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This pamphlet draws upon eighteen months experience as part of the editorial team of Balkan WarReport, a monthly briefing on the Yugoslav crisis; a series of visits to Bosnia and Herzegovina throughout 1992 and 1993; and personal interviews and research conducted over the past two to three years, including attendance at the Geneva peace talks during August and September 1993. I am indebted to many people who have helped me grapple with some of the issues raised in the text, though I shall implicate none by naming them. This paper is a first attempt to pull together various strands of my ongoing research into the role of the Great Powers in the Bosnian war. It is borne of a personal committment to the ideal of peaceful coexistence and collective living which this war was waged to destroy, and a vehement opposition to racism, fascism and their apologists; it is not an attempt to write somebody else's history. Lee Bryant November 1993

Lee Bryant is a part-time post-graduate student at CSD and an information officer for the Bosnia-Herzegovina Information Centre in London.

Images of thirsty Sarajevans provoke questions of how to repair the water pipes, but not how to prevent anyone from being able to cut the water off in the first place. Butchered children induce the West to ask whether children should be evacuated and how, but not how to prevent all the people (not only children) from being wounded. Sarajevo is said to be hungry because there is no food, not

because of the siege. Children are wounded because of "the war", not because the Serb Army shot them. Until the end of this May, Sarajevo served as a kind of laboratory among the world media for measuring the limits of human endurance, and the reports were that the limit had not been reached. But following the Washington statement, which extinguished any real hope that the West would defend its own principles in Bosnia and especially Sarajevo, the morale of Sarajevans began to fade. The main topic of almost all conversation in the city over the past three months has been how to get out. Tihomir Loza, WarReport, August 1993

The nineteen-month war in Bosnia and Herzegovina has so far claimed over 200,000 lives. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that over forty percent of the republic's pre-war population of 4.3 million people have been either displaced internally or have become refugees. Two of Europe's most cosmopolitan cities, Sarajevo and Mostar, have been systematically destroyed and their mixed populations reduced to a survivalist existence under siege. Starvation, unknown in Europe since the 1940's, has claimed many lives in cut-off enclaves in eastern Bosnia, and many more have died through lack of basic medical care.1 According to human rights organisations such as Helsinki Watch and Amnesty International, almost all of the grave breaches of international humanitarian law set out in articles 129 and 130 of the Third Geneva Convention, article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and article 85 of the First Protocol have been committed regularly in the Bosnian war. In fact Helsinki Watch goes so far as to characterise the war as a genocide against the Muslim population, according to the definitions laid down in the Genocide Convention, and to urge the United Nations to abide by article 1 of this convention, which places a responsibility upon the signatories to "prevent and punish" acts of genocide.2 In its provisional judgement of April 8th and its later order of September 13th, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague made clear that the rump Yugoslavia had a case to answer under the Genocide Convention, and called upon Serbia and Montenegro to immediately cease and desist from the commission of genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In its order of September 13th, the Court was also implicitly critical of the UN Security Council's failure to Mortality figure from Bosnian Institute for Public Health, November 15th 1993 report. Refugee figures from UNHCR, March 1993. "War Crimes in Bosnia-Herzegovina", Helsinki Watch Report, number 2, (New York 1992).
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"prevent and punish acts of genocide" (a responsibility conferred on all one hundred signatories to the Genocide Conventions). In December 1993, the voluntary legal team acting on behalf of the Bosnian Government in the ICJ is to sue Britain for complicity in genocide under articles I and III(e) of the Geneva Conventions. Though they can hardly realistically hope to win, Britain has a clear case to answer.3 The Bosnian conflict is variously described as an ethnic war, a religious war and a civil war; but although the conflict may lately have assumed the characteristics of one or all of these classifications, this pamphlet nonetheless rejects them. Instead, it proposes that the primary causes of the war are political and essentially exogenous to the republic itself. Although various historical factors are often discussed, the premise of the pamphlet is that the fundamental driving force behind the war was the contemporary Serbian regime's fascistic military campaign for a 'Greater Serbia', and the subsequent mutual desire of both the Serbian and Croatian regimes to see the multi-ethnic republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina divided between them. The role of the international community has been crucial in allowing this to happen, both in the period preceding the outbreak of war, and throughout the fighting itself. After the war it will be the same international community to whom the victors will turn in search of historical legitimacy and recognition of the anti-democratic political formations they are carving out on the battlefields of Bosnia. The international community, if such an abstraction can be said to exist, will acquiesce without reluctance. In the interests of containing the conflict, in the interests of creating a new balance of power in the Balkans, and to cover up the cynicism and hypocrisy of their role in the bloodiest episode of post-Second World War history, the Great Powers will gladly legitimise `Greater Serbian' and `Greater Croatian' states on the territory of what was the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. An essential element of this narrative has been the cynical betrayal of the legally-elected Bosnian Government by the Great Powers of France, Germany, the USA, and especially Britain. A recognised state subject to an aggression which was clearly motivated, planned, and coordinated from outside the republic, the legal government has nonetheless been denied the right to self-defence by the illegally imposed arms embargo, and abandoned to its fate at the Interview with Professor Boyle by RTV-BiH journalist Zoran Piroli_, Geneva, 15 September 1993. Details of the case against Britain from a personal interview with Ambassador Sacirbey, co-agent with Professor Boyle at the ICJ.

hands of powerful Serbian and Croatian aggressors. To this end, the international community has consistently sought to equate the victims of aggression with its perpetrators, in order to prove the assertion that the war is a civil war fought between `warring tribes' of Serbs, Croats and Muslims -- one which does not have clear causes, and therefore cannot have clear solutions. In a speech to the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin on November 8th 1993, Lord Owen, the European Community's peace negotiator (and Britain's place-man), spelt out this approach in a bizarre passage likening the crisis in the former Yugoslavia to an "illness" which had to "work its way through the system." "The ill patient and particularly their relatives, " he went on, "all too often look to doctors for action and are rarely satisfied with anything which rings of inaction. As a protective mechanism the medical profession has developed the skill of masterly inactivity. The skill is to appear calm without being complacent, to act unhurriedly but to be decisive even if the decision is to do nothing." According to Owen, "Angola, Eritrea and El Salvador present very different problems to Bosnia and Somalia. The latter two are not politically ideological wars; but tribal, racial, nationalistic and religious."4 The year-old Geneva Conference has exemplified this approach. The international community's mediators refer to the steadfastly multi-ethnic Bosnian Government as `the Muslim side' as a matter of course, thereby affording the illegitimate Serb and Croat proxy political forces equal legitimacy. Throughout the latter stages of the Geneva process the mediators have taken this approach a stage further. Unable to find a solution acceptable to all sides, and recognising that military force is the single most important determinant of legitimacy in the war, the current Co-Chairmen of the ICFY, Lord Owen and Mr. Thorvald Stoltenberg, have instead sought to find an agreement acceptable to the Serb and Croat parties which could be imposed on the Bosnian Government as a diplomatic fait accompli. The fruits of this diplomacy, which Lord Owen himself dubs "a deal from hell"5 , has inevitably been named the `Owen-Stoltenberg' plan. As Owen has pointed out, however, this is in fact a misnomer.6 The plan was actually the result of negotiations between Croatian All quotes from the published text of "A Framework for Survival", Lord Owen's 8th November speech to the Dublin Royal College of Surgeons.
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"Owen says peace plan made in hell", Reuters (9 August 1993). Lord Owen's press conference, Geneva, 1 September 1993.

President Franjo Tudjman and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, conducted through the mediators during the period May-July 1993, and therefore would be more correctly titled the `Milosevic-Tudjman' plan. The role of the Co-Chairmen has simply been to confer international legitimacy on the Serbian and Croatian Presidents' plan to divide Bosnia and Herzegovina between them, and to try to achieve minor modifications to the document in order to spare the Bosnian Government the humiliation of unconditional capitulation. As in the past, multi-ethnic Bosnia has found itself a pawn in the games of the European powers, who have decided this time that the republic's disappearance from the political map of the continent is a price worth paying for appeasement of Serbia, and as a means of solving the otherwise apparently intractable Serbo-Croat war. At the heart of this power play has been cynical British and French balance of power politics, and arguably also a paranoid fear of Islam. The whole dirty game has been played out under the flimsy cover of the European Community and the United Nations, which has meant that their response to the crisis has been characterised by confusion, inconsistency and a flagrant disregard for international law and their own stated policies. Initially, certain EC Foreign Ministries jumped at the chance of becoming involved in the Yugoslav crisis, hoping it could be the catalyst for the creation of common European defence and security structures. Quickly, it became clear that the Yugoslav crisis was a double-edged sword in this respect, and the EC attempted to withdraw from direct involvement, refusing to intervene militarily to bring peace, inviting instead the "warring sides" to Geneva for peace talks. This turn-around ignored the fact that the EC was by this time already a party to the conflict, and had been since its first mediation efforts in July 1991. Unable to extricate itself fully from the Bosnian war, but making no progress with mediation, the European powers began to work within the framework of the United Nations. In the first year of the Bosnian war, this pamphlet will argue, the European Community actually worsened the war, in a number of significant ways, through its ill-conceived intervention. By the Spring of 1993, the end of the first year of the war, the governments of the USA and the EC could agree only on the need to contain the conflict. Unwilling to engage themselves militarily to oppose Serbian expansionism and bring the war to an end, the Great Powers instead stepped up their humanitarian operation through the United Nations, as if Bosnia was some kind of natural disaster worthy of their charity.

By placing troops on the ground in a humanitarian role, rather than as peacekeepers or peacemakers, Britain and France created a perfect device for opposing the growing calls from other states for intervention to stop the war. First of all, they argued, intervention would jeopardise the humanitarian operation. Second, it would endanger their troops, who could potentially become embroiled in a war with one or other `faction'. By placing their troops on the ground, Britain and France were also able to manipulate media coverage of the conflict, which became markedly more oriented towards the provision of humanitarian aid and away from the dangerous realm of politics. Perhaps the cleverest nuance of this strategy (for it was undeniably a strategic move) was that the longer the aggression was allowed to continue, the more dependent Bosnians became on UN humanitarian aid, until the withdrawal of the humanitarian aid operation, which was never more than a stop-gap measure anyway, would have been a genuine problem. Meanwhile, in Geneva after eight months of negotiations, the `Vance-Owen' plan was born. Although flawed, the Vance-Owen plan was positively enlightened compared to the OwenStoltenberg plan which followed. However, when the plan was finally agreed by all sides the question the Geneva process was set up to avoid -- who was prepared to commit troops to Bosnia to bring peace? -- had once more to be answered. The Great Powers balked at the thought of deploying at least 50,000 troops to police the many thousands of kilometres of internal borders the plan created, and the plan slid ignominiously into oblivion.7 Now, nineteen months after the start of the war, as Bosnia prepares to face another harsh winter under blockade, it is estimated that 2.7 million people will be almost entirely dependent upon humanitarian aid to survive the cold spell. This is twice the figure for last year, when many civilians still possessed either reserves of food or money with which to try and buy it on the black market. This is sadly not the case today. The survival of hundreds of thousands of people during the coming winter will depend upon relative peace being achieved on the ground, and upon a massive international relief effort being mounted early enough to enable sufficient supplies to be stockpiled.8 The Bosnian Army, though able to hold the territory still under its control, lacks the supplies to continue fighting for much longer. If Serb and Croat forces chose to launch a final assault to In his 1 September 1993 press conference, Owen was unusually frank about the reasons for the collapse of the Vance-Owen plan.
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UNHCR estimate, September 1993.

divide Bosnia and Herzegovina between them, it is doubtful whether the Bosnian Army would be a match for their superior weapons and supplies. These two factors explain the readiness of the Bosnian Government to accept any deal which could guarantee even relative peace throughout the winter. When the last round of Geneva talks began at the end of July this year, the Bosnian Serb Army had the Bosnian capital Sarajevo in the palm of its hand, and were in a position to divide the city if the talks broke down. In the talks, Serb and Croat leaders threatened openly to launch fresh offensives against the Bosnian Government unless they agreed to the division plan on the table. With Serb and Croat forces threatening an escalation of the war, with the threat of starvation during the winter exacerbated by the mediators' suggestion that the humanitarian operation may be curtailed if fighting continued (i.e. unless the Bosnian government sign away the existence of Bosnia and Herzegovina), and with the countries of the international community making clear that they would not come to Bosnia's assistance even if a final assault was launched to divide the republic, the Bosnian Government was in no position to "negotiate", in the literal sense of the word. The resulting `Owen-Stoltenberg' plan, if it ever comes into being, would legalise genocide and territorial acquisition through force of arms and expulsion of civilians; it would create ethnically-based states run by mafia-like military organisations in a region with a high level of ethnic heterogeneity; and it would leave over 60% of the pre-war Bosnian population to survive in 30% of its territory, cut off from the outside world and surrounded by powerful and hostile neighbours. The plan would reward the aggressors, punish the victims of their aggression, and sow the seeds of a long-term Low Intensity Conflict which would have the potential to undermine West European security as well as the whole of the Balkans. The implications of this kind of approach for the former Soviet Union, where a handful of wars are already taking place and very similar conditions exist, do not need spelling out in any great detail. The full cost of the abandonment of the principles of international law in the former Yugoslavia in favour of pragmatic short-term political expediency will prove to be higher than any of the possible courses of action the international community could have taken to bring the war to a proper end whilst it had the chance. This pamphlet will attempt to give a broad overview of how such a situation came into being. It will place the current crisis within the context of the historical development of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a political entity, illustrating how multi-ethnic Bosnian society has previously

always proved equal to the periodic attempts of regional powers to destroy it, and how the current genocide against Bosnia's Muslims is not an entirely new phenomenon. The following sections will examine the main causes of the war, outlining the strategic aims of the Bosnian Serb and Croat forces, and will go on to show how these aims were pursued in a brief account of the first phase of the war. Finally, the paper will touch upon the role of the European Community and the United Nations in the Bosnian crisis, and will trace the way in which the principles of international law, the UN Charter, and even stated EC policy towards Bosnia have all been progressively abandoned in favour of a simple policy of appeasing fascism and territorial expansionism. However, it is my firm conviction that this policy of appeasement will come back to haunt Britain, France and to a lesser extent Germany, whether in the Balkans, in the former Soviet Union, or perhaps in the heart of capitalist Europe itself. In concluding this introduction, I wish to touch upon but one way in which the effects of this policy relate to the political situation in Western Europe itself. Each of us lives in multi-ethnic societies, though none in Europe can boast the level of tolerance and genuinely collective living which Bosnia has enjoyed throughout its history. Today, these multi-ethnic societies are under threat from the forces of fascism and the farright. If Bosnia can teach us one important lesson, it is that such forces of intolerance, exclusivity, racism and fascism are capable of shifting the parameters of politics very quickly if they are given the chance. Bosnia could also teach us that the societies we believe to be so stable, so civilised, can begin to unravel in an instant under the right circumstances. The Great Powers have chosen not to support the heroic struggle of those who call themselves `Bosnians' for a future as a democratic multi-ethnic state. They have instead acted as midwife to the birth of a rampantly militaristic `Greater Serbia', which has all the characteristics of a fascist regime.9 What can their own citizens expect if West European multi-ethnic societies are faced with a similar threat? MAP 1 PRE-WAR ETHNIC COMPOSITION OF BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA

Tomaz Mastnak, "Killing for Europe", unpublished article (February 1993).


The case of Bosnia challenges the very notion of Europe, which borders on xenophobia if not racism: to be Western European is to distinguish between superior and inferior national identities. What is Europe but a white bourgeois peninsula on the margins of Asia? Europe is an invention of Western capitalism and a testimony to its enduring hegemony over competing world-views. The totalizing notion of being European is contested for between the Croats and Slovenes on the one side, and on the other the Serbs whose cultural traditions were closer to those of Asia Minor. But the Serbs, if only by virtue of their Christian Orthodoxy, in turn can claim a tradition of Europeanism against .... Muslim ethnic groups within the Balkans. The attractiveness of a culture of Europeanism is clear: it excludes more than it includes. The ending of the Cold War has once again raised the old question of where the limits of Europe are to lie. `The Return Of History' by Gerard Delanty, University of Hannover, March 1993



The struggle for the control of Bosnia is as old as the Balkans itself. The origin of the conflict in what is today the Balkans goes back to the very formation of Europe. Throughout its history, Bosnia has been the meeting point for various peoples in the region. Its multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society has always been vulnerable to powerful neighbours and has often been torn apart, though never yet destroyed. It is axiomatic to say that whenever war has set the peoples of Bosnia against one another, it has invariably been instigated from the outside and has always resulted in the persecution and mass killing of Bosnian Muslims in an attempt to ethnically homogenise the territory. Despite this fact, Bosnian civilisation is remarkably resilient and has historically been able to heal its wounds and quickly return to the more serious business of collective living. In the thirteenth century, before the Ottoman conquest of Bosnia, the area was populated by Roman Catholics (mainly Franciscans), Orthodox Christians and followers of the dualist Church of Bosnia (often identified with the Bulgarian Bogomils) who were the victims of occasional anti-heretical crusades at the hands of their Christian neighbours. The mainly Orthodox Christian region of Herzegovina was added to Bosnia in the early fourteenth century. On the eve of the Ottoman conquest, the Bosnian church was in a state of decline, and an increasing number of Bosnians identified themselves with the Catholic Church (despite the


crusades).10 In 1463 the Ottoman conquest of Bosnia began, and it was completed by 1482 when the Herzegovina region fell to Turkish troops. The Ottomans brought Islam into the Balkans, although it was not entirely new to the region because of the large number of travelling Sufi Muslims and Arab traders who had passed through previously. Under the millet system of governance, other religions also continued to co-exist without persecution or forced conversion within the Ottoman empire. Adherents of the Church of Bosnia largely converted to Islam, and to a much lesser extent so did Catholics and Orthodox Christians. Ottoman dominance in the Balkans lasted for over two hundred years until the War of the Holy League (1683-1699) when the Turks and Bosnian Muslims retreated from the advancing Habsburg and Venetian forces, and the Peace of Carlowitz set Bosnia's western borders with Croatia. During this period, and during the Ottoman retreat from Serbia and Montenegro in the early 1800's, Muslims remaining in territories taken by the Austrian, Venetian or Serbian insurgent forces were persecuted, killed and forcibly converted to Christianity. Most Muslims fled into the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, thereby altering the demographic balance further in their favour. During this particular period of forced Christianisation, Muslim communities in Slavonija, Lika, Dalmatia and Boka Kotorska were wiped out completely.11 In the late nineteenth century Bosnia and Herzegovina became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and thereby one of the few remaining majority Muslim political entities in Europe after the expulsion of non-christians from Spain in the late fifteenth century. Taking advantage of the Bosnian uprising of 1875, the Russians launched a war against the Turks in 1877/78 whilst Austro-Hungarian troops invaded Bosnia. The 1878 Congress of Berlin, brokered by the Great Powers, was an attempt to create a balance of power which would halt Russian expansionism in the last phase of the tottering Ottoman Empire. It recognised Austro-Hungarian control over Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Ivo Banac, "Bosnian Muslims: From religious community to socialist nationhood and postcommunist statehood, 1918-1992." a paper written at Yale University (1992). Gerard Delanty, "The Balkans and the limits of Europe: The Return of History": a paper written at the University of Hannover (1993).
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defined what are now its current legal borders for the first time. Independence was also given to Serbia, prompting a further wave of persecution and Muslim migration both into Bosnia and towards Turkey. Bosnian Islam during this period became cut off from the Muslim world, integrated as it was within the Habsburg monarchy's etatist policy towards non-catholics. The Habsburgs in many ways actually fostered a specifically Bosnian national sentiment (`Bosnjastvo') as a bulwark against Croatian and Serbian nationalism. As a rule, it was Bosnia's Muslims who most readily accepted this `Bonjak' identity, though many Serbs and Croats also identified with it as well.12 Austro-Hungary officially annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908, at which time the largescale emigration of Muslims towards Turkey became a flood. This significantly reduced the proportion of Muslims in the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and was an important turning point in the area's history. However, the Austro-Hungarian authorities never pursued a campaign of annihilation of Muslims, and actually later became concerned by the level of Muslim emigration, because this was beginning to tilt the demographic balance of Bosnia too far in favour of the Serbian population.13 The Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913 saw the final defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans, and Serbia's emergence as the main power in the region. Austro-Hungary was willing to tolerate Serbian expansionism southwards, but after the 1913 London Treaty denied Serbia the whole of Macedonia, Serbian leaders focused their attention instead on Bosnia, to the west. They supported Serbian insurgents within Bosnia, most notably the infamous `Union of Death' (commonly known as the `Black Hand'), which had emerged in 1911. Colonel Dimitrijevic, Intelligence Chief for the Serbian General Staff, provided Gavrilo Princip and his coconspirators with weapons, and helped them back into Bosnia from Serbia for their attack on the visiting Austro-Hungarian leader.14 The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand (on what is now called Princip bridge) in Sarajevo led to the Austro-Hungarian invasion of Serbia in 1914, and the start of the First World War. France, Britain and Russia allied themselves with Serbia as part of their successful fight against Mustafa Imamovi_, "A survey of the history of the Genocide against the Muslims in the Yugoslav lands", off-print from The Herald, number 6 (Sarajevo 1991).
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ibid. ibid.



