Human Rights Watch World Report 1993 - The former Yugoslav Republics
|Publisher||Human Rights Watch|
|Publication Date||1 January 1993|
|Cite as||Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch World Report 1993 - The former Yugoslav Republics, 1 January 1993, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/467fca72a.html [accessed 29 March 2017]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Events of 1992
Human Rights Developments
Although five new states emerged in 1992 from the former Yugoslavia, human rights problems in each are interrelated and, therefore, will be discussed in one chapter. Continuing armed conflict in Croatia and, particularly, the outbreak of war in Bosnia-Hercegovina have been marked by appalling brutality inflicted on the civilian population and extreme violations of international humanitarian law. Violence and discrimination against minority groups in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina exacerbated ethnic tensions in each republic. Repression in Kosovo and violations of civil and political rights in Serbia and Croatia continued.
The dissolution of post-World War II Yugoslavia became final in 1992 with international recognition of three new states (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina), the secession of Macedonia and the formation of a new Yugoslav state (the union of Montenegro and Serbia, including the provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo). Croatia's and Slovenia's independence were recognized by the European Community and other countries on January 15. The European Community recognized Bosnia-Hercegovina's independence on April 6. The United States recognized Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia-Hercegovina as independent states on April 7. The three former Yugoslav republics were admitted as member states to the United Nations on May 22. The republic of Macedonia also declared its sovereignty but the international community on the whole has not recognized that republic's independence because Greece objects to Macedonia's name, which it regards as part of Greek heritage. On April 27, the republics of Mon tenegro and Serbia (including the provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo) joined to form a newYugoslav state. Few countries have recognized the current Yugoslav state as the legitimate successor to the former Yugoslavia. In September, Yugoslavia was expelled from the United Nations.
Violations of the Rules of War in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia
With the support of the Yugoslav armed forces and the Serbian government, Serbian insurgents in Croatia had seized over 30 percent of Croatia's territory by January 1992, when a cease-fire between the warring factions was brokered by Cyrus Vance, Special Representative to the U.N. Secretary General. U.N. peacekeeping troops were sent to Croatia and, although full-scale fighting has subsided in most parts of the country (with the exception of some areas that border Bosnia-Hercegovina), violations of the rules of war continue in Croatia.
After Bosnia-Hercegovina's independence was recognized by the international community on April 7, Serbian armed forces and paramilitary groups and the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) launched an offensive and eventually captured 70 percent of Bosnia-Hercegovina's territory. Serbian and Yugoslav forces fought against the Bosnian (i.e., predominantly Muslim) army and Croatian forces that are both indigenous to Bosnia-Hercegovina and from Croatia proper.
On May 19, the JNA announced that it was withdrawing from Bosnia-Hercegovina. However, the Belgrade authorities claimed that 80 percent of the Yugoslav Army troops in Bosnia-Hercegovina were Bosnian Serbs who would be free to remain in Bosnia-Hercegovina and fight on behalf of Serbian forces in the republic after the JNA withdrawal. The result was that a force of at least 30,000 men and large quantities of war materiel, including combat planes, remained behind. Paramilitary groups based in Serbia continued to operate in Bosnia, with the knowledge and apparent support of the Serbian government. Weaponry, fuel, spare parts and other support are sent from Yugoslavia to Serbian-controlled areas of Bosnia-Hercegovina on a regular basis. Serbs and, to a lesser extent, Montenegrins from Yugoslavia cross the border to fight on behalf of the so-called army of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina, the name adopted by the remnants of the former JNA in Bosnia-Hercegovina.
Members of the Croatian military were also active in Bosnia-Hercegovina, particularly during the early stages of the conflict. In addition, Croats from Bosnia formed their own army – the Croatian Defense Council (HVO) – and, in some cases, fought with the predominantly Muslim Bosnian troops against Serbian forces. Croatian and Bosnian troops in Bosnia-Hercegovina receive military and other support from the republic of Croatia. Although Croatian and Bosnian (i.e., predominantly Muslim) troops are nominally aligned, tensions have increased between them. Armed clashes between Bosnian and Croatian forces in October exacerbated those tensions and led to the displacement of Muslims in the town of Prozor.
Since April, the extent and brutality of the violence in Bosnia-Hercegovina has led to extreme violations of the rules of war by all parties. The most egregious violations in both Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina involved the policy of "ethnic cleansing" implemented by Serbian forces. Muslim and Croatian forces also are using intimidation, harassment and violence against Serbs in some parts of Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia to force the flight of Serbs from areas under their control.
The Serbian policy of "ethnic cleansing" involves the summary execution, disappearance, arbitrary detention, deportation and forcible displacement of hundreds of thousands of people on the basis of their religion or nationality. The goal is to rid all Serbian-controlled areas of non-Serbs, or at least to diminish their numbers significantly. Non-Serbs who were deported from Serbian-controlled areas of Bosnia-Hercegovina were forced to sign prepared statements relinquishing ownership of their property to the Serbian authorities in the region. Serbian forces indiscriminately bombed, shelled and otherwise attacked Bosnian towns, cities and villages. They also deliberately shot at civilians, including displaced persons and refugees. Such indiscriminate use of force usually served no military purpose but was aimed at terrorizing the civilian population to induce its surrender or flight. Rampant rape and sexual abuse of women throughout Serbian-controlled areas of Bosnia-Herceg ovina served a similar purpose. Deliberate and systematic torture was widespread in Serbian-controlled detention camps throughout Bosnia-Hercegovina, and summary executions, disappearances, severe beatings and sexual abuse were common there. The extentof the violence and its selective nature along ethnic and religious lines suggest crimes of genocidal character against Muslim and, to a lesser extent, Croatian populations in Bosnia-Hercegovina.
