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Human Rights and Democratization Priorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Joint Statement released in conjunction with the U.S.-EU Summit
Washington, DC, December 5, 1997

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The European Union and the United States will work together to promote human rights and democratization in Bosnia and Herzegovina with a view to the period ending with the 1998 national elections. We have considered a joint strategy that we aim to regularly assess over time, taking into full account the work done by the international organizations such as the OSCE or the Council of Europe.

The United States and the European Union have thus decided to coordinate their efforts to enhance their means to work with the parties in a constant dialogue with the aim of promoting democratic normalization and the stabilization of the region. This effort is meant to support recognized international organizations active in this field, namely the OSCE and the Council of Europe. It will take place in the context of the efforts already launched by the High Representative of the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, whose particular role is of utmost importance and whose recommendations will have to be implemented.

We pledge to continue to work toward full implementation of the Dayton/Paris Agreement, ensuring that the foundations of Bosnian democracy are firmly rooted and that Bosnian democratic institutions are functioning on an acceptable day-to-day basis. We should take the following steps to achieve these objectives:

-- ensure that persons indicted for war crimes are brought before the Tribunal;
-- help to ensure that elected municipal officials are properly installed;
-- provide support for open, democratic media;
-- provide support for political parties to promote good government and democratization;
-- promote the rule of law by reforming Bosnia's legal system;
-- provide support for the International Police Task Force's efforts to train and restructure police;
-- ensure that domestic capacity exists for Bosnians to hold future elections.

The Bosnian government and Bosnia's two entities share direct responsibility to ensure that both freedom of movement of citizens and overall political conditions for democratic elections and the larger democratization process exist. This process also includes full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, including the apprehension and transfer of persons indicted for war crimes and ensuring the absence of indictees from the Bosnian political process.

The installation of municipal governments will have a direct impact on further implementation, and associated difficulties problems will be met with determination. We pledge to follow up on this important issue and work with the High Representative and the OSCE mission to Bosnia to help insure smooth installation of duly elected officials.

The European Union and the United States agree that our initial focus should be on the period leading up to the 1998 national elections. We must take a long term approach based on quality, not quantity, to make a difference by the time the 1998 elections are held.

It will have to be kept in mind that human rights and democratization depend also on economic development which will have to be fostered through the reconstruction efforts in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Independent Media

Independent media is one of the keys to the successful building of a sustainable peace: free and extensive circulation of information is fundamental to reestablishing trust between different sectors of the population. Free media, to which all legitimate political actors have access, is essential to proper conduct of elections and to the development of democracy. Creation of free media requires an effective infrastructure (transmission and distribution, printing and program making, etc.), an open legal environment, and professionalism among the practitioners. We are already devoting considerable financial and political resources to pursuing these objectives.

The United States and the European Union welcome the active steps taken by the High Representative according to the Sintra Declaration and supported by SFOR, to suspend media outlets engaged in media abuse. We pledge to support Bosnia media that meet international recognized journalistic standards.

We shall together intensify this work, in collaboration with those working in the sector, the Bosnian authorities and other donors. The media in Bosnia must be converted from a force that divides Bosnia, into a force for unity. The United States and the European Union will work together to make the following steps:

-- continue financial support to make independent radio and TV much more widely available, e.g. by supporting the second stage of development of the Open Broadcast Network;
-- support expansion of direct international broadcasting efforts as a short-to-medium-term strategy to support alternative views, independent media as a complement to our efforts to develop sustainable indigenous independent media;
-- support the creation and growth of genuinely independent newspapers that freely circulate throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina;
-- work toward legislation, based on the OHR's work on the subject, now under review to establish a public body at the national level to assign frequencies on an objective and non-political basis;
-- assure that a media law, based on the OHR's work on then subject, is put in place that protects the rights of journalists and independent media at the entity level according to democratic norms, and;
-- make clear to the Bosnian leadership that detention of journalists, confiscation of equipment, physical beatings, and denial of cross-entity access to reporters, are unacceptable practices and must end immediately.

ICTY

Another major obstacle for the implementation of the humanitarian and human rights chapters of the Dayton agreement and, indeed, of peace implementation as a whole, is the lack of co-operation with ICTY by the parties on the ground and the continued exercise of political and economic power by persons indicted for war crimes.

We recognize both the importance of securing justice in war crimes cases and the potential in domestic courts for prosecution to be divisive and subject to inappropriate influences. We support full implementation of the "Rules of the Road," under which the Tribunal has primacy and determines before arrest whether there is sufficient evidence to begin proceedings in a case, as well as adherence to international fair trial standards in domestic prosecution of war crimes. We note that this process needs to be provided with sufficient resources, and that international monitoring of the later stages of domestic war crimes proceedings is also essential.

We therefore believe that the trial process needs to be accelerated and will support the Tribunal in its efforts to conduct cases effectively. We also agree that the parties and the international community should take appropriate steps to ensure the transfer of remaining indictees at large to the Tribunal.

