Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, February 26, 1999.
The 1995 Dayton Accords (formally known as the General Framework
Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina) provided for the
continuity of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), previously one of
the constituent republics of Yugoslavia, as a single state, Bosnia
and Herzegovina. The Agreement also provided for two multiethnic
constituent entities within the state: The Federation of Bosnia
and Herzegovina (the Federation) and the Republika Srpska (RS).
The Federation, which has a postwar Bosniak and Croat majority,
occupies 51 percent of the territory; the RS, populated after
the war mostly by Bosnian Serbs, occupies 49 percent. The Dayton
Accords established a Constitution for Bosnia and Herzegovina
that includes a central government with a bicameral legislature,
a three-member presidency (consisting of a Bosniak, a Serb, and
a Croat), a council of ministers, a constitutional court, and
a central bank. The Accords also provided for the Office of the
High Representative (OHR) to oversee implementation of its civilian
provisions. The entities maintain separate armies, although under
the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, these are under the
ultimate control of the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In September Bosnia and Herzegovina held its most peaceful and
pluralistic elections since the 1995 Dayton Accords put an end
to 3 years of war. Multiethnic parties committed to building on
the foundation established at Dayton made some progress during
the presidential and Assembly elections. At the same time, the
largest political parties, which won a majority of Assembly seats,
continued to be ethnically based. These were the Bosniakdominated
Party of Democratic Action (SDA), the Croatian Democratic Union
of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HDZ), and the Serb Democratic Party-Serb
Radical Party coalition (SDS/SRS). Although formally independent,
the judiciary remains subject to influence by political parties
and the executive branch.
One of the two entities that make up Bosnia and Herzegovina, the
Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was established in March
1994 and transformed the government structure of the Bosnian territories
under Bosniak and Croatian control. It is a mixed system with
a president and a parliament that must approve the president's
choice of a prime minister. Federation structures have been implemented
only gradually. Major steps were the creation of provincial structures
in the form of cantons, the unification of Sarajevo under Federation
control in spring 1996, and 1996 and 1998 elections to a federation
parliament. However, divisions between Bosniaks and Croats remain.
For example, a continued lack of cooperation between Bosniaks
and Croats hindered the establishment of unified administration
in the bifurcated city of Mostar. This reflected mutual suspicion
between the two communities as well as separatist aims of hardline
The Republika Srpska of Bosnia and Herzegovina (RS) is the other
entity. In line with decisions by the RS Parliament, which came
into office in January, most of the political and administrative
agencies of the RS moved during the year from Pale (near Sarajevo)
to Banja Luka in the western RS. (Pale is closely associated with
the supporters of former Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war
criminal Radovan Karadzic.) The President and two Vice Presidents
were elected in September for 2-year terms. The length of their
terms is to increase to 4 years after the next elections. The
RS legislative branch, the National Assembly, is elected on a
proportional basis. With the November 1997 parliamentary elections,
the once unquestioned power of the SDS/SRS ultranationalist parties
began to erode. This process continued during the September elections.
Although ultranationalist Nikola Poplasen defeated the more moderate
nationalist incumbent Biljana Plavsic, Plavsic coalition ally
Zivko Radisic defeated the ultranationalist Momcilo Krajsnik for
the Serb position in the country's three-member joint presidency.
In addition, the moderate "Sloga" bloc (a coalition
of Radisic's Socialist Party of the RS, Biljana Plavsic's Serb
Peoples' Alliance, and Milorad Dodik's Party of Independent Social
Democrats) gained additional seats in the RS National Assembly
and can control the Assembly with the support of Federation-based
The Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Annex 4 of the Dayton
Accords) makes the government of each entity responsible for operating
its own law enforcement agencies in accordance with internationally
recognized standards. Under the auspices of the International
Police Task Force (IPTF) established by the United Nations pursuant
to Annex 11 of the Dayton Accords, police in both entities are
undergoing restructuring and training on police procedures and
human rights. Law enforcement bodies of both entities have on
occasion violated international standards, demonstrating bias
on political, religious, and ethnic grounds. However, confirmed
cases of this kind were fewer than in the previous 2 years. The
IPTF has an expanded mandate that allows it to investigate allegations
of human rights abuses. With the assistance of the international
community, Federation police formed internal affairs units to
conduct internal checks on police misconduct. The RS police were
forming similar units. Multiethnic police worked together in some
cantons and across the interentity boundary line (IEBL) to investigate
crimes. In some instances, police demonstrated a willingness to
respond to crimes without regard to the ethnicity of perpetrators
or victims. Bosnian police continued to suffer from the legacy
of a Communist system, with "special" or secret police
operating in all areas. These forces were outside the normal police
chain of command, reporting directly to the senior political leadership.
In addition to locally recruited police forces, each entity also
maintains an army. Both regular and "special" police
committed human rights abuses throughout the country.
The Stabilization Force (SFOR) led by the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO) continued its mission to implement the military
aspects of the Dayton Accords and create a secure environment
for implementation of the nonmilitary aspects of the settlement,
such as civilian reconstruction, the return of refugees and displaced
persons, elections, and freedom of movement of the civilian population.
There were signs of economic revival, particularly in the Federation,
where real gross domestic product (GDP) doubled since 1995. The
World Bank expected 20 percent GDP growth during the year in both
the Federation and the RS. In 3 years, unemployment dropped from
90 percent to an official level of approximately 40 percent in
each entity, and wages more than quadrupled in the Federation,
up to $175 (307 DM) per month. Nevertheless, the country remains
heavily dependent upon international donor assistance, and the
anticipated return of refugees from abroad was expected to compound
the problem of creating sufficient jobs as well as to reduce remittances.
International assistance, which is conditioned upon compliance
with the Dayton Accords, financed infrastructure reconstruction
and provided loans to the manufacturing sector.
The commitment to respect citizens' human rights and civil liberties
remains tenuous in the country, and the degree of respect for
these rights continues to vary among areas with Bosniak, Bosnian
Croat, and Bosnian Serb majorities. Serious human rights abuses
continued in several areas.
Isolated instances of political killings continued: two elderly
Serbs were killed in Drvar in April, and one Bosniak was killed
in Capljina in October. Killings due to bombings and booby traps
also continued, mainly as a result of majority attempts to prevent
minority returns to majority areas. Human rights abuses by the
police during the year, but serious problems persisted. Police
continued to commit abuses throughout the country, principally
the physical abuse of detainees. Some police in the RS used torture.
Police in all areas also used excessive force, or did not ensure
security, to discourage minority resettlement in majority areas.
Members of the security forces abused and physically mistreated
other citizens. Prison conditions continued to be poor in both
In the RS, criminal procedure legislation that was held over from
the prewar Yugoslav period granted police wide latitude to detain
suspects for long periods of time before filing charges. However,
there were fewer cases of arbitrary arrest and detention than
in previous years. In July the Federation legislature modified
criminal procedure legislation held over from the Yugoslav period
and decreased the wide latitude of police to detain suspects before
filing formal charges. Confusion over the rules for arrest and
detention of suspects for The Hague-based International Criminal
Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has led in some instances
to questionable detentions in both the Federation and the RS.
The arrest of Goran Vasic by Federation authorities in February
and the conviction of Veselin Cancar in January raise questions
of noncompliance with ICTY rules and procedures agreed upon in
1996. The RS continues its de facto refusal to take action, either
on its own or on behalf of the ICTY, against any Serbs indicted
by the ICTY.
The judiciary in both entities remained subject to coercive influence
by dominant political parties and by the executive branch. In
many areas, close ties exist between courts of law and the ruling
parties, and those judges who show independence are subject to
intimidation by the authorities. Even when independent decisions
are rendered, local authorities often refuse to carry them out.