Despite a tenuous truce in Croatia, Serbian forces there also continued their campaign of "ethnic cleansing" in areas under their control. Non-Serbs who remain in the Serbian-controlled areas of the so-called Krajina region and eastern Slavonia have been murdered, disappeared, deported and forcibly displaced. In the latter part of 1992, "ethnic cleansing" in Serbian-controlled areas of eastern Slavonia increased despite the deployment of U.N. peacekeeping troops to the region. Moderate Serbs who voiced their opposition to the increasing violence and totalitarianism in Serbian-controlled areas were also murdered.
Croatian forces in Croatia and Croatian and Muslim forces in Bosnia-Hercegovina also were guilty of forcibly displacing Serbs on territory under their control. Croatian forces destroyed homes and entire villages once occupied by Serbs to prevent their return. This destruction was most serious in Slavonia and Dalmatia. A campaign of intimidation was used against Serbs in Croatia and in Croatian- and Muslim-controlled territories of Bosnia-Hercegovina to displace Serbs from those regions. Muslim forces destroyed Serbian villages in the Konjic municipality in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Croatian forces destroyed Serbian villages in the Capljina municipality in western Hercegovina. Croatian and Muslim forces in Bosnia-Hercegovina have detained Serbian civilians as hostages for the purpose of negotiating prisoner exchanges.
Violations of Civil and Political Rights in Yugoslavia
Serbian forces – primarily paramilitary groups – also undertook a policy of "ethnic cleansing" in Yugoslavia, primarily in the republic of Serbia. Methods used included intimidation, harassment, discrimination and forced displacement against Muslims, Croats, Hungarians and Albanians. The Serbian government of President Slobodan Milosević was silent in the face of these abuses, which many believe it condoned.
In the province of Vojvodina, Serbian paramilitaries and local extremists, with the apparent blessing of local, provincial and republican governments, led the campaign to displace forcibly non-Serbs from the area. Croats, Hungarians and others were expelled by Serbian militants from the villages of Hrtkovci, Sid, Slankamen, Indjija, Beksa, Petrovaradin, Plavna, Golubinci and Kukujevci. Most Serbs who were permanent residents of these villages did not support the expulsion of their non-Serbian neighbors and often intervened on their behalf. But Serbian refugees from Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina, in conjunction with Serbian paramilitary groups and political extremists, terrorized, beat and harassed non-Serbs in Vojvodina, forcing them to flee Yugoslavia. Their homes later were occupied by Serbian refugees from Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina.
Similarly, in the region of Sandžak, which straddles Serbia and Montenegro, violence by Serbian paramilitaries and local extremists forced Muslims to flee, particularly from the villages of Pljevlja, Priboj and Sjeverin. Some Sandzak Muslims have been murdered and disappeared by Serbian paramilitary forces. Helsinki Watch also received reports that Yugoslav military personnel, who were present in large numbers in Sandzak, were responsible for harassing and, in some cases, beating Muslims in Sandžak and demanding that they leave Serbia. Muslim refugees who had fled or been displaced from eastern Bosnia initially sought refuge in predominantly Muslim enclaves of Sandžak. Many have since left the region or are planning to leave because they feel threatened by the heavy military presence and paramilitary activity in the area, which reminds them of the persecution they had faced from those forces in Bosnia-Hercegovina.
Repression against the ethnic Albanian population in Kosovo continued in 1992. The Albanians, who comprise 90 percent of Kosovo's population, refused to recognize the Serbian government's abolition of autonomous status for the province and the establishment of direct rule from Belgrade. Instead, the Albanians formed their own parallel government and professional and civic institutions. Meetings of the underground Albanian government were banned, dispersed or obstructed by the Serbian police. Albanians continued to be arbitrarily detained, tortured and otherwise mistreated in detention. Dismissal of Albanians from their jobs on the basis of their ethnicity continued. Some Albanian workers were also illegally evicted from their homes. Albanianscontinued to be jailed for nonviolent political offenses, including possession of certain Albanian-language publications and participation in peaceful demonstrations. Most Albanians were sentenced to 30- to 60-day prison terms for such "offenses" and many served such prison terms multiple times. Freedom of the Albanian-language press remained restricted in Kosovo. The daily Albanian-language newspaper, Rilindja, remains banned. Articles and illustrations that were contrary to Serbian policy were banned, and journalists and editors were arrested and imprisoned. Serbs and Montenegrins were given preferential treatment before the law. A longstanding record of human rights abuses and discrimination against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo has socially and economically marginalized that population. Thousands of Albanians have fallen into poverty and been forced to emigrate. Conversely, Serbs and Montenegrins have been accorded economic and political incentives to settle in Kosovo.
In 1992, the federal Yugoslav government of Prime Minister Milan Panić took modest steps to improve ethnic relations in Yugoslavia. Members of the new Yugoslav government met with non-Serbs in Vojvodina, Sandžak and Kosovo. The federal police were sent to the village of Pljevlja after paramilitary activity and violence increased in the town. The local paramilitary leader in Pljevlja was later arrested. Although such steps by the federal government were commendable, they were inadequate and had few results, as paramilitary activity, violence and harassment toward non-Serbs increased throughout Yugoslavia, with the apparent approval of the Serbian government of Slobodan Milosević. Members of the federal Yugoslav government claimed that the arrest of Serbian paramilitary leaders and their followers, who are responsible for much of the ethnic violence in Yugoslavia, lies within the jurisdiction of the Serbian and Montenegrin republican governments. But the fede ral government itself had a duty to arrest, prosecute and punish those responsible for violations of federal and international laws, including war crimes committed in Bosnia-Hercegovina.