Elections

We agree to take steps to make sure that Bosnian citizens can play a larger role in the management of national elections anticipated to take place in September 1998. We will help the Provisional Election Commission transition into a permanent election commission as a component of the permanent election law. However, the international community will still need to play a significant role in the 1998 elections.

We agree to the following priorities:

-- develop plans for the transition of the provisional Election Commission into a permanent Election Commission with financial, political and other incentives, as well as technical assistance. We also will consult regarding the proper role for the international community.
-- develop the skills of political parties to promote good government and democratization in view of 1998's national elections.

Reform of Property Laws

Property laws are directly tied to the return of refugees and displaced persons and will play a critical role in the success or failure of the entire international effort. The European Union and the United States consider the early adoption of, and subsequent compliance with, the property laws drafted by the Office of the High Representative as imperative for the protection of pre-war owners and occupants.

We note the long standing work of the implementing organizations to address this issue, including the efforts of the OHR to ensure a coordinated and unified approach by working with a broad range of interested organizations, notably UNHCR and the Commission for Real Property Claims. We support the suggestion that the European Commission for Democracy Through Law lend its legal expertise to enhance these efforts.

We stress the need for consistent reforms to be undertaken in the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina. We remain concerned that all the parties in the region continue to place conditions on the return of refugees and displaced persons through restrictive property laws, in contravention of the Peace Agreement.

Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs)

A civil society is vital to pluralism and democracy. We will work to reinforce the fabric of Bosnian civil society. It is clear that the Bosnians must eventually run their own elections. The United States and the European Union recognize the unique role that NGOs play in a civil society, particularly those that work on particular advocacy causes. We should support these nascent advocacy groups where possible, work to establish a legal environment for NGOs, and establish a public education campaign to increase the awareness of Bosnian citizens of the contribution by NGOs to help them carry out their activities unhindered.

Supporting the Reconciliation Process

The European Union and the United States pledge to support institutions which have been given strong roles in the reconciliation process such as the High Representative, the ICTY, the Annex Six Human Rights Commission (composed of the Human Rights Ombudsperson and the Human Rights Chamber), the Property Commission, the International Commission on Missing Persons, and the ICRC Working Group on Missing Persons.

We will support the Annex Six Human Rights Commission and the Property Commission, but the Bosnian authorities must live up to their responsibility to meet the costs of these institutions. We also wish to support the work of the Human Rights Chamber and the Federation Ombudspersons, who are examining individual cases of human rights abuse, and support the Republika Srpska's efforts to establish a similarly independent and multi-ethnic institution in the Republika Srpska in cooperation with the international community. In particular, we will focus on insuring that the institutions created under Annexes 6 and 7 of the Peace Agreement are fully integrated into Bosnia's legal system so that they may fulfill their envisioned role in the reconciliation process. We will work to insure that authorities at all levels in Bosnia and Herzegovina implement and comply with decisions, recommendations and reports of the Commission on Human Rights (the Ombudsperson and the Human Rights Chamber) and the Commission for Real Property Claims.

Full amnesty for reprehensible acts related to the conflict, other than serious violations of international humanitarian law -- including genocide and other war crimes -- is a prerequisite for freedom of movement and would constitute a major step toward reconciliation. Amendment of the Republika Srpska amnesty law to include persons who avoided conscription or deserted is urgently required.

Respect for the Rule of Law and the Rights of Citizens

We will work with the Bosnians to improve transparency, accountability, and openness in government to build respect for the rule of law. In this context, we recall that Annex 4 and 6 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina obliges the parties to secure all persons within their jurisdiction the highest level of internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the rights and freedoms provided in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and its Protocols and the other international agreements listed in the appendix to Annex 6. We commit ourselves to supporting legal system reform necessary for creating the conditions of rule of law and in particular to ensure that:

-- existing laws are revised and new laws are adopted at the state and entity levels to meet the obligation set forth in Article II (1) of the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina to ensure the highest level of internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms;
-- legal professionals and the police understand and apply news laws;
-- members of the general public understand and exercise their rights;
-- political leaders accept and abide by new laws;
-- political party control influence over the police and judiciary is combated; and
-- assistance in the legal field is targeted if possible toward the Republika Srpska, which has fallen behind in the area of criminal justice reform.

The United States and the European Union agree that efforts should be focused through September 1998 on criminal law reform (involving structural reform in the Republika Srpska and the Federation), judicial support (establishment of an inter-entity judicial commission, a Bosnia-wide legal training project, development of non-governmental associations of judges, and provision of assistance to the judicial institutions).

The European Union and the United States underline the importance of the effort being carried out by the International Police Task Force in Bosnia, noting the integral and confidence-building role that local police play. Safeguarding human rights is an important facet of police work, and we stress that police training plays an important role in rebuilding Bosnian civil society.

The United States and the European Union stress that these points will have to be adjusted over time. They underline that this particular form of cooperation is an endeavor open to other participants, especially to the member countries of the PIC Steering Board.

A regular exchange of views between the European Union and the United States will take place on the state of peace implementation and the contributions both will undertake in this long term endeavor.

[End of Document]

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