Authorities in all areas infringed on citizens' right to privacy.
Authorities and dominant political parties in their respective
areas of the country exerted influence over the media, and freedom
of speech and of the press was limited to varying degrees in the
different entities. The two television networks, Federation State
Television in the Federation and Serb Radio-Television in the
RS, were freed from direct party control and placed under the
supervision of international administrators. However, party influence
was not fully eliminated in either network; it was particularly
egregious in parts of the RS broadcast media. The Open Broadcast
Network, an international donor-funded television network, expanded
its broadcast range and improved its programming in order to promote
a broader mix of reporting. Academic freedom was restricted. Authorities
imposed some limits on freedom of assembly and association. Party
control of the media and fears about security in some areas dampened
full participation without intimidation by opposition groups and
ethnic minorities in the electoral process. Religious discrimination
remained a problem. Both governments and private groups continued
to be responsible for isolated incidents that restricted the open
expression of religious practices by minorities in majority areas.
Although freedom of movement continued to improve, some limits
remained in practice.
Severe discrimination continues in areas dominated by one ethnic
group, particularly in the treatment of refugees and displaced
persons. Local authorities and mobs (in most cases believed to
be organized or approved by local authorities) harassed minority
returnees and violently resisted their return. The destruction
of minority-owned houses continued, particularly in Croatcontrolled
areas. RS and Bosnian Croat authorities encouraged members of
their own ethnic groups to remain or move to areas where their
group was in the majority, rather than stay in or return to their
homes. In addition to the lack of security, marginal economic
conditions and limited educational opportunities continued to
act as a brake on the return of internally displaced persons and
refugees. The enactment by the Federation of new property laws
in April provided an improved legal framework for potential return
by creating legal mechanisms for reoccupation not only of private
property, but also of socially owned apartments. However, implementation
of even the preparatory elements for reoccupation was uneven in
the Federation and by late October, some areas still had not established
initial claim mechanisms. In early December, the RS finally passed
a longawaited revision of its property law, but another
key piece of property rights legislation remained in draft form
at year's end. Some restrictions on freedom of movement continued,
although the introduction of uniform license plates greatly expanded
interentity movement. Ethnic discrimination remains a serious
problem, and mob violence continued.
During the year, there were increased efforts on the part of SFOR
to apprehend perpetrators of wartime atrocities. SFOR's more aggressive
approach of apprehending individuals indicted by the ICTY, which
began in the summer of 1997, resulted during the year in the apprehension
of 12 indictees out of the 83 publicly indicted by the Tribunal.
Eight of these were detained forcibly, and four turned themselves
in. This brought the total number of indictees taken into custody
since the Tribunal's inception to 35. At year's end there were
23 persons in ICTY custody awaiting trial or on trial. Two persons
in custody died during the year, one as a result of an aneurysm
and one as a result of suicide. One indictee, Slobodan Miljkovic,
was killed in a barroom brawl in Kragujevac, Serbia in August.
There were 31 public indictees still at large at year's end. ICTY
trials during the year resulted in four convictions and one acquittal.
The arrests of Milorad Krnojelac and General Radislav Krstic led
to protests by Serbs, during which property was damaged and mobs
threatened international civilian observers.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
There were no reports of political killings by police.
However, a pattern of deliberate mob violence against Serbs who
sought to return to their prewar homes continued throughout the
year in the Croat-majority town of Drvar and erupted with particular
virulence in April. Tensions had grown since late 1997, with large-scale
spontaneous returns from the RS and Serbia-Montenegro of the municipality's
prewar Serb residents. In April two elderly Serbs were murdered
in their home, which was burned. The police detained 18 persons
for suspected arson in November; 7 were juveniles between the
ages of 9 and 12 and cannot under law be detained or prosecuted.
All of the remaining 11 were eventually released, while at year's
end investigation of the case by Federation police continued.
After the international community responded with the removal of
the Croat deputy mayor, under authority granted to the Office
of the High Representative by the Peace Implementation Council
in Bonn in December 1997, mob violence occurred, orchestrated
by Croat hard-liners. The Croats, including some displaced by
the returning Serbs, set fire to and otherwise vandalized Serb
housing and the premises of international and nongovernmental
organizations (NGO's)(see Section 4). They physically assaulted
Serbs, including the mayor, and international organization representatives.
International monitors and Serbs claimed to have seen nonuniformed
Croat personnel from the Bosnian Federation Army in the mobs.
The response of Bosnian Croat police during the rioting was deemed
inadequate by the IPTF. Federation authorities acknowledged that
some Drvar police officers were involved and were under investigation.
Several Croat returnees were killed in Bosniak-dominated Travnik
in 1997. Violence continued in only a slightly diminished form
in the Travnik area during the year. In April an explosive device
seriously injured two Bosnian Croats after they entered a home
during a return-related assessment visit. On July 31 a bomb exploded
near a mosque, killing a Croat police officer in Travnik. Subsequently
Bosnian Croat police officers refused to return to their Travnik
station due to fear for their safety. The Croat police officers
demanded, among other conditions, the deportation of all "Arabs"
from the country before they returned to work. On August 3 a Bosniak
returnee was chased down and beaten to death by attackers in Brcko.
Police arrested four Bosnian Serb suspects, including two youths,
for the killing. A grenade attack in the Croat-majority town of
Capljina in October killed one Bosniak returnee and injured three
others. The killing occurred a day after Croats erected a roadblock
near Capljina to protest the Bosniak returns. The MSU (Multinational
Specialized Unit)--a specialized public security unit of the NATO-led
SFOR--cleared the road after local authorities failed to respond
to the crisis (see Section 2.d.). Croats retaliated the next day
with the grenade attack, and there were also several explosions
and shootings. Local residents and international observers witnessed
the mayor of Capljina, Krunoslav Kordic, stirring up crowds of
Croat displaced persons on October 2, just before the grenade
Many, if not most, of the perpetrators of numerous killings and
other brutal acts committed in previous years remained unpunished,
including those responsible for the up to 7,000 persons missing
and presumed killed by the Bosnian Serb Army after the fall of
Srebrenica and those responsible for up to 13,000 others still
missing and presumed killed as a result of "ethnic cleansing"
During the year, there were increased efforts on the part of SFOR
to apprehend perpetrators of wartime atrocities. SFOR's more aggressive
approach of apprehending individuals indicted by the ICTY, which
began in the summer of 1997, resulted during the year in the apprehension
of 12 indictees out of the 83 publicly indicted by the Tribunal.
The year began with the arrest of Goran Jelic, Milan Simic, Miroslav
Tadic, Simo Zaric, Dragoljub Kunarac, Miroslav Kvocka, Mladen
Radic, Zoran Zigic, Milojica Kos, Milorad Krnojelac, Stevan Todorovic,
and finally Radislav Krstic in December. Eight of these were detained
forcibly, and four turned themselves in to NATO troops. This brought
the total number of indictees taken into custody since the Tribunal's
inception to 35. Krstic, who was under sealed indictment, was
a current high-ranking general in the Bosnian Serb army and one
of the highest Bosnian Serb officials brought to The Hague. At
year's end there were 23 persons in ICTY custody awaiting trial
or on trial. Two persons in custody died during the year, one
as a result of an aneurysm and one as a result of suicide. One
indictee, Slobodan Miljkovic, was killed in a barroom brawl in
Kragujevac, Serbia in August. There were 31 public indictees still
at large at year's end. ICTY this year issued three convictions
(Zdravko Mucic, Hazim Delic, and Esad Landzo) and one acquittal
(Zejnil Delalic) in the Celibici trial for crimes committed against
Bosnian Serbs, and Anto Furundzija was also convicted in the second
half of the year. This brings the total number of convictions
to five since ICTY's inception. The arrests of Milorad Krnojelac
and General Radislav Krstic led to protests by Serbs, during which
property was damaged and mobs threatened international civilian
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances
during the year.