the central European powers of Germany and Austro-Hungary. After the First World War, the Paris Peace Settlement led to the creation of the first Yugoslavia (literally: land of the southern Slavs), which was ruled by the Serbian king Aleksander I. This `Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes' was actually dominated from the start by Serbia; Bosnia and Herzegovina was denied any kind of autonomous status, though it still existed in the form of its six districts until 1929. Throughout this period, the main Muslim political party (JMO) constantly pressed demands in the Yugoslav parliament for Bosnia and Herzegovina to be given equal status with the three other constituent elements of the kingdom, but without success. In January 1929, Aleksander banned the JMO and other opposition parties and declared direct rule by decree.15 After Aleksander's assassination in 1934, Prince Pavle took over what was becoming an increasingly precarious Serbian royal dictatorship. Pavle held rigged elections in 1935 and then proceeded to pull in elements of all the main opposition parties into a new ruling party (JRZ). However, the JMO's participation in this pseudo-parliamentary government counted for little when Prince Pavle began negotiations with the increasingly strong Croat parties, and subsequently agreed to the formation of an autonomous Croatian political unit (Banovina Hrvatska) in 1939, which contained about a third of the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The remaining parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina were effectively put under Serbian control, thus effecting a division which left Bosnia's Muslims dispossessed.16 During the Second World War, after the German invasion in 1941, the Nazi-quisling Independent State of Croatia (NDH) was formed, which included all of Bosnia and Herzegovina and parts of Serbia. Led by Ante Paveli_, who constantly tried to woo Bosnia's Muslims by showing respect for their religion and referring to them as Croats of Islamic confession, and famously "Flowers of the Croat nation", the NDH nevertheless denied Bosnia and Herzegovina any autonomy. This Ustasa regime was responsible for the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Gypsies and Muslims. Ivo Banac points out that during this period the NDH regime pursued a deliberate policy of trying to implicate Bosnia's Muslims in the atrocities which were committed mainly against the

Delanty, op. cit. Banac, op.cit.



Serbs, for example by issuing Ustasha fighters with fezzes (traditional Muslim headgear) and by the use of Muslim noms de guerre.17 At the same time Dra_a Mihailovi_'s Chetnik forces were committing horrendous atrocities against non-Serbs in areas they took as part of their attempt to create a `Greater Serbia', most notably in eastern Bosnia and the Herzegovina region. Caught between the fascist Ustasha and Chetnik forces, Muslims faced a campaign of genocide during the Second World War. In one of the only comprehensive studies which has been made on the genocide against Muslims in the Second World War, various original documents were re-printed which proved that the eradication of Bosnian Muslims was in fact a policy of Mihailovi_'s Chetnik forces, rather than just a by-product of the war. It is estimated that up to 100,000 Muslims were killed in the period 1941-1945. Most serious studies of this period, one which was taboo in the Communist education system, conclude that after the Jews, Muslims suffered the greatest losses as a proportion of their population during the Second World War (approx. 8%).18 Tito's Communist partisans picked up the issue of Bosnian statehood as one of their auxiliary causes in their liberation struggle, and recognised Bosnia's Muslims as a community with the same rights as Serbs and Croats, although they still regarded them as "nationally undeclared". From the end of the Second World War until the early 1960's, Bosnia and Herzegovina was dominated by its Serbian population, and the Muslim leaders imposed by the communist authorities encouraged the adoption of Serb nationhood in censi. However, in 1961 Tito officially promoted Muslims to the status of ethnic group as part of a wider balancing act designed to hold the multi-ethnic federation together. The federal state which the Yugoslav League of Communists set up with the help of the British towards the end of the Second World War contained six republics, and two autonomous regions inside Serbia (Kosovo and Vojvodina). Bosnia and Herzegovina was the key to this balancing act, being the most ethnically diverse republic situated at the physical centre of Yugoslavia. In 1971, at the behest of the Muslim Prime Minister Dzemal Bijedi_ (who was a favourite of Tito), Muslims were elevated to full national status, and the Islamic authorities in Bosnia began making links with the wider Muslim world. This new status was made official in


Vladimir Zerjavi_ Yugoslav population losses in the Second World War, The Yugoslav Victimological Society (Zagreb 1989); and Bogoljub Kocovi_ Victims of the Second World War in Yugoslavia (London 1985).



the notoriously inscrutable 1974 constitution, which also elevated Kosovo and Vojvodina to the status of autonomous provinces within Serbia, and was part of a conscious attempt by Tito to balance growing Croatian and Serbian nationalisms.19 Tito suppressed nationalism, often by brutal means, and tried to foster pan-Yugoslav identity among the population with a degree of success. Mixed marriages between ethnic groups became common, especially in Bosnia. But the designation of Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia as national "homelands" institutionalised ethnicity, and nationalism became a focus of dissent, which meant that for the most part the communist government could only seek to balance rather than eradicate these mutual antagonisms. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, however, Serbs, Croats and Muslims were together recognised as the principal `nations' of the republic, with no single people predominating. The pan-Yugoslav identity which Tito tried to forge was viewed with suspicion in Slovenia and Croatia, who feared it was merely a mask for Serbian dominance of Yugoslavia. For this reason, at the 8th Congress of the Yugoslav League of Communists in 1964, Tito himself disowned the concept, in favour of "Yugoslav Socialist Patriotism", which meant identification with Yugoslav self-managing socialist society. The structural isomorphism of the central government, and the duality in constitutional law between the autonomous status of both the republics and their constituent national groups, was also a factor in creating the legal space in which nationalism could grow within the former Yugoslavia.20 This brief survey of the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Balkans shows us that when Bosnian civilisation has been under threat, it has been under threat from neighbouring states wishing to homogenise its mixed society. During these times, the Muslim population of the region has been subjected to campaigns of expulsion, terrorisation and forced conversion. During the late Seventeenth Century, in the Second World War, and in the present day, this has taken a genocidal form -- in the strict sense of a campaign of physical, cultural and historical eradication.21


Ivo Banac, op. cit.

For a detailed account of this period, see Sabrina Ramet, Nationalism and Federalism in the former Yugoslavia, 1963-1992, second edition (Indiana University Press 1992).


Imamovi_, op. cit.


In the modern age, after the Congress of Berlin in 1878, the multi-confessional territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina was used as a tool in the balancing act of the Great Powers. After the First World War, when the European empires were broken up and on the semi-peripheries of Europe the concept of ethno-linguistic territories was encouraged as the basis of state formation, Bosnia and Herzegovina temporarily disappeared within the Serb-dominated kingdom of Yugoslavia.22 When Bosnia and Herzegovina re-emerged under Tito as an autonomous political entity, it played a key role in his containment of competing Croatian and Serbian totalising nationalisms. However, when the disintegration of the Yugoslav Federation began, and when the Croatian and Serbian leaderships adopted ethno-nationalism as an ideology of state formation and legitimation, the existence of a multi-ethnic polity in Bosnia and Herzegovina was once again put in doubt. 1.2 THE BALKANS IN EUROPE The political upheavals in Eastern Europe which took place in 1989/90 represented graphically the end of the Cold War and the era of the division of Europe by the iron curtain. Free from Soviet domination, the former socialist states found themselves instead on the periphery of a capitalist Europe. Despite the victorious "end of history" rhetoric which accompanied the end of East European socialism, the European Community (EC) showed little enthusiasm for assisting the integration of the post-socialist states into its economic and political system. EC governments saw Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland as the most suitable economies for the kind of reforms necessary for integration. Bulgaria and Romania were seen as too backward economically to provide markets worthy of exploitation, too much in need of political reform, or perhaps just too peripheral to warrant attention. Yugoslavia, although potentially one of the best candidates, was virtually ignored because of its obvious political problems. In 1990, when Federal Prime Minister Ante Markovi_ was pursuing a liberal programme of economic reform, political commitment and substantial economic assistance from the countries of the EC would have bolstered his weak position in relation to nationalist political forces and could perhaps have altered the course of subsequent events. However, this was not forthcoming.23

Delanty, op.cit. See Misha Glenny, The Re-Birth of History, second edition, pp. 118-142 (London 1993);



At the beginning of the 1990's the process of integration in western Europe was going well. Many within the EC wanted political integration to develop much further than just the economic sphere, and the issue of common foreign policy and security structures was the subject of much debate. The Western European Union (WEU) was gradually being resurrected as the organisational basis for a common security structure, championed by France and Germany. The EC was becoming increasingly confident of its role as an international organisation, and the Yugoslav crisis provided its first real test. Many politicians within the EC saw the crisis in Yugoslavia as a tremendous opportunity to speed up the development of common foreign policy and security structures - integration on the hoof, so to speak. But in retrospect, this eagerness to get involved as soon as Yugoslavia plunged into war proved to be a big mistake, and the abject failure of the EC's intervention may have dealt a fatal blow to the cause of creating common foreign policy and security structures in Europe. The `Berlin Wall euphoria' which led European governments to speed up the pace of integration in 1990 and 1991 has now dissipated. The harsh realities of recession, the decline of the centre-right and centre-left parties which held sway in Western Europe throughout the Cold War period, and conflict over trade and fiscal policy have laid bare political divisions within Western Europe. These political divisions have manifested themselves in a confused and divided response to the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia which, I believe, has contributed to worsening the war in Bosnia in a number of ways. British and French fears of an increased sphere of German influence in central and eastern Europe have been a major factor in inhibiting a coordinated European response to Serbian expansionism. Similarly, political divisions over the future role of NATO, the WEU and the United Nations, which cause consternation in Western capitals, have contributed directly to the suffering of a people under threat on the battlefields of Bosnia. In Washington, the same post-Cold War confusion has been evident. Despite strong campaign pledges, President Clinton has yet to formulate a coherent policy on Bosnia beyond verbal also, Gianni de Michelis gave a very forthright interview to the Italian weekly Panorama (4 July 1993), saying clearly that Britain blocked an EC initiative to give assistance to Markovi_'s pre-war Yugoslav government.


opposition to the European-led Geneva peace process. Evidently, Bosnia has been a subject much under discussion in a White House and Pentagon trying to re-define the USA's post-Cold War superpower role -- but that is no consolation to the families of the 200,000 people who have lost their lives up to now in the Bosnian war.24 Historians will one day look back and ask why the Genocide Conventions which were devised in the aftermath of the Holocaust failed their first test. They will ask why the Great Powers refused to admit that genocide was taking place, and why they chose instead to legalise its results rather than "prevent and punish" it, as the Geneva Conventions oblige them to do. The answer, I believe, lies in the dirty game of Great Power politics which has been played out in Europe, and between Europe and the USA, since the end of the Cold War. Once again, Bosnia has found itself a tool of Great Power diplomacy, and once again it has been sacrificed on the altar of traditional European balance of power politics. The inescapable irony of the fact that Europe's first major war since 1945 is treated as a matter of EC foreign policy is also indicative of an inability in London, Bonn and Paris to recognise the wider implications of the crisis. As Stojan Cerovi_ of the independent Belgrade weekly Vreme pointed out just before the Bosnian war began: "If European integration goes to plan, there will be a place for all of us. But the continent should take note, because if integration fails then Europe will share our fate, and we will not be sorry either. We will have been the avantgarde."25


See for example The Economist, "American Survey", (4 September 1993).

Stojan Cerovi_, "Yugoslavia: A Final Farewell", Breakdown: War & Reconstruction in Yugoslavia, p. 78 (March 1992).




Against today's journalistic commonplace about the Balkans as the madhouse of thriving nationalism one must point out again and again that the moves of every political agent in ex-Yugoslavia, reprehensible though they may be, are totally rational within the goals they want to attain. The only exception, the only truly irrational factor in it, is the West babbling about ethnic passions. Slavoj Zizek, Guardian Europe, August 28th 1992



Ethnic passions, age-old hatreds, ancient blood feuds and a whole host of similarly theatrical and obscurantist phrases are regularly used by the media to describe the motive forces behind the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and also by European politicians to justify their inaction. The barbarity of the conflict is certainly shocking to the TV viewers of a continent accustomed to the highly regulated peace of the Cold War; but however apparently complex, the causes are nevertheless of a political (rather than anthropological) nature. The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, like the wars in Slovenia and Croatia, is a feature of the general process of disintegration of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRJ) which began in the 1980's. A full analysis of the causes of this process would be beyond the scope of this inquiry, but it can be broadly described as a confluence of economic stagnation and political crisis within the federal structure, in which competing elements of the bureaucratic leadership turned to nationalism as a means of maintaining control under conditions of increasing public discontent.26 This turn to nationalism, however, was not as simple a phenomenon as it may appear. It can be argued that whilst in most of the former Yugoslavia this turn to nationalism expressed itself in the form of a desire for nationhood, in Serbia the growing nationalist movement was advocating the subjugation of other nations within a `Greater Serbia' incorporating all "historic Serbian lands." The culmination of this process was the victory of national parties all across Yugoslavia in the 1990/91 elections, which was to have grave consequences for the multinational Bosnian republic.

For an excellent historical record of the disintegration process, see Branka Maga, The destruction of Yugoslavia (1993).



In 1987, Serbian President Slobodan Miloevi_ came to power with a nationalist programme predicated on the unrest in the mainly Albanian province of Kosovo, which had been worsening since 1981. The intellectual basis for his new Serbian nationalist regime was the 1986 declaration of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences (SANU), of which former Yugoslav President Dobrica Cosi_ was a key member. The SANU declaration called for the creation of a "Greater Serbia" to include all territories in the federation inhabited by ethnic Serbs. When, in the autumn of 1990, Miloevi_ stripped the provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo of the autonomy they had been granted by the 1974 constitution and appropriated their voting rights within the federal presidency, Yugoslavia faced a constitutional crisis. This move effectively gave Serbia the right of veto over any legislation or reforms proposed by the other republics.27 Antagonism between the northern republics (Slovenia and Croatia) and Serbia worsened, and Milosevic employed the Socialist party-controlled media in a campaign of nationalist demonisation of the northern republics. As a reaction to increasing Serb-dominated centralisation of the federation, Slovenia and Croatia pressed for a looser federal structure and for increased autonomy; but Serbia was able to block these proposals in alliance with the compliant imposed leaderships of Vojvodina and Kosovo. Fruitless negotiations took place throughout 1989 and 1990 to find a compromise solution: a loose federation, a confederation and even an asymmetrical federation were all discussed and rejected. Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovi_ played a leading role in these talks, because Bosnia and Herzegovina, caught between Slovenia and Croatia on the one hand and an expansionist Serbia on the other, had most to lose from the disintegration of Yugoslavia.28 As the positions of the republics polarised, with Slovenia and Croatia now demanding outright independence, the ambiguities of Tito's cleverly balanced constitutional structures became apparent. First, the system of collective rotating presidency which Tito left in place after his death in 1980 was simply unable to function in a time of political crisis, which left the question of legal authority in such a situation open to interpretation. Second, the constitution contained a crucial duality: the autonomy of the six constituent republics and the autonomy of their constituent peoples (narod). This became an important issue later, when Germany was arguing Branka Maga, "The Destruction of Bosnia-Hercegovina", New Left Review 196/1992, pp. 102-112.
28 27

Misha Glenny, The Fall of Yugoslavia (London 1992), pp. 138-176.


for the right of Croatia and Slovenia to self-determination within their existing borders but failing to acknowledge the argument of the leaders of Croatia's 600,000 Serbs for autonomy within, and even independence from, the new Croatian state.29 Slovenia and Croatia finally declared independence from Yugoslavia on June 26th 1991, and war soon followed. The Slovenian war lasted only ten days and the republic's territorial defence - who, incidentally, had been training in Austria and Germany for the preceding twelve months30 - conducted a highly organised, quite ruthless, but ultimately successful campaign against the Yugoslav Army (JNA), which had been deployed in an attempt to prevent secession. An EC-brokered agreement on July 7th, the Brioni Accord, led to the withdrawal of the JNA and effectively guaranteed Slovenia's independence. The war in Croatia was already well under way when the Brioni Accord was signed. Paramilitary formations from inside Serbia had been arming local populations in majoritySerbian areas of Croatia in an attempt to provoke fighting which would give the JNA the excuse to intervene directly on the side of the rebel Serb forces. Rather than respond to what were at this stage sometimes legitimate fears of being denied autonomy within the new Croatian state, President Tudjman's government used heavy handed tactics, dismissing local ethnic Serbs from state institutions and local authorities and sending in Croatian police patrols to replace local police forces which were often dominated by Serbs in areas where they formed a majority of the local population. Rebel Serb forces, armed and ultimately controlled by Belgrade, played on the fears these actions provoked in rural Serbian areas to launch the first stage of Milosevic's war to carve out a Greater Serbia from the ashes of Yugoslavia. In conjunction with the JNA they fought the fledgling Croatian National Guard (ZNG), precursor to the regular Croatian Army (HV), for control of approximately one-third of Croatia. Ethnic Croats were driven out of areas where Serbs formed even a relative majority, and from towns captured by rebel Serb forces. The spurious justification for the Serbian military campaign in Croatia was to protect local Serb populations from the supposedly neo-fascist Croatian regime. However, in truth the war was Vojin Dimitrijevi_, "On Constitutional Nationalism", a paper delivered to the Kent University Conference on Yugoslav Identity, Summer 1992. This information came to light during a personal interview with Pavel Celik, Slovene Chief of Police (July 1991).
30 29


about carving out an ethnically-pure swathe of territory which would form part of a future Greater Serbian state. This meant that the JNA focused much of its campaign on strategic points such as the Dalmatian coast around Zadar and Sibenik, on petro-chemical facilities such as around Sisak and Petrinja in the Baranja region, on the cities of Vukovar and Osijek in Eastern Slavonia, and on cutting Zagreb's links with the Adriatic coast by attacking around Karlovac and Gospic, and south of Dubrovnik. The utterly inhumane siege of Vukovar in November 1991 and the systematic attempt to destroy the historic city of Dubrovnik came to symbolise the brutality of the JNA, which was by now becoming more closely allied to Milosevic's regime in Belgrade, and increasingly dominated by ethnic Serbs and Montenegrins. Hundreds of civilians were killed in the cellars of Vukovar, and human rights groups are still investigating the existence of a mass grave near the hospital where, it is alleged, Croatian patients were dumped en masse when the town finally fell to the JNA. The Croatian war continued throughout 1991 until the Vance plan was signed under UN auspices in December, after a series of failed ceasefire initiatives. The Vance plan led to the (eventual) deployment of 14,000 peacekeeping troops along the frontlines between government-held Croatian territory and the one-third of the republic which was occupied by Serbian militia, designated as United Nations Protected Areas (UNPA's). It was envisaged as a temporary 'solution' which would last only until a "comprehensive settlement" was agreed for the whole region. However, the front lines which were simply frozen by the deployment of UN peacekeepers are still in place, despite several limited conflicts since then, and a proper solution has yet to be found.31 The Croatian war catalysed the onset of fighting in Bosnia in a number of ways. First of all, perhaps inevitably, the Serb-Croat conflict spilled over into Bosnia causing increased tensions, localised clashes, and sometimes pitched battles between local Croats and units of the JNA. Secondly, the JNA used bases in Bosnia from which to attack Croatia. The base at Banja Luka was used as the Headquarters for the joint Serb militia/JNA campaign in Western Slavonija, and the bases in Trebinje and Nevesinje in Herzegovina were used to co-ordinate attacks on the southern part of the Dalmatian coast, especially the senseless campaign against Dubrovnik. Filip Svarm, "Singing the Blues", WarReport (January 1993), p 20-21; Igor Mekina, "Croatian Paradox", WarReport (February/March 1993), p 12-13; and Milorad Pupova_, "A Framework for Krajina" (ibid.), p 11.