The mainstream Serbian media continued to be controlled by the Serbian government, although Serbian journalists demanded more vocally than in prior years that professional and not political criteria define their work. The Politika publishing house and television station became more independent in 1992. The opposition media in Yugoslavia remains concentrated in the Belgrade area. The opposition station Radio B92 has long been denied access to frequencies that would enable it to broadcast into central Serbia, the bastion of Slobodan Milosević's support. An independent weekly, Vreme, continued to publish in Belgrade without any interference from the Serbian government.
Violations of Civil and Political Rights in Croatia
In addition to the violations of the rules of war noted above, most of the human rights violations in Croatia in 1992 involved discrimination against Serbs and restrictions on freedom of speech, association and the press. In Croatia, local government, police and military officials and individual extremists continued to perpetrate acts of violence against Serbs and to discriminate against and harass them, to force them to leave Croatia. Although many of these Serbs were law-abiding citizens of Croatia, some local Croatian extremists branded them supporters of, or collaborators with, the Serbian insurgents in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina. The methods used to supplant Serbs from their homes in territory under Croatian control included dismissal from jobs, destruction of property, questioning by the police and general harassment by individual extremists. Although disappearances of Serbs decreased in 1992, Helsinki Watch received reports from family members of a Serb who had been abducted by unknown persons in the municipality of Djakovo and whose whereabouts remain unknown. Violence against Serbs and threats against peace activists in Osijek increased in the latter part of the year. Although most of the violence appeared to be organized and perpetrated locally, the republican government of President Franjo Tudjman did little, if anything, to punish and prevent such attacks. Although it promised to bring the perpetrators to justice, the Croatian government failed to arrest, prosecute or punish those responsible for the October 1991 massacre of at least 23 Serbs in Gospić. Nor did the Croatian government take steps in 1992 to punish and prevent mistreatment in detention of persons held by the Sisak police. The Croatian government also has failed to investigate thoroughly and to prosecute those responsible for abuses committed elsewhere in Croatia.
Throughout 1992, the Croatian government filed criminal charges againstthousands of Serbs believed to have participated in the Serbian insurrection or committed war crimes in Croatia. In most cases, these Serbs were indicted under the Croatian criminal code for having "participated in or organized an armed rebellion." Some Serbs were tried and sentenced in absentia because they remained in Serbian-controlled areas of Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina or in Yugoslavia. In certain cases, the charges brought against Serbs appeared justifiable but in many instances little evidence existed to support the indictments. Rather, thousands of persons were arbitrarily indicted on the basis of their ethnicity or political affiliation.
In October, the Croatian parliament adopted an amnesty law that exempted from prosecution all those who had fought on the side of Serbian forces in Croatia (i.e, between August 1990 and September 25, 1992). The law did not exempt from prosecution those believed to have committed grave breaches of international humanitarian law (i.e., war crimes). The criteria that will be used to determine who will be amnestied and who will be classified as a "war criminal" has not been fully explicated. Although Helsinki Watch welcomes the amnesty law, we believe that those who are guilty of war crimes as defined by international law should be brought to justice, including members of the Croatian army and police, as well as Serbian insurgents. Moreover, the criteria used to determine who is a war criminal must be objectively based upon credible evidence.
Freedom of speech, association and the press were restricted in Croatia in 1992. In May, the president of the Serbian Democratic Forum, Milorad Pupovac; the president of the Croatian Party of Rights, Dobroslav Paraga; Danas columnist Jelena Lovrić; Globus columnist Tanja Torbarina; Globus editor-in-chief Denis Kuljić; and Slobodna Dalmacija journalists Viktor Ivančić, Predrag Lucić and Boris Dežulović were charged by organs of the Croatian government with slander, "spread[ing] false information" and "disturbing the public." All had criticized the Croatian government, President Tudjman or former government officials. Jelena Lovrić was found guilty and sentenced to six months of probation. In other cases, charges were dropped or charges remain in effect but prosecution has not proceeded. The Croatian government has also repeatedly filed charges against members of the right-wing Croatian Party of Rights. Whi le some of the charges appeared justifiable (e.g., illegal formation of paramilitary groups), others were based on the expression of the party's political view or its leadership's criticism of President Tudjman.
For almost two years, the Croatian government has tried to assume control over the independent daily newspaper Slobodna Dalmacija, which was privatized in 1990. In mid-1992, the Croatian government's Agency for Restructuring and Development once again refused to recognize the paper's privatization and claimed that it remained public property. Croatian courts have upheld the privatization of the paper, which does not espouse the views of the Croatian government or the ruling political party, the Croatian Democratic Union. The Croatian government has refused to accept the courts' rulings and in mid-1992 resumed efforts to bring Slobodna Dalmacija under its control. The government dismissed the paper's managing director and appointed a "managing committee" to oversee management of the paper. Helsinki Watch believes the Croatian government's long-term harassment of Slobodna Dalmacija violates freedom of the press in Croatia. In a similar case, prolonged harassment of the independent weeklies Danas and Novi Danas forced their closures in 1992.
The Croatian government also obstructed freedom of association and expression. On May 5, a founding meeting of the Social Democratic Union, a left-of-center political party, was banned by the Croatian police. Rather than protect the delegates from a crowd of protestors that had gathered outside the hall, the police cancelled the meeting for "security reasons." In early April, the Croatian police banned an International Peace Conference organized by the Croatian Anti-War Council on the island of Vis, where Yugoslav army personnel were stationed at the time. Again, the Croatian government cited "security reasons," on the grounds that Yugoslav forces could use the meeting as a pretext to repress the island's Croatian inhabitants. The Croatian government added that "any discussion [regarding] the future military status of this strategically important island can be organized only when the Republic of Croatia regain[s] its full sovereignty over the island."
