PLACE DU PETIT-SACONNEX
1211 GENEVA 19
REPORT OF THE IPU MISSION
Published in Geneva on 22 August 1994
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Since the beginning of the conflict in the territories of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, successive IPU Conferences have taken positions on the need for urgent action to halt the violence and to achieve peace, respect for human rights and protection of minorities. In its resolution adopted on 17 April 1993, the 89th Inter-Parliamentary Conference asked that a special IPU mission be sent to the former Yugoslavia, in accordance with Article 1, 2(b) of the Statutes, "to hold consultations with regard to human rights and to support efforts for peace in the region".
2. At subsequent Inter-Parliamentary sessions, the Executive Committee and the Inter-Parliamentary Council considered sending a special mission, a final decision on which was taken at the 91st Inter-Parliamentary Conference (Paris, March 1994).
3. In its decision, the Council decided to send a mission composed of three parliamentarians which would focus on the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was also agreed that it would be opportune for the mission to cover the confrontations between Serbs and Croats in the Krajina region (Croatia). The Council confirmed that the mission would have a broad mandate to support peace efforts in the region and to deal with observance of human rights, and that its report should make recommendations deemed necessary to enable Parliaments to take the most effective action possible to secure peace and respect for human dignity. Finally, the Council affirmed that the mission should do its utmost to hold talks with the main protagonists in the conflict and accordingly should visit Sarajevo, Pale, Zagreb and Belgrade.
4. The mission took place from 31 July to 8 August. It was chaired by Senator Hipolito Solari Yrigoyen (Argentina) and composed of Mr. Geir H. Haarde (Iceland) and Mr. Leo McLeay (Australia). It was accompanied by Mr. Anders B. Johnsson, IPU Deputy Secretary General. The mission was conscious that the time allocated for the visit was exceedingly short. For that reason, it decided at the outset to focus its attention on the most recent developments with respect to the peace negotiations and the current situation of human rights in the countries visited.
5. The present report of the mission provides in the following section a succinct description of the background to the United Nations involvement in the conflict on the territories of the former Yugoslavia and the situation with regard to peace and respect for human rights at the time the mission was preparing to leave for the region. The next section describes the work of the mission, and the final section summarizes its conclusions and recommendations.
6. In presenting the report to the Union's governing bodies, the
members of the mission would like to extend their gratitude to
the leaders of the Parliaments in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina
and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and through them to their
parliamentary colleagues, for the welcome and co-operation they
provided. Likewise, they extend their gratitude to the political
leaders in Pale for having received and held talks with them.
Furthermore, the mission would like to offer its special thanks
to the United Nations Protection Force, acknowledging in particular
the logistical and other support which it provided and without
which the mission could not have carried out its work.
7. Serious fighting in Croatia began in June 1991 when that Republic and its northern neighbour, Slovenia, declared themselves independent from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and when Serbs living in Croatia, supported by the Yugoslav People's Army, opposed this move. Following international recognition of the newly independent States, the United Nations became actively involved in the situation in Yugoslavia on 25 September 1991 when the Security Council adopted Resolution 713 expressing deep concern at the fighting and calling on all States to implement immediately a "general and complete embargo on all deliveries of weapons and military equipment to the former Yugoslavia".
8. After months of negotiations, involving also a cease-fire agreement, the Security Council approved the establishment of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) for an initial period of twelve months. This mandate has been extended several times and today covers Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. UNPROFOR's headquarters was originally established in Sarajevo, but was subsequently moved, first to Belgrade and then to Zagreb. It also has a liaison office in Slovenia.
9. The original UN plan in Croatia comprises two central elements: (i) the withdrawal of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) from all of Croatia and the demilitarization of UN Protected Areas (UNPAs); and (ii) the continuing functioning, on an interim basis, of the existing local authorities and police, under UN supervision, pending the achievement of an overall political solution to the crisis. The mandate was subsequently enlarged to permit UNPROFOR (i) to monitor the "pink zones", which are areas outside the UNPAs controlled by the JNA and by now largely populated by Serbs; (ii) to control the entry of civilians into the UNPAs and perform immigration and customs functions at the UNPA borders at international frontiers; and (iii) to assume responsibility for the demilitarization of the Prevlaka Peninsula near Dubrovnik.
10. On 22 January 1993, the Croatian Army launched an offensive in a number of places in the southern part of UNPA Sector South and the adjacent "pink zone". The Serbs responded by breaking into a number of storage areas which were under joint control under a double-lock system in the UNPAs, and by removing their weapons, including heavy weapons. On 25 January 1993, the Security Council adopted Resolution 802 which inter alia called for an immediate cessation of hostile activities by Croatian armed forces within or adjacent to the UNPAs and their withdrawal from those areas, an end to attacks on UNPROFOR personnel, the return of all heavy weapons seized from UNPROFOR-controlled storage areas, and strict compliance by all parties with the terms of cease-fire arrangements. After several rounds of talks, the Government of Croatia and the local Serb authorities signed an agreement regarding the implementation of Resolution 802.
11. Finally, on 17 December 1993, Croat representatives and local Serb authorities in Croatia signed a Christmas Truce Agreement whereby the two parties undertook to cease all armed hostilities along all existing confrontation lines from 23 December until midnight on 15 January 1994. They also agreed to implement certain confidence-building measures, and to open negotiations as soon as the truce took effect on a "general and lasting" cease-fire, with the separation of forces on both sides. Subsequently, the truce was extended beyond 15 January and has generally held since then.