Northern Bosnia was also used to transport arms to the Serb rebels in Croatia. This led to both an increase in the concentration of JNA personnel and materiel in Bosnia, and to an increase in tension on the ground.32 Importantly, the situation on the ground in Croatia which was frozen by the Vance plan and the establishment of the UNPA's gave both Croatia and Serbia added incentives to compensate for their respective positions by annexing Bosnian territory, though as we shall see both sides had already discussed dividing Bosnia even before the Croatian war began. Although Serbian forces in Croatia, in alliance with the JNA, had managed to secure control over a third of the republic, they had failed to fulfil one vital element of their war aims, namely a secure land corridor linking the occupied territories with Serbia proper. This could only be established by the annexation of the Bosanska Krajina region in Bosnia. Also, the loss of a third of Croatia's territory to the Serb insurgents gave President Franjo Tudjman and his ruling HDZ party greater incentive to compensate for the lost land by taking those parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina in which Croats are the majority population. Croats from Western Herzegovina predominate in the HDZ leadership, and represent its most nationalist faction, which partly explains the party's desire to incorporate the area into the new Croatian state. During the period of the Banovina Hrvatska (1939-41) and the NDH nazi-puppet state (1941-43), Western Herzegovina and Posavina, both of which are majority Croatian areas contiguous with Croatia itself, were formally part of the Republic.33 However, it should be noted that the Croatian Government's goals in Bosnia and Herzegovina have never been absolutely clear, indeed they have developed opportunistically. They have also generated considerable opposition within Croatia, and even within the HDZ itself. Many who oppose Tudjman's policy argue, quite rightly, that by seeking to annex part of Bosnia, the Croatian President has significantly weakened his position that the annexation of one third of Croatia by Serbian forces should not be legalised. In March 1991, in a hunting lodge in Karadjordjevo (Vojvodina), Presidents Tudjman and Milosevi_ held the last of a series of meetings before full-scale war erupted, and they agreed on the principle of dividing Bosnia between them as a means to solve the wider Serbo-Croat Mark Mazower, "The War in Bosnia-Hercegovina: An Analysis", Action for Bosnia (1992).
33 32

Ivo Banac, op.cit.


conflict. This political agreement was later supplemented by a military pact between the leaders of Bosnia's Croats (Mate Boban) and Serbs (Radovan Karadzi_) which was settled in the town of Graz, Austria, on April 27th 1992 after the war in Bosnia had begun. The Graz agreement was "the single most important document of the war," according to Vreme's military analyst Milo Vasi_, and its function was to limit conflict between Bosnian Serb and Croat forces by demarcating clear lines of control. Crucially, it allowed both parties to concentrate on taking territory at the expense of the Muslims.34 So, in the autumn of 1991, whilst Germany was conducting an intensive - and ultimately successful - EC lobbying campaign for the recognition of Croatia and Slovenia on the basis of the sanctity of existing borders, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman was publicly advocating that these principles be ignored in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In fact, even after Croatia was recognised as an independent state on January 15th 1992, government officials were quite open about their territorial designs on Bosnia-Herzegovina.35 Aside from the nationalist agendas of the governments in Belgrade and Zagreb, and their respective territorial designs on the republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, another important factor was at work: the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA). Despite pre-war Yugoslavia's population of only 24 million, the JNA was the fourth largest standing army in Europe, with a total of 79,000 officers and 180,000 recruits. It was a highly equipped and modern army, with the very best of Soviet-made and western equipment and weaponry.36 The JNA had played a key role in the formation of the Yugoslav federation, in fact much of the post-Second World War party bureaucracy initially developed from within its ranks. As Marko Hren argues, "[it] was the main agent for political change in Yugoslavia." This meant that the JNA enjoyed a uniquely privileged role in Yugoslav society. Military matters were taught in schools, youth work camps were run by the JNA, and the system of industrial production was largely geared towards providing for the army. This was compounded by Tito's doctrine of "Total Defence", which envisaged a three-tier system of defence, presumably based on the Milo Vasi_, "Two against one in Bosnia", WarReport (January 1993), p. 8-9.
35 34

Ian Traynor, The Guardian (17 January 1992).

Milo Vasi_ and Aleksander Ciri_, "No Way Out: The JNA and The Yugoslav Wars", WarReport (January 1993), pp. 3-5.



hypothetical Soviet invasion which was in the back of the leadership's collective mind in the period after Yugoslavia's break with Moscow in 1948. The system was anchored in the multiethnic organisational structure of the JNA, and supplemented by local Territorial Defence Units (TO) and, as a last line of defence, full-scale civil mobilisation.37 The implications of this were two-fold. First, should civil war erupt it was pre-destined to be a very bloody affair, as all adult males received military training and a substantial majority possessed weapons. Second, in the event of the federation splitting up, the JNA would face an existential crisis. In 1991, the secession of Slovenia and Croatia had grave consequences for the JNA, in that a substantial source of both recruits and taxation was lost, and the army became increasingly Serb- and Montenegrin-dominated. The consequences of independence for Bosnia were potentially even greater, however, as the largest concentration of both military bases and armament/munitions production facilities were located within the central republic -- for obvious strategic reasons. Immediately before the outbreak of war in Bosnia, it is thought the JNA had increased its presence in the republic to something in the order of 80-90,000 men. The loss of Bosnia and Herzegovina was something the JNA leadership was not prepared to countenance, particularly as Serbian President Slobodan Miloevi_ had already made clear that his new Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) would not be prepared to guarantee the salaries and pensions of the existing JNA officer class.38 Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovi_ recognised the importance of this factor when, in September 1991, he tried in vain to persuade the EC to set up a trust fund which would pay the salaries and pensions of JNA officers based in the republic if the JNA agreed to remain loyal to Bosnia and Herzegovina and desist from waging a war to bring the republic back into the Yugoslav federation.39




ibid; and Marko Hren, "The Leading Role of the Army", War Report (January 1993), p7. Mark Mazower, op.cit. ibid.




The authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina were in many ways the most loyal to the Yugoslav identity and ideals. But this ethnically diverse central republic found itself caught between the hegemonic intentions of Serbia and the desire of the northern republics to achieve national selfdetermination. The 'Agrokomerc' scandal in 1987 had led to the removal of the core of the republic's existing leadership. In the political vacuum which followed, Milosevic's regime in Belgrade campaigned to destabilise the republic by calling on ethnic Serbs to declare loyalty to Serbia rather than to Sarajevo. Clearly, Belgrade aimed to undermine Bosnia's autonomous status and eventually incorporate as much of the republic as possible within the Greater Serbia envisaged by the SANU group.40 Milosevic's task was made easier by the results of the first free elections which were held across Yugoslavia in 1990. The three nationalist parties in Bosnia, the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), and the mainly Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) won the majority of the votes, and took 86% of the seats in parliament between them. Smaller multi-ethnic parties such as the Liberal Party, the Reformist Party, the Social Democratic Party and (despite its name) the Muslim Bosnian Organisation all won only minority support.41 This produced a pattern across the republic where the party representing the majority population of a particular area, after winning control of the local authorities, would begin promoting "their" people in the police, councils, state-owned companies etc., often purging members of the other two ethnic groups from top jobs and positions of authority. Only in the city of Tuzla did an alliance of the Reformists and Social Democrats win control of the local government; all other areas were won by the three main parties. The SDS and HDZ parties were from their very inception in 1989 and 1990 respectively, little more than proxies of the regimes in Belgrade and Zagreb. The ruling clique of the SDS is a group of Bosnian Serb intellectuals led by Milorad Ekmeci_, who are linked with the Belgrade SANU group which developed the idea of creating a "Greater Serbia" out of the ashes of Yugoslavia. The party's leader, Radovan Karadzi_, was a wealthy Sarajevo psychiatrist and amateur poet who, along with another powerful SDS official Mom_ilo Krajinik, had spent much of the 1980's in jail for corruption. The HDZ has its power base among the radical

See Branka Magas op.cit. pp. 226-7 Branka Maga, op.cit.



Croatian nationalists of western Herzegovina, although it was originally led by a Sarajevan, Stjepan Kluji_. Kluji_ was later purged at the start of the war because of his support for a unitary Bosnia, and was replaced with the hard-liner Mate Boban. The SDA was formed by a group of Islamic scholars who were involved in the controversial "Islamic Declaration" trial of 1983, which saw Alija Izetbegovi_ (the party's leader) jailed for alleged fundamentalism. It should be noted, however, that contrary to much of the subsequent propaganda relating to this trial, the declaration did not advocate the creation of an Islamic state in Bosnia, nor is that the programme of the SDA.42 From the beginning it was clear that the SDS and HDZ were pseudo-military organisations, and that both parties were being used as conduits for the arming of the populations they spuriously claimed to represent. The SDA, however, had no external backers to match the governments of Belgrade and Zagreb, and began creating its own militia forces (the `Green Berets') only in the immediate run up to the war itself. The set of military plans which the JNA had drawn up to prevent Croatia seceding from the federation went by the acronym of `RAM'. The basic strategy of the RAM plan was to provide arms to Serbian irregular forces in strategic parts of the republic, and to mobilise them in the event of a declaration of independence with the backing of the Army itself. In Belgrade, a well-organised supply system was developed by Socialist Party MP Mihalj Kerte (an Interior Ministry official), who helped organise the arming and training of paramilitary formations based in Serbia and local rebel Serbs in Croatia. Throughout 1990, several hundred thousand weapons were sent to the Bosnian Krajina and eastern Herzegovina, through the SDS party network, in order to supply Croatian Serbs and JNA reservists fighting in Croatia. This supply system was also used to arm Bosnian Serbs in these two areas, along with those on the Romanija plateau, east of Sarajevo. In August, outgoing federal Prime Minister Ante Markovi_ released a tape recording on which Slobodan Miloevi_ could be heard informing the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karad_i_ of a new consignment of arms which were to be delivered through the JNA HQ in Banja Luka, and telling him that he could call in air strikes through General Nikola Uzelac in Banja Luka if he felt it necessary.43 Personal interviews with representatives of each party (Sarajevo, April 1992); and Tihomir Loza, YugoFax (May 1992), p 8-9.
43 42

Mark Mazower, op.cit.


The HDZ also began arming Bosnian Croats during the 1991 Croatian war. The Croatian Council of Defence (HVO) was set up by regular Croatian Army personnel, who also provided weaponry, in preparation for the imminent conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Also, units of the neo-fascist Croatian Party of Rights militia (HOS) began operating in western Herzegovina during 1991. Regardless of the intentions of the governments in Belgrade and Zagreb, this process of arming Croat and Serb communities in Bosnia began to develop its own momentum, and isolated but fierce clashes were already taking place around Mostar throughout the autumn and winter of 1991.44 Even before the November 1990 elections, the SDS had begun consolidating control over majority Serbian regions in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In October, a Serb National Council was established in Banja Luka, which was to be an independent legislative body wholly independent of the legal government in Sarajevo. Six autonomous regions (SAO's) were declared, which would later become the basis for the formation of the `Republika Srpska' in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Throughout 1991 the SDS used its MP's and officials in the Bosnian Presidency to block all measures which the government was trying to introduce to save the republic from war. The shaky coalition of national parties was thus deadlocked, mirroring the situation of the Yugoslav Federal Presidency a year previously. In October 1991, the Bosnian Assembly adopted a draft memorandum affirming the inviolability of the republic's borders and supporting the option of a Yugoslav federation of sovereign states. At this time Radovan Karad_i_, whose party walked out of the Assembly whilst the vote was taken, warned that insisting on the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina would lead the republic "into a hell in which the Muslims will perhaps perish." In the run up to the EC Conference on Yugoslavia the Bosnian government needed to draft a common position regarding the republic's status, which was also necessary to keep Bosnia out of the Croatian war. However, the SDS staked its opposing claim immediately after the memorandum of sovereignty by declaring a Serb Republic in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This was soon followed by a declaration of two "Croatian Communes" in western Herzegovina and

Personal interview with an HVO officer in Livno, who also confirmed the fact that every HVO officer in early phase of the war was from the HV.



Posavina.45 A meeting was held between the three national parties at the end of 1991 under the auspices of the EC. The SDS demanded independent cantons for areas where large numbers of ethnic Serbs lived, claiming approximately 65% of the republic, whilst the SDA and HDZ voiced their support for a unitary civil state. It was at this stage that the EC could have shot down any plans for an ethnic division of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which everybody concerned knew could only be achieved through war. However, EC officials were at this stage pre-occupied with the failure of their policy in Croatia - fourteen cease-fire agreements had so far been brokered and subsequently ignored - and were in the process of seeking agreement on the Vance plan.46 The Vance plan was agreed in December 1991, and under German pressure EC governments also agreed to recognise Croatia and Slovenia as independent states rather than expose the wide divisions in foreign policy which existed at the time. Some German diplomats now admit quite openly that in the absence of an overall EC policy for the former Yugoslavia, insistence on recognition may have been premature. These two factors, an agreement to end the Croatian war which recognised territorial gains made by force of arms and which treated the Croatian war in isolation from the worsening situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the decision to recognise Croatia and Slovenia, sealed Bosnia's fate. Since mid-1991 Bosnian Serb communities had been arming in preparation for the war, and in fact, the missiles and some of the artillery which were to be used in the shameful siege of Sarajevo were in place on Mount Trebevi_ by October47. There can be no doubt that by this stage in the game it was clear even to the governments of Britain, France and Germany that the intention of Miloevi_'s regime in Belgrade was to use the JNA and the military structures of the SDS in Bosnia to launch a war of territorial acquisition, whose purpose was the creation of the "Greater Serbia" envisaged by the 1986 SANU declaration, and the destruction of the

Branka Maga, op.cit. Hugh Miall, "New Conflicts in Europe", Oxford Research Group Report (July 1992).


Tihomir Loza, from a personal interview (April 1992) in Sarajevo. He had seen some of the emplacements on Trebevic.



Bosnian state. Paramilitary groups had been created with direct and identifiable links to the Security Services in Belgrade, and a complete logistics and supply network was in place not just for the arming of local communities, but also for the expulsion of non-Serb populations which was to be the purpose of the operation.48 Plans were also afoot for the HDZ to consolidate its political and military control over the Posavina region and western Herzegovina, in order eventually to incorporate them into Croatia. Yet war was not yet an inevitability. The final factor which caused the Bosnian war was the intervention of the EC. Some, like Toma_ Mastnak, argue that European governments were deliberate in their actions; others believe they were simply incompetent at this stage. It is possible we will never know. But what is absolutely clear is that with regard to Bosnia the intervention of the EC, far from preventing the war, actually hastened it. As we shall discuss later, the subsequent EC "peace process", which aimed to halt the fighting, actually worsened the war in a number of ways. The recognition of Croatia, against the findings of the EC's own Badinter Commission which had been set up to discuss the issue, forced the Bosnian government's hand on independence. On December 20th, the government formally requested recognition, and began making arrangements for the independence referendum of March 1st. At this point, however, the Bosnian government's writ only ran to two-thirds of its territory.49 The Vance plan in Croatia, the price of international recognition, gave legitimacy to the occupation of one-third of the republic by Serbian forces, and interposed UN troops to police the frontlines. This allowed the JNA and the Serbian regime in Belgrade to focus its attention on Bosnia and Herzegovina, where as we have seen, a similar strategy to the one which had been used successfully in Croatia was needed to complete the project of "Greater Serbia". Additionally, the fact that the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) for Croatia was to have its headquarters in Sarajevo was but one of the signs which led the Bosnian government to believe that a prompt peacekeeping intervention would be forthcoming should war erupt in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Livio Hughes, unpublished M.Phil dissertation (CSD, University of Westminster) "Genocide and War Crimes in Bosnia-Herzegovina" in preparation which, among other things, deals with the mechanics of the genocide.
49 48

Branka Maga, op.cit.


The attempt to broker some kind of agreement between the three national parties, combined with a tendency to favour nation states over multi-ethnic/multi-national polities, led the EC to support the cantonisation of the republic along ethnic lines. Others believe that the European powers were against the independence of a majority-Muslim state in Europe, and claim this was the hidden agenda behind the EC's consistent support for ethnic division. Although in the December both the HDZ and SDA had opposed this option, under pressure from Zagreb the Croatian party changed its position and voiced support for division. Thus, despite the obviously disastrous results of a policy of ethnic division in a republic where over 1.7 million people lived in municipalities where no group had an absolute majority, the EC adopted cantonisation as official policy.50 The referendum, held on February 28th, produced a majority in favour of independence as a unitary civil state, but was boycotted by most Serbs. Immediately following the vote, violence flared in Sarajevo when SDS militia units took control over several areas of the city and erected barricades; only a courageous peace demonstration led by Alija Izetbegovi_ persuaded the SDS to back down.51

In March, the EC held a further meeting in Lisbon, and the EC envoy Lord Carrington put forward a more detailed cantonisation plan based on the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina into separate Serb, Croat and Muslim regions. By insisting that recognition would be contingent upon all three sides agreeing to his cantonisation plan, Carrington was able to overcome the opposition of the SDA and the Bosnian government. Thus, Izetbegovi_ agreed in principle to some form of de-centralisation and national autonomy, believing that he had guarantees from the international community to intervene to protect the new state in the event of a Serbian or JNA attack. Around the time of this meeting, the town of Bosanski Brod on Bosnia's northern border with Croatia was already being shelled by the JNA and Bosnian Serb units based nearby, and pitched battles were underway in western Herzegovina between Serbs and Croats.52

ibid. WHY? (April 1992), Journal of the Sarajevo International Peace Centre.


On the shelling of Bosanski Brod, see Hugh Miall, op.cit.; Tihomir Loza, op.cit.; and Mark Mazower op.cit.



By the time of recognition by the USA, at about 6am local time on the morning of April 6th, the war was already underway. The promises Alija Izetbegovi_ believed he had from the EC proved to be empty, and although fighting was now taking place inside Sarajevo itself, the UNPROFOR contingent based there still had no mandate to act in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The timing of the outbreak of the war, over the weekend of the Muslim festival Bajram which preceded international recognition on Monday April 6th, was no coincidence. The logical conclusion of plans to cantonise a multi-ethnic republic in which only a handful of municipalities were anything like homogenous was soon to become horribly clear: a war in which mass executions and expulsion of civilians were not just a function of the fighting, but a central part of the aggressor's strategic aims.