Citizenship in Croatia has been arbitrarily granted over the past year. Many Serbs, Muslims, Albanians and some Croats who are otherwise residents ofCroatia have been denied citizenship because they were not born in the country. Helsinki Watch has received reports that several persons born in Croatia also were denied citizenship for reasons that remain unclear. The Croatian government formed a commission in late 1992 to investigate, and possibly revise, any discrepancies involving the granting of citizenship. In the interim, those who remain without proper documents have been denied pensions or social security benefits. Also, students who have not obtained proof of citizenship can only be admitted or continue their enrollment in a university if they pay a fee, whereas those who have obtained Croatian citizenship continue to attend classes free of charge.
Civil and Political Rights in Bosnia-Hercegovina, Macedonia and Slovenia
Almost all of the violations of civil and political rights in Bosnia-Hercegovina were connected to the war in that country. Serbian forces in Bosnia-Hercegovina abducted Vladimir Srebrov, a writer of Serbian ethnicity, when he traveled to the Iližda section of Sarajevo to negotiate with Serbian forces. His captors said that they would try Srebrov for "treason" because he had failed to align himself with Serbian forces fighting against the Bosnian government. Similarly, the Bosnian government issued warrants for the arrest of two Sarajevo-based correspondents for the Belgrade-based daily Borba. The Bosnian government has accused the two journalists of "spying" for Serbian forces and both remain in hiding in Sarajevo.
In Macedonia, ethnic Albanians (who comprise approximately 30 percent of the republic's population) sought greater autonomy, including the recognition of Albanian as an official language in civic and governmental institutions. Although the Macedonian government of Kiro Gligorov dealt judiciously with Albanian groups, tensions between Albanian and Macedonian communities persist. No serious abuses of civil or political rights were reported in Slovenia in 1992.
The Right to Monitor
Human rights monitoring in Bosnia-Hercegovina became increasingly difficult and dangerous in 1992. Indiscriminate shelling and bombing of civilian centers, land mines, road barricades, vigilante violence and indiscriminate shooting at civilian vehicles made travel and on-site investigation of abuses extremely difficult. Road barricades and increasing vigilante violence in Serbian-controlled areas of Croatia also impeded the ability to monitor in those regions. Human rights monitors, including U.N. Special Rapporteur Tadeusz Mazowiecki, were prevented from visiting detention centers in Serbian-controlled areas of Bosnia-Hercegovina. Local Croatian police and military officials at road barricades prevented inspection of certain areas in western Slavonia and Serbian police and military forces obstructed movement in Serbian-controlled areas of Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina. In Yugoslavia, the ability of monitors to take testimony also was impeded by the intimidating presence of the police in Kosovo and military and paramilitary forces in Sandžak. Despite such impediments, a variety of governmental and nongovernmental groups have monitored violations of human rights and humanitarian law in Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Yugoslavia.
In Bosnia-Hercegovina, a government commission (comprised of Serbs, Muslims and Croats) has been documenting violations of the rules of war in that country. In Croatia, several fledgling peace groups and professional associations have begun monitoring violations of human rights in their country. The Serbian Democratic Forum continued to document violations of human rights against Serbs in Croatia. As noted, the Croatian government has filed criminal charges against the Forum's leader.
In Yugoslavia, Albanian, Muslim and Serbian groups monitored abuses against non-Serbs and violations of civil and political rights throughout Serbia. Some Croatian and Hungarian groups also documented abuses committed against their ethnic groups. The major human rights monitoring group in Kosovo, the Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms in Kosovo, continued to monitor abuses without direct interference by the Serbian government. However, several members of the Council were arrested for their participation in activities of the underground Albanian government in Kosovo. In 1992, the federal Yugoslav government established a Ministry for Human Rights, which is led by Momcilo Grubac. Grubac visited sites of ethnic violence and strife and met with non-Serbs who were victims of physical assault, discrimination and harassment.
Though not their primary responsibility, the European Community Monitoring Mission, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the United Nations Protection Force operating in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina monitored violations of human rights and humanitarian law. In some cases, protests were issued to the authorities responsible for such abuses but in most cases violations documented were kept confidential.
The Role of the International Community
Efforts by the international community to bring peace to Bosnia-Hercegovina generally have failed. The United Nations, the European Community (EC) and the United States focused attention on adopting resolutions and negotiating and maintaining cease-fires, but failed to enforce or realize measures they had adopted. Although a series of trade and military sanctions against Serbia were belatedly applied, the international community did not find a way to stop or prevent egregious violations of the laws of war that continued to occur not only as a result of armed conflict but also in occupied areas where fighting had largely ceased.
The United Nations
In 1992, a United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) was sent to keep a tenuous peace between Serbs and Croats in Croatia. UNPROFOR was later expanded and sent to war-torn Bosnia-Hercegovina. In both cases, U.N. efforts have had minimal success. In early and mid-1992, 14,000 U.N. troops were dispatched to Croatia in accordance with a peacekeeping plan for the region. According to the general provisions of the plan, United Nations Protection Areas (UNPAs) were formed in regions of Croatia where Serbs comprised a majority or substantial minority of the population. Three of the four UNPAs are controlled by Serbian forces (northern and southern Krajina and eastern Slavonia) and the fourth (western Slavonia) is controlled partly by Serbian and partly by Croatian forces.