12. Meanwhile, hostilities had broken out in Bosnia and Herzegovina. On 15 October 1991, after the majority of the Serb deputies had left, the National Assembly passed a resolution declaring that the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was a sovereign State within its existing borders. The self-proclaimed autonomous regions of the Serbs rejected the Assembly's resolution and declared that only the federal laws and Constitution would apply on their territory. Subsequently, in a referendum held on 29 February and 1 March 1992, which was open to all ethnic groups but boycotted by Serbs, 99.4 per cent of the 63 per cent of the electorate who participated voted for full independence. Immediately thereafter the Republic's independence was declared.
13. In a series of resolutions and statements, the Security Council appealed to all parties to bring about a cease-fire and a negotiated political solution, and demanded inter alia that all forms of interference from outside Bosnia and Herzegovina, including action by the JNA and the Croatian army, cease immediately and that all local irregular forces be disbanded and disarmed. On 30 May 1992, the Security Council imposed wide-ranging sanctions on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in order to help achieve a peaceful solution to the conflict.
14. As the conflict extended, the Security Council took further measures, which also enlarged the mandate of UNPROFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina. These related mainly to (i) security arrangements at Sarajevo airport; (ii) protection of humanitarian convoys; (iii) the imposition of a "no-fly-zone" in the airspace of Bosnia and Herzegovina; (iv) border control; (v) the establishment of safe areas; (vi) the use of air-strikes; and (vii) the withdrawal of all heavy weapons from the immediate vicinity of Sarajevo.
15. After receiving reports of massive violations of human rights and humanitarian law, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights established the Office of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Territory of the former Yugoslavia on 23 February 1993. In his latest report to the Commission on Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur observed that the war continues unabated in Bosnia and Herzegovina and continues to be characterized by wholesale violations of human rights and humanitarian law. Whole populations are still victims of terrorization and harassment, particularly, though not exclusively, on territory controlled by Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat forces. The Special Rapporteur drew particular attention to different forms of suffering imposed on groups of people, such as terrorization of civilians through ethnic cleansing, detention, displacement of populations, rape, military attacks on civilians and interference with humanitarian aid.
16. With respect to the situation in Croatia, the Special Rapporteur noted a considerable decrease in violations of international humanitarian law since his previous report in November 1993. Nevertheless, he noted that there are serious human rights violations and patterns of discriminatory treatment directed against minority groups, as well as arbitrary practices by the authorities. His report focused on legal remedies for human rights violations, discrimination against Serbs, Muslims and other groups, illegal and forced evictions, the situation of refugees, the situation of the media and the situation in the United Nations Protected Areas.
17. As regards the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Special Rapporteur informed the Commission that he had continued to receive disturbing reports of human rights violations. In his view, the situation of certain ethnic and religious groups remains a cause for grave concern. His report addressed first of all the situation in Serbia and dealt with issues relating to the security of persons, public incitement to discrimination and hatred against minority groups, freedom of expression and the situation of the media, conscientious objection to military service, and refoulement of refugees, including the question of forced recruitment. The report contained separate sections on the situation in Kosovo (where it noted a continued deterioration with regard to respect for human rights), Sandzak and Vojvodina (where it testified to some improvements) and Montenegro.
18. Throughout the conflict, the international community has sought to identify a solution to the conflicts which have engulfed the region. These efforts have been spearheaded by the United Nations itself and the International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia (which was established in August 1992 and is co-chaired by a representative each of the United Nations Secretary-General and the Presidency of the European Union), assisted by several of the major powers.
19. With regard to the conflict in Croatia, these efforts eventually led to an agreement, reached between the parties to the conflict on 1 to 3 November 1993 in Norway, to adopt a strategy for the continuation of negotiations, based on three phases: (i) a cease-fire agreement; (ii) economic confidence-building measures; and (iii) negotiations on the political questions. The parties subsequently negotiated a cease-fire agreement, which they signed on 29 March 1994. At the time of the mission, the second phase of the process had not yet been initiated.
20. As to the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Bosnian Muslims and the Bosnian Croats held discussions in Vienna and Washington after many months of waging war against each other. These eventually led to the signing on 1 March 1994 of a Framework Agreement establishing a Federation in the Areas of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina with a Majority Bosniac and Croat Population and an Outline of a Preliminary Agreement for a Confederation between the Republic of Croatia and the Federation. Subsequently, the parties meeting in Washington on 18 March 1994 signed the "Constitution of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina" (also referred to as the Washington agreement).
21. Simultaneously, a "Contact Group" composed of France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United States of America and the United Kingdom was set up to secure the agreement of all the parties to the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina on a comprehensive settlement of the conflict in that Republic. On 6 July 1994, the Contact Group presented the parties with a proposal which would have allocated 51 per cent of the territory to the Bosniac/Croat Federation and 49 per cent to the Bosnian Serbs.
22. On the eve of the departure of the IPU mission to the region, a meeting of Foreign Ministers took place in Geneva on 30 July, attended by the Foreign Ministers of Germany, Greece, and France and the European Union Commissioner for External Affairs (representing the Troika of the European Union), the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom and the United States Secretary of State, together with the Co-Chairmen of the International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia. At that meeting, the Ministers welcomed the Bosniac/Croat delegation's acceptance of the Contact Group's proposal and urged the Bosnian Government to maintain its commitment to it and to a negotiated settlement to the conflict. At the same time, they expressed their profound regret that the Bosnian Serb delegation had not accepted the Contact Group's proposal. They called on the Bosnian Serb leadership to urgently reconsider their response and to provide unequivocal acceptance of the proposal which had been made.
