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Bosnia Herzegovina 2001
The International Community and the Bosnian Croats


BHHRG monitors visited Mostar in Bosnia Herzegovina to investigate the stand-off
between the international community and the Bosnian Croats. This report reveals
the ongoing problems with the implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement five
years on.

Bosnia Herzegovina 2001: the international community versus the Bosnian Croats
On 6th April 2001 a well-planned international operation which included SFOR
troops and masked security operatives closed down 6 branches of the Hercegovacka
bank in Bosnia Herzegovina (BiH). The incident was just the latest in a series
of assaults by the High Representative, Wolfgang Petritsch and his office (OHR)
on the Croat community in Bosnia and on the leading Croat political party, the
HDZ. The British Helsinki Human Rights Group's representatives visited Mostar,
the capital of the Herzegovina region of Bosnia, soon after the bank raid. They
talked to leading local politicians, journalists, administrators and the deputy
high representative, Colin Munro. They also visited the pilgrimage town of
Medjugorje whose local branch of the Hercegovacka bank had been raided on 6th

Dayton's Diktat grows

The circumstances surrounding the setting up of state and federal institutions
in Bosnia after the Dayton Peace Agreement, signed in 1995 have been
well-explored.[1] At Dayton, Bosnia was divided into two entities: the Bosnian
Serbs were granted the largest part of the cake, so to speak, with their own
mini-state of Republika Srpska while Bosnian Muslims and Croats formed a
separate federation of two 'nations'. The two units were joined together in a
fragile common state with its own parliament and president. However, both state
and federal governments were ultimately responsible to a High Representative
appointed by the international community. And, on top of this, as the Federation
of Bosniaks and Croats had been set up in 1994 in Washington under the auspices
of the US, the Americans were regarded as joint guardian of its effectiveness.
As David Chandler has shown, there were several interesting features in the
Dayton Agreement. Firstly, the deep revulsion felt towards the ethnic cleansing
that had defined the war in Bosnia forced those whose remit was to implement
Dayton to devise an elaborate and labyrinthine system for the expression and
protection of the three ethnic groups' rights. Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats were
each deemed to belong to a constituent nation in the Bosnian state and new
mechanisms were set up to provide safety valves so that the interests of one
group could not override those of the others. However, although the Dayton
provisions were Byzantine in their complexity they were not all new. "One thing
was nevertheless absolutely clear, where Bosnia Herzegovina was concerned,
whether in olden times or in the days of united Yugoslavia or now, …. one
belonged in each case and at any time to a "nation" and it was a "constituent
factor" of the larger community. It would be a complete misunderstanding of the
relations in Bosnia Herzegovina if well-meaning Western representatives wanted
to operate here within the framework of "minority protection" "[2]
The second ground-breaking feature of the Dayton Agreement was the international
community's intention to impose democracy from 'above'. A whole host of bodies
were appointed supposedly to oversee and assist the new state as it abandoned
the culture of war and embraced democratic institutions. In this sense, Dayton
was a laboratory and a chance for organizations like the OSCE not just to
observe the development of civic society but also to help formulate it on the

So, on the one hand Bosnia was to be ruled by international institutions while
on the other it would elect its own representatives. Although international and
local bodies were meant to interact and complement one another, it will come as
no surprise that, in reality, this has led to repeated strains and regular
impasses. Much worse, these objectives have often collided in a spectacular
fashion. By whom and in what manner the international community wants Bosnia to
be governed is often directly opposed to the desires expressed by local

Consequently, although peace has come to Bosnia the country is further away from
governing itself than ever.In the past five years the international community
has increased rather than reduced its mandate. In his two years as High
Representative, Carlos Westendorp imposed 45 laws. But between November 2000 and
March 2001 Wolfgang Petritsch had already issued 38. [3] International
administration which was originally designed to last a year was renewed
indefinitely in 1997. In follow-up conferences held in Sintra (1997), Bonn
(1997) and Luxembourg (1998), the High Representative's powers were increased.
Despite rumours that the new Bush administration was seeking to disengage
militarily from Bosnia, SFOR troops (including the Americans) seem set to stay
on indefinitely. Bosnia looks more and more like an international protectorate
whose real independence is further away than ever.