U.N. forces were charged with demilitarizing the UNPAs by ensuring the withdrawal of the Yugoslav army and demobilizing all armed groups. The UNPROFOR plan calls for maintaining the political status quo in the UNPAs, that is, the continued functioning, on an interim basis and under U.N. supervision, of the existing local authorities and police until an overall political solution is reached. Accordingly, the Serbian-controlled local governments in Krajina and eastern Slavonia continued to have jurisdiction over those areas, as did the Croatian-controlled local governments in parts of western Slavonia. Although the existing political authorities in each unpa remained, the plan required that the composition of the local police force reflect the ethnic composition of the community before hostilities commenced. U.N. forces were to monitor the work of the local police, and assist in repatriating all persons displaced from their homes in the UNPAs. U.N. troops were also responsi ble for securing the well-being of the population currently living in the UNPAs and those returning to their homes in those areas.
The UNPROFOR mission in Croatia has been partially successful in that the presence of U.N. troops in the UNPAs prevented a renewed outbreak of fighting in the country in 1992. However, Serbian forces refused to disarm in areas under their control and the UNPROFOR mission did little to force compliance with the disarmament plan. As a result, the rest of the U.N. peacekeeping plan could not be implemented. The police force in Serbian-controlled UNPAs remains Serbian, and non-Serbs expelled from their homes in those regions have not been allowed to return. (The exception is western Slavonia, where Croatian and Serbian forces have disarmed and steps toward repatriation of the displaced have slowly begun.) U.N. forces were unable to secure the well-being of the non-Serbian population in Serbian-controlled UNPAs, and forcible displacement, expulsions, killings, disappearances, physical abuse and harassment of the remaining non-Serbs continued in 1992. Moreover, moderate Serbs who opposed the extreme positions of the local authorities in Serbian-controlled UNPAs were murdered or disappeared. Despite its mandate, the U.N. peacekeeping force was unable to prevent or punish such actions in Serbian-controlled areas of Croatia.
With the outbreak of war in Bosnia-Hercegovina, the UNPROFOR mission in Croatia was expanded into Bosnia. U.N. efforts in Bosnia-Hercegovina focused on peacekeeping, the delivery of humanitarian aid, and the imposition of sanctions against Yugoslavia. But the U.N. did little, if anything, to address thecommission of war crimes on a mass scale.
U.N. peacekeeping forces were dispatched to Bosnia-Hercegovina when there was no longer any peace to keep, and U.N. troops in the country operated without a clear mandate, their efforts marked by disorganization and political indecision. Disagreements among members of the Security Council and between the Security Council and the U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali impeded the ability of the U.N. to speak decisively and with one voice. U.N. member states expected much from U.N. efforts but were unwilling to commit the necessary financial resources to implement plans. Moreover, the parties to the conflict frequently did not negotiate in good faith, thereby hampering U.N. operations in the region. U.N. efforts to deliver humanitarian aid to besieged areas of Bosnia-Hercegovina were impeded by continued fighting. Although a resolution was passed to provide armed escorts and to use force to protect shipments of humanitarian aid, such a resolution was enforced only once – on November 19, when a French battalion fired on Serbian forces attacking a relief convoy in Bosanska Krupa. Attacks on convoys carrying humanitarian aid continued throughout 1992.
On May 15, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 752, which called for an immediate cease-fire and an end to ethnic oppression in Bosnia-Hercegovina. It required Yugoslavia, particularly the republic of Serbia, to cease all interference in Bosnia-Hercegovina, and to use its influence to promote a cease-fire, oversee the disbanding and disarming of elements of the JNA and irregular Serbian forces, and end efforts to create a purely Serbian enclave by driving out other ethnic groups.
On May 30, the Security Council approved a resolution that imposed economic and trade sanctions on the Belgrade government as a means of enforcing the earlier demands. The resolution cited Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, which requires compliance by all U.N. members with efforts to deal with "threats to international peace and security." The sanctions required all member states to cease trading in any commodity, including oil, with Yugoslavia and to freeze its foreign assets. All air traffic links with the country were suspended, and no one was allowed to repair, service, operate, insure or provide spare parts for aircraft registered in Serbia or Montenegro. The resolution banned Yugoslavia from participating in any international sporting event and required all countries to suspend cultural, scientific and technical contacts with Belgrade and to reduce the size of its diplomatic missions.
In October, the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution that banned Serbian military flights over Bosnia-Hercegovina. However, the resolution did not provide for enforcement of the ban. Serbian forces later agreed to send their military aircraft to airfields under U.N. supervision so that they could not be used in further fighting. However, Serbian forces flew some missions in violation of the ban just after it was imposed and later violations also occurred. On November 16, the U.N. ordered a maritime blockade of Yugoslavia to enforce compliance with the sanctions. On November 18, the nato allies agreed to enforce the naval blockade through stop-and-search operations of vessels traveling along the Adriatic coast and the Danube river.
Helsinki Watch supports the imposition of U.N. sanctions against Yugoslavia. Indeed, we believe such sanctions were long overdue. Sanctions should have been imposed against Serbia and Yugoslavia much earlier for their suppression of rights in Kosovo and their violations of the laws of war in Croatia, particularly for the use of indiscriminate force, the summary executions of civilians and disarmed combatants, and the detention of thousands of civilians, especially after the city of Vukovar fell to Serbian and Yugoslav forces. Had sanctions been imposed against the Serbian government early in the Balkan conflict, Serbian and Yugoslav forces might have been discouraged from committing further atrocities in Bosnia-Hercegovina.