23. Furthermore, the Ministers agreed, amongst other issues, that (i) proposals would be put before the Security Council to extend sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and to tighten enforcement of existing sanctions; (ii) a draft resolution concerning suspension of sanctions would be prepared, to be submitted to the Security Council immediately upon acceptance by the Bosnian Serbs of the Contact Group map; (iii) international co-operation with the neighbouring States should be developed to promote strict enforcement of the sanction régime; and (iv) the régime of safe areas should be strengthened, for which reason they also requested finalization of planning to permit strict enforcement and extension of exclusion zones.
24. The Ministers concluded that in the event of continuing rejection
of the Contact Group's proposal, as a last resort a Security Council
decision to lift the arms embargo could become unavoidable. They
also agreed that this would have consequences for the presence
of the United Nations Protection Force.
25. The mission started its work on 1 August in Zagreb when it met with senior officials from UNPROFOR, UNHCR and ICRC for discussions on the situation in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (a complete list of those persons the mission met with in the course of its work is attached as Annex II). The following day the mission held talks with the Deputy Foreign Minister of Croatia and with representatives of three of the main political parties represented in the Croatian Sabor and one independent MP (the mission met with representatives from several other parties on its return to Zagreb from Sarajevo - see next paragraph). The mission also travelled to Karlovac where it met with the Prefect. It also visited a UN checkpoint on the border with the United Nations Protected Area (UNPA) as well as a camp for refugees and displaced persons.
26. On 3 August the mission travelled to Sarajevo where it had several meetings with parliamentarians from different political parties. It also held talks with a member of the Presidency of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Moreover, it had an extensive briefing session at UNPROFOR. The next day it travelled to Pale where it met with the Vice-President of the self-proclaimed "Serb Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina" and the President of the "Assembly" of that entity, who was previously the President of the national Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the afternoon, the mission returned to Sarajevo and subsequently to Zagreb, where it met with representatives of several political parties, mainly from the opposition in the Croatian Sabor.
27. On 5 August the mission travelled to Belgrade. Upon arrival, it met with senior representatives of UNPROFOR, UNHCR and the European Union Monitoring Mission. It also had an extensive meeting with the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The next day it met with the head of the ICRC Office in Belgrade. Thereafter, it had long talks with members of parliament from several of the political parties represented in the Federal Assembly of Yugoslavia. Upon completion of its work on 7 August, the mission travelled overland to Budapest, and thence to Geneva. The following day it met to prepare an outline of its report and to decide upon its content. It also met with some of the representatives of the media accredited to the United Nations Office in Geneva.
28. In line with its mandate, the mission raised three main topics
in the meetings it held: (i) prospects for peace in the occupied
territories of Croatia; (ii) the prospects for peace in
Bosnia and Herzegovina; and (iii) the situation, particularly
with regard to human rights, in the country being visited.
The following paragraphs of this section of the report summarize
the understanding of the mission's members with regard to the
views expressed on those issues.
29. Almost every member of Parliament with whom the mission met said that the war in Croatia was the result of aggression by the Serbs, who had been waging a typical war of territorial conquest. It was stated that the Yugoslav People's Army had occupied Croat territory with a view to annexing it to a greater Serbia. The notions that the declaration of secession from the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia or fears of the Serb community in Croatia for their protection were at the origin of the conflict were firmly and repeatedly rejected by the MPs. They also stated that they were opposed to the very notion of an entity called Krajina, which would never be allowed to exist.
30. One MP felt that the conflict was the result of the repression which had existed in the former Yugoslavia. Another MP recalled that Serbs, like Jews, had suffered genocide in Croatia during the Second World War. With the break-up of the former Yugoslavia they feared they would again suffer repression. Yet another MP emphasized that many other countries and the international community as a whole had not behaved very responsibly during the crisis and were at least partly to blame for the present conflict.
31. With regard to the solution to the problem, all the MPs expressed the view that there was a need for a peaceful solution and that negotiations to this effect should be carried out. Some of them nevertheless pointed out that any government was entitled to establish law and order over the whole territory of the State and seemed to imply in their statements that if negotiations failed, the territories would have to be recovered by force. One MP stated that a peaceful solution was the only acceptable one and that it could only be achieved through dialogue and concessions on both sides.
32. Most of the MPs disapproved of the notion of some form of autonomy for the territories occupied by the Serbs, and several of them rejected the idea of any form of special rights in that part of Croatia. Others insisted that any solution must be based on the existing Croatian Constitution. One MP, who argued against ceding any part of the territory, felt however that there was a need for more autonomy in those parts where the Serbs lived. He felt in particular that the current Croatian Constitution met many, but not all, of the Serbs' concerns. He also felt that more time must pass in order to allow tensions to ease and confidence to be built before a definitive solution could be reached. Several of the MPs also felt that UNPROFOR's mandate needed to be changed. Amongst other things, they argued that it should take up position on the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
33. The Deputy Foreign Minister shared the view that the war in Croatia was the result of Serb aggression and felt that the occupied territories were already being integrated into a greater Serbia. Telephone communications went through Yugoslavia, the currency in use was the Yugoslav dinar and Yugoslav textbooks were used in schools. He noted that before the aggression some 120,000 Croats and 70,000 others lived in the occupied territories. Today, the population was 180,000, almost all of them Serbs, many of whom had moved there from Bosnia and Serbia. These people, accounting for 4 per cent of the population, now occupied 25 per cent of the territory of Croatia. At the same time, 10 per cent of the population, almost all Croats, had been displaced.