MAP 2 -




It is one day after Bosnian Muslims and Croats voted for independence from Yugoslavia. A masked Serb with a machine gun sees a group of people on their way to work and shouts: "You want independence? Here, I'll give it to you!" He fires a burst over their heads. An elderly man ducks behind a car. His voice is a mixture of sadness and disbelief: "This is it. It's all over, the brotherhood and unity is over." Duan Stojanovi_ (AP), Sarajevo, March 1st 1992

By March 1992, approximately one-third of the republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was under the effective control of the Serbian SDS militia. Police stations in areas where Serbs formed the majority of the population were taken over by the SDS, along with their equipment and weapon arsenals. Karad_i_ and his fellow party officials also put enormous pressure on journalists and editors in the various media (including bribes and threats) to create separate Serb, Croat and Muslim newspapers and TV channels. State-wide newspapers such as Oslobodenje and Nedjelja, and TV-BiH all steadfastly resisted this pressure, which was an important factor in maintaining relatively peaceful relations between the three major communities for such a long time. TV-BiH came under special pressure to divide, because it represented perfectly the kind of society the SDS wished to destroy. Editor-in-chief Nenad Peji_ was a Serb, and the whole journalistic and editorial staff was comprised of roughly equal numbers of Serbs, Croats, Muslims and Yugoslavs (those who refused to declare themselves as a member of a particular ethnic group).53 The state-run, but effectively independent TV-BiH would broadcast using the Latin alphabet (for Croats and Muslims) and the Cyrillic alphabet (for Serbs) on alternate days, and the station consistently sought to emphasise its message of tolerance and mutual understanding. In the immediate run up to the war, the caption "Citizens of BiH - Don't shoot each other!" was displayed on the screen between programmes, accompanied by aerial shots of Sarajevo in which the camera would slowly pan from the view of a mosque, to an orthodox church, to a catholic church and to a synagogue. YU-TEL, the other main state-wide TV station solved the problem of objectivity by showing viewers the highly dubious Croatian TV and Serbian TV news programmes in the evening, after its own show, with the implicit warning that neither Nenad Peji_, personal communication. After the war began he was targeted by the SDS and eventually forced to flee.


should necessarily be believed. When the SDS proved unable to divide the main media, it chose instead to set up SRNA, its own news agency based in the Bosnian Serb stronghold Pale. They also singled out both the Oslobodenje building, the TV stations and its transmitters for particular attention when missiles began raining on Sarajevo after the war began. After raiding police and territorial defence stations in Sarajevo, the SDS militia again set up barricades around areas of the city under their control on the night of Saturday April 4th. The next day, the eve of Bosnia and Herzegovina's recognition as an independent state, saw several thousand Sarajevans march to the centre of the capital and gather outside the Parliament building. The marchers symbolically advanced towards the last remaining barricade on a nearby bridge and were met with gunfire. Suada Dilberovi_, a young student from Dubrovnik, was first in the line of fire; the bridge on which she died was later re-named in her honour. There followed a spectacular three days of demonstrations, which people travelled from all over the republic to join, and an occupation of the parliament by opposition and peace groups calling for a government of national unity and the disbanding of all armed forces. Unarmed miners from the northern city of Tuzla stormed a hotel from which Serbian snipers were shooting on the crowd, and a total of five people were killed and dozens wounded in what many foreign journalists mis-construed as a Bucharest-style attempted coup. The occupation was supported by TV-BiH, who broadcast the unfolding events live, and was joined by writers, film-makers and other respected people. But by the time it was over, on the Wednesday, two days after Bosnia was recognised by the USA and the countries of the EC, Sarajevo was already at war.54 Another key event which foretold the war to come was the occupation of the north-eastern town of Bijeljina on April 2nd-4th. A crack Serbian paramilitary unit led by the infamous criminal known as `Arkan' crossed over from Serbia and committed a massacre of Muslims, which caused most of the town's non-Serb population to flee in terror. This was the beginning of the campaign to occupy eastern Bosnia, and to drive a Serbian corridor across the north of the republic. Zvornik, to the south, fell on April 10th after heavy JNA bombardment and an For my account of the demonstration, see Lee Bryant, YugoFax (May 1992). All other foreign journalists were on the other side of the shooting, inside the Holiday Inn hotel and SDS base.


infantry assault by Arkan's special forces.55 Immediately following Bosnia's recognition, JNA and Serb paramilitary units also penetrated Bosnia from Montenegro to take control of Foca in a similar fashion, killing and expelling the non-Serb population and imprisoning the rest. Bratunac, Rogatica, Vlasenica, Viegrad and other towns and their surrounding villages were all taken in the same way during the month of April, as local SDS militias and a variety of Serbian paramilitary units moved with the support of the JNA to secure control of most of eastern Bosnia.56 In western Herzegovina, Croatian Council of Defence (HVO) units fought to secure control of the area on the west bank of the Neretva river, with some success. The JNA resorted to aerial bombardment in cases where they lost the initiative on the ground, such as on the Kupres plateau and around Capljina. In the northern Posavina region the HVO also made gains, threatening the vital supply route between the Bosnian Krajina region and Serbia proper. In this early phase of the war the JNA, by now a wholly Serb- and Montenegrin-dominated army whose political and military strategy dove-tailed with Miloevi_'s aim of a "Greater Serbia", was fully engaged on the side of the Serbian insurgents against Croatian forces, and to a slightly lesser extent also those of the Bosnian government. Yet its leadership was divided, which meant that its tactics in certain areas owed more to a desire to protect its own position and facilities than territorial acquisition on behalf of the Bosnian Serbs. When, on April 27th, the authorities in Belgrade proclaimed the new "rump" Federal Yugoslavia, Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovi_ ordered the JNA in Bosnia to either withdraw or accept the status of foreign occupying force.57 After much vacillation, the Yugoslav Presidency ordered the withdrawal of all JNA personnel who were citizens of the new Yugoslavia. In actual fact only about 15,000 military personnel were withdrawn by the end of May. The remaining 80,000 transferred to the Bosnian Serb Army, along with all the Federal Army's equipment and facilities in the republic which could not be withdrawn. In most cases this boiled down to the simple act of repainting the insignia on tanks and uniforms, as could be gleaned from careful observation of TV pictures of the Serb

Mark Mazower, op.cit.; and Mir na Bosna, issue 1 (Geneva, May 1993). ibid. Mark Mazower, op.cit.; Branka Maga, op.cit.




force occupying Sarajevo airport throughout the month of May (in this particular case the paint job was a very crude one, and it was possible to see the shadow of the old JNA markings below the freshly drawn Bosnian Serb insignia on the tanks).58


Milo Vasi_ and Aleksander Ciri_, op.cit.




After the incorporation of much of the JNA into the Bosnian Serb Army, the balance of forces was overwhelmingly in their favour. With around 80,000 troops, 24 fighter planes, 20 helicopters, 200 battle tanks, hundreds of heavy artillery pieces, thousands of mortars and virtually limitless ammunition, the Bosnian Serb Army was by far the most powerful force on the field of battle. In addition, throughout the war, they have been able to call upon special forces of the Serbian Interior Ministry, and ruthless but well-organised paramilitary formations led by people like `Arkan', Vojislav eelj and others from inside the "rump" Yugoslavia.59 These paramilitaries were the vanguard of the Bosnian Serb operation, and were responsible for the worst massacres of civilians and destruction of property. In the early phase of the war, a pattern emerged in the deployment of these forces which proved their key role in events. Arkan, whose men were still in the Croatian town of Vukovar in March, first came to Bijeljina at the beginning of April where they were responsible for bombing the town's main mosque during prayers, and a number of other atrocities designed to prompt an exodus of non-Serbs. Later, they were present in a number of other towns in eastern Bosnia as the campaign to take this region continued, before they arrived in the Sarajevan suburb of Grbavice in June. Although they did not usually come under Bosnian Serb Army command structures, several of them had close links with the security services in Serbia, such as Arkan's "Tigers" and Vojislav eelj's "White Eagles".60 The Bosnian Croats were estimated to have about 32,000 local HVO troops in Bosnia at the start of the war, including a substantial proportion of Croatian Army (HV) regulars. According to a HVO officer serving in western Herzegovina, the Croatian Army insisted upon having complete control of the two Bosnian Croat front-lines which also protect the republic of Croatia itself: namely Stolac and Livno. In addition to HVO and HV units, an unestimated number of Croatian Party of Rights (HOS) fighters were operating in Croat-held areas in the early stages of the war, but they increasingly came into conflict with the HVO command after they refused to become integrated within it, and later in the war many HOS units allied themselves with Bosnian government forces for rather contradictory political reasons, due to the fact that the Croatian Party of Rights is opposed to a Serb-Croat division of Bosnia.61

ibid. Mark Mazower, op.cit.; and Mir na Bosna, ibid. Milo Vasi_, WarReport (January 1993), op.cit.




The third group of factions in the war is that of the Bosnian loyalists, who support the Bosnian government and its programme of a unitary civil state for all three ethnic groups. Before the war began, the JNA confiscated the weaponry of the republic's pre-existing territorial defence (TO), which critically hampered the Bosnian government in the early stages. As a result, the Bosnian Army only really started to come together in May and June, and was formed by bringing several pro-Bosnian factions under a single command: the Patriotic League (the core of the Bosnian Army, who were the first to sport the official fleurs-des-lys emblem), the official TO (which lacked weaponry), the Green Berets (SDA militia), the specialist antiterrorist police (led by a Serb, they resisted the division which befell the regular police), and several HOS units (especially those based in Sarajevo) and HVO units outside the western Herzegovina stronghold (such as the 108th Brcko Brigade). The development of a Bosnian Army was helped considerably by the defection of pro-Bosnian JNA officers, the last batch of whom switched sides when the orders were given for the JNA's withdrawal. However, from the start the Bosnian Army has been badly effected - much more so than the Bosnian Serbs and Croats - by the illegal arms embargo which was imposed blanket-fashion across the former Yugoslavia in autumn 1991. The illegality of the arms embargo under international law is based firstly on the right to self-defence which is enshrined in Article 51 of the UN Charter, and secondly on the fact that it was applied to Yugoslavia rather than the new state of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and no resolution has been passed transferring it.62 Whereas the Bosnian Serbs already had access to enough materiel to fight for several years, and the Bosnian Croats were in a position to take advantage of the Croatian Army's already well-developed systems of evading the embargo, the Bosnian Army is landlocked between them and therefore was most badly affected. All weapons supplies for the Bosnian government forces have come through Croatian-held territory, which means that at times of conflict with the HVO these supplies have dried up altogether, or else have been stolen before they reach central Bosnia. The Bosnian Army can be characterised as a defence force under attack from both the Bosnian See J. Keller's analysis of the legal questions surrounding the arms embargo in an Amicus Curiae submitted by the European Offices of Good Lawmakers to the ICJ in The Hague, 3 September 1993.


Serb Army and the Croatian HVO. In theory, therefore its aim was to take control of the whole territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In practice, however, it was simply to defend what it could, and prevent further gains by the two aggressors. Whilst the Bosnian Army had a central command led by Colonel Sefer Halilovi_, and later General Rasim Deli_, the fact that this was located in Sarajevo meant that co-ordination of pro-Bosnian forces on a republic-wide level was problematic. Thus, it could be said that the strategy of the Bosnian Army was generally reactive, dictated by the other two sides in the war.



The JNA plan for the re-incorporation of a secessionist Bosnia and Herzegovina into Yugoslavia was an adaptation of the `RAM' plan for Croatia. It involved eight Operational Groups (six based in Bosnia itself, one in Montenegro, and one in Serbia proper) whose common aim was to secure three main swathes of territory across the republic. The first, the northern corridor, would run west from Bijeljina through Banja Luka to Knin in the Croatian Krajina. The second corridor would run all the way down eastern Bosnia from Bijeljina in the north-east, through Zvornik, Bratunac and Viegrad, to Fo_a in eastern Herzegovina. The third corridor was intended to link Knin and both the Croatian and Bosnian Krajina with Fo_a, via Bugojno and Konjic in central-western Bosnia.63 This strategy was adopted by the Bosnian Serb Army after the JNA's withdrawal, only the third corridor was abandoned as the JNA had failed to break through Croat and Bosnian government lines around Bugojno and Konjic, and Operational Group Two (Sarajevo) under General Milutin Kukanja_ had played only a minor role in the fighting. Instead of occupying Sarajevo, however, the SDS took the decision to besiege it in order to pin down up to fifty percent of the Bosnian government's forces at any one time, who were forced to defend the capital and prevented from counter-attacking elsewhere. Thus, the Bosnian Serb leadership capitalised on its strongest asset, overwhelming firepower, to compensate for its evolving weakness in holding the vast areas of land which were taken in the early part of the conflict. The Bosnian Croat strategy was less clear at the start of the war, though its principal aim consolidation of Croatian control over Posavina and western Herzegovina - was obvious. In actual fact, their strategy was a great deal more subtle than the blitzkrieg of the Bosnian Serb

Mir na Bosna, ibid.


Army, and it was able to develop opportunistically throughout the course of the war without incurring international sanction. Until late 1992, the HVO was allied with the Bosnian Army against the Serbs. After several clashes between the two forces in western Herzegovina and central Bosnia, the alliance began to break down. The declaration by the Bosnian HDZ leader Mate Boban of the `Herceg-Bosna' mini-state sealed the fate of the Croat-Bosnian alliance, and gradually it was to break apart until open war was fought between the HVO and the Bosnian Army in central Bosnia throughout the Summer of 1993. Using their nominal alliance with the Bosnian government forces, which was broken and recreated as necessary, the Bosnian Croats were able to take political control of areas outside their western Herzegovina stronghold, because they were better organised and equipped than Bosnian government forces. Subsequently they were effectively to annex many of these areas, which in some cases were majority-Muslim, and even begin their own campaign of ethnic cleansing. To this end, the Bosnian Croat strategy also necessitated exercising a virtual stranglehold over supplies to the Bosnian Army, sometimes even when the alliance was ostensibly holding. The April 27th military agreement between HVO leader Mate Boban and SDS leader Radovan Karad_i_ was also important, as it minimised conflict with the Bosnian Serbs on the Livno and Stolac lines, except for occasional Croat offensives to try and secure the Nevesinje plateau, which the Bosnian Serbs used to bombard the ancient city of Mostar.64



The period April-July 1992 saw the Bosnian Serbs take control over almost all of eastern Bosnia, the northern corridor, eastern Herzegovina and the Bosnian Krajina. This was a time of sweeping gains made at the expense of the un-prepared Bosnian government forces, and resulted in the first massive wave of population displacements. By June 2, according to UNHCR figures, 750,000 people had been forcibly displaced by the Serbian blitzkrieg.65 In Majority Muslim areas such as Prijedor (44% of the population), Sanski Most (47%), Zvornik (59%), Bratunac (64%), Rogatica (60%), Viegrad (63%), and Fo_a (52%), genocidal tactics were used to incorporate these areas into an ethnically-pure `Greater "Looming New Conflict, HVO-BiH Army in Central Bosnia ?", TWRA Press Centre, (Zagreb, January 1993).
65 64

Mark Mazower, op.cit.


Serbia'.66 Serb occupying forces, with the aid of local SDS officials and soldiers, sought literally to eradicate the Muslim population, along with its cultural and religious heritage. A sub-Orwellian re-naming of streets and buildings, and purging of any Bosnian Muslim or Turkish words from common linguistic usage was even employed to try and deny the historic Muslim presence in ethnically-cleansed towns. In the second phase of the war, during the autumn and winter of 1992, Bosnian Serb forces consolidated their control over the areas taken in the first phase using a combination of imprisonment, selective massacre and expulsion of the non-Serb populations. In certain areas, especially those where no resistance was possible (such as Banja Luka and its environs), less draconian measures were used, and non-Serbs were allowed to remain in their homes, but under a set of regulations not dissimilar to those imposed on Jews in pre-war Nazi Germany67. However, these people were to be gradually removed to areas under Bosnian Croat or government control in successive waves of displacement, often assisted by the UNHCR, whose narrowly-defined modus operandi caused the agency great problems in trying to negotiate the complex moral maze of a war against civilian populations.68 Also during this second phase of the war, Bosnian Serbs and Croats more or less settled the front-lines between them, and the Bosnian Croats began taking territory at the expense of the Bosnian government. The evolving Vance-Owen partition plan became a factor in the strategies of the HVO and the Bosnian Serb Army at this stage, around the end of the year. The Bosnian Serb Army stepped up its operation to remove all traces of non-Serbs from eastern Bosnia when it became clear that the plan envisaged the area's return to "the Muslims" - typically politicised UN-speak, meaning the Bosnian government. Meanwhile the Croats proceeded to tighten their grip over `Herceg-Bosna' (their self-proclaimed mini-state in western Herzegovina) and began taking Muslim areas which the Vance-Owen plan designated as part of its two main Croatian provinces.


Yugslav 1991 Census.

For a list of regulations pertaining to non-Serbs in the Celinac municipality, see The Guardian (1 September 1992). UNPROFOR reportedly paid Bosnian Serb authorities $47,000 to be allowed to work in Banja Luka, but were still denied access. Meanwhile, UNHCR were used by the town's authorities regularly last year to take away non-Serb residents and re-house them across the front-lines.



At the end of the year, Bosnian government forces went on the counter offensive. They re-took areas of eastern Bosnia which had earlier fallen to the Serbs, and in northern Bosnia joined up previously isolated enclaves. The area held by the 2nd Corps of the Bosnian Army around Tuzla was expanded to take in Grada_ac, which had resisted sustained attack by land and air since the start of the war, and the area south of the key city of Brcko, creating great problems for the Serbian corridor across northern Bosnia. Tuzla itself was also made more secure, by securing the routes south to Kladanj and south-west to Zavidovi_i and Zenica.69 Throughout spring 1993 Bosnian Serb forces fought back against the strengthening Bosnian resistance forces in the east, and re-took most of the territory lost during the Bosnian counteroffensive in the winter. They also launched a major offensive south of Brcko to protect the northern corridor, which was at its most vulnerable in this area. Sensing the Vance-plan was on the rocks by this stage, the HVO stepped up its campaign to take all the areas the plan gave to the Croats, in lieu of re-negotiation. Their offensive in central Bosnia, around Vitez and Busova_a, took the international media by surprise, which meant that the fighting was generally reported as simply Muslim-Croat conflict, whereas it actually represented an organised offensive on the part of the Croats. By this stage of the war a tacit alliance existed between the Bosnian Serb Army and the Croatian HVO, who were both focusing their attention on the mainly Muslim - but still genuinely multi-ethnic - Bosnian Army. The HVO were in control of the whole of western Herzegovina, though still engaged fighting to completely expel Muslim forces from within the area, and that part of central Bosnia which lies west of the line between Zenica and Breza. Only Jablanica and Konjic, both towns with large concentrations of Muslim refugees, but importantly also with a major hydro-electric dam and a munitions factory respectively, remained on their list of strategic aims70. For their part, the Bosnian Serbs had achieved most of their war aims, though the northern corridor was still far from secure, and their `Republika Srpska' still lacked international status. A year on from the start of the war, the Bosnian Army remained in full control of its three main centres of operation: Zenica, Tuzla and inside Sarajevo. In these areas its tactics and For details of how UNPROFOR secured the main road to Tuzla, see Lee Bryant, "Bosnian Forces Still Holding Out", WarReport (November/December 1992); and Lee Bryant, "Action Speaks Louder Than Aid", The Guardian (4 March 1993).
70 69

TWRA Press Centre, op.cit.


operations had a high level of co-ordination. However, elsewhere in the republic pro-Bosnian forces often consisted of isolated and sparsely-equipped units with little overall strategic control. These fighters, in the enclaves of eastern Bosnia, in the forests around Fo_a, in besieged Maglaj and Gora_de, and inside Croatian `Herceg-Bosna', were essentially fighting a guerilla war reminiscent of the early partisan struggle during 1941/42.