Despite the commitment to protect each of the three Bosnian nationalities, the
drive is now on to recast the country as a unitary state - something which may
be desirable but which is in direct opposition to the Dayton formula. It is
also somewhat strangely at variance with the policy presently recommended for
Macedonia, where the governing coalition is being encouraged to improve rights
for ethnic Albanians by changing the country's constitution to state that the
country is composed of two "nations" i.e. Macedonian Slavs and Albanians.
However, the intention to erode the three-nation structure in Bosnia has been
proceeding for some time. The HR and the OSCE started to remove candidates and
elected officials whom they viewed unfavourably at the time of the first
post-war elections in 1996 and the practice has accelerated ever since. Some
influential think-tanks, like the International Crisis Group (ICG) pour scorn on
all the national parties accusing them of "obstruction" and openly discuss ways
in which they might be excluded from the democratic process. The ICG's respect
for democracy obviously has its limits. "As in past elections," they say, "the
international community had already decided which parties and politicians had
the potential to push implementation of Dayton" [4]

This is absolutely correct. The West pours money and logistical assistance into
parties like the Bosnian Social Democrats, the Sloga Coalition of Milorad Dodik
in Republika Srpska, and the recently constituted Croat National Initiative
(HNI) which have next to no support. Since elections held in November 2000, the
international community has managed to form governments at state and federation
levels level made up of representatives of these parties. But this has been
achieved, basically, by sleight of hand. It is also possible that the improved
electoral performance of these parties is the result of fraud: the OSCE counts
both ordinary and postal votes giving them a wide scope to massage the results.
However, despite the US State Department's regular anticipation of success for
non-nationalists and death for the nationalist parties, the three constituent
nations refuse to abandon them. Muslim Bosniaks support the Muslim Party of
Democratic Action (SDA), Serbs support the Serb Democratic Party (SDS), and
Croats vote for the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ). All these parties have been
targeted by the HR at one time or another over the past five years and their
representatives removed from office. The process of defamation is widespread,
even if the HDZ comes off worse. The Muslim SDA has long suffered from an
intense campaign vilifying it for corruption and economic crime.
Much worse, using what ultimately amounts to 'hate-speech', the West's
representatives target ordinary Bosnians as well as their political

On 24th February 2000 the Sarajevo newspaper Oslobodjenje quoted Jacques Klein,
head of the UN mission in BiH, saying that "We have always known the HDZ
consists of communists and fascists." But the present US ambassador to Bosnia,
Thomas Miller, is the most egregious example here. Interviewed on Bosnian TV on
7th April 2001 he said, "All you have to do is drive around Herzegovina, see the
companies that these people own, the houses they live in, the cars they are
driving, and ask yourself a simple question: where did it all come from? That's
what it's about". In fact, in BHHRG's experience, mafia activities on the part
of political parties do not lead to any visible improvement in the lives of
their constituents; neighbouring, mafia-run Montenegro provides an excellent
example of the problem.

In spite of this pressure, attempts to encourage people to vote for non-national
parties have met, in the case of the Serbs and Muslims, with limited success.
In the case of the Croats, they have met with no success at all. In fact the
more pressure that is put on the Croats of Bosnia, the more they shelter under
the wings of 'their' party for protection.

The Bosnian Croats and Croatia

Croats comprise the smallest of the three constituent nations in Bosnia with c.
17% of the total population. Their numbers are scattered over northern and
central Bosnia but the greatest concentration is in the western Herzegovinan
region of the country that backs onto the Dalmatian coast.
The town of Mostar, the capital of Herzegovina, where the river Neretva
separates the Muslim from the Croat community, was the centre of heavy fighting
between the two sides during the 1993-4 war. The, Bosnian Croat army, the HVO,
gained a reputation for viciousness and the Croat community was almost uniquely
blamed for crude nationalism and war profiteering, as well as for being heirs to
the ruthless wartime Ustashe regime. Seven years after the fighting ceased, the
city still bears the scars of war - on both sides of the river - giving credence
to the unfashionable view that there were two sides to the conflict.

The Croats of Herzegovina were also unpopular with the outside world for
supporting the regime of Franjo Tudjman in Zagreb. Affluent Herzegovinans in the
diaspora were reputed to have given generously to the new Croat state, whose
minister of defence during the Bosnian War, Gojko SuSak, was a Herzegovinan
Croat from Canada. Election rules in Croatia itself permitted (and still permit)
Croats living abroad to vote in domestic polls and Tudjman's HDZ party could
always anticipate overwhelming support from the Croats in Herzegovina. The Croat
state also provided much-needed funds and it was generally accepted that, if
feasible, the Herzegovinans would like to join Croatia proper. Bosnian Serbs
wanted the same solution - annexation to Serbia.

This state of affairs came abruptly to an end last year. President Tudjman had
died the previous November and, in parliamentary elections held in January 2000,
the HDZ lost power to a coalition of parties led by the former Communist SDP
under its leader Ivica Racan. Presidential elections held in March returned
Stipe Mesic - an ally turned enemy of Tudjman and the HDZ - to the presidency.
The new constellation of forces in Zagreb immediately set about distancing
itself from the Bosnian Croats, removing both financial and moral support.
Whereas the international community had criticized Tudjman for his involvement
with the Herzegovinan Croats, it has consistently encouraged Racan and Mesic to
take a close interest in Bosnia - but only as a single, multi-national state.
They, also want to see the HDZ remain marginalized in Croatia itself, which can
be achieved satisfactorily only if the party is destroyed in its Herzegovinan
heartland. This is in marked contrast to the situation with the Bosnian Serbs,
who in the post-Milosevic era are now permitted to associate more closely with
Belgrade. The OHR has recently approved an accord on "special and parallel ties
between Yugoslavia and Republika Srpska," [5] something impossible to imagine
happening - yet - between Zagreb and Herzegovina.