34. The Deputy Foreign Minister felt that in order to solve the conflict, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Croatia should recognize each other within their existing borders. This would solve a very substantial part of the problem. The rest of it could be solved peacefully through negotiations. He reiterated the proposal previously made by the President to the effect that political autonomy be offered to those two parts of the occupied territories where the Serbs had constituted the majority of the population at the time of the 1991 census. He also called for a change in UNPROFOR's mandate so that it could enforce peace. Lastly, he said that Croatia, like all other countries, had to defend its sovereignty and could not agree to become another Cyprus.
35. Most of the MPs expressed support both for the Washington agreement and for the recent proposal of the Contact Group. They also fully recognized the international borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina. One MP said, however, that in his view the Contact Group's proposal was unfair; the Serbs represented only 33 per cent of the population and therefore did not deserve to obtain 49 per cent of the territory. Another MP rejected outright the Contact Group's proposal, which he felt was tantamount to rewarding the Serbs for their aggression.
36. A few MPs expressed the view that the Serbs should be punished and Serbia should be demilitarized for the next 50 years or so. Other MPs felt that any solution was better than the present situation, which in their view was intolerable.
37. With regard to the arms embargo, many MPs felt that it gave an unfair advantage to the Serbs and expressed the hope that it would soon be lifted. Some of them argued that the lifting of the embargo would not automatically lead to more war. It simply meant that the Bosniac/Croat Federation would improve its negotiating position and stand a better chance of defending itself.
38. The Deputy Foreign Minister noted that Croatia gave full support to the Contact Group's proposal. The Bosnian Serbs' suggestion that further talks be held to achieve some adjustments to the proposed map was totally unacceptable. He felt it was imperative that the new States arising from the former Yugoslav Republic recognize one another within their internationally recognized borders. Generally speaking, the Deputy Minister voiced support for lifting the arms embargo, as this would allow the Bosniac/Croat Federation to defend itself. He warned, however, that lifting the embargo was tantamount to failure for the international community and might result in the departure of UNPROFOR and generalized war, probably spreading beyond the confines of the present conflict. He felt that the current efforts represented a last chance to achieve peace and every effort must be made to salvage them. He understood that, after everything that had happened, the different ethnic communities no longer wished to live together. The Bosniac/Croat Federatiaon had been successful. Some kind of "loose union" between the Federation and the Bosnian Serbs could be considered. The same principles should be applied to both sides. The Serbs wanted to join Yugoslavia, which he had nothing against, and the Bosniac/Croat Federation should similarly be allowed to join Croatia.
39. Most of the MPs felt that the overall situation of human rights in Croatia, including protection of Serbs, was satisfactory. They expressed the opinion that shortcomings could be attributed to the Serb aggression. It was stated that the Constitution of Croatia was in line with the highest European standards for protection of minorities and stipulates, in Article 15, that "members of all nations and minorities shall have equal rights in the Republic of Croatia" and that they "shall be guaranteed freedom to express their nationality, freedom to use their language and script, and cultural autonomy". The electoral law provides for the election of representatives of minorities, and some of the MPs pointed out that since the Serbian minority was entitled to representation in all the organs of the State, there were 13 Serbs in the Sabor. One independent MP, who was a member of a minority, noted that Serbs in practice enjoyed better rights than he did.
40. With regard to some of the issues which had been raised by the Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights (discrimination, illegal and forced evictions and the situation of the media), it was stated that much progress had been made. One MP said that human and minority rights legislation had been drawn up with the assistance of international experts.
41. Several MPs stated that the question of evictions was a minor problem which concerned only a few hundred of the 40,000 apartments of the former Yugoslav People's Army in Croatia. Those apartments had been allocated by the former army after 25 July 1991, when a regulation had been passed prohibiting their allocation to members of that army. A list of 26 categories of persons entitled to be allocated those apartments (including war widows and other victims of the war in Croatia) had been drawn up. One MP stated that there had hardly been any evictions in the preceding months. Recently, a few evictions had been decided by a competent court, but owing to protests from those concerned it had not been possible to carry them out. Another MP stated that the evictions had to be carried out much more vigorously than before.
42. One MP stated that the discrimination and problems relating to citizenship referred to in the report of the UN Special Rapporteur had also diminished. He noted that political life in Croatia was improving and that democracy was growing. The media were now much more free, although the opposition parties referred to the State-owned radio and television as a serious obstacle. He hoped that a recent law providing for the privatization of this sector would overcome the difficulty.
43. Several MPs referred to the situation of human rights in the occupied territories. They stated that the Serbs were practising ethnic cleansing in these territories, using terror methods to force Croats to leave and thus become displaced persons. One independent MP said that not even the Serbs themselves were immune from those methods, and he informed the mission that the previous day a Serb had been killed after refusing to join the Bosnian Serb army.
44. Several MPs felt that Parliament should have a greater say in solving the conflict. They complained that they were not informed about the details of the talks that were going on and that, specifically, Parliament should have a greater say in decisions regarding UNPROFOR's mandate. Together with several other MPs they also expressed deep concern at the adverse social consequences of the conflict in Croatia.
45. The Deputy Foreign Minister affirmed that respect for human rights was an important part of solving the conflict. Croatia was committed to the defence and promotion of human rights and had adopted legislation providing specific protection for minorities. He recognized that there were some problems in implementation but reiterated his government's unconditional commitment to overcoming them. Cultural autonomy was offered to all Serbs in Croatia, and he noted that more than half of them lived in areas outside the occupied territories, where they were fully integrated into society. The Deputy Foreign Minister pointed out that the Croatian Government had a minister in charge of national minorities who at the present time was a Serb.