In May 1993, a full-scale war erupted between the Bosnian Army and the Croatian HVO in and around Mostar. The HVO attempted to take full control of the whole of the western Herzegovina region, and expel its Muslim population. Throughout June and July fighting between Croat and Bosnian forces also became worse in central Bosnia, especially along the Lava valley road from Travnik to Kiseljak. HVO forces took several Muslim villages around Vitez, and massacred civilians under the nose of the British UNPROFOR unit in the town.71 Shortly afterwards, Bosnian Army forces took control of Travnik, a city which had been swelled by Muslim refugees and victims of ethnic cleansing from the Bosanska Krajina region to the north. The battle for Travnik was actually little more than an organised retreat by the HVO, who withdrew to second lines already prepared to the west of the city, despite their attempts to portray it as the first real incidence of `Muslim ethnic cleansing' which everybody had been expecting for so long. Much in evidence in the battles which were fought south of Travnik and along the Lava valley were the Bosnian Army 17th Brigade. The 17th Brigade, based in Zenica, had been formed exclusively from ex-detainees who were survivors of the infamous Omarska, Trnopolje and Keraterm camps. After having lost everything, and having witnessed immense suffering, the 17th Brigade became one of the most effective units of the Bosnian Army in the region, and its only truly mobile fighting force. By June, Serb and Croat forces had cemented their alliance in central Bosnia to such an extent that they allowed each other's forces to pass across frontlines, and in some cases allegedly lent each other heavy weapons.72 Around Zavidovi_i and Zepce, the 111st HVO Brigade fought openly alongside Serbian forces against the Bosnian Army in the so-called `Maglaj finger', a vulnerable salient almost totally surrounded by Serbian and Croatian forces. This collaboration For a summary of several reports of massacres of Muslims committed by Croatian forces around Vitez, see Radio Free Europe (RFE) Report, 25 April 1993. For details of Serb-Croat military cooperation in central Bosnia, see Bosnia Briefing, number 64 (18 May 1993), published by the London-based group Action for Bosnia.
72 71


allowed the finger to be cut, isolating Teanj and Maglaj from the rest of central Bosnia. Since that time, Bosnian defenders in these two towns have successfully managed to repel joint SerbCroat attacks, but at great cost.73 In June and July, whilst the HVO began a campaign to expel Muslims from Mostar and the area south to the Croatian border along the Neretva river valley, the Bosnian Army fought back. The 4th Corps of the Bosnian Army in Mostar itself became much more organised, and was able to temporarily link up with the 6th Corps based in Jablanica to the north-east, and units from Stolac to the south. However, despite about half of Mostar in July and forcing the HVO command to withdraw to _apljina down the valley, the Bosnian Army could not hold this area against the well-armed HVO, augmented as it was by regular Croatian Army reinforcements. The HVO was eventually able to confine the Bosnian Army 4th Corps mostly to the area of Mostar which lies on the east bank of the Neretva river, and then proceeded to complete its campaign to expel Muslims from the area between Mostar and the border to the south. This particular campaign of ethnic cleansing was no less brutal than any conducted by Serbian forces, and involved a network of detention camps in which tens of thousands of Muslim civilians were detained, and in which hundreds (possibly thousands) were killed in a relatively short space of time.74 The battle for Mostar left the 55,000 strong mainly-Muslim population on the east bank of the river in Mostar under siege by HVO forces. With the only access being by mule train across a mountain path to Sarajevo, the situation in this cramped ghetto became critical, with no substantial water, food medical or power supplies getting through for three months. When a UN convoy was finally allowed through by the HVO in late August this year (the HVO had already some months previously prevented the Spanish UNPROFOR unit responsible for the region from operating in Mostar), it came as no surprise that the besieged population of the east bank tried to prevent the convoy from leaving in order to protect themselves.75


For details of the fighting in this area, see Bosnia Briefings throughout July 1993.

For a list of Croatian detention camps in western Herzegovina, see the Bosnian delegation press briefing (Geneva, 20 August 1993).


See for example Corinne Dufka's report from Mostar on 31 August 1993 (Reuters).


On July 11-12th this year, a key battle was fought between the Bosnian Army and Serb forces around the town of Trnovo, south of Sarajevo. Bosnian Army units had been holding Trnovo for some time, which gave them control of the nearby Rogoj mountain pass linking Trnovo with Bosnian Army positions on the Igman and Bjelani_a mountains south-west of Sarajevo. The road through the Rogoj pass to Trnovo was used to supply the Gora_de garrison, and also to bring in small amounts of food and other essentials for Gora_de's besieged population. Trnovo also protected the flank of Bosnian Army units south-west of Sarajevo from attacks coming from the south-east.76 However, after a two-day battle in mid-July Trnovo fell, cutting off Gora_de from its only supply line, and exposing Igman and Bjelani_a to attack. Serb forces then used Trnovo as a staging post for their attack on Mount Bjelani_a, which came at the end of the month. After taking Bjelanica, Serb forces deployed extra troops from eastern Bosnia in an attack on Mount Igman, which had been used in the 1984 Olympics to host skiing events. Bosnian Army defenders were forced to retreat hastily from the former Olympic village which lay between the two mountains, and advancing Serb forces burned it to the ground to prevent their return. Mount Igman fell on August 4th, which was a crucial event in the war, coming as it did whilst President Izetbegovi_ sat down to discuss the future status of Sarajevo with Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karad_i_. Igman commands a clear view of the whole Sarajevo valley, and directly overlooks the Bosnian-held suburb of Hrasnica, which is cut off from the centre of the city by Serbian-occupied areas. From Igman, Serbian General Ratko Mladi_ could either destroy the city ( la Vukovar) or launch an operation to cut it in two ( la Beirut). The message to the Geneva Conference was absolutely clear: negotiate on our terms or face complete defeat.77



(i) NORTHERN BOSNIA The Serbian supply corridor, which runs Bijeljina-Br_ko-Modrica-Derventa-Banja Luka, was one of the principal Serbian war aims. It links both the main Serbian area in Bosnia (Bosanska For a discussion of the implications of the fall of Trnovo, see Bosnia Briefing, number 93 (13 July 1993.
77 76

Bosnian delegation press briefing (Geneva, 5 August 1993).


Krajina) and the main Serbian area in Croatia (Kninska Krajina) with Serbia proper, and as such is of central importance to the creation of a "Greater Serbia".78 Bijeljina was taken at the beginning of April, Brcko on May 5th, Modrica between May 16th and May 21st, and Serb forces from the UNPA's in Croatia took control of Derventa and Doboj around the beginning of the same month.79 Initially the corridor was safe, but during the autumn it became clear that the area around Brcko was its achilles heel. Croatian forces in Oraje and the 108th Brigade of the Bosnian Army (originally a HVO unit) fighting south of Brcko attacked the corridor from both sides, and managed to cut it several times during late 1992; subsequent fighting in this area has been as ferocious as any in the Bosnian war, especially on the Dizdarua and Omerbegovaca frontlines. Whenever the corridor has been jeopardised, Serbian commanders in Brcko have called upon reinforcements from Serbia proper to secure their positions. Local Bosnian soldiers talk of seeing Serbian Interior Ministry troops being helicoptered in to re-take lost ground on several occasions during late 1992 and early 1993.80 The fall of Bosanski Brod, when the Croatian regular army pulled out at the end of October, was of vital importance to the corridor. It is rumoured that the withdrawal of Croatian forces may have been the result of a secret deal with the Bosnian Serbs, possibly in return for the withdrawal of the JNA from the Prevlaka peninsula south of Dubrovnik in Croatia.81 In October/November 1992, the 108th Brigade in Brcko and the 107th Brigade in Grada_ac were able to join up with the 2nd Corps of the Bosnian Army based in Tuzla, and their positions were made relatively secure. Since then fighting all along this front has continued. In April 1993, after the collapse of the Vance-Owen plan, Bosnian Serb forces managed to widen Communique (December 1992) of 108th (Brcko) Brigade of the Bosnian Army which details the battles in this area, and which emphasizes that the Bosnian forces in this area would not under any circumstances give up the territory south of Brcko which they have defended since May 1992.
79 78

Mir na Bosna, ibid.

Personal interview with Safet Bahor, a commander in Bosnian government-held Brcko suburbs, February 1993. See The Independent, (7 October 1992); also, in personal communications to the author, Milo Vasi_ has quoted Serbian military sources as confirming the deal over the Croatian withdrawal from the town.



the corridor by re-taking some of the villages south of Brcko, although the corridor is still far from secure. Tuzla, the main city in northern and eastern Bosnia, was initially spared attack at the start of the war, whilst the JNA commander in the area tried without success to persuade the city's mayor, Selim Belagi_, to declare the city independent of the new Bosnian state. After the withdrawal of the JNA in May, the city was attacked for a short period, but since then it has faced only sporadic artillery attack from Serbian positions on the Majevica and Ozren mountains. Over a quarter of a million people are now crammed into Tuzla, which has been swamped by refugees from outlying areas taken by Serbian forces, but the city authorities have excelled themselves in organising housing and the distribution of humanitarian aid. Around Doboj, to the west of Tuzla, Bosnian Army units made some gains throughout the Spring and Summer of 1993, with the result that they are now not far from joining up with the forces holding Maglaj who are under siege by Croat HVO and Serbian forces. However, on most of the other frontlines in northern Bosnia (with the obvious exception of Brcko, where heavy fighting has almost incessant since the start of the war) the situation had become more or less stable eighteen months into the war.


(ii) BOSANSKA KRAJINA Bosnian Serb forces in this area, centred around Banja Luka, received substantial numbers of weapons before the war, and their armaments were further bolstered by the withdrawal of the JNA in May 1992. So much so, in fact, that SDS officials allowed weapons to be sold to Muslim and Croat inhabitants - although they kept a list of all those who bought the guns, and these people were rounded up when the war began. The fact of Serbian predominance in this region made resistance virtually impossible from the start. However, parts of Kozarac, Prijedor and other places did resist briefly and were subjected to horrific assaults before capitulating.82 This area, especially the majority-Muslim Prijedor municipality, were "ethnically cleansed" in the true sense of the phrase. Local SDA party officials, Muslim religious leaders, writers, policemen, businessmen, and in fact anybody who had some organisational social role were systematically executed. The well-documented camps at Omarska, Trnopolje and the Keraterm factory were set up in the first few months of the war to deal with the rest of the non-Serb population. The Biha_ pocket, including the municipalities of Velika Kladua and Cazin, resisted occupation by Bosnian Serb forces from Banja Luka. Despite being the location of a sophisticated JNA airbase, which the Bosnian Serb Army would have liked to possess, Bosnian forces around Biha_ held out against sustained air and artillery attacks, and remain in control of the area, although entirely surrounded by Serb-held territories. In the south of the Bosanska Krajina region, Kotor Varo was taken early in the war and mass executions and expulsions lasting into July/August have been recorded by war crimes investigators. Jajce remained in the hands of the HVO and Bosnian government forces until the end of October 1992, when over 40,000 people were forced to flee under fire to Travnik as HVO units pulled out for political reasons, having agreed to give the town to the Serbs.83 Throughout 1993, the Serb authorities in Banja Luka continued persecuting and expelling the few remaining Muslims in the town and its environs, using a `migration agency' specifically set up for the purpose of taking money and property from Muslims in return for transport to Information gathered by Livio Hughes from testimonies of survivors of detention camps from the town of Prijedor, op. cit. For the fall of Jajce, see The Guardian (2 November 1992); and Milo Vasi_, personal communication, ibid.
83 82


the nearest frontline. The last of Banja Luka's main mosques, some of which dated from the 16th Century, was blown up during the autumn. However, signs of dissent emerged in Banja Luka during the Summer of this year. Oslobodenje reported on July 5th 1993 that a letter had been received by the Serbian Consultative Council in Sarajevo from a secret group in Banja Luka which had pledged to overthrow Karad_i_'s regime. The letter claimed that a secret meeting had been held in Banja Luka on May 9th, the anniversary of the victory over fascism at the end of the Second World War, where delegates had sworn to "fight against the fascist leadership of the SDS." In late August this year Banja Luka was temporarily taken over by a unit of the elite Serbian Krajina Brigade in protest at war profiteering and corruption among the town's SDS leadership. Radovan Karad_i_ was unable even to set foot in the main city in Serb-held Bosnia for his own safety, until negotiations with the leaders of the coup produced a compromise. This was a clear indication that all is not well in `Republika Srpska', and that life for ordinary Serbs in their new ethnically-pure state is not a great deal better than in many other areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina.84 (iii) EASTERN BOSNIA The role of Serbian paramilitary forces was particularly important in the initial sweeping gains which were made in this area during the first phase of the war. They played a vanguard role in the campaign to expel the Muslim majority population from eastern Bosnia, and their methods were brutal. Only isolated groups of villages remained in the hands of Bosnian defence forces by the autumn, as the campaign to neutralise these took much longer than the occupation of the main towns. War crimes investigators have compiled dossiers of testimonies from those who fled the Serbian blitzkrieg in eastern Bosnia, which detail horrendous mass killings, rape, imprisonment and expulsions.85 After over two weeks of fighting, Zvornik fell to Serb irregular forces and the JNA on April 26th 1992, and in less than a week the Red Cross had counted 120,000 people fleeing across For a Serbian account of the kind of corruption rife in Banja Luka before the Krajina Corps took control, see Politika, (Belgrade, 19 August 1993). Many human rights groups have recorded vivid testimonies from survivors of the Serbian blitzkrieg in eastern Bosnia. See, for example the Sarajevo group, "Save Humanity", and the US Committee for Refugees.
85 84


the Drina river into Serbia. Fighting in Bratunac began on April 7th, and when the town was securely in Serbian hands systematic ethnic cleansing was carried out in May. It is alleged that local Serb leaders in Bratunac paid the infamous Serbian paramilitaries of `Arkan' and Vojislav Seslj over DM200,000 to enter the town and supervise the terrorisation and expulsion of its Muslim population. Viegrad was attacked by Serb irregular forces on April 14th, and the JNA `Uzice' Corps from Montenegro was brought in to secure the town at the end of the month before handing it over to local Serbian forces. The battle for Fo_a began on April 7-8th, and the town was completely sealed off for the duration of the fighting. Muslim civilians were rounded up the following week. Many were taken outside the town and executed, and many more imprisoned. Despite the Serbian occupation of most of eastern Bosnia, the Bosnian government forces in Srebrenica managed to expand the area under their control in the autumn of 1992, even taking previously Serbian-majority villages right up to the border towards the end of the year. This prompted a series of cross-border artillery duels with the JNA, and there was for the first time a real danger that Bosnian forces might launch guerilla attacks into Serbia itself. Crucially, if the forces in Srebrenica had been able to link up with the Bosnian Army 2nd Corps which were holding the eastern Tuzla front-line in the village of Kalesija, then the story of eastern Bosnia would have been very different. According to one local journalist who spent several months in Srebrenica, it was a mixture of incompetence and corruption on the part of the 2nd Corps command which prevented this from happening, and eventually shortages of arms, ammunition and food in the Srebrenica enclave halted their progress. Serb forces in Bratunac launched a successful counter-offensive, and by the time the American government began air-dropping food supplies at the end of February 1993 only the town itself remained, and its inhabitants were on the edge of starvation.86 The fall of Srebrenica was imminent in April 1993, when UN commander Phillipe Morillon intervened and eventually deployed a token presence of Canadian UNPROFOR troops there,

Haris Nezirovic, Slobodna Bosna (Zenica, April 1993).


giving it an ambiguous "safe area" status and warning the Bosnian Serb Army not to take the town. The reason for his intervention was to save the Vance-Owen plan, which designates eastern Bosnia as a "Muslim area", from humiliating obsolescence; and also because the fate of the starving inhabitants of Srebrenica - numbering up to 60,000 including refugees from areas already taken by the Serbs - had been widely reported in the international media. Other eastern enclaves held out into the spring of 1993, but Kamenica fell in February, and Cerska in March - just as US planes were dropping their first pallets of food on the village87. Also, some pro-Bosnian guerilla units remained in the forests and the countryside, such as the Fo_a Brigade who continued to harry the Serbian forces who still hold their town. Gora_de was under siege until the late autumn of 1992, when Bosnian government forces were able to break out. Since then, especially after reinforcements coming from the west were able to secure a route to Gora_de, the town has remained in the hands of the Bosnian government. However, the fall of Trnovo in July this year cut Gora_de's tenuous link with Bosnian-held territory near Sarajevo, and since then conditions in the town have become much worse. Zepa, to the north east, also remains in Bosnian loyalist hands, although after starvation conditions first appeared during the winter, conditions in the town have remained terrible.88 The Washington agreement of May 1993 guaranteed "safe area" status for Srebrenica, Zepa and Gora_de, but their continued existence as isolated Muslim enclaves surrounded by large areas of ethnically-cleansed Serbian territory is doubtful unless supplementary measures are taken to join these territories with other Bosnian government-held areas in Sarajevo or northern Bosnia. This has been one of the principal demands of the Bosnian delegation in the last round of Geneva talks. (iv) CENTRAL BOSNIA Zenica, the main city in central Bosnia, was never directly attacked by Serbian forces, although it has come under artillery attack several times since last year. Most of central Bosnia has remained in the hands of the Bosnian Army and the Croatian HVO since the start of the war when they were allied in the fight against the Serbian aggressors.


Lee Bryant, "UNPROFOR's Mandate to Protect", WarReport (February/March 1993), p For conditions in Zepa, see Washington Post (19 January 1993)



Travnik remained under the joint control of Croatian and Bosnian forces until May 1993, although ever since the previous autumn there had been occasional reports of HVO-Bosnian Army conflict around Travnik and Novi Travnik just south of the city. The alliance in central Bosnia really began to break down when HVO forces ethnically cleansed Prozor of Muslims in the autumn of 1992, in order to secure control of one of the main convoy routes into central Bosnia. Next was Gornji Vakuf, where in December limited conflict took place. At the same time, tension was growing between the Bosnian Army and the HVO in Busova_a. Open war between Croat and Bosnian forces began in April 1993. Bosnian Army units were expelled from Kiseljak, on the road to Sarajevo, and Muslim civilians forced to flee from villages between Kiseljak and Visoko. In Vitez, tension had been mounting since the


beginning of the year, and the HVO units in the town were obviously intending to take it over. Between April and May, the Bosnian Army secured Jablanica and Konjic, both strategically important towns on the Mostar-Sarajevo road. According to a HVO officer who was stationed near Mostar at this time, the HVO helicoptered in special forces to try and take Jablanica from the Bosnian Army, but the attack was repulsed. British UN troops and humanitarian aid workers observed Croatian heavy weapons being moved from the Stolac and Livno lines towards central Bosnia at the beginning of May, which was an obvious prelude to more fighting in that area.89 Later that month, whilst the HVO offensive began in Mostar and whilst fighting worsened all along the Lava valley, HVO forces in Travnik pulled back to pre-prepared second lines to the west of the city. This operation was billed as a brutal Bosnian Army attack on the city, and doubtless many Croatian civilians were killed in the fighting after the HVO pulled back; but much of the available evidence suggests that it was an organised retreat. Over four hundred Croatian HOS soldiers, who were positioned in the east side of Travnik, were left stranded by the HVO retreat, and they had no option other than to cross Serbian lines north of the city to avoid capture by the Bosnian Army. They were later taken on buses to the Croatian-held town of Kupres and exchanged for Serbian prisoners. According to these soldiers, the HVO made no attempt to hold Travnik when the Bosnian Army advanced.90 Since May 1993, heavy fighting has continued along the Lava valley, from Novi Travnik through Vitez to Kiseljak. Croatian HVO units on the west side of the valley have been fighting to hold off a Bosnian Army offensive which has seen them re-take several key towns from the Croats since the Summer, such as Gornji Vakuf, Fojnica, Busova_a and Vares. Others, such as Vitez and Prozor are likely to be re-taken by the Bosnian Army during the coming winter unless the Croatian Army is able to resupply these isolated garrisons. The Bosnian Army offensive in central Bosnia was a direct response to the HVO's open war against Bosnian Government forces in western Herzegovina, but it was also a reaction to the Aid workers with the Croatian charity `Sunsokret' witnessed the movement of Croatian Army weaponry into central Bosnia around this time. An HVO officer whom I interviewed at length, came across these HOS soldiers in Posuje after they had walked from Kupres rather than board HVO buses. They related the story of the battle for Travnik to him.
90 89


collapse of the Vance-Owen plan and the UN and EC's shift to an approach based on legalising gains made by force rather than seeking to reverse these gains and pursue an equitable territorial solution to the war. If the Bosnian Government cannot expect to see the Serbian insurgents return ethnically cleansed territories taken by force, and if current frontlines are to be the principal criteria for dividing Bosnia and Herzegovina, then the Bosnian Army will also seek to take control of whatever territory it can before a deal is signed. Unable to take territory from the Serbs, this meant that resources were deployed against the militarily weaker HVO forces in central Bosnia.