Moreover, enforcement of U.N. sanctions remained unbalanced. Armaments, fuel and other materials used by Serbian armed forces continued to enter Yugoslavia despite sanctions. On the other hand, the sanctions provided no exemptions for the independent press in Yugoslavia, thereby hampering the ability of independent forces from disseminating views opposed to Serbian policies in the former Yugoslavia. The sanctions also imposed unnecessarily complicated approval procedures which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and relief organizations had to follow before humanitarian aid could be distributed in Yugoslavia. Helsinki Watch believes that sanctions should not restrict theprovision of aid or trade that is essential to meet basic needs for food, shelter, clothing, sanitation or medical care. Also, in general, we oppose sanctions that restrict the provision of aid, sales or exchanges for the purpose of disseminating information or ideas. Although Helsinki Watch supports sanctions against the government-controlled press of Serbia and Montenegro because it is used as part of the governments' war propaganda efforts, we believe that independent press in Yugoslavia should be exempted from U.N. sanctions.
The United Nations possessed information confirming the existence of so-called concentration camps in Serbian-controlled areas of Bosnia-Hercegovina since at least early July. U.N. personnel stationed in Serbian-controlled areas of Croatia repeatedly informed their superiors of the existence of such camps near Bihac, Cazin, Velika Kladu_a, Bosanska Dubica, Prijedor and Banja Luka. However, high-ranking U.N. officials withheld this information from the press and public and did little, if anything, to stop abuses in the camps. Only after the international press carried articles about the camps did the U.N. and the international community respond by demanding that the camps be opened to international inspection and that all civilians be released. Some detainees were released from the camps without international supervision, only to be summarily executed by their former Serbian captors. Others fled Serbian-controlled territory upon their releases only to find that Western cou ntries refused to accept them for resettlement, leaving them to languish in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina.
At a conference in London on the Yugoslav crisis in late August, a permanent body was established in Geneva to work full-time on the former Yugoslav republics. After the resignation of Lord Peter Carrington as chair of the conference, Lord David Owen, a former British Foreign Secretary, and Cyrus Vance, a former U.S. Secretary of State and Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General, were assigned to coordinate efforts to negotiate peace in the former Yugoslavia, under the joint auspices of the U.N. and the European Community. Several working groups were formed to deal with various aspects of the problem, and Tadeusz Mazowiecki, the former Polish Prime Minister, was appointed as U.N. Special Rapporteur responsible for investigating human rights abuses in Bosnia-Hercegovina.
Despite all this activity, the U.N. failed to condemn publicly and vociferously major violations of the laws of war in the manner that allocated responsibility to the guilty parties. The failure to specify those responsible for particular abuses diminished the impact of the denunciations that were made. In a misconceived emphasis on neutrality, the U.N. was especially timid in its public condemnation of Serbian forces in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Although Bosnian and Croatian forces have committed egregious abuses of the laws of war, the vast majority and systematic implementation of such abuses have been committed by Serbian forces. Moreover, the U.N. did little, if anything, to stop, prevent and punish gross abuses of human rights and humanitarian law in Bosnia-Hercegovina.
On August 13, the U.N. Security Council called on states and international humanitarian organizations to submit information on human rights abuses in the former Yugoslavia. On October 6, the Security Council adopted a resolution calling for the creation of a commission of experts to examine and analyze evidence of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and other violations of humanitarian international law; five experts were later appointed. While Helsinki Watch welcomes the formation of the commission, we believe that its impact would be substantially greater if an international tribunal to try war criminals was promptly established.
In contrast to the UNPROFOR mission in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) worked tirelessly to attend to the humanitarian needs of war victims and to document and protest, to the best of their abilities, violations of human rights and humanitarian law in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina.
In late 1992, delegates from the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) were dispatched to Yugoslavia. They are to monitor border points to ensure that sanctions against Yugoslavia are not violated and to monitor human rights in Vojvodina, Sandžak and Kosovo. As of this writing, their efforts remain preparatory and it is too early to assess the results of their work.
The European Community
In contrast to its activist approach in 1991, the European Community was slow and divided in its response to the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina and the former Yugoslavia in 1992. Germany was the only EC country that consistently supported an active policy in the former Yugoslavia, but it too fell silent during the latter part of the year. France supplied much humanitarian aid to Bosnia-Hercegovina but was restrained in its criticism of Serbian forces in that country. Greece sought to deflect criticism of Serbia because it viewed that state as an ally in its efforts to deny international recognition to Macedonia. Britain was particularly ambivalent about criticizing human rights abuses in the former Yugoslavia and was the most reluctant of the EC countries to accept Bosnian refugees.
An EC monitoring mission that was launched in Croatia to monitor compliance with cease-fire agreements was gradually expanded to include parts of Bosnia-Hercegovina in 1992. However, when a member of the EC monitoring mission was killed near Mostar on May 2, the EC suspended its mission to Bosnia-Hercegovina the following day. On May 12, the last EC monitors withdrew from Sarajevo, declaring it too dangerous.
From the outbreak of war in Bosnia-Hercegovina, the EC sought to act as a broker of peace. However, after multiple rounds of unsuccessful talks, the EC deferred its efforts and let the U.N. take the lead in peace negotiations, under the auspices of an ongoing joint EC-U.N. effort.
EC negotiations were largely unsuccessful due to the lack of good faith by all parties, especially by Serbian forces, who continued to shell Sarajevo and other Bosnian cities despite assurances to the contrary. However, the failure of the EC conference also lies, in part, with the EC negotiators, who were more interested in reconciling the various parties than in ensuring that pledges were fulfilled and that gross abuses were denounced and punished.
Most EC countries have taken steps to implement U.N. sanctions against Yugoslavia. (However, petroleum and other aid frequently arrived to Serbia through Greece.) On July 10, European members of nato and the Western European Union sent frigates and destroyers to patrol Yugoslavia's coast in an effort to ensure enforcement of the U.N. sanctions. On July 20, the EC accepted the opinion of its legal experts that the state formed by Serbia and Montenegro could not be regarded as the successor state to the former Yugoslavia and thus must apply anew to the U.N. and more than 40 other international bodies.