46. Representatives of some of the international organizations with which the mission met during its travels in the region pointed to the enormous damage caused by the conflict. There were currently 97,000 refugees and displaced persons in the UN Protected Areas, a further 247,000 displaced persons within other territories of Croatia and 268,000 refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The lack of any immediate prospect of a solution to the conflicts had created frustrations and social tensions which could lead to further serious problems. The recent blocking of entry into the UN Protected Areas by the association of displaced persons was a warning.
47. All the politicians with whom the mission met in Sarajevo stated that the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina was an act of aggression by the Serbs and the former Yugoslav People's army in an attempt to create a greater Serbia. This was the case not only in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also in Croatia. Any suggestion that the declarations of independence adopted by those two countries were at the origin of the war was rejected.
48. Most of the persons encountered expressed support for the Contact Group's proposal. It was pointed out, however, that it did not fully meet the concerns of the Croat and Bosniac communities, particularly not those that had had to flee territories which, under the Contact Group's plan, would be allotted to the Bosnian Serbs. The mission was told that despite the fact that the Bosnian Serbs would receive 49 per cent of the territory although they were in a majority only in 42 per cent of the country, it was recognized that peace could be achieved only through a compromise, which most of the persons encountered were willing to make.
49. In contrast with the above, some of the MPs stated that the Contact Group's proposal was totally unacceptable. It was tantamount to rewarding the aggressor and would eventually lead to the partition of Bosnia and Herzegovina into two separate States. These MPs stated that no peace could be achieved which did not recognize an independent and integral State of Bosnia and Herzegovina. One MP said that the Contact Group's proposal had a very serious flaw in so far as it did not contain any enforcement mechanisms. Several MPs argued that no peace could be achieved as long as all the parties and mediators based their arguments on nationality issues, and they expressed the hope that a larger role in the peace process could be given to those political parties on all sides of the conflict which were not nationalist parties.
50. The mission was informed that the Parliament in Sarajevo had voted to accept the Contact Group's proposal by 87 votes to 17, with 2 abstentions. According to their interlocutors, the negative vote did not follow party lines. In fact, the majority of those voting against the proposal were MPs from the governing party, who under the plan would lose their constituency since it would in future be included in the Serb-controlled area.
51. Several of the MPs also stated categorically that they could not accept any links between a Bosnian Serb entity and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. They did not much like the idea of a Union between the Bosniac/Croat and the Serb entities and insisted that whatever form it took, the "Union" had to retain certain State powers, such as those relating to foreign affairs and certain economic issues (single currency, telecommunications, road network, etc.).
52. Likewise, many of the MPs argued that the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina was part of the larger conflict in the territories of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and that real peace could be achieved only if all the contentious issues were solved. It was suggested that mutual recognition between the different countries was an important element in this.
53. As regards the lifting of the arms embargo, several MPs suggested that this was important because it would allow the Bosniac/Croat Federation to defend itself and because it would signify political support from the international community. One interlocutor pointed out that the lifting of the arms embargo would mean that the international community had failed and that the parties would resort to yet more war. Many MPs argued that if the embargo was not lifted, the only sensible alternative was to demilitarize all the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
54. Some MPs advanced the idea that parliamentarians should play a larger role in seeking an end to the conflict and a durable solution for Bosnia and Herzegovina. They suggested that meetings be arranged at which MPs from all the different political parties represented on the territory could exchange views about the future of the country.
55. The mission's interlocutors in Pale held largely diametrically opposite views. They referred to the history of the Serbian nation and underscored the aggressions it had suffered over the years. The resolution on independence passed by the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 15 October 1991 was in their view unconstitutional, as were the subsequent referendum (which had been boycotted by the Bosnian Serb population) and the declaration of independence. These acts were in their view contrary to the constitutional arrangements in place in the Republic, which stated that any constitutional changes required the consent of the three communities, and had been the immediate cause of the war. They stated that Bosnia and Herzegovina had never been a multi-ethnic State in the sense conveyed by many of the international media. They affirmed that they had always lived in distinct and separate communities, whether in the countryside or in the cities, maintaining their ethnic privacy, and that the Bosnian Serbs had owned some 64 per cent of the land.
56. They felt that peace could be achieved if there was goodwill on all sides in the conflict. In that context, they expressed doubts about the sincerity of the Bosniac/Croat Federation, which they felt sought to pursue the war. The ultimate objective of the Muslims was to force the Serbs out of Bosnia and Herzegovina and into Serbia. They underscored the importance of creating confidence amongst the parties and an atmosphere conducive to peace. To that end, they suggested that a solid cease-fire be established with a complete cessation of hostilities. Moreover, they expressed support for the conclusion of an anti-sniping agreement. They also stressed the need to respect the agreement reached on 8 June 1994 to exchange the remaining 500 or so prisoners of war held by each side.
57. With regard to achieving a definitive solution, they rejected the Contact Group's proposal. It was stated that Serbs would rather die than accept a proposal which in their view was tantamount to an invitation to capitulate. Although they accepted the principle of a 51/49 per cent division of the territory, they felt that the proposed map provided for a Serb entity which was unacceptable in terms of resources and communications between its constituent parts. However, they felt that the proposal could serve as a basis for further discussions between the parties, assisted by a mediator.
58. Specifically, they suggested that in exchange for more territory being allocated to the Bosniac/Croat Federation in the central/western part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Serb entity should receive more territory in the west around Sanski Host, and obtain a wider corridor in the north linking the two parts of Serb territory and converting the three enclaves in eastern Bosnia - Gorazde, Zepa and Srebrenica - into autonomous areas within Serb territory.