Swimming against this current of dissolving the national differences in BiH, the
Croats, like all the national groups, are determined to hang on to their
collective rights. They have various political grievances anyway, especially
concerning the right of return of Croat refugees to Republika Srpska (barely a
handful have returned so far) and the apparently disproportionately high number
of Croats indicated by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former
Yugoslavia. They feel that they have cooperated successfully with the OHR but as
the smallest of the three constituent nations in BiH, they stand to lose out
more as a group than the Muslims or the Serbs if the country develops towards a
unitary state based on a single BiH citizenship.

Ante Jelavic, head of the HDZ and member of Bosnian presidency until he was
dismissed from both posts by Petritsch, was originally praised for his
cooperation over things like refugee return. Deputy High Representative Colin
Munro told BHHRG in Mostar on 24th April that Mr. Jelavic; "had a point" when he
said that Herzegovina had accepted vastly more returnees than the other
entities. However relations started to deteriorate when the Croat parties,
especially the HDZ, showed readiness to use their veto power in the House of
Peoples of the Federation.

Within the Federation, the parliament has two chambers, the House of
Representative and House of Peoples. The Federation House of Peoples is elected
from members of cantonal assemblies. The purpose of the latter House is to
equalise the representative of the numerically weaker Croats within the
Muslim-Croat Federation and so it seems natural that veto power should have been

The differences between them came to a head in 2000 when the OSCE, under the
leadership of the American Robert Barry, and on a suggestion by one his
officials, Kare Vollan, changed the rules for elections to the House of Peoples
of the Federation. The details of this, as of the constitution of BiH as a
whole, are of an almost unimaginable complexity and obscurity. Indeed, only the
international community could have designed a system as impenetrable and obscure
as the one which obtains in BiH.

Very few officials, even in the OSCE itself, fully understand these rules. Here
is an extract from the memorandum laying out the new rules:
"For each canton, the population according to the 1991 census is divided by the
number of seats allocated to the Canton according to Article 1203, first and
second paragraph of the Rules and Regulations. The result is called the Canton
quota of the Canton. The total population of each Constituent people is divided
by the total number of seats of the same constituent people in the Federation.
The resulting numbers are called People's Quotient of the Constituent People.
The total population of the Federation is divided by the total number of seats
from all cantons (80). The result is called the Average Quotient. For each
Constituent People the People's Quotient is divided by the Average Quotient.
The result is called the People's Quota of the Constituent People. The Canton
Quota is multiplied by the People's Quota and the result is called the Combined
Quota of the Canton and the Constituent People."[6]

And so it goes on, for pages and pages. Despite this impenetrable complexity,
the effect of the changes was to depart from the principle - key for the
smallest group, the Croats - that Bosniaks voted for Bosniak candidates in the
House of Peoples and Croats for Croat ones. This principle is laid down both in
the constitution of Bosnia & Herzegovina and in the constitution of the
Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Article 8 of the Federation's
constitution (on the House of Peoples) stipulates that "Bosniac, Croat and Other
from each Canton shall be elected by the respective legislators in that Canton's
legislature" (emphasis added). The same principles, namely that each
constituent people elects its own representatives, is embodied in the
constitution of the state of BiH.

On 11th October 2000, just one months before the general election, the OSCE
under Kare Vollan changed the rules and regulations. The key provision comes in
Article 1212 of Subchapter B, "House of People of the Parliament of the
Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina." The amended provision reads: "Each
member delegate in the Cantonal Assembly shall cast one vote for a list." This
means that Bosniaks can vote for Croat candidates and vice-versa, whereas
previously each constituent people voted only for its representative. The
effect of this change is quite simply to allow Croat representatives to be
elected from parties which do not command electoral support from Croat voters.
In other words, the very purpose of the House of Peoples - to represent the
collective rights of each constituent nation - was destroyed by this measure.
The House of Peoples thereby became simply another version of the House of
Representatives, elected by the whole Federation. Changes in the rules to the
way the cantons themselves were elected also meant, the Croats affirmed, that
Croat politicians could be voted into high legislative office even if they had
no real electoral support. That way, compliant politicians could be installed
in power who would not wield the powers which the Constitution gave them.
The Croats, under the leadership of the HDZ, called this the "Deconstituization
of the Croats in BiH". In response, a "Croat National Congress" was convened in
Novi Travnik on 28th October 2000. It adopted a Declaration which proclaimed
the sovereignty of the Croat nation in BiH and especially of their right as
Croats to elect Croats to the political institutions of BiH. When parliamentary
elections were held across BiH the following month, the Croats also organised,
independently, a "referendum" on this Congress which received over 90% support
among Croats. At those elections, moreover, the victors in all parts of BiH
were parties deemed by the international administrators of BiH to be