The OHR in late 1997 took the lead in forging an agreement among
the Bosniak, Bosnian Croat, and Bosnian Serb commissions for missing
persons to expedite cross-entity IEBL exhumations. By October
over 1,300 bodies had been found as a result. Crossentity
exhumations and those carried out by authorities in their respective
entities resulted in over 3,000 bodies being recovered during
In addition to those killed in Srebrenica and Zepa, the International
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported that since 1995 it
received requests from family members to trace 19,934 persons
missing from the war years: 1,882 of these persons were accounted
for (243 of whom were found alive). The ICRC noted that Serb,
Croat, and Bosniak authorities were in a position to provide more
information in response to its inquiries, particularly those concerning
432 persons, known to have been detained at one time in connection
with the war, who remained missing.
The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) funds the
interentity exhumations process, provides support to families
of the missing, and puts political pressure on Bosnian officials
to provide information on missing persons.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or
The Constitution provides for the right to freedom from torture
and cruel or inhuman treatment or punishment; however, in all
areas of the country, police and prison officials abused and physically
mistreated persons at the time of arrest and during detention.
In the RS, police at times used torture. Police in Sarajevo, Neretva,
and Tuzla cantons investigated allegations of police abuse or
criminal activity and dismissed officers found guilty.
The IPTF made some progress in attempts to investigate allegations
of police involvement in the abuse of suspects. In October IPTF
investigators concluded that RS police officers brutally tortured
some of the seven detainees who were arrested for the August 7
murder of Pale Public Security Center Deputy Chief Srdjan Knezevic.
RS police held 7 of 16 suspects incommunicado, tortured them,
and forced them to sign statements. The police reportedly used
pliers and stun guns in addition to beatings. IPTF investigators
were denied access to the detainees until 8 days after the arrests.
The IPTF team concluded that there was no physical evidence to
implicate any of the seven men in the murder and that there were
glaring contradictions, omissions, and rewrites in the official
police reports. At the request of the IPTF, in September the RS
Interior Minister removed his chief of uniformed police for involvement
in this torture. The RS Interior Ministry professional standards
unit completed an in-depth investigation into this torture. The
unit's report recommended bringing criminal charges against the
former chief of uniformed police and two police officers and taking
disciplinary action against six others.
On July 6 the RS Minister of Interior suspended 17 Teslic police
officers, including the chief of police and his deputy, pending
an investigation by an RS public prosecutor for human rights violations.
In the previous 12 months the IPTF investigated three separate
incidents involving citizens who were physically abused while
in the custody or care of the Teslic police. Of the 17 officers
suspended, 10 were being considered for criminal prosecution.
On October 2, Croat police officers from Capljina stopped a police
car under IPTF escort on its way to Mostar, following an outbreak
of violence over Bosniak returnees in Capljina (see Sections 1.a.
and 2.d.). The local police officers beat the occupants of the
vehicle, the president of the Capljina board of the SDA and member
of the Federation Parliament Omer Cerva and two Bosniak police
officers, in the presence of Police Chief Stanislav Buntic. The
three were detained for allegedly having hand grenades in the
police vehicle and were later released. IPTF monitors witnessed
the events but were unable to intervene. Police took the three
Bosniak men behind closed doors inside the police station and
denied the IPTF access. Police Chief Buntic attempted to keep
IPTF monitors from staying on the premises, but they remained.
IPTF Commissioner Richard Monk decertified Buntic, and IPTF human
rights officers were investigating the case (see Section 4).
Serb police continued to employ excessive force to prevent Bosniak
former residents from returning to, or staying in, RS territory.
Similar patterns of abuse occurred in Croat-majority areas. Police
in Stolac proved unwilling or unable to contain the numerous instances
of arson designed to intimidate returnees. Reacting to this situation
and a refusal by authorities to address similar crimes from 1996
and 1997, the IPTF replaced the Stolac Chief of Police in February,
and the OHR removed the mayor in March. After the situation failed
to improve, the cantonal interior minister removed the replacement
police chief in July. There also were instances in which police
did not act to halt mob violence. For example, in April Bosnian
Croat police reportedly were present when mobs beat and terrorized
Bosnian Serb returnees to Drvar.
Moreover, in addition to attacks on members of other ethnic groups
committed in both entities, Serbs in the RS threatened members
of international organizations. Upon entering Srebrenica on January
16 to discuss the installation of a new municipal government,
IPTF vehicles containing officers and an vehicle containing staff
from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
were stoned by an angry mob of Serbs blocking the road into the
city (see Section 4).
On the night of December 3 in the eastern RS town of Vlasenica
Serb demonstrators destroyed one IPTF vehicle in protest of SFOR's
arrest and transport to The Hague of General Krstic. On December
4, a mob of approximately 500 Serbs attacked a European Community
Monitoring Mission (ECMM) vehicle and harassed two ECMM monitors
and their interpreter. The vehicle reportedly was destroyed. In
this instance, local Serb police intervened to protect the ECMM
group and escorted its members to safety in the Zvornik police
station. There were no reported injuries. The June 15 SFOR arrest
of Milorad Krnojelac on charges of war crime activities ignited
an angry response by a crowd of Serbs in Foca. The crowd threw
rocks and other items at the Foca IPTF and OSCE offices and burned
an IPTF truck. OSCE personnel were evacuated temporarily.
At times some police officers impeded the enforcement of the law.
An October 8 attempted eviction of a Croat family in Gornji Vakuf
underscored the ongoing ethnic divide between Bosniak and Croat
police in central Bosnia. The town is equally divided between
Bosniaks and Croats, as is the police force. While Bosniak police
officers were ready to evict Croat occupants who were occupying
a Bosniak house illegally, they were prevented from doing so by
15 Croat police officers positioned at the apartment. No Croat
police officer would participate in the eviction. The Croat commander
of the police force refused to carry out the eviction order of
the Bosniak Chief of Police. Federation Deputy Minister of Interior
Fabijan Trbara, who is a Croat, also refused to take action. As
tensions mounted, the chief of police decided to call off the
eviction process. The IPTF local commander recommended to his
headquarters that the recalcitrant officers be decertified.
The IPTF made significant progress in its efforts to restructure
and professionalize the police. All Federation and RS police were
being provided with human dignity and basic skills training. The
IPTF continued its certification of Federation and RS police.
This process involved written and psychological examinations,
as well as background checks. In December the Federation Police
Academy, guided by the IPTF, graduated its first class, with 66
men and 31 women of representing different ethnic backgrounds.
The Federation police includes Croat, as well as Bosniak, officers
and generally reflects the appropriate ethnic mix within each
canton. However, the police forces throughout the country generally
do not reflect the higher standards of ethnic representation required
by various agreements. The IPTF has developed a minority police
return program in cooperation with the Refugee Return Task Force
as a means of recruiting minority police officers. The current
class of the Federation Police Academy is made up primarily of
officers who will serve in police forces where they will be in
the minority. Eight of 10 Federation cantons agreed to create
ethnically mixed police units. The Interior Ministry and most
cantons aggressively sought to increase their numbers of Serb
police officers as well. The IPTF also achieved full ethnic integration
of the police force in the internationally supervised city of
Police restructuring moved more slowly in the RS. The IPTF completed
professional certification, background checks, and training of
police in the cities of Banja Luka, Trebinja, Doboj, Mrkonjic
Grad, and Prijedor. The chief of police in Serbmajority
Banja Luka interviewed Bosniak candidates to join his force. In
December RS political leaders signed a framework agreement with
the IPTF on police restructuring, reform, and democratization
in the RS. This new agreement is intended to create a more professional
and ethnically mixed police force.