59. As for the constitutional arrangements for a future Bosnia and Herzegovina, they affirmed that members of the different communities no longer wished to live together. The Serbs wanted to live only with other Serbs. They therefore saw only three possibilities: (i) the creation of an independent Serb State in parts of the territory of the former Bosnia and Herzegovina; (ii) joining that territory with Serbia; or (iii) joining the territory with the Serb-controlled areas of Croatia.
60. Few of the MPs addressed the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Those in Sarajevo insisted upon the importance of full observance of human rights but felt this was difficult to achieve in a war situation. They pointed to the ethnic cleansing practised by the Bosnian Serbs and stated that every family in the country had at least one member who was a refugee or who had been displaced by the conflict. They affirmed that there could be no lasting peace if they could not all return to their places of origin to recover their property. They also stated that they wanted to preserve a multi-ethnic society and pointed out that of the 160 MPs currently participating in the work of the Parliament, 95 were Bosniacs, 48 were Croats, 11 were Serbs (including the President of the Assembly) and 6 belonged to other ethnic groups.
61. The mission's interlocutors in Pale in many ways took a contrary view. They held that at least 80 per cent of the alleged ethnic cleansing had never happened but was part of a propaganda war launched against them. The people had merely fled. They also felt that Serbs would never want to live with Croats and Muslims and doubted the latter's sincerity in arguing for a multi-ethnic society. For that reason they could not fully subscribe to the right of all refugees and displaced persons to return to their places of origin. Perhaps a limited few could go back, it was stated. Instead, they suggested that the legal right to property should be upheld so that families from different communities could exchange their property. It was said that this was already happening at the local level in several places.
62. At the request of the IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, the mission also raised in Pale the case of one MP from the Parliament in Sarajevo who had been arrested by Bosnian Croat Defence Forces (HVO) in Zepec on 30 June 1993 and handed over to Serb forces the following day. Since then he has been held in captivity and has been visited by the ICRC. Since the early part of this year the ICRC has had no knowledge of his whereabouts. The mission's interlocutors stated that there were very serious allegations, including treason, against the MP concerned. He should therefore be judged according to the law. He could however benefit from the amnesty included in the exchange agreement signed on 8 June this year and be released as soon as the Bosniac/Croat Federation agreed to release all the prisoners of war, as provided in that agreement. The mission will make a separate report on this matter to the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians.
63. Many of the representatives of the international organizations present in the former Yugoslavia stated that all the parties to the conflicts had committed serious human rights violations. Some of those with whom the mission met noted, however, an improvement over the last twelve months in the situation of human rights although there were many serious and continuing problems. There were more than 2.7 million refugees and displaced persons on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina dependent on UN humanitarian assistance for their survival. Concern was expressed at the lack of international funding which had recently led to a drastic reduction in the aid programme.
64. Several representatives referred to continued practices of ethnic cleansing, particularly in the area of Banja Luka. Concern was also expressed about the practice whereby male civilians belonging to an opposing ethnic group were used to undertake military work on the frontlines. Even though this was contrary to international humanitarian law, national laws and regulations legalized the practice. Moreover, the parties were not respecting their commitments to release all prisoners of war.
65. All the interlocutors stated that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia demonstrates the intention and commitment of the country to reach a peaceful resolution of the conflicts. They added that the Federal Republic has no territorial claims on any of its neighbouring countries, old or new, and is ready to support any settlement which has been agreed upon by the parties to the conflicts.
66. Almost every interlocutor stated that the illegal manner in which Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina had seceded from the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, coupled with outside interference, was at the origin of the war. Before the war, Serbs were recognized as a constituent nation in those two republics. This right was contested by both Croats and Muslims and caused Serbs to fear for their protection and survival.
67. One of the parliamentarians noted that against this background, the Serbs living in Croatia should have the right to their own territory. They now had a temporary arrangement with UN protection. The way to solve the conflict was through political negotiations. Meanwhile the two parts of the country should have separate administrations while the two sides worked together on areas of common interest.
68. The Minister for Foreign Affairs noted that there already was an agreed strategy in place for achieving peace in the occupied territories. The UN Protected Areas (UNPAs) were under the protection of the United Nations until a definitive settlement could be reached. A cease-fire was in place and negotiations were due to start aiming at the normalization of economic life. The last phase, which should be left to the end, would be negotiations for a definitive political settlement.
69. In this regard, it was suggested that a considerable time should be allowed to elapse in order to overcome the present stalemate. It was important that confidence be established and that economic development take place. The decision of the Croat Government to introduce a new currency - the Kuna - which had never been used in Croatia except during the Fascist régime of the Second World War, was not designed to increase confidence. As for economic development, it was suggested that an eventual integration of Croatia into the European Union could be helpful. A referendum could then be held to determine whether the Croat Serbs preferred to remain in a united Croatia, belonging to the European Union, or as a separate nation outside the Union. It was also suggested that mutual recognition between Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia would go a long way to defusing tensions and building confidence.
70. Several of the parliamentarians referred to the Contact Group's proposal, which they supported. They nevertheless recognized that the Bosnian Serbs had some legitimate concerns regarding the drawing of the map. They expressed the hope that some form of negotiation could take place to make some minor adjustments to the proposal, preferably before the referendum which had been announced by the "Assembly" in Pale for the end of the month of August. With respect to that referendum, they feared that the Serb population was not sufficiently well versed in the details of the proposal which had been made and that they were therefore not likely to be able to take an informed decision.