In response to this, the international administrators of BiH and some foreign
ambassadors, in particular Thomas Miller (US) and Graham Hand (UK) made it clear
that they favoured political parties other than those which had won the
elections. This caused the relations between the BiH Croat leaders and the
international community to deteriorate yet further. Ante Jelavic, the Secretary
General of the Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HDZ BiH),
accused them of meddling in the internal affairs of the state to which they were
accredited as diplomats. Jelavic; accused Hand of "endangering the
constitutional position of our country's institutions"[7]. "They went beyond
their mandate by expressing open support for the Social Democrats and by putting
pressure on other parties," he said. The multi-ethnic Social Democratic Party
(SDP) is indeed seen as a way of driving the Muslim, Serb and Croat parties out
of power. The Serb member of the federal presidency, Zivko Radisic, also
objected, suggesting that the two ambassadors should have their credentials
withdrawn. (BHHRG observers in April were able to confirm that US Ambassdor
Miller does indeed enjoy a curious pre-eminence in the political life of BiH.
His pronouncements are reported almost daily in the local press as if he were
the man really running the country.)

On 2nd and 3rd February 2001, the Constitutional Court of BiH ruled on an appeal
lodged with it by the HDZ BiH against the changes in the electoral law. The
Court found, in the words of the High Representative himself, that "the
Provisional Election Commission Rules and Regulations on the procedure for
elections of the Federation House of Peoples, since they were laid down pursuant
to the international mandate granted to the OSCE to this end, were not subject
to review by the Court".[8] In other words, the Court said it had no power to
overturn a decision made by the OSCE. Yet, in his letter dated 7th March 2001
dismissing Mr. Jelavic, the High Representative concluded that he (Jelavić)
"must have known perfectly well that all matters of concern to him are matters
which may be redressed by normal constitutional means."

In response to this, on 3rd March 2001, the Croatian National Congress decided
finally to "activate" itself and proclaim Croat self-government in BiH. Quoting
as the two sources of its legitimacy the results of the referendum held on 11th
November 2000 and the allegedly unconstitutional nature of the changes to the
electoral law which had been made by the OSCE, it proclaimed the
intercantonal-intermunicipal council to be "the Croat self-government".
The Decision laid down state-like organs, including an executive branch and an
assembly, for areas covered by the Croat self-government. However, importantly,
the decision adopted on 3rd March only refers to an "interim" and "provisional"
status for the body. Mr. Jelavic, despite misleading newspaper reports to the
contrary, has never advocated a third entity in Bosnia. He merely demands proper
respect for the three-nation constitution and compliance with Dayton.
The reaction of the High Representative was swift. He dismissed from their
elected posts and from their party positions four members of the Croatian
Democratic Union: Mr. Ante Jelavic the President of the HDZ BiH and member of the collegiate presidency of BiH; Mr. Marko Tokic Vice-President of HDZ BiH;
Mr. Ivo Andric Luzanski, also a Vice President of the HDZ BiH and Delegate to
the House of Representatives of BiH; and Mr. Zdravko Batinic, another
Vice-President of the HDZ BiH. Wolfgang Petritsch justified his dismissal of
them by saying that they had taken up official positions in the "so-called Croat
self-government" and that this constituted an "illegal or anti-Dayton activity".

In addition to these drastic measures, which were followed by the appointment of
place-men to the vacated posts, the High Representative gave an inflammatory
interview criticizing the Bishop of Mostar to the Zagreb magazine, Globus, which
was published on 9th March 2001. In it, Petritsch said, "I am appalled and
shocked by the speech of the Bishop Ratko Peric and I cannot even start
describing his enormous hatred and his support for convicted war criminals
expressed in his speech." As anyone who reads the Bishop's speech can see for
himself, this is a grotesque and utterly baseless charge, since neither hatred
nor support for criminals can be discerned in the address.[9] The suspicion
must be that Mr Petritsch would have quite liked to sack the Bishop as well.
Indeed, in a letter written to the British magazine, The Spectator, the
spokesman for the High Representative, the former Guardian journalist
Christopher Bird, justified Mr. Petritsch's attacks on the Bishop by saying
"Bishop Peric is more a politician and less a priest." Throughout history,
authoritarian regimes have found "turbulent priests" uncomfortable for secular
power and have often sought to remove them. The OHR is no different from other
such regimes in this regard. But this was not to be the only instance of the
High Representative and his officials using inappropriate language. In the
media and in public, the HDZ politicians dismissed by the Office of the High
Representative were widely described as "criminals" and "extremists".
Guilty until proved innocent: the UN's seizure of Hercegovacka Banka
The campaign against the Croats' political representatives was soon to be
accompanied by attacks on the community's economic base. The Office of the High
Representative moved, on 5th April 2001, to appoint a provisional administrator
to one of the three main banks used by Croats in Herzegovina, the Hercegovacka
Banka. Allegations had already been made by the international community that the
HDZ was financing its activities from illegal accounts held in the bank, even
though international auditors, including Deloitte Touche, had only recently
given Hercegovacka a clean bill of health.