Individual and mob violence continued to be a widespread problem.
According to human rights NGO's, in May an elderly Serb woman
was beaten in Kljuc after a crowd of approximately 150 Bosniaks
gathered to protest a visit of more than 50 Bosnian Serbs to the
A large number of bombings caused injuries. In June a newly returned
Croat policeman was injured seriously when his personal vehicle
was booby-trapped. His Bosniak colleague who was riding with him
in the vehicle was also badly hurt. No one was arrested for the
crime. Some 70 bombings took place in the Croat-majority town
of Stolac during the year. A November 7 bombing injured two Bosniaks.
On November 11 a bombing in Poprati, near Stolac, injured another
Bosniak recent returnee. The bombings appeared to be part of an
organized campaign to obstruct Bosniak returns. Criminal charges
were brought in May against 5 persons for their role in a bombing
in Croat-dominated West Mostar in 1997 in which more than 50 persons
were injured. All five were foreign residents of Middle Eastern
origin. One of the five was reportedly a fugitive at the time
the charges were brought. Although three of the five were convicted
(one in absentia), Bosnian Croats criticized the sentences for
being too light--only 5 to 7 years--for this massive car bomb.
Conditions in Federation and RS prisons are well below minimum
International community representatives were given widespread
and for the most part unhindered access to detention facilities
and prisoners in the RS as well as in the Federation.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
There were fewer cases of arbitrary arrest and detention in both
the Federation and the RS compared with 1997. In prior years,
police in both entities enjoyed great latitude based on Communist-era
criminal procedure laws that permitted them to detain persons
for up to 6 months without bringing formal charges against them.
The Federation revised these laws, removing this power from police,
although not from investigative judges. The detention laws remain
in force in the RS.
In October Radio Free Europe part-time reporter Nikola Gurovic
was arrested at the Sarajevo airport on charges that he had not
presented valid vouchers to justify expenses he had claimed from
Federation public television (RTV BiH) in 1992. The Independent
Union of Professional Journalists issued a protest following the
action. The Union demanded that judicial and police authorities
offer a public explanation of why Gurovic had been targeted for
prosecution, since many other individuals had left the country
in that period without having settled personal accounts. The Union
described his arrest as an attack on the freedom of journalists.
Gurovic was released after a day.
Human rights NGO's contend that there are cases in which persons
who ostensibly are detained on criminal charges actually are incarcerated
for political reasons. For example, Ibrahim Djedovic, a parliamentary
deputy for the Democratic National Union (DNZ), which the ruling
Bosniak SDA views as a renegade party due to its activities during
the war, was arrested and jailed in May 1997 for war crimes, after
he arrived in Sarajevo to take up his parliamentary seat. The
ICTY investigated Djedovic and decided not to arrest him for his
alleged activities. Most local and international observers believe
that Djedovic was arrested due to his political affiliation and
not because of alleged war crimes. The Sarajevo cantonal court
convicted and sentenced Djedovic to 10 years in October. He remained
free at year's end pending appeal of his conviction to the Federation
Supreme Court and currently serves as a DNZ deputy in the Federation
House of Representatives.
There were no reports that forced exile generally was used as
a legal punishment. However, in some areas of the RS, Serb authorities
and civilians attempted to expel Bosniaks. For example, in Teslic
Serb citizens and members of the civil protection unit from nearby
villages intimidated or attempted to evict mostly Bosniak families.
In July the RS Interior Minister removed 12 officers from the
Teslic police for their inaction in stopping this incident and
possible involvement in the violence.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Both the Federation and RS constitutions provide for an independent
judiciary; however, holdover practices from the Communist and
wartime eras, during which the executive and the leading political
parties exerted influence over the judicial system, persisted
in all areas. Party affiliation and political connections weighed
heavily in the appointment of prosecutors and judges.
The existing judicial hierarchy in the Federation consists of
municipal courts, which have original jurisdiction in most civil
and criminal cases, cantonal courts, which have appellate jurisdiction
over the canton's municipalities, and three federal courts, (Constitutional,
Supreme, and Human Rights--although the third of these has not
yet been established). The Federation Constitution provides for
the appointment of judges by the President, with the concurrence
of the Vice President and the approval of the Assembly, to an
initial term of 5 years. Judges may be reappointed following this
initial term to serve until the age of 70.
The RS judicial hierarchy includes a Supreme Court to provide
for the unified enforcement of the law and a Constitutional Court
to assure conformity of laws, regulations, and general enactments
with the Constitution. The RS has both municipal and district
courts, with the district courts having appellate jurisdiction.
Judges are appointed and recalled by the National Assembly and
have life tenure. According to the OHR, 32 percent of the RS judgeships
were vacant as of October.
In July the Federation Parliament adopted legislation that revised
the Federation's Criminal Codes and procedures. The international
community began an intensive training program to familiarize judges,
prosecutors, and defense attorneys with the new codes. Similar
legislation had not yet been considered by the RS Parliament.
Some NGO's expressed concern over the judicial selection process
in eight federation cantons, especially in Sarajevo and Tuzla.
Legal experts argued that the laws on judicial selection in those
two cantons were inconsistent with the canton and Federation Constitutions.
Both the Federation and RS Constitutions provide for open and
public trials and give the accused the right to legal counsel.
In 1997 an RS municipal court in the town of Zvornik found seven
Bosniaks guilty of murdering four Serb civilians in May 1996 and
of possessing illegal weapons. Human rights groups found the court's
proceedings deeply flawed and called for a new trial. They pointed
to the lack of evidence against the defendants, apart from confessions
apparently coerced through torture, as well as the court's refusal
to allow effective representation by lawyers chosen by the defendants.
Three of the defendants were sentenced to 21 years each for murder;
the other four men were given 1-year sentences for illegal possession
of firearms but freed because they had served 11 months in jail
while awaiting trial. In January following the intervention of
the Human Rights Ombudsperson for Bosnia and Herzegovina, the
Bijeljina district court ordered a new trial, acknowledging that
the defendants had been deprived of their right to choose their
counsel. In late December the Bijeljina court found three of the
seven defendants guilty of murder and one guilty of attempted
murder. Human rights monitors judged this trial seriously procedurally
flawed, noting that there was no evidence presented to link the
accused to the crime scene, and that the case rested on confessions
obtained under torture. The defendants planned to appeal the Bijeljina
district court's verdict to the RS Supreme Court. The Office of
the Human Rights Ombudsperson had not issued a report on the new
developments in the case by year's end; such a report could recommend
a new trial.
Human rights organizations reported that judicial institutions
in both entities were controlled or influenced by the ruling parties.
As a result, they were often reluctant or unwilling to try cases
of human rights abuse referred to them. A lack of resources and
a huge backlog of unresolved cases provided a convenient excuse
for judicial inaction. Even when the courts rendered a fair judgment,
local officials often refused to implement their decisions. This
was especially the case for those who won decisions mandating
eviction of illegal occupants from their property. In addition,
organized crime elements sought to pressure judges, especially
in central Bosnia.
There were no reports of political prisoners.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina provides for the right
to "private and family life, home and correspondence,"
and the right to protection of property. These rights generally
were observed better in the Federation than in the RS.
Despite real progress on property issues, authorities in many
places continued to use their control over "socially owned"
and privately owned housing occupied by displaced persons or other
nonowners to slow down or block minority returns. While the main
problem continued to be the large number of displaced persons
in relation to available housing, all three ethnic groups used
the control of housing as a major instrument for political influence
peddling and enrichment. Even with the adoption of new property
laws in both the Federation and the RS, progress remained slow
due to sluggish implementation and obstruction by the authorities.