The U.S. position toward the human rights situation in the former Yugoslav republics has been sluggish and inconsistent. The Bush administration initially misread the situation in the Balkans and then groped to define a policy that swung between complacency and active engagement. The lack of overall policy toward the former Yugoslav republics undercut the administration's ability to respond to grave human rights abuses.
In early 1992, the United States failed to exert its influence on Serbian authorities to end the forcible displacement of non-Serbs in Croatia. The U.S. rhetorically insisted on compliance with the U.N. peacekeeping plan but did little to force its enforcement. Only after full-scale war broke out in Bosnia-Hercegovina did the U.S. become involved. Tacitly acknowledging the ec's lack of success in the Yugoslav crisis, the U.S. tried to reestablish its waning credibility in Europe by taking the lead in responding to the Bosnian conflict. Starting in mid-April, the U.S. government issued numerous statements condemning the "ethnic cleansing" policies of Serbian forces in Bosnia-Hercegovina. On May 20, after Serbian authorities rebuffed U.S. appeals to permit safe passage of humanitarian aid into Bosnia-Hercegovina, the U.S. suspended permission for Yugoslavia's national airline to land in the U.S. The U.S. Ambassador to Yugoslavia, Warren Zimmermann, was recalled to Washington for consultations on May 16 and, on May 22, Secretary of State James Baker announced that Ambassador Zimmermann would not be returning to Yugoslavia. On May 22, the U.S. announced a series of diplomatic sanctions against Serbia, which included withdrawing military attaches and ordering the expulsion of their Yugoslav counterparts from the U.S., the closing of Yugoslav consulates in New York and San Francisco, and further reductions in the U.S. embassy staff in Belgrade. The U.S. also stated that it would withhold recognition of the Serbian-dominated government inBelgrade until Serbian forces were withdrawn from Bosnia-Hercegovina and peace was restored to the former Yugoslav republic.
On May 24 in Lisbon, Secretary Baker called for mandatory U.N. sanctions against Serbia. In his remarks, Secretary Baker prodded some European countries, particularly France and Greece, that were hesitant about imposing sanctions against Serbia. Also on May 24, Secretary Baker stated that the U.S. would not accept Serbia and Montenegro as the successor state to the former Yugoslavia in multilateral institutions.
The United States assumed an active role in initiating, drafting and implementing U.N. sanctions against the Serbian government. The U.S. moved quickly to implement the U.N. embargo against Yugoslavia and, on June 1, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that it was freezing the assets of the Yugoslav government and the republics of Serbia and Montenegro, including the state-owned airline and banks. On July 10, U.S. warships began to patrol the Yugoslav coast as part of a joint NATO/Western European Union flotilla aimed at strengthening enforcement of U.N. sanctions. On November 18, the U.S. agreed to cooperate with NATO enforcement of the naval blockade of Yugoslavia.
On June 23, while testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary Baker announced further U.S. sanctions against Yugoslavia. The sanctions, which were largely symbolic, entailed the closing of the last remaining Yugoslav consulate in the U.S., in Chicago. Secretary Baker also stated that the U.S. would more actively pursue efforts to suspend Yugoslavia from the U.N. and other international organizations. The sanctions also withdrew recognition from Belgrade's ambassador to the U.S.. On July 6, the U.S. placed further sanctions on Belgrade. The Treasury Department went beyond the U.N. embargo by extending it to all companies in Serbia and Montenegro. According to the Treasury Department, because the violence and rapid changes in the former Yugoslavia had made it difficult to identify ownership of entities subject to the economic embargo, the U.S. "was forced to regard all companies in Serbia and Montenegro and their foreign subsidiaries as either owned or controlled by the Yugoslav government." Violators of the embargo are subject to criminal fines of up to $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for corporations, as well as imprisonment for up to ten years and civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation.
Proposals for the use of force either to attack abusive Serbian forces or to protect humanitarian convoys carrying relief supplies were discussed and debated within the administration. On the one hand, the Defense Department strongly opposed any direct combat role for U.S. forces and the State Department was willing to use arms only in defense of relief missions. On the other hand, members of the U.S. Congress, particularly in the Senate, pressed the Bush administration to consider military intervention to halt the Serbian offensive in Sarajevo. Eventually, the administration adopted the position that it was prepared to send U.S. troops to Bosnia-Hercegovina but only to help supply and safeguard humanitarian aid and only after a durable cease-fire was negotiated. The use of force was discussed when the U.N. debated imposing a no-fly zone over Bosnia-Hercegovina in September and October. The U.S. supported the use of force to enforce the no-fly zone but yielded to French and British pressure to refrain from such action.
Once U.N. and U.S. sanctions against Yugoslavia were in place, the U.S. seemed to disengage from the Bosnian situation. When reports of detention camps in Bosnia-Hercegovina appeared in the press, the Bush administration first confirmed and then tried to minimize the severity of the abuses taking place there. Press reports and leaked U.N. documents indicated that the abuses in the camps were systematically perpetrated against persons solely on the basis of their ethnic or religious affiliation. Initial efforts by the Bush administration to minimize the severity of the abuses appeared aimed at deflecting public calls for the use of force in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Only after continuing pressure to respond to the atrocities did Acting Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger issue a public call on August 5 for a war crimes investigation. In late August, George Kenney, the Yugoslav desk officer at the State Department, resigned his position to protest the timidity and lack of res olve in U.S. policy toward Bosnia-Hercegovina.
