced to flee their homes during the war. Of 963,655 returnees to date approximately 703,790 have returned to homes in the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Approximately 239,191 have returned to their homes in Republika Srpska. Some 136,000 of approximately 496,000 Bosniak (Muslim) refugees and expulsees forced to flee the territory of what is now Republika Srpska have returned home.

Thousands of individuals accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina are still at liberty. It is essential that they are brought to justice. Many have found a safe refuge in Republika Srpska. The same criminal elements that were in power there during the war remain in control.

The most important war criminals, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, were responsible for the murder of 250,000 Bosnian civilians. As many as 1,500 other alleged war criminals are still at large in Republika Srpska. GfbV / STP estimates that there are approximately 500 individuals living in the Drina valley (Podrinje) area alone who took part in the mass executions of over 7,294 victims (ICRC figures) at Srebrenica. Srebrenica itself is home to 33 alleged war criminals.

Karadzic's own political party, the so-called Serb Democratic Party (SDS), continues to control the administration, police force, courts and education system in Republika Srpska, in addition to local government. The alleged war criminal Borislav Paravac, one of those responsible for the "ethnic cleansing" of the town of Doboj, is one of the three members of the tripartite Bosnian Presidency. The public presence of war criminals is a major obstacle to the return of refugees and expulsees to their homes. In towns such as Srebrenica, Prijedor, Bijeljina, Bratunac and Visegrad returnees are daily faced with the prospect of confronting their persecutors in the street or in their dealings with the authorities.

There is a lack of regional cooperation over the arrest and delivery of war criminals to the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. The nations of Former Yugoslavia have either directly or indirectly refused to cooperate with the Hague Tribunal or have entered into international agreements that require them not to deliver up their citizens. This ensures their impunity.

GfbV / STP is extremely concerned by the international community's announcement that the Hague Tribunal will conclude its work in 2008 even if the principal war criminals have not yet been brought to account. The crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes that were perpetrated in Bosnia-Herzegovina are not just crimes against the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina, they are crimes against the international community itself.

The international presence must not be withdrawn from Bosnia and the work of the International War Crimes Tribunal must not be brought to an end before those who bear the major share of responsibility for the genocide have been convicted and a properly functioning system of law has been established in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Victims and relatives must receive compensation and witnesses must be guaranteed protection.

GfbV / STP, along with a large section of the international public, finds it unacceptable that the international forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina have so far been unable to arrest individuals who are the subject of indictments before the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, in particular the two who share the main burden of responsibility for the genocide at Srebrenica, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, and likewise that part of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the so-called Republika Srpska, should be allowed to remain under the control of Karadzic's political party, the SDS.

GfbV / STP calls on the UN Commission on Human Rights to increase its efforts to secure the implementation of Annex VII to the Dayton Peace Agreement, which guarantees the return of all expulsees irrespective of their ethnic or religious affiliation.

GfbV / STP asks the UN Commission on Human Rights to persuade the nations contributing to the EU protection force in Bosnia-Herzegovina to arrest all the alleged war criminals sheltering in Republika Srpska and deliver them to the International War Crimes Tribunal or the national courts

GfbV / STP asks the Commission on Human Rights to bring pressure to bear on NATO, the European police, the European Union, the Council of Europe and the United Nations to pursue, arrest and deliver Mladic and Karadzic to the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague without any further delay.

GfbV / STP asks the UN Commission on Human Rights to use its influence to persuade the UN Security Council not to end the work of the Hague Tribunal in 2008 as announced. The Tribunal's investigations and criminal prosecutions must not be ended before an effective action plan to put an end to impunity in Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro is agreed and implemented.

GfbV / STP appeals to the Commission on Human Rights, the International Criminal Court and the European Union to collaborate on the development and implementation of a common international and national witness protection programme.


* This written statement is issued, unedited, in the language(s) received from the submitting non-governmental organization(s).


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