As in 1997, due to minimal numbers of returnees to the RS--because
few minorities dared to return there--the most frequent cases
of intimidation against returnees occurred in Bosnian Croat-controlled
areas--particularly in the Herzegovina region. Suspected Croat
hard-liners mined or destroyed returnees' houses in Drvar, Capljina,
and Stolac. Following Croatia's soccer victory against Germany
in July in the World Cup tournament, a Croat mob went on a rampage
in Stolac, attacking and vandalizing the houses of recent Bosniak
returnees. Police did not respond.
With pressure by the OHR and a newly elected pro-Dayton Government
in the RS early in the year, telephone service and correspondence
between the Federation and the RS improved although the RS Government
continued to hinder some communication. After 100 badly needed
telephone lines were installed with international assistance,
the RS still had not connected the service by year's end.
Throughout the country, political party membership was considered
the surest way to obtain, retain, or regain employment, especially
in the management of socially owned enterprises. Membership was
also influential in obtaining or keeping housing.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press;
this right was respected partially in the Federation and in the
western RS, but less so in the eastern RS. Within the Federation,
press freedom was more severely restricted in Croatmajority
areas. Some progress was made in establishing independent media
in Federation cantons with a Bosniak majority and in the RS, particularly
in Banja Luka. The primary restraints on press freedom are control
of the principal media by governing political parties and, in
the case of newspapers, the unwillingness of Governments in either
entity to provide access to kiosk networks under their control.
Party-controlled media--particularly Croatian state radio and
television--are the dominant electronic media and information
source in Croatmajority areas of the Federation. While coverage
of the September elections by nationalistic media was improved
from 1997, most media continued to be strongly biased.
The Dnevni Avaz newspaper, distributed widely in the Federation,
was controlled largely by the ruling SDA party. Some opposition
and independent newspapers operate in the Bosniak-majority areas
of the Federation and in the RS, principally in Banja Luka. Oslobodjenje
and Vecernje Novine are the leading independent dailies, and Dani
and Slobodna Bosna are the most influential independent magazines
in the Federation. One of the few independent magazines in the
RS was Reporter, a weekly published by a former foreign correspondent
of the Belgrade-based independent Vreme, while Nezavisne Novine
is an independent newspaper published in the western RS. Also
in the RS, the Social-Liberal Party published an opposition magazine,
Novi Prelom, and the Social Democratic Party published a daily
newspaper. Both of these publications take an independent line
and are consistently supportive of the Dayton Accords.
It was difficult for independent and opposition media in the RS
to gain access to the government-controlled kiosk distribution
system. The same was true of some areas of the Federation, particularly
in Croat-controlled regions. Some independent media in the two
entities, for example, Dani and Reporter, assist in the distribution
of each other's publications in their respective entities.
In order to better regulate all broadcast media, the OHR in June
established the Independent Media Commission (IMC), whose functions
and responsibilities include licensing all broadcasters; drawing
up codes of practice for broadcasters and other media; managing
and assigning frequencies for broadcasting purposes; and ensuring
adherence to license conditions.
Prior to 1998 the dominant nationalist political parties exercised
strong control over television and radio. Federation state television
(RTV BiH) faithfully served the interests of the SDA. The RTV
BiH gave preferential coverage to SDA leaders and greatly limited
reports on the opposition. However, in June joint Presidency members
Alija Izetbegovic and Kresmir Zubak signed an OHR-drafted Memorandum
of Understanding (MOU) for restructuring the RTV BiH which, in
effect, is to be the basis for a Federation-wide television network
independent of political party control. The MOU also is designed
to be the basis for a nationwide network later on. The OHR in
July appointed an 11member interim Board of Governors, which
is to guide the network until the establishment of a public corporation.
Croat-controlled areas in Bosnia-Herzegovina are covered by Croatian
State Television (HRT). The three HRT channels come into the country
by means of an over-the-border terrestrial broadcasting satellite,
and an extensive rebroadcasting operation managed by the Mostar-based,
Zagreb-controlled Erotel company. HRT's news programs and editorials
frequently criticize the Dayton Accords. A December decision by
the IMC is intended to terminate the direct rebroadcast of Croatian
State Television by requiring that RTV BiH and Croat television
broadcasters establish a Federation television system that meets
the needs of all BiH citizens.
Until SFOR acted in 1997 on an OHR request to end offensive broadcasts
by RS government-run Serb Radio-Television (SRT), the SRT followed
the line of the then-ruling SDS Party, with frequently inaccurate
and inflammatory reporting. The SRT sought to undercut the Dayton
Accords by covering events in the Federation in the "international"
portion of the news. Following SFOR'S action, the OHR implemented
a plan to restructure the SRT that included the appointment of
an international administrator to oversee management of the station
until the completion of restructuring. In the interim, only the
SRT station in Banja Luka was authorized to continue broadcasting.
Despite the presence of an OHR-appointed international administrator
at the helm of SRT, its restructuring has stalled.
The international donor-supported television Open Broadcast Network
(OBN)--which now has 13 affiliates located in both the Federation
and the RS--provides independent news and public affairs programming.
The OBN was launched by the international community to be a cross-entity
broadcaster and source of objective news. Thanks to an expanded
area of coverage and improved programming, OBN viewership rose
during the year. By November OBN could be seen by 80 percent of
the population. The OBN still is working to improve its broadcast
Other independent television outlets include TV Hayat, TV X, Studio
99, and several small TV stations scattered around the country.
These broadcasters were originally municipal stations. They have
not yet been fully privatized, and their legal ownership status
Radio broadcasting in the Bosniak-majority areas of the Federation--particularly
in Sarajevo, Zenica, and Tuzla--is diverse. Opposition viewpoints
are reflected in the news programs of independent broadcasters.
Independent or opposition radio stations broadcast in the RS--particularly
in Banja Luka and Trebinje. Nezavisni Radio, Nezavisna Televizija,
and Radio Pegas report a wide variety of political opinions. Local
radio stations broadcast in Croat-majority areas, but they are
usually highly nationalistic. Local Croat authorities do not tolerate
While some foreign journalists who represent recognized media
were able to travel freely to most areas of the country, others
encountered difficulties. Local police and security officials
in the RS and West Mostar harassed journalists associated with
opposition parties or minority ethnic groups.
In September RS police and security officials detained three members
of an RTV BiH crew covering the elections in Banja Luka for alleged
"rudeness and aggressiveness." They were held at a facility
where police claimed they "voluntarily" erased some
of their camera footage. The three were released following intervention
by the OSCE mission.
In October Radio Free Europe part-time reporter Nikola Gurovic
was arrested at the Sarajevo airport on charges that he had not
presented valid vouchers to justify expenses he had claimed from
the RTV-BiH in 1992. The Independent Union of Professional Journalists
protested that Gurovic had been singled out for arrest for a common
offense. Gurovic was released after a day (see Section 1.d.).
In October in Capljina two journalists were arrested because they
had not first registered with the police.
Academic freedom was constrained. In the Federation, Serbs and
Croats complained that SDA party members receive special treatment
in appointments and promotions at the University of Sarajevo.
The University of Banja Luka limits its appointments to Serbs.
All institutions suffer from a lack of resources and staff, as
well as the legacy of the Communist period. Officials at the University
of (West) Mostar endeavor to ensure that very few non-Croats work
or study there.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly; however,
there were some limits imposed on this right in practice. In the
period prior to the September national elections, opposition political
parties enjoyed greater latitude in staging rallies and campaigning
than they had during the 1996 national elections. However, there
were still instances in which incumbents attempted to use their
positions to hinder the activities of opposition parties. In September
the OSCE's election appeals subcommission (under the authority
of Dayton Annex 3) required the resignation of the mayor of Milici,
in the RS, for seeking to block an opposition rally in the town.