(v) `HERCEG-BOSNA' The area which Bosnian Croat leader Mate Boban declared early in the war as the `Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna' is centred around Mostar, an ancient city which had a relative Muslim majority before the war. `Herceg-Bosna' is based on the area of western Herzegovina, which was predominantly Croatian before the war, but since late 1992 has been expanded to include many Muslim areas which were previously under the control of the Bosnian government. The HVO fought well in the early phase of the war, largely because of the presence on their side of Croatian Army units, and held out against the JNA in key areas such as Kupres, _apljina and Neum (Bosnia and Herzegovina's tiny coastal region). HVO forces allied with the Bosnian Army also managed to take back the city of Mostar from occupying Serb forces in May 1992. Relatively quickly, however, the HVO and Bosnian Serb forces in eastern Herzegovina and Bosanska Krajina established more or less stable front-lines between them, apparently in accordance with the Graz agreement.91

In the second phase of the war, during the autumn of 1992, Bosnian Croat forces began taking land at the expense of the Bosnian government. Prozor, in Central Bosnia, was attacked and Muslim homes razed to the ground in late October in an attack no different from the kind Bosnian Serb forces were at that time carrying out in eastern Bosnia92. This gave the HVO

Mark Mazower, op.cit. Ed Vulliamy, The Guardian (26 October 1992).



control over the important supply route from Tomislav Grad to central Bosnia. A few days earlier, the HVO gave the Bosnian Army an ultimatum to withdraw from Mostar or face attack, which was a prelude to the urban warfare which has since raged between the two sides in the city, beginning in April/May this year93. Even before this ultimatum, however, decrees had already been passed by the HDZ in Mostar authorising the Croatian Dinar as the only legal currency, and exempting Herceg-Bosna from any laws passed by the Sarajevo government. Control of western Herzegovina has also given the Bosnian Croats - and Franjo Tudjman's government in Zagreb - control of the only routes in and out of the territory which remains in the hands of the Bosnian government. This has allowed the HVO to interdict arms supplies destined for the Bosnian Army, which has been a crucial advantage at times when fighting has taken place between them. The Bosnian Croat authorities in Mostar can completely blockade government-held central Bosnia if they so wish, and during certain periods of the war that is exactly what they have done. Croatian forces have regularly hijacked relief both local and international relief convoys, and many local drivers have been killed trying to take aid into central or northern Bosnia through `Herceg-Bosna'.94 In April this year, the situation between the HVO and the Bosnian Army became very tense. After conflicts in central Bosnia and around Mostar, the HVO finally launched a full-scale war against the Bosnian Army in May, attempting also to drive out Muslim civilians from areas which would form the core of their `Herceg-Bosna' mini-state. Initially, the Bosnian Army was successful in holding its ground and protecting Muslim communities under attack. By midJune the Bosnian Army 4th Corps had consolidated its positions in many parts of the city, and by July they claimed to hold 60-70% of Mostar. They were also able to link up with the Jablanica 6th Corps to the north of the city, and the Stolac Brigade to the south. However, with the assistance of regular Croatian Army units and heavy weapons, the HVO was able to re-take full control of most of the area south of Mostar, and cut off the 4th Corps from Jablanica. During this period they began expelling, imprisoning and executing Muslim civilians in the Mostar, Buna, Blagaj, _apljina, Stolac, Pocitelj and Ljubuki regions. This episode was no different in character to anything Serb forces had done in Bosanska Krajina in the first stages of the war, only perhaps in scale. Tens of thousands were imprisoned in brutal


Personal communication with Merhamet worker Dr. Samir Dervievi_, February 1993; additionally, the badly organised "Serious Road Trip" convoy was hijacked earlier in the year.



conditions, before international pressure on Croatian President Franjo Tudjman forced the closure of the camps and the release of detainees in September 1993.95 This left the 4th Corps and over 55,000 Muslim civilians hemmed into a ghetto on the east bank of the river Neretva in Mostar. Since then, conditions in this part of the city have become barely tolerable, much worse in fact than in Sarajevo. As Croatian and Bosnian leaders sat down in Geneva to discuss the future status of the city, the battle for Mostar continued. In November 1993, Croatian forces finally destroyed the historic bridge which gave the city its name and symbolised the links between the predominantly Croat right bank and the mainly Muslim left bank of the Neretva river. Although the symbolism of this action was not lost on international public opinion -- the action was widely condemned -- its purpose was more practical. It was part of a campaign to destroy all bridges connecting the left and right banks of Mostar in order to cut off the beleagured population of the left bank from sources of drinking water, and to separate Bosnian Army 4th Corps units on either sde of the river.

(vi) SARAJEVO Sarajevo's war began on April 6th, 1992, with SDS-controlled forces taking control of several areas of the city, and snipers (paid by the kill, 500DM each, according to the confessions of several who were captured in the first days of the siege) making life difficult in the rest. Artillery assaults soon followed, and by April 21st civilian targets were being regularly and indiscriminately shelled. After the JNA finally withdrew from their barracks in the centre of the town on June 6th, the bombardment worsened further still.96 From the beginning, the siege of Sarajevo has graphically illustrated both the tenacious resistance of Bosnia's multi-ethnic heritage (tens of thousands of Serbs and Croats are under siege along with the city's Muslim population), and the barbarity of the Bosnian Serb Army. The fact that the besiegers have shown such disregard for the large number of ethnic Serbs who remain in the city has been one of the factors which leads many people to characterise the war not as an ethnic war, but as a war against towns and cities (and the cosmopolitan culture

For a list of the HVO-run camps, see the Bosnian delegation press briefing (Geneva, 20 August 1993).


New York Times, editorial (20 December 1992).


they represent) by rural-dwellers.97 A force of some 10,000 Serbian soldiers hold a 100km ring around the city, with around 600 artillery pieces. The Bosnian Serb command, located in a former skiing resort east of the city in Pale, definitely has the capability to destroy Sarajevo if it chooses. But the Bosnian capital is better left under siege because such an act would provoke international outrage. A distinct weakness of the Serb forces besieging the city which has been noted by several military analysts is their cowardice in close combat. This can be explained partly by the superior motivation of the Bosnian defenders, and partly by the fact that many of the soldiers operating heavy artillery, rockets and mortars on the hills around the capital are `weekend soldiers', being paid to come across from Serbia or Montenegro for short tours of duty.

The Bosnian Army has around 20,000 active soldiers in Sarajevo, and 30,000 in reserve because of a shortage of weapons.98 However, if an infantry assault were to be launched to take the city, Serb forces would find that all 380,000 people in Sarajevo would quickly become soldiers - with or without weapons. The Bosnian government has been criticised for not breaking the siege, and some local newspaper reports even accuse Izetbegovi_ of deliberately maintaining it because he still pins his hopes on international military intervention. Whilst it is true that the Bosnian Army has performed less well in Sarajevo than in other parts of the republic, it is clearly the Bosnian Serb and Croat forces who have most to gain from the city remaining besieged. A significant degree of co-operation between Bosnian Serb and Croat forces outside Sarajevo has also contributed to the siege. There is no doubt that if Croatian forces outside the city chose to co-operate with the Bosnian Army in breaking the siege, then such an operation would almost certainly be successful. The HVO controls the main route into Sarajevo from Kiseljak and relations between soldiers at the last Croatian checkpoint and Serbs manning the next one a few hundred metres down the road are cordial to say the least; they also run a lucrative trade in "War against cities - Not ethnic war" was an unsigned document in circulation throughout Central Bosnia at the beginning of the year; see also, Dr. Cornelia Sorabji, "Ethnic War in Bosnia?", Radical Philosophy (Spring 1993); and Tihomir Loza, "Rural Nazism comes to Sarajevo", YugoFax (May 1992).
98 97

Mensur Camo, "Sarajevo's Endless Siege", WarReport, January 1993, p 10-11.


black market supplies of food and arms, whilst levying large fees on those who wish to go in or out of the city.99 By the end of 1992, Croats in Sarajevo were allowed free passage from the city via the Serbcontrolled suburb of Ilidza, whilst Muslim residents are forced to escape by crawling across the airport runways at night towards Bosnian held territory outside the city. To do so, incidentally, they have to run the gauntlet of UNPROFOR soldiers who are under orders to send back would-be escapees as part of the deal made to secure their control of the airport for humanitarian flights.100 Major Bosnian offensives took place in Sarajevo in April, June, November and December 1992. In the late autumn of last year, government forces outside the city came within seven hundred metres of joining up with forces inside the city near Ilidza, but after a Serbian tank assault, the city forces were pushed back by over a kilometre. Throughout the Summer of 1993, Serb forces have fought two major offensives around Sarajevo: one on Zu_ hill, to the north-east of the city, and one to the south-west on the Igman and Bjelani_a mountains. The offensive on Zu_ was so fierce, and the artillery bombardments so intense, that the terrain was left looking like a moonscape, and the Bosnian defenders suffered enormous casualties holding back the advance on the city. The fighting which was prompted by the Serbian attack on Mount Bjelanica at the end of July was also very fierce, because the offensive directly imperilled the city itself. When General Mladi_'s forces advanced onto Mount Igman in the first week of August, the situation looked bad for the Bosnian Army in this area. Large numbers of their soldiers had been forced to flee towards the suburbs of Hrasnica, itself virtually cut off from the centre of the city; and the only remaining free supply route into Sarajevo (across Igman) had been cut. International attention was focused on these strategic mountains by the fact that the offensive led to a temporary suspension of the talks in Geneva. This pressure, which led to the threat of American air strikes on Serbian positions if they refused to withdraw, may have prevented a Filip Svarm, Vreme, March 8th 1993; also, in an interview with Milo Vasi_ in Edinburgh, December 1992, Bosnian Foreign Minister Dr. Haris Silajdzi_ confirmed this assertion about the role of Croatian forces around Sarajevo.
100 99

See Mensur Camo, "Making it Hard for the Snipers", WarReport (January 1993).


massacre which would have taken place if Serb forces had continued advancing down the mountain towards Hrasnica to cut Sarajevo in two. Eventually, UN Commanders on the ground negotiated a compromise solution whereby Serb forces on Igman would hand over their positions on Igman to UNPROFOR troops. However, this still prevented Bosnian Army troops from re-supplying themselves via Igman, and whenever the Serb forces decided to return to the mountain, obviously a handful of UN troops would not even attempt to hold them back. In a typical act of defiance in September, Serb General Mladi_ flew an UNPROFOR Commander onto the peak of Igman in his own helicopter to inspect Serb military positions, in flagrant violation of the `no-fly zone'. This was a graphic illustration of both the whimsical UN-imposed `no-fly zone' (Why was the UN Commander so confident the helicopter would not be shot down by patrolling NATO planes?), and of the power relationship between Serb forces in Bosnia and UNPROFOR.101 So, Sarajevo remains under siege after eighteen months of war, and its population continues to live for the most part without water, power, heating or telephone connections with the outside world, and often without food or medicines. They have come to symbolise the Bosnian war for the world's media, and their suffering has been recorded in minute detail. "In this process," wrote Oslobodenje columnist Tihomir Loza, "Sarajevo and Sarajevans become a separate artistic reality which has very little to do with the real city and its real problems. We became a symbol, and are no longer just ourselves."102 An official US government report from late last year states that the United Nations give the besieging Serb forces on average one quarter of all supplies they bring in to the city. This is the price of access for the United Nations humanitarian operation, along with the Serb forces' consistent refusal to allow fuel through which could run generators in hospitals, power bakeries or even enable ordinary people to watch TV. Other reports cite numerous examples of supplies flown in to the airport "disappearing" in a similar fashion before they can be transported into the city itself.103

Post facto to the flight, the UN Commander in question claimed to have warned Mladi_ of the "serious consequences" he would face if he continued to use his helicopter in this way.


Tihomir Loza, WarReport, September/August 1993, p.11. Thomas O'Brien, USAID Report, January 1993.



UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali visited the Bosnian capital on the last day of 1992, and was jeered as he explained to the citizens of the city that there were at least ten places worse off than them in the world - as if the United Nations was too busy helping others to help the Bosnians. "Yes! Cerska, Srebrenica, Gora_de, Zepa, Kamenica, Omarska and Manjaca," came the reply.104 During the siege, water, power and food supplies have been used as weapons of war, in contravention of the Geneva Conventions. Not only have the United Nations tolerated this situation, they have even used it as a leverage over the Bosnian Government in the Geneva `peace' talks. It is an open secret that prior to the July-September round of negotiations, Lord Owen was canvassing opinion in western capitals about whether it would be possible to continue the humanitarian operation if the war were to continue any longer. Whatever his intentions, the media, humanitarian aid agencies and the Bosnian Government all understood "if the war continues any longer" to mean `if the Bosnian Government do not capitulate and accept the Serb-Croat partition plan'. In July, when the water and energy crisis in Sarajevo was rendering surgery in the hospitals almost impossible, the besieging Serb forces gave the Bosnian Government a choice. They would restore some power supplies if the Bosnian Government would allow power through to the Serb-held suburb of Vogo_a first of all. Vogo_a is the site of one of the largest ammunition factories in the Sarajevo region (the `Pretis' factory), and the resumption of production there would have greatly assisted the Serb forces laying siege to the Bosnian capital. The choice -- between dehydration and death by shelling -- was not an easy one to make, but in a meeting brokered by French Health Minister Bernard Kouchner, President Izetbegovi_ agreed. The nature of the choice he had been forced to make became clear a few hours later, when Serb forces cynically targeted a water queue in the suburb of Dobrinja, killing thirteen and injuring many more.105 Since the September round of talks in Geneva, and since the restoration of some power and water to the capital, Sarajevo has enjoyed its quietest period since the war began. However, both its people and their government know that this could change in an instant if the so-called `peace' process breaks down.

Mir na Bosna, ibid. Bosnia Briefing, number 92 (12 July 1993).



Something which will go down as a tragi-comic footnote in the history of the war against Sarajevo is the attempt by UNPROFOR Commanders to end the siege with semantics, in the absence of any other available means. On August 16th 1993, UNPROFOR spokesman Barry Frewer claimed publicly that `siege' was in fact an inaccurate description of the situation in Sarajevo. He preferred the term "encirclement" by Serb forces who enjoy a "tactically advantageous position." The reason for such an absurdity is obvious. The UN depends entirely upon the goodwill of Serb forces to be allowed to cross siege lines to deliver humanitarian aid. Therefore, goes the UN logic, Sarajevo is not technically under siege whilst they can pass in and out of the city. But the reason the UN forces are allowed to deliver aid into Sarajevo in the first place is that the UN forces on the ground share one very important common goal with General Mladi_ -- they both have an interest in preventing military intervention and creating the impression that life in the city is somehow tolerable because of occasional deliveries of cooking oil, rice, flour and macaroni.106


"Sarajevo: what's in a word?", International Herald Tribune (18 August 1993).


MAP 3 -




The western governments that Lord Owen represents have given him the weakest possible hand to play. He serves them as a modern-day picture of Dorian Gray, absorbing into his persona the burdens of evil that they want to pretend have not marked them. But he has an advantage over Oscar Wilde's fictional portrait, which could not resign. He can. That is a more honourable course than providing official cover for Serbian conquest. Jim Hoagland, Washington Post, 10th August 1993.



The original contingent of UNPROFOR troops in Sarajevo at the start of the war actually had no mandate for Bosnia and Herzegovina; they were intended to police the UNPA ceasefire lines in Croatia. Immediately the war began, the United Nations Commanders shied away from a peacekeeping role, and opted instead to use their troops to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid. This was at a time when an increased deployment of Blue Berets backed up by strong diplomacy and a credible threat of force against any party attacking the UN's representatives could possibly have brought the war to a swift end.107 Only on June 29th were extra UNPROFOR troops deployed with a mandate to act in Bosnia. Their task was to open Sarajevo airport for relief flights. In August, UN Security Council Resolution 770 (UNSCR 770) was passed authorising a larger deployment to run a humanitarian aid operation. A month later, UNSCR 776 gave the Blue Berets a slightly stronger mandate, allowing them to use armed escorts to protect convoys. Clearly it would have been a blow to the prestige of the post-Cold War UN to simply pull out of Bosnia and Herzegovina when the fighting began, and once it became clear that the narrow UNPROFOR peacekeeping mandate which had previously been agreed was not suitable for active combat conditions. Seen in this light, the quick switch to a humanitarian aid role was a more palatable option, in the absence of a political response to the crisis. Also, the warnings of the impending disaster the winter could bring were probably a factor in this decision.

On the London Conference and its immediate aftermath, US State Department Despatch (September 1992).



Whilst the humanitarian aid operation has obviously been useful in supplying badly-affected areas, it has not helped tackle the cause of the humanitarian crisis in the first place: the Serbian war of aggression and the joint Serb-Croat blockade of government-held areas of Bosnia. Also, at no time has the UN operation been successful in supplying those areas where the need is greatest, such as the besieged enclaves in eastern Bosnia, Gora_de, and areas in the firing line in northern Bosnia. For people in these areas, the UN has at best simply been able to come in and pick up the pieces after towns have fallen, or communities been expelled. As a rule, UNPROFOR rely on the powers of persuasion to get aid through, which means they have regularly been subjected to humiliating delays and denial of passage by the forces controlling the area in need -- more often than not Serbian forces. Although obvious, it is important to state that the blame for these failures -- for starvation in Europe less than 100km from the nearest UN food depot, amongst other things -- lies not with the personnel on the ground, who have often shown great courage and dedication, but with European governments who wish to salve the consciences of their TV-viewing publics without the risk of military engagement. As a result of the dependence on powers of verbal persuasion (not the most effective weapon in the Balkan wars), the UN operation has been forced to resort to emergency measures such as the US-led airdrops over eastern Bosnia earlier this year, and recently over the eastern sector of Mostar. Although they certainly saved some lives, the airdrops were almost an admission of impotence in the face of a campaign of genocide against Bosnia's Muslim population. The humanitarian operation has been used by western governments to divert public attention away from the real issues at stake in the conflict. When questioned about the failure of their policy, European leaders instantly reach for the humanitarian aid statistics, quoting their monetary contribution to the UNHCR operation. This always rings a little hollow considering that UNHCR's appeals for funds are seldom met. In the case of Britain this rings hollower still, whilst at the same time the government gives tacit support to the creation of a Greater Serbia on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. The British and the French have also used their UN troops on the ground to maximum effect, fearing for their safety when voices are raised in favour of action and applauding their bravery when people ask why they are not allowed to protect communities under attack. Since UNSCR 836 was passed on June 4th 1993, UN troops have been given the authority to


use force to get convoys to the six UN declared "safe areas" of Sarajevo, Biha_, Tuzla, Srebrenica, Zepa and Gora_de. They can even call in air strikes if necessary to ensure that aid reaches the populations of these six areas. In Gora_de in particular, repeated interference with humanitarian aid convoys has been reported by UNHCR, and very few convoys actually succeed in reaching the town. However, not once has there been an attempt to use force to enable food and medicines to reach the besieged population, despite the fact that conditions are so bad an epidemic of enterocolitis was reported less than a month after UNSCR 836 was passed. The reason, predictably, is political rather than military.108 For on the rare occasions that force has been used to secure aid routes it has never resulted in the retaliation against UN troops that is the stuff of media commentators' nightmares. On January 10th 1993, British troops escorting a convoy between Kladanj and Tuzla fired back when attacked by Serb forces on the hills to the east of the road. They pushed the Serb mortar positions back far enough to make the road safe enough to use, and did not meet with resistance. They are, after all, professional, well-trained and well-equipped soldiers, which is more than can be said for the Bosnian Serb Army.109 As Bosnia's second winter of war began in late 1993, the United Nations humanitarian aid operation was not prepared for the kind of winterisation programme needed to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe during the cold weather. A shortage of funds from donor countries during the late Summer and Autumn meant that by the time the first snow fell, in November, no reserve stocks were in place in UNHCR food warehouses throughout Bosnia, nor had there been any concerted attempt to stop Serbian forces preventing the delivery of fuel into Bosnia. Also, the worsening fighting in central Bosnia between the Bosnian Army and the Croatian HVO and greater intransigence on the part of the Bosnian Serbs meant that the prospects for delivering even minimum levels of aid were diminishing. Yet still the United Nations had failed to secure the opening of Tuzla airport as an auxilliary means of supply, and still the UN forces in Bosnia had yet to use their full mandate to take aid to places of greatest need. EC Foreign Ministers meeting in Luxembourg on November 22nd supported the use of force On the worsening medical situation in Gorazde, see Bosnia Briefing, number 92, (12 July 1993).
109 108

Lee Byant, "Action speaks louder than aid", The Guardian (4 March 1993).