On the morning of 6th April, armed SFOR troops and police from the Muslim-Croat
Federation moved to seize control of the Hercegovacka Banka in Mostar and other
parts of BiH. Their presence was intimidating, not least because of the arms
they carried and the masks the police wore. They were met by an angry crowd and
four people - two civilians and two policemen - were wounded in the ensuing
scuffles. OHR has made much of its claims that a "mob" rioted at this point and
it and SFOR have used highly inflammatory language to attack the protesters.
Curiously, though, there have not been any arrests of the alleged rioters to
date. Instead, SFOR returned two weeks later in a massive and brutal show of
force. They drove APCs and tanks, smashing their way through a fence at the
back into the bank. Helicopters gave cover from the air. They dynamited open
the safe and made off with significant sums of cash. SFOR and the Federation
Police also attacked branch offices of the bank in 6 other places in
Herzegovina, including at the world famous pilgrimage town of Medjugorje, where
the soldiers and masked security operatives were also met by an angry crowd
(which included pilgrims).

Press reports of the incident made sure to blame the victims, despite the
totally disproportionate level of forces involved. Tanks, helicopters, armoured
personnel carriers and masked policemen were pitted against a group of ordinary
people worried about their savings going up in smoke. Ralph Johnson, deputy HR,
reported that the "mobs" had "beaten police, destroyed records and looted the
building"[10] which was blatantly untrue. When BHHRG visited the main offices of
the bank on 25th April, it was obvious that the damage had been caused by the
armed attack: directions for the intruders were spray-painted in English on the
walls, safes had been blown apart with gelignite and photographs of the Pope
smashed. None of this could have been done by ordinary members of the Croat
public, not even an enraged 'mob'.

The OHR peddled similar untruths about what happened in Medjugorje. OHR
spokesman Bird has attacked as "pure fantasy" the claim that pilgrims were
harassed in the famous pilgrimage town. "It was a mob of Croats who threw
eggs," he has written. "Pilgrims were nowhere near the operation and certainly
didn't join a violent mob." A "mob," it seems, is anyone who protests at SFOR's
brutality; but would the High Representative also describe as a "mob" those who
stormed the Federal Parliament building in Belgrade on 5th October 2000? In any
case, the OHR version of events does not tally with that of the parish
authorities in Medjugorje, who issued a statement condemning SFOR's brutality on
the Tuesday of Holy Week and particularly mentioning the way in which peaceful
pilgrims were threatened with guns by the troops.

On 25th April 2000, when questioned about the bank raid at a press conference,
attended by BHHRG representatives the High Representative's own representative,
Mr. Colin Munro, spared no hyperbole in denouncing the politicians whom his
office had dismissed as "criminals". "I have made it very clear that the office
of the High Representative will not talk to criminals," he said. He later
partly repeated himself, making an illuminating slip of the tongue: "As I have
already said, the High Representative will not talk to people who have been
dismissed." In other words, in the minds of the people who run BiH, being
dismissed is morally equivalent to being a criminal, while the justification for
the dismissal is that the person is a criminal. This is totally circular
reasoning: in fact, it is not reasoning at all.

Mr. Munro made a number of other revealing remarks which illustrate the depth of
the problem. "All these actions against the HDZ," he told BHHRG, "are based on
the remark, made by [the Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal
for the former Yugoslavia Carla del Ponte] that former President Franjo
Tudjman would have been indicted for war crimes if he had not died." In other
words, the fact that Madame del Ponte would have indicted Tudjman is, according
to the OHR, sufficient cause for criminalizing the HDZ in neighbouring Bosnia,
even though an indictment for war crimes is very far from being a conviction for
them and even though there is no stretch of the imagination by which politicians
in Mostar can be held guilty for alleged crimes which the president of
neighbouring Croatia is supposed to have committed in 1995.
Mr. Munro also alleged that the HDZ was a direct descendant of the wartime
fascist party in Croatia, the Ustashe and that, as such, the party was a
criminal organisation against which tough action needed to be taken. Mr. Munro
pointed out that the father of a member of his staff had been killed by the
Ustashe - presumably during the Second World War - as if to show the extent of
the problem. When a BHHRG representative said that his uncle had been killed by
the Germans in 1944 but that this did not mean that one would consider the
German CDU to be a criminal organisation, Mr. Munro replied, "But the CDU is not
the descendant of the Nazi party." In other words, he considers that the HDZ is
a descendant of the Ustashe.