The Constitution provides for freedom of association, and a wide
range of social, cultural, and political organizations functioned
without interference; however, indirect pressure constrained the
activities of some groups. Although political party membership
was not forced, many viewed membership in the leading party of
any given area as the surest way for residents to obtain and keep
housing and high-level jobs in the state-owned sector of the economy.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, including private
and public worship, and, in general, individuals enjoyed this
right in their religious majority areas. However, the efforts
of individuals to worship in areas in which they are an ethnic/religious
minority were restricted, sometimes by societal violence. Some
incidents resulted in damage to religious edifices and cemeteries
(see Section 5).
In July local government authorities and Bosnian Serb protesters
in Banja Luka prevented the burial of the mufti of Banja Luka
in a Muslim cemetery in that city. Demonstrators broke into an
Islamic community building and harassed mourners. The body of
the mufti subsequently was interred in Sarajevo. In November the
Human Rights Chamber (see Section 4) held a public hearing in
Banja Luka to hear the Islamic community's case against RS authorities
for impairing its ability to reconstruct mosques and other community-owned
buildings destroyed during the war in the Banja Luka area.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration,
The Constitution provides for "the right to liberty of movement
and residence" and freedom of movement, including across
the IEBL, continued to improve, with a notable increase in vehicular
traffic. The IPTF and SFOR completed the dismantling of all permanent
fixed police checkpoints, greatly enhancing freedom of movement.
However, for most minorities movement across the IEBL and into
areas dominated by other ethnic groups remained somewhat limited
and cautious in practice. While there were improvements in freedom
of movement in most areas of the Federation and in the western
RS, and a growing acceptance of the right to return, the eastern
RS remained under hard-line control and unwelcoming to a minority
The most important development during the year to increase freedom
of movement was the June 1 introduction of universal license plates.
By August 1 an estimated 75 percent of the drivers throughout
the country had the new plates which, unlike the previous ones,
do not identify the vehicles as being registered in predominantly
Bosniak, Bosnian Serb, or Bosnian Croat areas. The U.N. Mission
in Bosnia-Herzegovina (UNMIBH) reported that in the first week
after the inauguration of the new plates, about 4,000 vehicles
crossed the IEBL, and in the first week of July this number increased
to 8,000. By year's end, freedom of movement had noticeably improved.
Statistics on refugee returns remained difficult to obtain. By
midyear an estimated 1.4 million Bosnian citizens still were displaced
internally or were refugees abroad. Most faced either relocation
within the country or "minority return," i.e., return
to areas in which another ethnic group was dominant politically
In the first 5 months of the year, there were approximately 11,000
registered minority returns and over 60,000 total returns. In
view of the number of spontaneous unregistered returns, the number
of actual minority returns was probably higher. However, the goal
of 50,000 minority returns in 1998 was not met. At year's end,
only between approximately 30,000 and 35,000 minority returns
had been registered, all but about 1,000 to the Federation. By
midyear UNHCR field reporting also indicated that 30,000 to 40,000
minorities were engaged in the "implementation of return,"
meaning involvement in a concrete activity indicating genuine
intention to return, such as housing repair, planting of fields,
or spending the night at prewar homes.
Refugees from Europe, particularly from Germany, also returned
to the country. This movement began to grow during the summer,
following the end of the school year. Although by July there had
been only an estimated 30,000 returns from abroad, it was estimated
that between 140,000 and 220,000 returned by the year's end as
a result of pressure to depart from host countries. Most of those
returning from Europe were unable to return to their prewar homes.
Some deliberately were directed by hard-line political authorities
of their own ethnic group to areas where an effort at repopulation
was still underway, to consolidate the results of ethnic cleansing.
The UNHCR "open cities" initiative, begun in 1997, linked
economic assistance to cooperation on minority return (positive
conditionality) and helped the UNHCR's effort to break down the
influence of ethnic separatists. However, in October the UNHCR
rescinded the open city status of Vogosca, a suburb of Sarajevo,
due to its noncompliance with agreements on minority returns.
Of 228 minority families who were scheduled to return there, only
24 were registered by mid-October.
Several factors prevented a larger number of returns, including
canton level control over allocation of socially owned property,
and, in the Federation, the lack of cooperation in hard-line areas
in implementing obligations set forth in cantonal return plans
and new property laws.
The February 1998 Sarajevo declaration was intended to showcase
Sarajevo as a model city in terms of tolerance. The declaration
was to provide for improvements in areas that hindered return:
Legislation, housing, security and public order, employment, and
education, with a goal of 20,000 minority returns for the canton
during the year. However, of 2,186 minority families registered
to return, only 804 minority families returned to socially owned
apartments and 414 to privately owned houses in Sarajevo canton.
Of roughly 21,000 claims for return of property, only 7,000 decisions
were issued. Due to a failure to meet most of the benchmarks of
the declaration, the international community temporarily froze
reconstruction funds for the canton in July.
During the year the Federation army unlawfully took control of
4,000 former Yugoslav military (JNA) apartments that had been
abandoned and repaired by a Dutch company. Prewar residents continue
to wait to return to these, while authorities encourage occupants
to start the purchasing process. After inadequate action by local
authorities, several of these cases were brought before the Human
Rights Chamber. No returns have taken place to former JNA apartments.
The military has attempted to evict legal occupants.
The continued influence of ethnic separatists in positions of
authority also hindered minority returns. Much of Croatcontrolled
Herzegovina and all of the eastern RS remained resistant to minority
returns. Displaced persons living in those areas, even those who
privately indicated interest in returning to their prewar homes,
frequently were pressured to remain displaced, while those who
wished to return were discouraged, often through the use of violence
(see Sections 1.a. and 1.c.). The increased number of ethnically
integrated police forces helped improve the climate for return,
but security in general remained inadequate in many areas. The
lack of an ethnically neutral curriculum in public schools also
On October 1 in the municipality of Capljina, Croats erected a
roadblock on the main north-south road in the Federation to protest
Bosniak returns. According to the OHR, 100 Bosniaks were returning
in a preannounced move to villages near Capljina. SFOR sent in
Italian troops to reestablish freedom of movement when police
did not take action. According to an OSCE representative, Croats
on the roadside pelted the MSU, a specialized security unit of
the NATO-led SFOR, with stones while they broke up the roadblock.
According to SFOR, three MSU troops were injured. The MSU responded
by breaking up the crowd of individuals throwing stones. Police
reported another 13 injuries among local citizens, but SFOR contested
this report. Croats reacted with violence on the night of October
2, leaving one Bosniak returnee dead and two injured (see Sections
1.a., 1.c., and 4).
The continued depressed state of the economy throughout the country
and the consequent lack of employment opportunity for returnees
remained a serious obstacle to a significant number of returns.
As a result, most minority returnees in the first half of the
year were elderly. This presented a new burden for receiving municipalities.
Younger minority group members, who depend on adequate wages from
employment to support families, generally remained displaced,
especially in cases where they had managed over the past 6 years
to find work.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials held up the system for issuing
new passports, which restricted travel outside the country. However,
new Bosnia and Herzegovina passports were finally issued by each
entity at midyear, leading to new opportunities for freedom of
movement and international travel.
Officially, the Government grants asylum and refugee status in
accordance with international standards. At times the Government
cooperated with the UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations
in assisting refugees. The arrival of persons who fled the fighting
in Kosovo raised the issue of the provision of first asylum. The
Council of Ministers adopted special instructions that allowed
the temporary protection of Kosovo refugees until adequate legislation
could be adopted. However, by the fall, the situation in Kosovo
had resulted in an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 Kosovar refugees
in the country, of whom 5,000 had registered with the UNHCR. Federation
and cantonal authorities obstructed the UNHCR'S efforts to accommodate
the refugees. There were no reports of the forced return of persons
to a place where they feared persecution.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
Even though a permanent election law is not yet in place, the
Dayton Accords commit the parties to "ensure that conditions
exist for the organization of free and fair elections, in particular
a politically neutral environment" and to ensure the right
to "vote in secret without fear or intimidation." These
rights were respected in the national and entity elections in
September, which were the most fair and pluralistic elections
since the Dayton Accords were signed. Voter turnout was over 70
percent with over 83 political parties, independent candidates,
coalitions, and alliances competing for office.