71. They also referred to the constitutional guarantees which were being sought by the Bosnian Serbs but which, although conveyed to them verbally by one of the members of the Contact Group, had not been put in writing. These guarantees involve international guarantees and protection of the borders of Serb territory and the right of the Bosnian Serb entity to enter into a confederation with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on the same terms as the Bosniac/Croat Federation already has a recognized right to enter into a confederation with Croatia. They felt that these guarantees were reasonable and if put in writing could go a long way to changing the minds of the Bosnian Serbs so that they accepted the Contact Group's proposal.
72. All the interlocutors expressed the opinion that the sanctions imposed on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia were unjustified. Yugoslavia, they said, had consistently co-operated with the international community in seeking to secure a peaceful solution to the conflict and had exerted considerable pressure on the Bosnian Serbs to agree to the different peace proposals which had been put forward. The latest decision to cut all political and economic ties with the Bosnian Serbs was yet another example and the hope was expressed that the sanctions could now be lifted, at least gradually. This would go a long way to ensuring popular support for the government's policy and therefore also to achieving peace.
73. For his part, the Minister for Foreign Affairs expressed the hope that the Yugoslav sanctions against the Bosnian Serbs would be short-lived and that the Serb leadership in Bosnia and Herzegovina would soon agree to the Contact Group's proposal. Meanwhile, he said, the Yugoslav government was determined to enforce this embargo. He did not agree, however, to international observers monitoring its enforcement. The presence of foreign observers would not be understood and supported by the population of the country, and they were not needed since the international community had ample alternative means of monitoring the embargo, including electronic ones.
74. Several of the interlocutors spoke about the issue of human rights in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. One MP pointed out that the country was inhabited by Serbs and Montenegrins and some 20 ethnic groups. He referred to the protection afforded by the Constitution to the minorities, including their rights to preserve, foster and express their ethnic, cultural, linguistic and other heritage, as well as to use their national symbols, in accordance with international law. Another MP stated that the political aspirations of different entities and individuals were presented in the international media as a problem of human rights. However, some of those involved in these struggles used terrorist methods which threatened the security of the State and which therefore had to be suppressed. This was not a problem of human rights.
75. Most of the interlocutors stated that there were some problems in ensuring full respect for all human rights, and that these were due to the sanctions imposed on the Federal Republic. Once the sanctions had been lifted, the situation would improve.
76. Some of the representatives of the international organizations
with whom the mission had met during its travels, as well as some
MPs in both Zagreb and Sarajevo, had referred to violations of
the human rights of Albanians in Kosovo and Muslims in Sandzak.
With regard to the former, one MP in Belgrade stated that they
were seeking to secede from the Federal Republic and establish
a separate State; this was unconstitutional. Their human rights
were, however, not in question. He said that the Albanians could
even have autonomy but that they did not want it. As regards the
Muslim population in Sandzak, he said that he could understand
their unhappiness with the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and that
their situation was bound to improve once it was over. In any
case, he affirmed, their human rights were fully protected.
77. The members of the IPU delegation are unanimous in their condemnation of the war which has ravaged - and continues to affect - some of the territories of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, particularly Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. No possible argument can be invoked to justify an armed conflict which has now lasted over three years and which has left over one hundred thousand dead, even larger numbers injured and over 5.5 million refugees and displaced persons. Ethnic cleansing, systematic rape, indiscriminate sniping, shelling and bombardment have caused a level of human suffering which it will take years, if not generations, to overcome.
78. The delegation was struck by the fact that just about every person with whom it met held very definite views about the causes of the conflict and who was responsible for it. Most of the interlocutors seemed to be focusing their attention on the historical causes and the errors and injustices of the past, rather than on considering the future. While agreeing that a good knowledge of history is essential in order to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, the delegation did not believe that constant references to the distant past would help in solving the conflict. Neither would the dangerous notion of collective responsibility for actions or even crimes committed by individuals belonging to one or another ethnic group. The delegation expressed the hope that politicians and political leaders would focus more on the future of the region and its people, and would be more willing to forgive if not forget injustices that are now part of history.
79. Having heard all the views presented, the delegation believes that no party to the conflict is entirely innocent and no party is entirely to blame. In the delegation's opinion, all the parties to the conflicts share responsibility for the disaster, albeit in varying degrees. The delegation also believes that many countries not directly involved in the conflicts and the international community at large bear some measure of responsibility for what has occurred.
80. During the talks they held, the members of the delegation gained the impression that many of their interlocutors perhaps still expected more from a military option and therefore did not focus all their efforts on political negotiations leading to a peaceful settlement of the conflict. This is perhaps partly the result of the fact that each party so firmly seems to believe in the correctness of its cause.
81. For its part, the delegation firmly rejects military options. War can only bring further suffering and destruction; it cannot provide a lasting solution to the conflict. By the same token, the delegation does not perceive any major benefit that would result from the lifting of the arms embargo. Such a measure could in the delegation's view lead only to more war and human suffering. Moreover, there is a risk that, as a result, the civilian population would be deprived of the measure of protection which is currently provided by the United Nations Protection Force and the humanitarian relief and protection agencies since they might have to leave the theaters of war. As for the argument that without the lifting of the arms embargo the Bosnian Croats and Muslims are deprived of essential means of defending themselves, the delegation notes that some measure of military balance between the different armed forces is supposedly already being reached.
82. The delegation believes that increased tolerance and understanding among all the parties and communities must be an essential component in the search for a lasting solution to the conflict. Systematic efforts to build confidence gradually, together with political negotiations with a sense of conciliation, are the only way to arrive at a comprehensive and lasting settlement of the conflict.