to ensure aid gets through in the winter, and they began to talk seriously about how this new resolve might be put into action. According to un-named German Foreign Ministry officials speaking in Bonn a week later, "France has declared itself ready in principle to use force, and the Netherlands also backs the idea very much."110 So, by December 1993 when the winter had set in and it was almost too late to begin a winterisation programme, EC Foreign Ministers began to talk seriously about putting into practice UNSCR 836 which had been agreed some six months earlier. No wonder even Owen was forced to admit this resolution was nothing more than a "classic of delaying tactics".111 This new-found committment to humanitarian aid was accompanied by a new line of official rhetoric: aid was fuelling the fighters, therefore the UN may decide to halt its aid programme after the winter so as not to help the "warring factions" launch offensives in the Spring. Once again, a simple threat designed to force the Bosnian Government to capitulate, but nonetheless a novel one: not only would lifting the arms embargo fuel further fighting, now even the provision of flour, rice and cooking oil is seen as worsening the war. 4.2 RESPONSES TO GENOCIDE

In December 1993 the Bosnian Government legal team will submit papers to the ICJ in the Hague outlining its case against Britain under articles I and III(e) of the Genocide Convention and article XXII of the 1965 International Convention on the Prevention of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. Although the Bosnian government's legal team cannot seriously expect to win the case currently being prepared for the ICJ, Britain has not only failed to "prevent and punish" genocide as it is bound to do by the 1948 Genocide Conventions, Major's government has in fact been complicit in the crime by constantly opposing moves to lift the illegal arms embargo which has denied Bosnia the right to self-defence. Denying the genocide which respected human rights groups such as Helsinki Watch testify has taken place has been a founding principle of British-led Western diplomacy in Bosnia. Although almost all of the numerous UN Security Council Resolutions relating to Bosnia and Herzegovina repeat the international community's disgust and horror at ethnic cleansing, forcible displacement and war against civilian populations, none admit that what has taken

Reuters 30th November 1993

"A Framework for Survival", Lord Owen's speech to the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, November 8th 1993.



place constitutes Genocide according to international law. For to admit this would be to accept the responsibility to "prevent and punish", which the international community is not willing to do. The response to the uncovering of the network of Serbian detention camps in the Bosanska Krajina region in August 1992 typified the international community's attitude to evidence of gross violations of human rights. According to a restricted memo to UN Commanders dated the beginning of July, UN Civilian Affairs Officers in Croatian UNPA Sector North had been reporting the existence of these camps and urging action since the beginning of June without response. This information was suppressed for purely political reasons.112 It was not until journalists brought back pictures of conditions in the camps, and the first testimonies were published detailing mass executions and torture, that the UN chose to respond. Their response was to call on Radovan Karadzic to allow access to the Red Cross, and the camps in fact continued operating for some time longer, along with new camps which were opened away from the gaze of the TV cameras. Characteristically, when the US government confirmed on August 4th that executions, torture and rape were still taking place in the camps, UN officials took the opportunity to emphasise that violations of human rights were taking place on all sides, without reference to the enormous difference in scale between the infamous Serb-run detention camps (through which the Bosnian Government claims over a quarter of a million people have passed) and the Bosnian Government's prisoner of war camps.113 When news of the camps was finally in the public domain, the UN Human Rights Commission dispatched Special Rapporteur Tadeusz Mazowiecki to investigate gross violations of human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He made his first two trips to Bosnia in August and October 1992, and delivered his report to the UN General Assembly on November 27th. However, his findings and recommendations were largely ignored because he clearly attributed most of the blame to the Bosnian Serbs, and also pointed to western complicity in events. Since then, Mazowiecki has continued reporting his findings as Special Rapporteur, and his work has been of the highest standard. However, he lacks the political power to ensure that his

"The abandonment of the London Conference Principles", Bosnian delegation press briefing (Geneva, 10 August 1993).


Yigal Chazan, The Guardian (4 August 1992).


recommendations are implemented.114 Shortly after the camp stories first emerged, the UN began emphasising human rights abuses by Bosnian forces as part of its policy of equating victim and aggressor. Many allegations were made, several of which were no doubt true, but the culmination of this campaign was a story fed to the press on August 22nd 1992 relating to the horrendous May 27th "bread queue massacre" in Sarajevo, when at least sixteen people were killed by a mortar bomb whilst waiting in line for bread. Un-named UN officials claimed their investigation showed that Bosnian forces had in fact planted a bomb in tin can on the pavement, and detonated it to win international support and invoke sanctions against Serbia. This stemmed from a statement made by Serb Commander General Mladic on Belgrade TV the same day as the atrocity in question, when he rather embarrassedly tried to convince the interviewer that the explosion had been caused by a claymore mine planted by Bosnian Army soldiers. Both Mladic's and the UN's assertions were directly contradicted by journalists who saw the tell-tale pattern on the pavement of a mortar bomb. The UN has responded in similar fashion to most subsequent reports of gross violations of human rights by Serbian or Croatian forces. Despite the presence of a Spanish UNPROFOR battalion near Mostar, the disclosure of Croatian detention camps for Muslim civilians in western Herzegovina in June and July 1993 met with only a verbal response from the UN. The closure of the camps and the release of detainees was eventually resolved between President Izetbegovic and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman in Geneva in September -- the UN played virtually no part whatsoever.115 In Banja Luka and other Serbian-occupied towns, regular reports of expulsion and maltreatment of the remaining Muslim populations are simply ignored. In fact, throughout last year UNHCR actually assisted with the expulsion of Muslims Banja Luka, reasoning that it would take place anyway so it may as well be overseen by a UN agency. The UN response to gross violations of human rights has been hampered by the same factors affecting all aspects of the organisations work: fear of provoking public opinion to an extent David Warszawski, "UN Envoy Condemns International Duplicity", WarReport (November/December 1992). For a list of Croatian camps in western Herzegovina, see Bosnian delegation press briefing (Geneva, 20 August 1993).
115 114


where pressure might be created for military action, fear of annoying the Serbian military, and a refusal to admit that what has taken place is a war of aggression aimed at the destruction of the Bosnian state, which has assumed from the very beginning a genocidal character against the Muslim population in particular. These factors will also inhibit the War Crimes Tribunal which sat for the first time on November 17th. So far it is clear that the British government in particular is opposed to the prosecution of war criminals, especially as two of the principal accused are those upon whom the Geneva process depends for progress (Karadzic and Milosevic). The cases brought by Professor Francis Boyle on behalf of the Bosnian Government in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) have received remarkably little coverage in the press. However, the Court's order of September 13th 1993 uses unusually strong language in calling on the Security Council to implement its previous order of April 8th concerning the need to halt genocide in Bosnia. Under Article 92 of the UN Charter, the Security Council is legally bound to carry out the Court's judgements.116 The case being prepared for presentation at the Court in December will try to prove that Britain has been complicit in genocide, and that it has sought to impose political solutions on the republic which breach international law, as in fact the UN's own Human Rights SubCommittee has already declared. But ultimately, the case will hinge on whether or not the World Court dare speak the name that European Governments dread. To admit that genocide is taking place in Bosnia and Herzegovina -- the third in its history against the Muslim population -- would be to admit Europe's failure to learn from its past.



Prior to June 1991, the EC's official policy was that Yugoslavia should stay together, and at the end of May 1991, Jacques Delors and Jacques Santer met representatives of the federal and republic leaderships to explain that Yugoslavia could seek associate membership of the EC if it remained whole and settled its disputes peacefully. This attitude displayed a fatal Interview with Professor Francis Boyle conducted by Zoran Piroli_ on 15 September 1993 in Geneva.


misunderstanding of the kind of centrifugal forces pulling the federation apart at that time, and of the totalitarian nature of the main force trying to hold it together -- i.e. Miloevi_'s Serbian leadership.117 Yet at the same time, EC representatives were making confusing statements emphasising the need to uphold minority rights and the right of all peoples to self-determination. This was understood by the Croatian government as tacit support for secession, even though official policy was geared toward keep Yugoslavia together. At the same time, such emphasis on `the right of all peoples to self-determination' was interpreted as supportive of the developing insurrection of the Croatian Serbs' against the government in Zagreb. This was but one example of the failure of EC politicians to understand the complexities of the Yugoslav crisis. It also illustrates perfectly their inability to recognise that their every pronouncement and action had a profound effect on the aspirations and strategies of the forces at work on the ground.118 When fighting began in Slovenia in June 1991, the EC jumped at the chance to prove its credentials as an international organisation capable of mediating disputes. Its solution to the war in Slovenia, the July Brioni Accord, served to hasten the fighting in Croatia by requiring that the JNA withdraw its forces from Slovenia into Croatia and Bosnia. After over a dozen failed ceasefire agreements in Croatia, and much shuttle diplomacy, the war finally reached a natural close when Serb forces had secured all the territory they required. The Vance plan, originally intended as a stop-gap measure until a solution had been found for the future of the whole former Yugoslavia, crystallised the ceasefire lines and enabled the Serbian regime to turn its attention towards Bosnia and Herzegovina. By the time of the Vance plan for Croatia, EC ministers had realised the dangers of continuing to pursue a purely European solution to the crisis in the former Yugoslavia. Cyrus Vance was appointed as the UN Secretariat's Special Envoy, to work with EC Envoy Lord Carrington. Carrington held talks between the three Bosnian national parties in March 1992, after the referendum, and proposed the policy of cantonisation which was to define all UN/EC attempts to bring peace to Bosnia. The reasons for this disastrous policy shall remain a matter of speculation for the time being. Some, like Delanty might argue that it resulted from a British

Hugh Miall, op.cit.

John Pilger, "The West is Guilty in Bosnia", New Statesman and Society (7 May 1993), p 14-15.



propensity to favour the nation state system over multi-ethnic or multi-national polities, despite the historical damage this concept has caused in the region. Others, like Tihomir Loza, argue persuasively that cantonisation would simply not have been pursued with such inexplicable vigour if the victims of the conflict, the largest proportion of its population, had been Christian rather than Muslim.119 When Bosnia and Herzegovina was admitted to the United Nations on May 22nd 1992 in accordance with UNSCR 752 and UN General Assembly Resolution 46/238 (UNGAR 46/238), the arms embargo which had been imposed across the whole of the former Yugoslavia in September 1991 (UNSCR 713), was theoretically rendered inoperative. As a recognised state facing aggression from outside its borders, the new state of Bosnia and Herzegovina had the right to self-defence under Article 51 of the UN Charter. Also, UNSCR 713 applied to "Yugoslavia", and no new resolution was passed extending this embargo to the new state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, in actual terms the reason for maintaining the embargo had nothing to do with the nuances of international law and everything to do with political considerations. From the very start, it should be emphasised, Britain has played a leading role in the international community's attempts to broker a dirty peace in Bosnia.

(i) FROM LISBON TO LONDON The UN/EC travelling peace circus began in Lisbon in March 1992, where Lord Carrington persuaded Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovi_ that international recognition would only be forthcoming if he agreed to some form of cantonisation in Bosnia. Reluctantly, he agreed, believing that recognition would at least guarantee international assistance in the event of attack by Serbia and the JNA. In Lisbon, the Cutileiro plan was born. This was the beginning of the international community's attempt to cantonise Bosnia. Arguably, only a British diplomat from the old colonial school could conceivably believe that it is possible to divide a mixed republic along ethnic lines in a civilised way. In fact, as the participants well knew, the only way to affect such a division would be through war and large scale population transfer. A glance at an early Tihomir Loza, "Separation Anxiety", Breakdown: War & Reconstruction in Yugoslavia (March 1992), pp. 28-30; and Delanty, op. cit.


version of the map, however, indicates that at this stage the EC representatives had no real conception of how this division was to be achieved. (See map over) This process began a few weeks later. Having secured the EC's consent for a division of the republic, Serbian forces began to achieve it in April 1992. When the war began, Lord Carrington shuttled between capital cities trying to secure ceasefire agreements which inevitably went the same way as those he chalked up in Croatia during 1991. Then, after a round of peace talks in London during July, the British government decided to take the initiative by convening a showpiece conference the following month in London to celebrate its period as President of the EC. Carrington resigned on the eve of the London Conference, returning to his day job as head of the Sotherby's Auction House. He was replaced by Lord Owen, who had run out of British political parties to hijack, and was therefore available for any prestige diplomatic posting which guaranteed sufficient publicity to massage his infamous vanity.120 The Conference convened on August 26th 1992, in the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London. The venue was decorated more in the fashion of a pageant celebrating Britain's sixmonth period as EC President than in a manner befitting its function as a working conference intended to stop further mass killings and expulsions in Bosnia. The Conference adopted a number of resolutions on the former Yugoslavia, but leaked draft resolutions showed that the most interesting feature of these was not what was actually agreed, but what was left out. All the significant concessions were made to the Serbian side, on issues such as the legal succession of the old federation and the status of Kosovo.121 The London Conference established the Geneva-based International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia (ICFY), and its six constituent working groups. It also laid down the fundamental principles for a solution to the war in Bosnia, all of which have subsequently been abandoned in the negotiations which have taken place. These were as follows:

This is an opinion frequently expressed by Lord Owen's critics and does not necessarily represent the views of the author.


US State Department Despatch, op.cit.


- A fundamental obligation to respect the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states in the region. - Respect for the inviolability of international frontiers in accordance with the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and the Charter of Paris. - A Rejection of all efforts to acquire territory and change existing borders by force of arms. - Non-recognition of all gains made by force, faits accompli, or their legal consequences. - Respect for the highest standards of individual rights and fundamental freedoms. - An obligation to implement constitutional guarantees of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of ethnic and national communities and minorities. - Total condemnation of forcible expulsion and attempts to change the ethnic composition of areas, and a commitment to effectively promote the safe return of all persons displaced by hostilities. - Compliance with the obligations under international humanitarian law and in particular the Geneva Conventions of August 12th 1949. - The vital need for humanitarian aid to be provided, and with appropriate protection and the full cooperation of local authorities, to reach populations in need. - The importance of international guarantees to ensure full implementation of all agreements reached.122 MAP 4 AN EARLY ATTEMPT AT ETHNIC DIVISION (A working map which was a precursor to the Cutileiro Plan, given to all three delegations in late February 1992)


See "The abandonment of the London Conference principles", op. cit.


SOURCE : Directorate General for External Political Relations of the European Commission


(ii) THE VANCE-OWEN PLAN The Geneva Conference convened on September 3rd 1992 under joint UN/EC auspices. The actual principles already established in Lisbon and London -- as opposed to the stated principles above -- such as equating victim and aggressor, legally elected multi-ethnic government with unelected nationalist proxy forces of external powers, and the need to divide the republic along ethnic lines, formed the basis of the ICFY's work from the start. The first result of the Geneva Conference was Ahtissari's Constitutional Blueprint for Bosnia and Herzegovina in October 1992. This provided a framework for an agreement, and envisaged the division of the republic into ten semi-autonomous provinces, presided over by a virtually ceremonious central government. It contained details of policing regimes, a judicial system, mechanisms for legislation, and how the provinces would function in relation to each other and to the central authority. The ten-province model was a compromise between the Serbian demand that Bosnia be divided into three, and the Bosnian government position which was that there should be about fourteen provinces. The constitutional principles were agreed by all sides in January 1993, but disputes over the actual territorial division remained. Given that the Vance-Owen plan allocated the Croats much more land than would be warranted in terms of their population, and significantly more than they had under their control at the time, Mate Boban of the HDZ was the first to sign. Whilst the other two sides sought guarantees and modification before they would sign, Croat HVO forces began taking control of areas the Vance-Owen plan designated as part of the Croat provinces as security in case the plan collapsed. After several minor revisions in the following two months, and much persuasion which allegedly involved indications that the arms embargo would be lifted if he signed, President Izetbegovic gave his assent to the plan in late March. The other factor which swayed his decision was the growing involvement of the new US administration in the peace process. In particular, the President had wanted guarantees that the USA would guarantee at least in part the implementation of the plan. The Bosnian Parliament later endorsed his agreement to the Vance-Owen plan on May 11th. The Bosnian Serbs were given a last-ditch concession of a six mile-wide UN corridor across northern Bosnia in an effort to secure the signature of Radovan Karad_i_.123 Finally, under For a justification of the Bosian Serb refusal to sign and the issue of the northern corridor, see John Zametica, The Guardian (11 May 1993).


pressure from Miloevi_, Karad_i_ gave provisional agreement to the plan in Athens on May 2nd, with the qualification that it must be ratified by the self-styled Bosnian Serb parliament. The Bosnian Serb parliament subsequently held a referendum in areas under their control, and the result was against agreeing to the Vance-Owen plan. Western leaders made clear they vested no legitimacy in a referendum held under such conditions, and stated that Karad_i_'s signature in Athens was sufficient for the plan to be implemented. This meant it was crunch time for the Great Powers, who had to come up with the estimated 50,000 troops which would have been required to police the Vance-Owen plan, and they had to do so with only a provisional agreement from the Serbian side. The plan proposed international control of highways to guarantee freedom of movement both between and within provinces, and three `blue routes' (from Sarajevo to Zenica, Mostar and Zvornik respectively) were to be created as a first step. These would have been controlled by UNPROFOR to allow movement of humanitarian aid and civilian traffic between provinces. The central state was to be governed according to a constitution which can only be amended by a consensus between the three parties; it was to have "democratically elected legislatures and executives" at provincial and state levels, with a three-person collective presidency. Provisions were to be made for international monitoring and control of the constitution in the short term, with a Constitutional Court - comprising representatives of the three `constituent peoples' but with a majority of international members appointed by the UN/EC - to arbitrate disputes between individual provinces and the central government. The state was also to be progressively demilitarized under UN/EC supervision.


The full text of the `Agreement for peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina' contained detailed measures for a cessation of hostilities, restoration of the shattered infrastructure, the opening of routes within the divided republic, separating opposing forces, and for the demilitarization of Sarajevo. Of all the documents upon which the Vance-Owen plan was based, however, the most optimistic was the proposed constitutional structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was endorsed by the UN Security Council on November 16th 1992. The state police were to become just an administrative body overseeing the co-ordination of the provincial police, and able to "assist in technical functions (eg., crime laboratories)"; crucially, the state itself was to have no armed forces. This would have basically meant that Serb militias would change uniform and become the police in Provinces 2,4 & 6; Croatian militias similarly in Provinces 3,8 & 10; and the Bosnian Army in Provinces 1, 5 & 9. Sarajevo (Province 7) would have been a demilitarised zone. This would have completed the process by which the elected government of B-H had systematically been relegated to the status of `warring party' in the Geneva process, and it would have negated any prospect of maintaining a unitary multi-ethnic state. But it satisfied Zagreb and Belgrade, and that is what Vance and Owen pinned their hopes on. The main Serbian area according to the Vance-Owen map (province 2) used to be home to over 130,000 Bosnian Muslims before the war, according to the 1991 census; and Muslims accounted for at least a quarter of the population in the other large Serb-majority area (province 6). Although it is likely that a significant number of Muslims would have remained in these areas after partition, it is likely that many would have chosen to relocate when they were given the chance to do so peacefully, without having to sign over their money and property to the Serb authorities as was then the case. The main Croatian area (provinces 8 & 10) was home to at least 240,000 Bosnian Muslims before April 1992, a substantial minority population. Mostar, capital of the self-styled Croat republic of Herceg-Bosna, was in fact a majority Muslim city. A year on from the start of the war, however, the Bosnian Army was banned from operating in the area, the Bosnian


MAP 5 -


SOURCE: The Guardian


Dinar was no longer legal tender, and Croat-Muslim tension was high as a result of fighting in Novi Travnik, Gornji Vakuf, Vitez and Busova_a. The area which the Vance-Owen plan called a Muslim majority area is in fact what remained at that time of the republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although Muslims are the majority population, the programme of the authorities has always been that of a unitary state representing all three groups. In Sarajevo, Tuzla, Zenica and elsewhere, Muslims, Serbs and Croats live together peacefully as they have done since the Second World War, although obviously the Serb population is considerably lower than the 250,000 who lived here before the war. Vance and Owen, by insisting these were to be "Muslim" provinces, were inviting eventual retribution against the Serbs who remain.124 In the event, as Owen now admits quite openly125, the Great Powers refused to commit the troops and resources which would have been needed to implement the plan, and to oversee the roll-back of Serbian territorial gains. Owen had tried to lobby for American support for his plan, hoping that they would take a leading role in its implementation, but Clinton's administration was justifiably sanguine about the Vance-Owen plan's chances of success. The Vance-Owen plan consequently collapsed, and the irony of the fact that after months of pressuring the three sides to sign a deal, only for the West to pull out once they had done so, was not lost on political commentators the world over. Cyrus Vance subsequently resigned rather than continue with the charade of covering up for the Great Powers' inability to take action in Bosnia. (iii) FROM CANTONS TO `SAFE AREAS' US Secretary of State Warren Christopher went on a tour of European capitals during the dying weeks of the Vance-Owen plan to try to win support for the US government's preferred course of action, which was the "lift and strike" option -- i.e. lifting the arms embargo on the Bosnian government and launching selective air strikes against Serb artillery positions around Sarajevo or supply routes across the Drina river from Serbia. These proposals met with little enthusiasm in London, Paris and Bonn, and the growing divisions between US and EC policy on Bosnia became public.


Lee Bryant, "The Vance-Owen plan - Apart at the seams", WarReport (January 1993), p.

See for example Lord Owen's final press conference after the breakdown of talks in Geneva (1 September 1993).



It was to patch over these divisions, and to come to terms with the collapse of the Vance-Owen plan, that a special summit was convened in Washington in mid May. Unable to agree on a common approach to the Bosnian war, western leaders settled instead for a lowest common denominator position: containment. The Washington agreement also resulted in the plan to turn the Biha_, Tuzla, Sarajevo, Srebrenica, Zepa and Gora_de areas into "safe areas." In reality, of course, despite the UN resolution authorising the use of force to protect these "safe areas," nothing has been done to secure them, and they are all a great deal less than safe. The Washington agreement represented the end of the mediators' attempts to seek a territorial division acceptable to all three sides, and marked the beginning of the diplomatic endgame in which the Bosnian government would be forced to accept whatever it could get. (iv) BACK TO THE BEGINNING In the wake of the Washington agreement the Co-Chairmen of the Geneva Conference, Lord Owen and his new partner Thorvald Stoltenberg, ex-Foreign Minister of Norway, began a three-month period of shuttle diplomacy between Zagreb and Belgrade to find a solution which would be acceptable to the leaders of Croatia and Serbia. Presidents Miloevi_ and Tudjman agreed between themselves to return to the Confederal division plan first proposed in Lisbon in March 1992. The initial map put forward by Miloevi_ would have left only a small area in central Bosnia as a Muslim republic in the envisaged tri-partite division. Owen and Stoltenberg continued to try to adapt the Serb-Croat division plan, insisting that it must guarantee access to the sea through the Croatian port of Ploce, that the rump Bosnian republic must constitute at least 30% of the territory of the republic, including the three "safe


areas" in eastern Bosnia, and that the constitutional arrangement must reflect as closely as possible the provisions of the Vance-Owen plan. A detailed version of the Serb-Croat plan was presented to representatives of the Bosnian Presidency in Geneva on June 23rd, and in a meeting in Zagreb on July 11th with the CoChairmen, the Bosnian Presidency presented its alternative Federal plan. In Geneva on July 17th, Miloevi_ and Tudjman met with the Co-Chairmen and agreed a common approach. The Bosnian delegation was invited to Geneva on July 27th, and preparatory talks took place over the following three days before full negotiations began.126 So, by the August round of Geneva talks, the mediators had dispensed with the illusion that the Bosnian Serb and Croat leaders were autonomous political actors, and they were negotiating directly with their puppet-masters in Belgrade and Zagreb. Also, after a year of the Geneva Conference, they had finally abandoned the pretence of negotiating within the mandate that was laid down during the London Conference, and were simply seeking to ameliorate the worst excesses of Serbian and Croatian plans for the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The plan on the table was basically the Cutileiro plan, which the Bosnian government had rejected in March 1992, except that whereas in Lisbon the rump Bosnian republic (always referred to by the Serbs, Croats and international mediators as the "Muslim republic") had been designated over 40% of the territory, this time they were expected to be lucky if Owen could secure for them just 30%. Thus, the true nature of the `peace talks' was painfully clear: they were in fact terms for surrender. Lord Owen reminded President Izetbegovic throughout the ensuing talks that he had lost the war and should accept what he could get for a rump Bosnian republic.


From the Co-Chairmen's report to the UN Secretary General, 5 August 1993.


(v) THE OWEN-STOLTENBERG PLAN The main issues under discussion in Geneva during August and September 1993 were the status of Sarajevo and Mostar, access to the sea for the Bosnian republic, and the constitutional arrangement of the future `Union of Republics of Bosnia and Herzegovina.' The Bosnian delegation came to this round of talks with a gun at its head. Serbian forces were closing in on Sarajevo, and were in a position to launch a final assault on the city whenever they chose, and the effects of the arms embargo were making it increasingly unlikely that the Bosnian Army could fight on into the winter. Also, under a Serb-Croat blockade, the delegation was acutely aware that without some kind of peace -- even one dictated by the aggressors -- many people would not survive the cold weather and the hardships it would bring. For these reasons, they were negotiating with a genuine desire for peace. The international community was also putting pressure on the Bosnian government to accept whatever deal it could get. The mediators never failed to remind the Bosnian delegation that their people would suffer badly during the winter if the war continued, and that without a deal soon the Bosnian Serbs and Croats might decide to launch a coordinated final attack to divide the republic between them. The US administration was more sympathetic to the Bosnian cause than the European powers, but even they urged the President to sign a deal in Geneva. Despite the public threats of air strikes against Serbian positions around Sarajevo, and the August 9th NATO resolution setting out the conditions for such action, Clinton made clear to the Bosnian President in a letter delivered through his envoy Charles Redman that these would not be forthcoming unless the situation in the capital dramatically worsened. He advised the Bosnian President to take what he could get, and promised that after the fighting ended, the US government would provide funds to start re-building the shattered Bosnian economy and infrastructure. The first major sticking point in the talks was Article 1 of the proposed Union constitution. This was worded in such a way as to make unclear the international legal status of the Union, and was thought by the Bosnian delegation to jeopardise Bosnia's future UN membership. President Izetbegovi_ proposed a clearer wording of the paragraph in question, only to find that the ambiguity was deliberate.127 From the notes of a meeting between Owen's legal adviser Paul Szass and the Bosnian Government's legal adviser Professor Boyle during the August 1993 talks in Geneva.


The status of Sarajevo was the subject of much dispute, as it had been during the negotiations for the Vance-Owen plan. The Serbian delegation wanted Sarajevo divided, something they had so far been unable to achieve militarily, whilst the Bosnian government insisted that the whole capital district become an `open city' under international control. An agreement was finally reached on `open city' status under a two-year UN administration, but the Bosnian government were forced to concede that the existing forces in each borough would remain in control under UN-supervision, although in theory they should guarantee participation within the local authorities and police forces on the basis of ethnic proportionality according to the 1991 census. However, this deal was reached under the shadow of the Serbian offensive on the south-west of the city, which took place despite a ceasefire supposedly being in place for the duration of the Geneva talks. In negotiations with the Croatian delegation, the terrible situation in Mostar was a major barrier to meaningful negotiations. With HVO forces trying to expel Muslims from the city in order to make it the capital of the `Herceg-Bosna' mini-state, and with 55,000 people crammed into a ghetto in the eastern sector of the city, the issue of Mostar was highly emotive. However, the Bosnian President was able to secure an agreement whereby Mostar would be administered by the EC for a period of up to two years, guaranteeing the rights of Croats and Muslims alike in the city. The issue of secure access to the sea was also thorny during bi-lateral talks between the Bosnian and Croatian delegations. The Bosnian demand was for control over the fishing village of Neum, which lies on Bosnia and Herzegovina's tiny coastal strip. This was preferable to the Croat plan for a UN-controlled road across the border to the Croatian port of Ploce, because it would guarantee access to the sea even during times of political or


military conflict with the Croats. However, no agreement was reached on this, and it was one of the reasons for the eventual suspension of the talks at the beginning of September. On the overall map of territorial division, the Bosnian delegation sought changes in three main areas. One was Neum, giving access to the Adriatic sea. Another was the return of ethnically cleansed territories in north-western Bosnia and Herzegovina, around the towns of Prijedor, Sanski Most and Klju_, which would be connected to the Biha_ pocket. The third major revision the Bosnian delegation sought was in eastern Bosnia where the plan allocated them only a theoretical road link between Gora_de and the enclaves of Zepa and Srebrenica. The Bosnian delegation wanted this area to be increased to include previously Muslim-majority towns which had been subject to genocidal campaigns of expulsion, such as Fo_a, Rogatica, Viegrad and Bratunac, in order to create a viable territory in the east. These three revisions to the map would have given the rump Bosnian republic an extra 4.4% of territory, and they constituted the Bosnian government's minimum demands for any deal to be agreed. The talks broke up on August 20th, and the three delegations returned to Bosnia to consult their respective parliaments. Unsurprisingly, the Bosnian Serbs and Croats accepted the OwenStoltenberg plan and the Bosnian Assembly rejected it without further territorial concessions. The talks resumed again on August 31st for two days, but no agreement was forthcoming and they collapsed on September 1st. In a statement given just after the talks ended, at 8pm that evening, Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovi_ said: "Having failed to uphold its own principles, the international powers could not expect the Bosnians to continue the struggle alone, under an arms embargo, for both our country and for these principles which we all share. For this reason we committed ourselves to the peace process and made painful and unjust concessions .... The minimum of minimums which we put before the conference today would have allowed an economically and politically viable state. This would also have enabled up to 500,000 Bosnian refugees to return to their homes in Bosnia from Europe and elsewhere .... Unfortunately, it seems those who have benefitted most from this war are unwilling even to make these most basic compromises." After the collapse of the talks, Owen and Stoltenberg continued to try to find a formula which would allow the delegations to sign the package, perhaps leaving the most difficult issues of territory to be worked out later on. They believed, possibly correctly, that they were closer to a deal than ever before, and that this time the international community would commit the troops to implement it.


If the Bosnian government finally signs some variation of the Owen-Stoltenberg plan, it will certainly not be because they wish to -- it will because they have no choice. The OwenStoltenberg plan will not bring peace over the long term, because it fails to deal with the causes of the war. It also freezes current conflict lines, which means that they could be re-activated at any time in the future and the war could continue as it has in Croatia. The plan legalises genocide and territorial gains made by force, and punishes the victims of aggression. The rump Bosnian republic the plan envisages, even assuming the government can extract further concessions from the Serbs and the Croats, is barely viable as a political entity. The boundaries between republics, as currently drawn, owe little to any rational considerations such as zones of urban gravitation, natural boundaries or the distribution of industry; and some elements of the plan such as the Bosnian-controlled road through Serbian territory linking Gora_de with the eastern enclaves and the fly-over complex near Brcko are downright improbable. For this reason, the Owen-Stoltenberg plan may lead to a temporary cessation of conflict, but it cannot hope to survive as a long term solution. Nevertheless, at the time of writing, the plan is still said to be "on the table", after the Foreign Ministers of France and Germany proposed a formula to grant the Bosnian Government extra territory from the Bosnian Serbs in return for the gradual lifting of sanctions on Serbia and Montenegro. After bi-lateral talks between the Bosnian Government, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and a Bosnian Serb delegation took place in Geneva in early September, with Owen and Stoltenberg also in attendance, the question of Bosnian access to the sea appeared to be more or less settled and bi-lateral working groups were established between the delegations to continue negotiating on several contentious points. MAP 6 THE OWEN-STOLTENBERG PLAN, September 1993



In November, the Franco-German initiative was taken up by the EC Council of Foreign Ministers. Hyper-inflation and the growing potential for civil unrest in Serbia by this time meant that Milosevic was willing to force the Bosnian Serbs to settle to try and force the lifting of UN sanctions on the rump Yugoslavia. In western capitals, it was hoped that the fact of the coming winter and the danger of starvation in Government-held territories would push the Bosnian Government into accepting a slightly modified Owen-Stoltenberg plan. But despite a certain amount of pressure from Milosevic, when the Geneva talks were reconvened briefly on November 30th 1993 the Bosnian Serb leadership, especially military chief General Mladic, would not even agree to give back the 4% of extra territory demanded by the Bosnian Government as an absolute minimum. "We cannot get off even this first step," said Mohamed Sacirbey, Bosnian Ambassador to the UN, "which is to follow the mandate of the European Community."128 The next step will probably be for the British Government to organise a second London Conference early in 1994 to tackle pan-Balkan issues. If the Owen-Stoltenberg plan continues to fall short of the minimum requirement of the Bosnian Government, which is an economically, politically and geographically viable state upon which to build for the future, then the western powers will probably seek only to contain the Bosnian conflict for the time being. By putting Bosnia to one side and addressing other pressing issues such as the status of Kosovo, the security of Macedonia, and the UNPA's in Croatia, the Great Powers will hope to head off popular pressure for military action against the Serbian military. However, their fundamental lack of a coherent approach to Serbian expansionism and the collapse of Yugoslavia will mean that the peace process, whether Bosnian or pan-Balkan in scope, will always be forced to adapt to events on the ground. For it is essentially part of a general policy of containment -- not containment of Serbian militarism, but containment of the regional instability caused by allowing Serbian aggression to go unpunished, which has ultimately led to the appeasement of Serbia. 4.4 THE BETRAYAL OF BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

The betrayal of Bosnia and Herzegovina began with the European Community's failure either

Reuters, 30th November 1993


to comprehend or to admit the kind of war which the Serbian regime was planning for Bosnia. It continued with the EC's ill-conceived intervention in Slovenia and Croatia, which treated each republic in isolation from the rest of the former Yugoslavia, and thereby actually hastened the onset of war in Bosnia. By forcing the Bosnian government to accept the principle of division in order to be recognised as an independent state, Lord Carrington and the EC negotiators gave a green light to the division of the republic by force. After recognition, the international community betrayed Bosnia by failing to assist a recognised state under attack, and by immediately relegating the legally-elected Bosnian government to the status of "the Muslim side," one of the three "warring parties." The Great Powers betrayed Bosnia and Herzegovina by maintaining the illegal arms embargo against the republic even after its admission into the United Nations. This meant that when the government was trying to form defence forces to protect communities under direct threat from Serbian forces they were unable to acquire weapons in any great quantities. Since then, as all journalists who have been on Bosnian frontlines will testify, a whole generation of young Serb, Croat and Muslim men and women have had to face the well-armed Serbian aggressor with little more than AK-47s, in order to defend their homes and their families. The Great Powers betrayed Bosnia by claiming that the awful TV pictures of non-Serbs being driven from their homes which so disturbed ordinary people across the world were in fact pictures of a "civil war" in which "all sides are guilty" so there is "nothing we can do" except wait until the "warring factions" decide they want peace. The reality behind such statements was that the Great Powers had chosen to do nothing but wait until the Serbian regime had taken what it needed to complete the `Greater Serbia' it began carving out in Croatia in 1991. When journalists discovered some of the mechanisms of ethnic cleansing, such as the detention camps in Trnopolje, Omarska and Keraterm, the United Nations first tried to cover them up and when this became impossible they fell back on the old adage that "all sides are guilty" and emphasised human rights abuses by Bosnian Army forces. The fundamental reason for the Great Powers' insistence on equating victim with aggressor, the reason for the failure of the mediation process after over a year of frenetic activity and the reason for treating Bosnia as a humanitarian crisis like an earthquake or a drought rather than a political and military crisis caused by Serbian expansionism, has been the lack of political will


to become directly involved in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Instead, the Great Powers have remained on the sidelines. Their public impotence in the face of fascism has spurred on Serbian forces to continue their genocidal war without fear of being challenged, and both the peacekeeping operation on the ground and the diplomatic circus in Geneva have been renedered meaningless by the Great Powers' obvious lack of committment to finding a just and durable solution to the war. The refusal to countenance any military engagement on the ground or the lifting of the arms embargo has ruled out all possible solutions except one: the Serb-Croat solution -- to divide Bosnia between them. This kind of appeasement harks back to the British approach to Nazi Germany's designs on Czechoslovakia before the Second World War. Once again it is Britain which is today leading the Great Power appeasement of a nascent fascist regime. The Bosnian President has described Britain as the "biggest brake on progress" towards a just and peaceful solution to the war. The reason for Britain's especially malevolent role in the Bosnian war has been the subject of much speculation in the rest of Europe. Some believe financial links with Belgrade remain to be uncovered, others that Britain's policy can be explained purely in terms of historical sympathy towards Serbia during the First and Second World Wars. More realistically, and something which is privately admitted by British officials, is that their policy towards the whole of the former Yugoslavia is dictated more by a fear of German influence in the region than any other factor -- the balance of power approach at its worst. Bosnia and Herzegovina has been betrayed by the Great Powers of Europe and the USA. It will probably soon disappear from the political map of Europe, for the time being at least, until economic realities impose themselves on the citizens of the mafia-run `Republika Srpska' and `Herceg-Bosna' and they realise they cannot prosper as the peripheries of Greater Serbian or Greater Croatian states. Those who call themselves `Bosnians' have fought for eighteen months for the right to live together as they did before, against the powerful totalising forces of Serbian and Croatian nationalisms. These people, and the ideals of tolerance and collective living they represent, have also been betrayed in the bloody game of Great Power politics. But the betrayal of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Bosnians, and the Bosnian ideal has also been the betrayal of international law and a betrayal of the holocaust survivors who vowed that the


spectre of genocide would "never again" be able to raise its head in Europe after the signing of the Geneva Conventions after the Second World War. Multi-ethnic, multi-confessional Bosnia has played a historically important role as a bulwark against competing nationalisms in the Balkans. If Bosnia is to be either saved or resurrected depending upon when you read this, then it will give a boost to all those in the region who oppose ethnic nationalism. If it is to be destroyed, then the Bosnian Muslim population will become locked into an unviable ghetto between ethnically-pure and hostile neighbouring states, or worse, they will become another of the world's stateless peoples. The prospects for the immediate future look grim, but they are by no means hopeless. It may yet transpire that time is on Bosnia'side, if the Bosnian Army is able to continue fighting into the Spring of 1994. Growing lawlessness and lack of morale are gradually destabilising the para-states of Republika Srpska and Herceg-Bosna which Serbia and Croatia respectively have carved out of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Plus, the prospect of a complete collapse of the Serbian economy under the combined effects of corruption, mismanagement and the UN-imposed sanctions may ultimately work in Bosnia's favour. Much will depend upon the ability of the Bosnian Government to appeal to dissident elements within Serb- and Croat-held areas of the republic. If the authorities in these regions begin to show signs of collapse then it is not enough for the Bosnian Army simply to re-take territory, the Government must resume its responsibility for all the peoples of these areas. This means that although the Bosnian Government has a fundamental responsibility to secure the position of the Bosnian Muslim nation, it also has a responsibility to retain the multi-ethnic and relatively democratic character it has fought so doggedly to preserve until now. For this keeps alive the possibility of a full re-constitution of a unitary Bosnia and Herzegovina within its prewar borders, which is the only viable framework within which any long term solution to the crisis can be developed. Owen's travelling 'peace' circus should be closed down if no agreement on the OwenStoltenberg plan can be achieved, and the lifting of the arms embargo on the Bosnian Government should no longer be opposed in the Security Council by Britain, France and Russia. If necessary, the UN troops on the ground should be withdrawn. If the Great Powers want to have any role in the resolution of the war, and if they wish to avoid the opening of a southern front in Kosovo or Macedonia, or even inside Serbia itself,


then they should seek to contain Serbian expansionism rather than just seeking to contain the instablility caused by their appeasement of Serbian expansionism. This means they should combine lifting the arms embargo with limited action to finally confront Serbian fascism (perhaps along the lines of the American 'lift and strike' option) and support for the forces of cooperation and democracy in the region, starting with the Bosnian Government, but including the as yet virtually un-noticeable forces of peace and progress within Serbia. Such action could also serve to marginalise the ruling HDZ clique in Croatia and strengthen opposition forces who would support a mutually beneficial future relationship between an integral independent Croatia and an integral independent Bosnian state. A democratic multi-ethnic Bosnia and Herzegovina restored to its pre-war borders is perhaps the single most important key to solving the whole Balkan crisis.