However, at the same time, continued party control of the media
and security apparatus precluded full citizen participation without
intimidation, especially in Bosnian Croat areas and parts of the
RS. To varying degrees, all major parties seek to inhibit political
activity by other parties in the respective areas where they are
in control. This was especially true in areas controlled by SDS
or HDZ hard-liners.
Implementation of the election went relatively well, with the
exception of President Poplasen's refusal to nominate a candidate
for prime minister with sufficient support in the RS Assembly
to form a government and the delay in the appointments to the
Council of Ministers. However, implementation at the national
and entity levels is far less difficult than implementation of
municipal election results. Problems still are being experienced
in implementing the 1997 municipal elections; Srebrenica remains
without the municipal council mandated by the 1997 elections.
A framework agreement for the establishment of the council has
been accepted in principle by all parties, but local Serb intransigence
prevented its implementation. OSCE and OHR officials expected
that the framework agreement would be signed at the end of February
1999 and that the first assembly session would be held in early
Women generally were underrepresented in government and politics,
although a few women, such as the former President of the RS,
have occupied prominent positions. In the three legislatures,
women are underrepresented seriously. To address this concern,
the OSCE election rules required parties to include no fewer than
3 members of each gender among the top 10 names on their candidate
lists. Women's representation in legislative assemblies significantly
increased from 2 percent in the 1996 RS National Assembly to 23
percent in 1998, from 5 percent in the 1996 Federation House of
Representatives to 15 percent in 1998, and from 2 percent in the
BiH House of Representatives to 26 percent in 1998.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
The authorities generally permitted outside investigations of
alleged human rights violations. International and local NGO's
involved in human rights appear to operate fairly freely, with
few reports of intimidation or harassment. The OHR reports that
foreign government and NGO human rights monitors were able to
travel without restriction in all areas of the country. International
community representatives were given widespread and for the most
part unhindered access to detention facilities and prisoners in
the RS as well as in the Federation.
While monitors enjoyed relative freedom to investigate human rights
abuses, they were rarely successful in persuading the authorities
in all regions to respond to their recommendations. Monitors'
interventions often met with delays or outright refusal.
The United Methodist Committee of Relief (UMCOR) reported that
during the riots in Drvar on April 24, its office was demolished
during the violence. Its computers, radios, and cellular telephones
either were smashed or stolen. An employee of the organization
was beaten and threatened. Four UMCOR vehicles also were burned
during the riots, and a fifth vehicle was stolen (see Section
Upon entering Srebrenica on January 16 to discuss the installation
of a new municipal government, IPTF vehicles containing officers
and staff were stoned by an angry mob of Serbs blocking the road
into the city. The coordinated movement of the crowd and the presence
of loudspeakers indicated that the violence was well organized.
The RS police response was passive.
The June 15 SFOR arrest of Milorad Krnojelac on charges of war
crimes activities triggered an angry response by Serbs in Foca,
during which IPTF and OSCE offices were damaged and an IPTF truck
was burned. OSCE personnel were temporarily evacuated.
On December 3-4 in Vlasenica, Serb demonstrators destroyed one
IPTF vehicle to protest SFOR's arrest and transport to The Hague
of General Krstic, attacked a European Community Monitoring Mission
(ECCM) vehicle, harassed two ECMM monitors and their interpreter,
and destroyed their vehicle (see Section 1.c).
The caseload of the Human Rights Chamber and the Office of Human
Rights Ombudsperson, two institutions created under Annex 6 of
the Dayton Accords, expanded during the year. The Chamber has
published 19 final and binding decisions involving 36 cases and
ordered the respondent parties to take specific actions in cases
dealing with such issues as the death penalty, housing rights
of JNA veterans, arrest and detention, and nonenforcement of judicial
decisions. The Office of the Ombudsperson has published 35 final
reports dealing with individual cases and 13 reports on more general
human rights issues. Applicants to the Chamber must first have
exhausted other effective domestic remedies before appealing their
case to this level. Decisions of the Chamber are final and cannot
be appealed to the Constitutional Court. The Chamber has about
1,500 registered cases and has issued 19 final case decisions.
However, the authorities continued their lack of cooperation and
implemented only about 10 percent of the Chamber's recommendations.
The OHR was involved in monitoring authorities' responses and
coordinating intervention in cases in which the authorities failed
to meet their obligations to cooperate. The OHR's Coordination
Center for Human Rights asserted in November that RS authorities
were impeding the activities of the Human Rights Chamber by not
allowing HRC judges to enter any territory owned by the Banja
Luka municipality before November. In addition, the RS Government
did not send its delegate to a hearing on November 9 in Banja
Luka before the Human Rights Chamber. The hearing was postponed
on two occasions.
Cooperation with the ICTY in The Hague is a key factor in the
implementation of the Dayton Accords and the establishment of
respect for human rights. In February Prime Minister Dodik altered
the RS policy of defiance of the Tribunal and the Dayton Accords
by instructing his officials to cooperate with the ICTY. He also
offered office space in Banja Luka to the ICTY. His actions helped
to reduce the behind-the-scenes political influence of former
wartime RS President Radovan Karadzic and his SDS allies.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability,
Language, or Social Status
The parties agreed in the Dayton Accords to reject discrimination
on such grounds as sex, race, color, language, religion, political
or other opinion, national or social origin, or association with
a national minority. There were nevertheless many cases of discrimination.
Accurate statistics on violence against women, including spousal
abuse and rape, are not available. Throughout the country, rape
and violent abuse are considered criminal offenses. However, domestic
violence usually was not reported to the authorities, and a sense
of shame reportedly prevents some victims of rape from coming
forward to complain to the authorities. There are laws that prohibit
rape in both the Federation and the RS. Spousal rape and spousal
abuse are also illegal in the Federation.
Trafficking in women from the former Soviet Union for purposes
of prostitution apparently is a problem.
There is little legal or social discrimination against women,
and women hold a few of the most responsible positions in society,
serving as judges, doctors, and professors. However, a maledominated
society prevails in both entities, with few women in positions
of real economic power. Anecdotal evidence indicates that women
and men receive equal pay at socially owned enterprises but not
necessarily at private businesses. Women are entitled to 12 months'
maternity leave and to work no more than 4 hours per day until
a child is 3 years old. A woman with underage children cannot
be forced to do shift work. Women were being integrated into the
police force at a rapid rate: The first graduating class of the
Federation Police Academy in December consisted of about one-third
The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child is incorporated
by reference in the Dayton Accords and has the effect of law in
both entities. The end of the fighting brought a major improvement
in the human rights of children. During the war nearly 17,000
children were killed, 35,000 wounded, and over 1,800 permanently
Children suffer from an extreme paucity of social services, especially the lack of adequate care for the mentally retarded.
In ethnic majority areas, children who are members of the minority
group must attend schools in which the educational content is
skewed toward the values, history, and religious traditions of
the local majority. Education is compulsory through the age of
15 in both the Federation and the RS.
There was no societal pattern of abuse against children. Nonetheless,
they continue to suffer disproportionately from the societal stress
of the postwar era.
People With Disabilities
By law the Federation Government is required to assist disabled
persons to find employment and to protect them against discrimination.
