Bosnia and Herzegovina
Expected Council Action
In May, the Council is due to hold a semi-annual meeting on Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko, is expected to brief the Council. No outcome is expected.
Key Recent Developments
When last briefing the Council on 13 November 2012, Inzko expressed concern regarding public statements by senior Republika Srpska officials that called into question commitment to the unity of BiH. Inzko also noted his disappointment with the lack of progress toward meeting the five objectives and the two conditions (“5+2 agenda”) required to close the Office of the High Representative (OHR). On 14 November, the Council authorised the deployment of the EU peacekeeping operation, EUFOR ALTHEA, for another year.
On 22 March, BiH politicians attended EU-brokered talks in Brussels on the failure by BiH to implement a 2009 ruling on the Sejdić-Finci case by the European Court of Human Rights, which affirmed the right of BiH ethnic minorities who are not of the three “constituent peoples” (Bosniak, Croat or Serb) to run for political office. Citing a lack of progress in bringing the constitution and electoral laws of BiH into alignment with the European Convention on Human Rights, the EU cancelled a high-level dialogue scheduled to take place in Mostar on 11 April. Štefan Füle, EU Commissioner for Enlargement, stated that compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights is one of the “pre-conditions for an application for EU membership to be taken into consideration” and that without an agreement on legal reform, “Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU path would be frozen”.
On 16 November 2012, appeals judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) overturned the convictions of Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač for crimes related to attacks on Serb civilians in the Krajina region of Croatia in 1995. On 28 February, appeals judges overturned the conviction of General Momčilo Perišić for aiding and abetting crimes against civilians in 44 months of attacks on Sarajevo and the killing of more than 7,000 Bosniak men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995. More recently, on 27 March the ICTY convicted Bosnian Serbs Mićo Stanišić and Stojan Župljanin, a former minister and former senior police official respectively of Republika Srpska, for crimes against civilians and sentenced them to 22 years each in prison.
The ICTY was a subject of discussion in the UN General Assembly on 10 April during a thematic debate on the role of international criminal justice in reconciliation, organised by Assembly President Vuk Jeremić of Serbia. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the work of the ICTY and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda had helped establish the foundation for an “age of accountability”. In contrast, Nebojša Radmanović, chairman of the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, claimed there was a widespread perception among the Bosnian Serb public and Republika Srpska officials that the ICTY discriminates against Serbs and has not been impartial. President Tomislav Nikolić of Serbia, argued the ICTY makes unjust legal decisions under political pressure and based on “untruths” resulting in what Serbs have reportedly termed “Hague justice”. The event was boycotted by many invited speakers and was characterised as “unbalanced” and “inflammatory” by the US, which joined Canada and Jordan in boycotting the debate.
Human Rights-Related Developments
From 29 October to 5 November 2012, the special rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, visited BiH. She will present a report with findings and recommendations to the Human Rights Council (HRC) in June.
On 12 March, Rita Izsák, the independent expert on minority issues, presented to the HRC the report of her 17-25 September 2012 mission to BiH (A/HRC/22/49/Add.1 of 31 December 2012). She underlined that the degree to which politics has been polarised by ethnic identity has blocked progress in the country. She also stressed that a high degree of ethnic segregation persisted in the education system and that religion was also a dividing line in society. She added that Roma communities, who constitute the largest recognised national minority, were facing particular challenges and stressed the importance of conducting a new census (the last one was in 1991). She stressed that accurate data is essential to provide a basis for policy and programme initiatives.
The special rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Farida Shaheed, is due to visit the country from 13-24 May.
Issues that may capture the attention of the Council include:
- whether factors such as chronically high unemployment and divisive political rhetoric could undermine stability;
- the degree of progress toward completing the 5+2 agenda, which would then allow for the closure of OHR; and
- to what extent Bosnia and Herzegovina has taken steps toward enabling integration with the EU or NATO.
One option the Council could consider is adopting a press statement supporting the work of OHR and the EU, re-affirming the territorial integrity of BiH, emphasising the importance of progress toward Euro-Atlantic integration and urging leaders to cooperate on 5+2 implementation.
Another option the Council could explore is discussing how and when OHR will close, including a potential re-assessment of the 5+2 criteria established in 2008. One trade-off the Council could consider would be whether the withdrawal of OHR would increase instability or facilitate domestic ownership over the future of BiH.
The most likely option is that the Council will take no action (as in May 2011 and May 2012) until it is due to consider of EUFOR ALTHEA’s re-authorisation in November.
Council and Wider Dynamics
More than seventeen years after the Dayton Peace Agreement, BiH is a low-profile issue for the Council. Nonetheless, divisions remain among members, particularly between Russia on the one hand and the UK and the US on the other. Russia has been critical of OHR for its perceived anti-Serb bias and would prefer that it be closed, while the UK and the US have maintained that OHR should remain in place until the 5+2 agenda has been fully implemented.
In practice, potential EU membership has become the principal mechanism for the international community to wield influence in BiH. Adjusting the constitution and electoral laws to comply with the Sejdić-Finci ruling remains an obstacle to EU membership. Croatia’s pending EU membership, expected on 1 July, adds additional urgency.
The penholder for BiH rotates on a monthly basis among the Contact and Drafting Group (France, Germany, Italy, Russia, UK and US).
UN Documents on Bosnia and Herzegovina
|Security Council Resolutions|
|14 November 2012 S/RES/2074||Authorised EUFOR (the the EU-led multinational stabilisation force in Bosnia and Herzegovina) for a further twelve months.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|13 November 2012 S/PV.6860||High Representative Valentin Inzko briefed the Council before its semi-annual debate on Bosnia and Herzegovina. He said that the country’s political leaders were failing to make progress and that secessionist rhetoric had intensified considerably in the six months prior, singling out the Bosnian Serb leadership for criticism.|
|Security Council Letters|
|6 November 2012 S/2012/813||This transmitted a report from the High Representative from 21 April to 26 October 2012.|
OTHER RELEVANT FACTS
High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Valentin Inzko (Austria)
Size and composition of EUFOR ALTHEA
As of 3 December 2012: 600 troops from 18 EU states and 5 non-EU states.