It is difficult to know where to begin with such a distorted perception of truth
and history. If the HDZ was the Ustashe party in disguise then there might be
reasons for banning it. It would certainly be illegal in Germany for the Nazi
party to reconstitute itself under another name. However, in order to do this,
the appropriate legislation would need to be very carefully drafted and very
rigorous legal procedures would have to be followed. Until any conviction had
been obtained according to he law, the presumption of innocence would have to be
rigorously observed. No such proceedings have even been started against the HDZ
in BiH. Indeed, there are hardly any proceedings against any of the officials
dismissed by the OHR. (The only exception is Dragan Mandic; Interior Minister
of the Canton of Mostar.) * Despite this, the Office of the High Representative
is happy to denounce as a criminal people who have not even been accused of any
crime by a prosecutor, let alone convicted of one by a court.* Moreover, the
Office of the High Representative has repeatedly said that the HDZ was welcome,
in its eyes, to join the political institutions of the Bosnian state, a view
which is simply incompatible with the repeated claim made by the same OHR that
the HDZ is a criminal and crypto-Nazi organisation.

The High Representative has personally used similar highly irresponsible
language. He told the Croatian government paper Vjesnik on 3rd May that, "there
are clear indications that the HDZ leadership was included to a great extent in
illegal actions." The true measure of Mr. Petritsch's contempt for the principle
of the presumption of innocence is illustrated in the following exchange later
on in the same interview:

Vjesnik: "Your office has often been known to accuse Ante Jelavic and the HDZ
of involvement in organised crime, yet proof of these accusations is never
presented. Do you have any proof and if so will you present it?"

Petritsch: "I stated that within the HDZ there were criminal elements and so
far no one has proved the opposite." [11]

This flagrant failure to understand any of the principles on which the entire
Western legal tradition rests is deeply worrying. The only justification for
the whole paraphernalia of the UN regime in BiH - which apart from anything else
must be very costly to the Western taxpayer - is that the West can somehow help
the Bosnians and Herzegovinans to become democratic. This was always a rather
doubtful proposition in any case. But if the regime imposed by Dayton itself
now deliberately flouts the most elementary principles of the rule of law then
it is difficult to see how any progress towards democracy can be made by
citizens of BiH themselves.

It should also be pointed out that the raid on the bank and the sacking of its
officials are evidently two parts of the same policy. This, again, is highly
questionable behaviour on behalf of the High Representative. Either the
officials were sacked for constitutional reasons or for criminal ones (in which
case, proceedings should be brought). But the actions themselves, as well as
the words of the UN regime, are intended to blur the distinction between the two
accusations, in a way which can only be described as a smear campaign.
Bosnia's Political Future

BHHRG representatives found the allegations made by the international community
against the Bosnian Croats, and the HDZ in particular, still unproved. For
instance, Mr. Munro alleged that "all over Mostar" you could see HDZ posters
inciting ethnic hatred: in reality, none were to be seen. Until and unless
proper evidence of criminal wrongdoing is brought against Mr. Jelavic and other
members of the party and tested in court, it has to be assumed that the
international authorities in BiH are pursuing these people for political rather
than criminal reasons.

BHHRG representatives also found (as is often the case with groups attacked for
"extremism" and "ultra-nationalism") that the HDZ leadership is composed of
ordinary men and women in suits who have few resources and little power compared
with other players in Bosnian politics. For example, the Bosnian Croats have no
media outlets of their own: their only TV station, Erotel, was taken off the
air by SFOR troops in February 2000 for alleged "extremism". There is only one
(fortnightly) news magazine, Focus, which is truly independent and not indebted
to the international community.

It should come as no surprise that Herzegovina's bad reputation in the West
continues as the political agenda is still unresolved. But BHHRG members
(including a representative who had visited Mostar and its surroundings during
the war) were surprised by the amount of reconstruction that had taken place and
the amount of level of economic activity that was being pursued. Despite the
scars of war, western Mostar has begun to pick up, whereas the Muslim part of
the city which has received significantly more Western aid is lifeless and run
down. As stated in this report, such regeneration is unlikely to be the result
of mafia-based prosperity. The mafia keep their ill-gotten gains to themselves.
Our colleague, anyway, remarked on the visible absence of mafia types compared
with the situation in 1994 when she was last there.

It is therefore something of a tragedy for the people of BiH (including many
Muslims) to see their savings enter a limbo-land with the nationwide closure of
the Hercegovacka bank. That, no doubt, was the point of the operation.
It has also been suggested that the Austrian bank, Raiffeisen, will come in and
take over Hercegovacka once the present international audit is complete.
Wolfgang Petritsch is an Austrian national which could be helpful here.