In the RS discrimination against the disabled also is prohibited
by law. In the current situation there are few jobs available,
and thousands of newly disabled victims entered the job market
after the war. The Government has limited resources to address
the special needs of the disabled. There are no legal provisions
mandating that buildings be made accessible to the physically
disabled. Several organizations representing disabled persons
staged a large demonstration in July in Sarajevo to urge the Government
to set aside funds to upgrade accessibility to public places.
The Interfaith Council, established in 1997 and composed of the
main leaders of the country's four religious communities--Muslim,
Serbian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Jewish--continued its efforts
to promote national reconciliation. The OSCE and the OHR facilitated
many interfaith meetings at the local level as well.
However, throughout the country, religious minorities felt pressure
and were intimidated by the ethnic/religious majority.
There were instances of mob violence in the RS aimed at preventing
Catholics from worshiping. A bomb explosion severely damaged a
Roman Catholic Church in the central Bosnian town of Kakanj in
July. On April 23 in Derventa (RS), mob violence prevented the
holding of a Catholic ceremony that had been approved by RS authorities.
Bosnian Serb protesters set up roadblocks to prevent the Bosnian
Croat visitors, including Cardinal Puljic, from reaching the church.
The violence appeared to be a reaction to the earlier murder of
two Bosnian Serbs in Croat-controlled Drvar. Similarly, another
Bosnian Serb mob prevented Bosnian Croats displaced from Slavonski
Brod from attending mass at the Plehan monastery near Derventa.
This action followed a day of rioting against Bosnian Serb returnees
In Croat-dominated areas of Herzegovina, Muslims felt pressure
not to practice their religion in public. Several incidents of
vandalism occurred against Muslim religious sites, including at
a cemetery in Mostar.
None of the mosques in the RS destroyed during the war have been
rebuilt or repaired, despite requests from the Islamic community
for reconstruction (see Section 2.c.).
Ethnic differences--based to a large degree on religious differences--were
at the heart of the war and remain a powerful social force in
the country. Although there have been positive moderating developments
in both parties, some leaders of the SDS and HDZ still support
the concepts of a "Greater Serbia" and a "Greater
Croatia." These parties, and to a lesser extent the primarily
Bosniak SDA as well, sought to manipulate the movement of persons
and the access to housing and social services they control to
ensure that the ethnic groups with which they are associated consolidate
their position in their respective geographic regions. Some hard-line
local authorities in the eastern RS and in certain Croat-controlled
areas of the Federation sought to keep information regarding the
right to return and conditions in return sites from reaching displaced
persons in their areas, so as to dissuade them from attempting
to return to their former homes.
In a growing number of areas, including Sarajevo and Tuzla, mixed
communities exist peacefully. Nevertheless, harassment and discrimination
against minorities continue throughout the country. These include
desecration of graves, damage to houses of worship, throwing explosive
devices into residential areas, harassment, dismissal from work,
threats, assaults, and, in some cases, killings (see Sections
1.a. and 1.c.).
According to the 1997 report of the Federation Human Rights Ombudsmen
issued in April, "Equality before the law is not observed
in the everyday practice of state authorities that decide on the
rights and obligations of the citizens."
Incidents of ethnic discrimination often center on property disputes.
An RS law on abandoned property permitted the return of such property
to the original owner only if any subsequent occupant willingly
departed, without taking into account the lack of adequate alternative
dwellings for the subsequent occupants. In a number of areas,
local authorities still use the inability of local displaced communities
to return to their own homes in other parts of the country as
a pretext for refusing to allow members of other ethnic groups
to return. In December the RS Assembly passed one piece of revised
property legislation that is an improvement, but that now requires
full and fair implementation, and will require amendment, according
to the OHR.
Some Bosnian Serb and Croat political leaders still discourage
displaced persons of their own ethnicity from returning to areas
where they would be in the minority and encourage new arrivals
from their groups in areas where they would be in the majority.
The policy among hard-line Bosnian Croats of not only discouraging
Croat returns to central Bosnia but of actively recruiting those
still living there to resettle in Herzegovina, sparked an open
dispute among Bosnian Croats, with the Catholic Church hierarchy
denouncing the practice. Until 1998 the SDS Party, which had ruled
the RS throughout the war and immediately after it, manipulated
information and used its control over economic resources and the
media to discourage displaced Serbs from returning to the Federation.
Although the new RS Government is on the record as supporting
the right to return, at year's end it had yet to implement plans
for facilitating minority returns. For their part, Bosniak authorities
appear tacitly to support some resettlement efforts, including
resettlement of returnees, in "strategic" areas of the
Federation, where Bosniaks are in the minority.
In some cases, opponents of refugee returns employed violence,
including sporadic house burnings, and orchestrated demonstrations
in an effort to intimidate returnees. For example, the UNMIBH
reported that in the period from March 26 to June 30 alone, 61
return-related incidents occurred in Stolac and other municipalities
of the Herzegovina-Neretva canton. In the course of these incidents,
64 Bosniak houses were partly damaged by arson or explosives,
as well as some neighboring houses owned by Bosnian Croats and
Serbs, while two Bosniak men were beaten severely and another
one was injured slightly in an explosion (see Sections 1.a. and
1.c.). In August local police in Drvar arrested a 17-year-old
Bosnian Croat for setting a building on fire near the Spasovina
cemetery in the town. The youth confessed to setting eight previous
fires in the last year and stated that he burned Serb-owned buildings
because he did not want Serbs to return to Drvar. The two largest
companies in Croat-controlled territory, the SOKO aircraft factory
and the aluminum factory in Mostar, continue to discriminate against
former Bosniak employees seeking to return to their prewar jobs.
Croats in Ahmici blocked the reconstruction of the Bosniak primary
school and started their own illegal construction on the site,
which was halted in November, but the issue was not resolved by
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The Federation and RS Constitutions provide for the right of workers
to form and join labor unions. The largest union was the Confederation
of Independent Trade Unions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the heir
of the old Yugoslav Communist trade union confederation. Unions
have the right to strike, but there were few strikes during the
year because of the economic devastation and joblessness caused
by the war throughout much of the Federation.
Coal miners from the Zenica region staged a strike in May to demand
higher wages. Observers reported that police used excessive force
to break up a march by some of the strikers on the Sarajevo highway.
The Zenica canton interior minister resigned as a result of the
Unions may affiliate internationally.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
There was little collective bargaining in labor-management negotiations
during the year. In both the RS and the Federation workers have
the right to collective bargaining, and the law prohibits antiunion
There were no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The Constitution prohibits servitude or forced labor, including
that performed by children. Despite rumors that work camps exist
in isolated areas, investigations have not turned up any corroborating
evidence. There were no credible reports of child labor in either
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment
The minimum age for employment of children in the Federation and
in the RS was 16 years. Children sometimes assisted their families
with farm work and odd jobs. Children are covered under the Constitution's
prohibition of servitude or forced labor, and such practices are
not known to occur (see Section 6.c.).
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The minimum monthly wage in the Federation was $73 (130 DM) until
October when it was raised to $112 (200 DM), and the minimum pension
was $46 (80 DM). In the RS, the monthly minimum wage was $34 (60
DM). The minimum wages were insufficient to provide for a decent
standard of living for a worker and family. Many workers still
had claims outstanding for salaries earned during the war but
were being paid in full only for current work. Similarly, many
pensioners had outstanding claims. There are no legal limits on
the number of hours in the workweek. Overtime pay is not required
Occupational safety and health regulations were generally ignored
because of the demands and constraints imposed by an economy devastated
by war. Bosnia and Herzegovina is a signatory to a number of International
Labor Organization conventions, including those on labor conditions
and labor protection and health. However, neither entity has completed
passage of new laws to enforce the standards in these conventions.
[end of document]
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