Despite a lack of foresight, the Bush administration should be commended for vigorously mobilizing international support for the long-overdue step ofimposing U.N. sanctions against Yugoslavia. Helsinki Watch also welcomed President Bush's November proposal to create an international civilian force that could include Americans to monitor Serbian abuses in Kosovo. The U.S. embassy in Belgrade and the consulate in Zagreb have done a commendable job of documenting and protesting violations of human rights committed by all sides in the former Yugoslavia. However, U.S. protests concerning abuses against Serbs and suppression of freedom of the press in Croatia, while vociferous in early 1992, have been less frequent in the latter part of the year.
Helsinki Watch was pleased by the leadership role of the U.S. in urging a U.N. investigation of war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and by U.S. efforts to provide documentation to the commission. As a party to the 1951 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the United States has committed that it will "undertake to prevent and punish this crime" (Article I). In addition, the Convention authorizes the United States to call upon the United Nations to take appropriate action under the U.N. Charter "for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide." It is beyond the competence of Helsinki Watch to determine all the steps that may be required to prevent and suppress the crime of genocide – a matter that rests with the Security Council. However, Helsinki Watch believes that the United States should take the lead at the United Nations in seeking action that is "appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide" as provid ed in Article VIII of the Genocide Convention.
The Work of Helsinki Watch
Helsinki Watch maintained one or more staff members in the former Yugoslavia throughout 1992. Staff representatives investigated human rights abuses and sustained contacts with human rights activists, government officials and members of the press in all of the former Yugoslav republics. Helsinki Watch also devoted time to helping fledgling human rights groups in Serbia and Croatia develop their methodology and organize their work to address the rights of all citizens in their republics, not just the rights of the ethnic group to which they happen to belong.
Helsinki Watch conducted several missions to the former Yugoslavia in 1992. An investigation in Croatia and Serbia examined violations of the rules of war in Croatia in December 1991 and January 1992. The mission also investigated the status of civil and political rights in Croatia and Serbia. In January, Helsinki Watch sent a lengthy letter to Serbian President Slobodan Milosević and then Acting Minister of Defense and Chief of Staff of the Yugoslav People's Army, Blagoje Adžić. The letter detailed violations of the rules of war committed by Yugoslav and Serbian forces in Croatia and violations of civil and political rights in Serbia. Helsinki Watch representatives met with members of the Yugoslav People's Army and the Serbian government in January to discuss the letter. Similarly, a lengthy letter detailing abuses of the rules of war by Croatian armed forces and violations of civil and political rights in Croatia was sent to Croatian President Franjo Tudj man in February. Helsinki Watch representatives met with President Tudjman and members of the Croatian government in March to discuss that letter.
In April, May, June, September and October, Helsinki Watch sent missions to Bosnia-Hercegovina, Croatia, Slovenia and Yugoslavia to investigate rules of war violations in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Mission participants visited all of the aforementioned countries and interviewed victims and witnesses to abuses, refugees and displaced persons, local officials, combatants and U.N. personnel. Detention camps and prisons operated by Croatian, Muslim and Serbian forces were visited. A report documenting our findings and criticizing the work of the international community, War Crimes in Bosnia-Hercegovina, was released in August. An update on the human rights situation in Bosnia-Hercegovina will be released in mid-December.
In conjunction with the release of its August report, Helsinki Watch called on the U.N. Security Council to exercise its authority under the 1951 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide to prevent and suppress genocide in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Helsinki Watch also called on the Security Council to enforce the prohibition of "grave breaches" of the Geneva Conventions by establishing an international tribunal to investigate, prosecute, adjudicate and punish those responsible from all sides for war crimes on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. In its August report, Helsinki Watch named nine Serbian paramilitary leaders, Serbian political figures and Yugoslav army personnel against whom sufficient evidence is available to warrant an investigation to determine whether they had committed war crimes in the former Yugoslavia. Helsinki Watch also called for the investigation by the aforementioned tribunal of the murder by Croatian forces of at least 2 3 Serbs in the city of Gospić in late 1991.
On the basis of several missions in the past 18 months, Helsinki Watch released a report in October, Yugoslavia: Human Rights Abuses in Kosovo, 1990-1992. The report documented violations against Albanians in Kosovo, including mistreatment in detention, restrictions on freedom of association and the press, discrimination in employment and education, and the general social and economic marginalization of the Albanian population in the province. The report also described the manipulation of the legal system by Serbian authorities to discriminate against Albanians in Kosovo.
In February, Helsinki Watch sent a letter to Serbian President Slobodan Milosević and then Acting Minister of Defense and Chief of Staff of the Yugoslav People's Army Blagoje Adžić expressing concern that prisoners captured after the fall of Vukovar were being executed in Bač, Vojvodina. In May, Helsinki Watch sent a letter to Croatian President Franjo Tudjman protesting efforts by the Croatian government to silence opposition journalists and political figures. On July 1, 1991, Helsinki Watch sent a letter to Dobrica Ćo_ić, the President of Yugoslavia, and several Yugoslav military officials expressing concern that Croats being tried for "war crimes" in Belgrade were denied due process, had been beaten in detention, and had been forced to confess to crimes under duress.
In 1992, Helsinki Watch testified before the U.S. Congress on three occasions regarding the former Yugoslavia. On February 5, Helsinki Watch testified at a hearing of the CSCE Commission on prospects for peace and human rights in the former Yugoslav republics. Helsinki Watch testified on human rights in the republic of Serbia on August 10 before the Trade Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee. On September 16, in testimony regarding free trade and ideas before the Subcommittees on International Economic Policy and Trade and International Operations of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Helsinki Watch noted that U.S. sanctions that ban cultural and informational exchanges with Yugoslavia wrongly include the independent press and other independent institutions in Yugoslavia.