As this report is written, HDZ members of the House of Representatives have
reached a compromise with the OHR and returned to parliament. But the campaign
of harassment against the party and its supporters will undoubtedly continue.
The international community will not be satisfied until the domestic politics
for all three nations in the Bosnia state is completely in the hands of
'non-national' parties which seem to be ones under the control of former

The West's favourite is the current Bosnian Foreign Minister and leader of the
Social Democrats, Zlatko Lagumdzia, a former leader in the Yugoslav CP's youth
wing and old friend of Zoran Djindjic;. A computer scientist, Lagumdzija speaks
English learnt in Wisconsin and at Arizona State University. "He could be a
politician in a Western European country," pronounces Wolfgang Petritsch.
According to Matthew Kaminski in the Wall Street Journal,[12] "[Lagumdzija]
laughs off attacks on his [Communist] past. Most Bosnians …remember the Tito-era
as a time of peace and prosperity he says."

But, like most 'reform' Communists, Lagumdzija is not advocating a return to the
past. Tito-era policies of full-employment, worker self-management and, it
seems, a Bosnia constituted on a three-nation basis are not part of a
now-familiar platform based on privatisation and reform. The failure of the
Social Democrats to achieve a serious electoral breakthrough shows that ordinary
Bosnians are unconvinced that he wants to return to a past that they recognize
and endorse.

The absence of checks and balances in the UN regime

The reason why there can be such serious breaches of the principles of legal
probity in BiH is that there are literally no checks and balances to the mandate
of the High Representative and other Dayton-imposed structures. A culture of
legal impunity and legal omnipotence has therefore grown up in the United
Nations regime.

When confronted with the shortcomings of his position, for instance, Mr. Munro
tried to explain the position to BHHRG by saying, "This place is really a
protectorate, you know." However, the reference to a protectorate fails to
capture the true lawlessness of the UN regime. With the possible exception of
the rule of King Leopold of Belgium in the Congo, which he treated as personal
property, the powers wielded by the UN High Representative in BiH are far more
lawless than those of most 19th century colonial officials.

Nineteenth century Viceroys of India had to worry about questions being asked
about their behaviour in the British House of Commons, and the rule of law
applied in India after Edmund Burke's unsuccessful prosecution of the head of
the East India Company, Warren Hastings, for abuse of power in 1788. In the
period leading up the American revolution, moreover, British royal officials in
the American colonies were very careful about exercising power without
legislative sanction. After the Boston tea party, for instance, Boston was not
punished until Parliament itself had acted to close the port. The ministry did
not simply issue orders in council, which is the equivalent of what Wolfgang
Petritsch has done.[13]

The irony is particularly rich considering the surfeit of human rights documents
which are allegedly valid in BiH. Citizens of BiH are supposedly protected by
"the highest levels of internationally recognised human rights and fundamental
freedoms." [14] Concretely, this has meant integrating into Bosnian law the
following charters and treaties: the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and
Punishment of the crime of Genocide; the 1949 Geneva Conventions I - IV and the
1977 Geneva Protocols I - II thereto; the 1950 European Convention on Human
Rights; the 1951 Convention on refugees and the 1966 Protocol thereto; the 1957
Convention on the nationality of married women; the 1961 Convention on the
reduction of statelessness; the 1965 Convention on eliminating racial
discrimination; the 1966 convention on civil and political rights and the 1966
and 1989 protocols thereto; the 1966 Covenant on economic, social and cultural
rights; the 1979 Convention on the elimination of discrimination against women;
the 1984 Convention against torture; the 1987 European Convention against
torture; the 1989 Convention on the rights of the child; the 1990 Convention
on the rights of migrant workers; the 1992 European Convention on regional and
minority languages; and the 1994 Framework Convention on the Protection of
National Minorities.[15] Despite this plethora of conventions, however,
citizens of BiH have no right to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in
Strasbourg. The root cause of the problem is that the High Representative is,
according to the documents which lay out his mandate, literally policeman,
judge, jury and executioner. He commands the police and the army; he can
change the constitution and cancel elections. None of his decisions is subject
to judicial review.

A glance at the written justifications for the HR's actions suffice to see this.
Wolfgang Petritsch phrased his decision to seize the bank, for instance, in the
language of legal reasoning: "in the exercise of the powers vested in me …,"
"recalling paragraphs etc. etc.," "observing …," "noting …" and so on. But this
legalese is purely circular because the catch-all Article V of Annex 10
(Agreement on Civilian Implementation of the Peace Settlement) of the General
Framework Agreement for Peace (i.e. Dayton) is a straightforward statement of
untrammelled power: "The High Representative is the final authority in theatre
regarding interpretation of this Agreement on the civilian implementation of the
peace settlement."[1] Entitled "Final Authority to Interpret," this is exactly
what the High Representative is awarded by this obnoxious article: final
authority to adjudicate over his own executive powers, which in any case are
totally unlimited[16].

As if these powers were not enough, a meeting of the Peace Implementation
Council held in Bonn in December 1997 widened them further. The High
Representative was awarded even more powers (although it is not clear by what
legislative authority) so that they are now literally defined by himself.
Section XI of the Conclusions of that meeting, entitled "High Representative",
reads as follows:

"The Council welcomes the High Representative's intention to use his final
authority in theatre regarding interpretation of the Agreement on the Civilian
Implementation of the Peace Settlement in order to facilitate the resolution of
difficulties by making binding decisions, as he judges necessary, on the
following issues: (a) timing, location and chairmanship of meetings of the
common institutions; (b) interim measures to take effect when parties are unable
to reach agreement, which will remain in force until the Presidency or Council
of Ministers has adopted a decision consistent with the Peace Agreement on the
issue concerned; (c) other measures to ensure implementation of the Peace
Agreement throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina and its Entities, as well as the
smooth running of the common institutions. Such measures may include actions
against persons holding public office or officials who are absent from meetings
without good cause or who are found by the High Representative to be in
violation of legal commitments made under the Peace Agreement or the terms for
its implementation." [17] [Emphases added.]
All of these unlimited powers were used to justify the decisions to sack the
Croat officials and to raid the Hercegovacka Banka.


A whole host of questions is raised by these events. Not the least of these is
the potential conflict of interest involved in having a man above the law, of
Austrian nationality, closing a bank in a province where Austrian banks already
control the other two main banks. Other questions raised include, of course,
the wisdom of having a colonial-style administration masquerading as a
democratic one. Such an approach, especially when the UN regime is itself
lawless, can never promote democracy or stability in BiH. A recent article in
The Washington Post [18] all too starkly describes where such a policy can lead.
Unsurprisingly, it seems that members of the international police force in
Bosnia are involved in a range of criminal activities. Officers, have been
dismissed for a variety of misdemeanours - one American was sacked in December
2000 for paying $2,900 for a Moldovan prostitute whom he kept as his personal
property. But dismissal seems to be the only sanction available, because in
Bosnia itself, international police have diplomatic immunity from prosecution.
The case of BiH also illustrates a very important philosophical point. Human
rights remain "chaff and rags and paltry shreds of paper" (Burke) unless they
emanate from a sovereign state based on the consent of the governed and the rule
of law. If the sovereignty of the state is bogus - as in BiH, where all key
decisions are in fact taken by the High Representative who is himself outside
the scope of BiH law - then that state's legal structures can never enforce the
principles laid down in its various human rights charters. Human rights can be
enforced only when there is the political will to enforce them; but if political
will is frustrated by arbitrary and lawless intervention from outside, as it has
been in BiH, then that poor country will never evolve towards the responsibility
and freedom which are the prerequisites for any state of law.


1 See, in particular: David Chandler, Bosnia: Faking Democracy after Dayton,
Pluto Press 1999. back
2 Yugoslavia: A History of its demise Viktor Meier, Routeledge 1999. back
3 "The End of Nationalist Regimes and the Future of the Bosnian State" Published
by The European Stability Initiative, March 2001. Available at,
this report is the only nearly objective analysis of the events described above
by an international think-tank. back
4 See Bosnia's November Elections:Dayton Stumbles ICG 18th December 2000 <intern
contact group> back
5 Tanjug, 6/6/2001.back
6 OSCE Inter-Office Memorandum dated 16th October, 2000. back
7 "U.S., British Ambassadors Accused of Interfering in Bosnian Politics" Agence
France Presse Sarajevo, 7th February 2001. back
8 Decision of the High Representative, Nr. 93/01, Sarajevo, 7th March 2001.
9 The speech is available on the web site of the Croatian National Congress at back
10 "Croats Attack Peacekeepers" AP, 6/4/2001. back
11. Interview with Milan Jelovac, Vjesnik, 3rd May. The interview may be read in
full on and back
12 "West Pins Hopes for Bosnia On Leader of Moderate Party", Matthew Kaminski,
Wall Street Journal, 22nd June, 2000. back
13 BHHRG is grateful to Lee Casey for drawing attention to these comparisons.
14 Dayton Agreement, Annex 4, Article 11, paragraph back
15 See David Chandler (ibid) pages 91-92. back
16 These documents can be consulted on the High Representative's web page, back
17 Article II of the same Annex 10 gives the High Representative the right to
"facilitate the resolution of any difficulties arising with civilian
implementation": this article is quoted as the source of Mr. Petritsch's
authority in his Decision to appoint a provisional governor to the Hercegova&#269;ka
Banka, dated 5th April 2001. back
18 "Misconduct, Corruption by the US Police Mar Bosnia Mission" Colum Lynch, The
Washington Post, 29th May 2001. back


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