83. With regard to the conflict in Croatia, the delegation supports the present arrangements whereby the United Nations offers protection in the occupied territories and encourages the parties to the conflict to co-operate on economic and social issues. It also encourages all measures which can be taken to draw Croatia closer to Europe, particularly membership of the Council of Europe and the European Union. It believes that over time it should be possible to reach a definitive political solution, which the delegation believes should entail some form of limited autonomy for the Serbs in certain parts of Croatia. Meanwhile it encourages the governments of Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to recognize each other within the borders defined for the respective Republics when the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was still in existence.
84. With respect to the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the delegation took note of the proposal submitted by the Contact Group which is currently the only concrete one and has been accepted by all but one of the parties directly or indirectly involved in the conflict. It very much hopes that the Bosnian Serbs will also accept the proposal. The delegation harbours no illusions, however, that it will provide a definitive solution to the conflict, but it should be able to lead to an effective cessation of hostilities permitting the peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina to start working together in search of more durable solutions.
85. The delegation supports the notion of multi-ethnic States in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as elsewhere, and hopes that everything will be done to give this notion a more concrete reality. It is firmly of the view that neither of the two States should be divided at this stage and supports the proposed establishment of confederations, although this concept needs further precision. In this respect, it believes that the Bosnian Serb community should have rights, equal to those accorded to the Bosniac/Croat Federation, to enter into confederate arrangements with neighbouring States. Moreover, the delegation encourages the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to recognize each other within the borders of the respective Republics as defined during the existence of the former Yugoslavia.
86. With regard to the economic sanctions which have been imposed on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the delegation is concerned about the negative effect they have on the civilian population of the country. Apart from the economic deprivation they entail, they may fuel extremism and lead to further violations of human rights. The delegation recommends that these sanctions be lifted gradually, as and when progress is made towards ending the hostilities in the region.
87. The delegation is very impressed by the work of the United Nations Protection Force, which is clearly the most complex UN peacekeeping operation ever, as well as by the work of the international humanitarian relief and protection agencies. The members of the delegation deplore the attacks on UN personnel which have so far cost the lives of more than 100 soldiers and left many others injured. They call upon all the parties to the conflict to respect UN personnel and other aid workers and to refrain from hindering the delivery of humanitarian aid. They also call upon the international community to provide all the necessary resources to the United Nations, including the financing of adequate humanitarian assistance.
88. With regard to finding a definitive solution to the conflict, be it in Croatia or in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the delegation firmly believes in the potential of confidence-building measures. These must aim at lessening tensions, strengthening democracy in all the countries concerned, ensuring respect for human rights and promoting economic development.
89. Specifically, the delegation recommends that effective and durable cease-fire agreements be established, including agreements to end the abhorrent practice of sniping. Such agreements should be monitored by the international community through military observers on the ground.
90. The delegation also recommends that the international community assist in strengthening representative institutions in all the countries concerned. In particular, it encourages the sending of parliamentary delegations to exchange experiences with MPs in the region. It also recommends that technical assistance be provided, notably concerning the building of political parties, electoral processes and the role, structure and working methods of national parliaments. It suggests that the Union's technical co-operation programme can be of use in this regard, should the individual parliaments concerned so desire.
91. As regards ensuring respect for human rights, the delegation believes that establishing the necessary laws and regulations are but a first step. Equally important are working mechanisms to ensure compliance with those laws and regulations. The Office of Ombudsman and other national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights are important tools which, however, must also be provided with suitable enforcement mechanisms. The delegation hopes that the discussion which will take place on this subject at the forthcoming 92nd Inter-Parliamentary Conference (Copenhagen, September 1994) can provide some guidance and specific models.
92. The delegation subscribes to the Inter-Parliamentary Union's view that there is a direct link between democracy, observance of human rights and economic development. The establishment of political freedom, popular participation, respect for human rights, justice and equality is vital to sustained economic growth and development. Such development is in turn essential to achieving stability and peace. The delegation therefore recommends that the parties to the conflict open negotiations on economic co-operation, including the possibility of establishing a customs union, and that the international community provide financial support for the reconstruction of the economies of the countries concerned.
93. Finally, the delegation believes that direct contact and dialogue between the elected representatives of the peoples in the three countries are important tools for fostering better understanding and increasing confidence amongst the parties. It believes it is essential that all the political parties participate in such a parliamentary dialogue. It notes that IPU Statutory Conferences and specialized meetings such as those on Security and Co-operation in the Mediterranean could provide an opportunity for such contacts. The delegation recognizes, however, that all the political parties in each country could probably not be represented in the parliamentary delegations to those conferences. Moreover, it believes that spontaneous contacts would be limited in nature and that more substantive encounters would need to be promoted.
94. For that reason, the delegation recommends that the IPU seek to organize a meeting of parliamentarians representing all the main political parties active in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The talks held at such a meeting could initially focus on such confidence-building measures as communications, the reunification of families and the general normalization of everyday life. In due course, the agenda could move on to the more difficult political problems.
95. The delegation recognizes that a number of difficult issues
will have to be resolved in order for such a meeting to be organized
and that it could only be held under a neutral chairmanship. It
feels, however, that it would be very much in line with IPU tradition
to try to arrange for such a meeting at the parliamentary level
and that agreement by all sides to participate would be a significant
step forward. The members of the delegation are ready to assist
the IPU with these tasks if the Union's governing bodies so desire.
LIST OF PERSONS WITH WHOM THE MISSION MET
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia