to the Secretary-General of the United Nations - 14 April 1997 - part 1 (2)
1. Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1031 of December 15, 1995, which endorsed my appointment as High Representative to "monitor the implementation of the Peace Agreement and mobilize and, as appropriate, give guidance to, and coordinate the activities of, the civilian organizations and agencies involved" in the implementation of the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina, I submit hereby my fifth report envisaged by Annex 10 of the Peace Agreement and the Conclusions of the London Peace Implementation Conference of December 8-9, 1995.
2. This report covers developments in the areas listed below during the period from the beginning of December 1996 to the end of March 1997.
II. INSTITUTIONAL ASPECTS
Office of the High Representative
3. My Headquarters in Sarajevo and the Secretariat in Brussels have, in the period described, continued to maintain operational coordination of civilian implementation activities inside Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as contacts with the Headquarters of the respective implementation organizations and agencies, closely following, so far as possible, the various international fora dealing with the Bosnian peace implementation.
4. During the reporting period, the peace process in Bosnia and Herzegovina, despite numerous difficulties, has been moving in a defined direction and there have been a number of positive developments. The emphasis has been placed on the implementation of the civilian aspects of the operation, these being essential for the normalisation of life in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Specific attention has been given to two priority tasks: economic reconstruction on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the establishment of functioning common institutions. It is vital that the authorities start to assume joint responsibility for the implementation of the peace process and I have proceeded on this assumption.
5. The Award of the Arbitration Tribunal for Brcko on 14 February, regarding arrangements for the supervision of full implementation of the Peace Agreement in the Brcko area, represent a major challenge for my Office in 1997. A Deputy High Representative was appointed on 7 March at the Brcko implementation conference in Vienna, to serve as Supervisor for Brcko operating within the existing OHR structure in accordance with my mandate under Annex 10 of the Peace Agreement. The period of supervision started in early April. Concrete implementation measures will follow when the Supervisor decides that essential elements of the supervision structure are in place.
6. Regional coordination and monitoring the situation on the ground, in parallel with supporting the new common institutions, has been a priority. A regional Office in Mostar was established in early January to cover southern Bosnia and Herzegovina following the end of the mandate of the Special Envoy of the European Union. This will complement the existing regional Office in Banja Luka. The regional reach provided by the two Offices will be crucial during the consolidation period and will compensate for the cessation of the regional Joint Civilian Commissions whose mandates have been superseded by the new common institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina. These Offices will continue to facilitate contacts at a local level, promoting inter-entity co-operation in a variety of fields.
7. My office in Sarajevo has developed the capacity to conduct preventative, pro-active and follow-up action, and to structure diplomatic efforts in a concerted manner. As the peace implementation process moves into the consolidation period, these progressive achievements need to be both preserved and developed. Conditions for such continuity require countries that contribute personnel to maintain their current level of commitment. Many of the seconded staff who left at the end of 1996 have now been replaced; in response to the London Conference Conclusions I have received seconded staff from the European Commission and the World Bank. However, in light of the size of the tasks for 1997 and 1998, and the need to establish an effective office in Brcko, further secondments may be necessary.
Peace Implementation Council
8. The Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council met monthly at the level of Political Directors.
9. The discussion at the meeting in Brussels on 21 January focused on the preparations for municipal elections, with representatives of the OSCE participating in the discussion. Financial issues were also discussed and it was decided to extend the 1996 financial period until the end of May 1997.
10. The 19 February meeting in Brussels dealt primarily with the implementation of the Brcko Arbitration and preparations for an extraordinary Steering Board with the parties. The UN Mission in Bosnia, including IPTF, was represented by the Special Representative of the Secretary General. The Steering Board also discussed regional stabilisation issues with the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman in Office.
11. Following this meeting, a special Steering Board session took place in Vienna on the implementation of the Brcko Arbitration. Representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its Entities, of the Republic of Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia also attended. United Nations and other Key Implementation Agencies or Organisations contributed to the Conference.
COORDINATION OF CIVILIAN IMPLEMENTATION
12. Regular meetings of the Key Implementation Agencies were held at my office in Brussels on January 23, February 20 and April 9, in order to assess the efforts undertaken by the different international agencies and organisations involved in the implementation of the Peace Agreement, and inform them of the conclusions of the meetings of the Steering Board.
13. I have continued extensive consultations with representatives of governments and organisations. Since the beginning of the year, I have met, inter alia, with the OSCE Chairman in Office and the authorities of NATO.
14. In Sarajevo, I have continued to convene, on a regular basis, Principals' meetings with the participation of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, the UN IPTF Commissioner, the UNHCR Special Envoy, COMSFOR and the OSCE Head of Mission. These meetings have proved helpful and effective in co-ordinating efforts of the key implementation structures on the ground, particularly in facilitating the work of the new common institutions and in defusing potentially dangerous situations in the Zone of Separation. I expect that this format will be maintained through the consolidation period.
15. The Economic Task Force, which meets on a regular basis in Sarajevo, is now operational and proves to be a useful tool to ensure co-ordination of principles and priorities of international reconstruction assistance.
16. At the end of January, I initiated the establishment of the Reconstruction and Return Task Force (RRTF), composed of my Office, UNHCR, EC, World Bank, IMG and the Property Rights Commission. After the first high-level session of the RRTF in Geneva, a series of meetings have been held in Sarajevo with the aim of presenting a policy paper to the international community by early April.
17. The Freedom of Movement Task Force, mandated at the London Conference and consisting of representatives of OHR, UN IPTF and SFOR and interested countries, was established on 20 December. The Task Force has met a number of times since its establishment and is exploring various implementing mechanisms to promote Freedom of Movement for people, goods and mail.
Common Institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina
18. The Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, provides for six common institutions in Annex 4 of the Peace Agreement: the Presidency; the Council of Ministers; the Parliamentary Assembly; the Constitutional Court; the Central Bank and the Standing Committee on Military Matters.
19. Following my activities in late 1996 to implement the results of the September elections, my Office worked hard to ensure that the key bodies of the common institutions - the Council of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly - were operational from the beginning of January. Progress has been slow; they are functioning, but have yet to become truly effective and self-sustaining.
20. The Presidency held seven regular working sessions during the reporting period. The Presidency nominated the Co-Chairs of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, signed agreements with the EBRD, UNICEF and the World Bank and agreed to establish a Standing Committee on Military Matters. The Presidency also signed the Decisions on Interim Financing of the Presidency and its Offices; on Interim Accommodation for the Members of the Presidency and their Offices and on Establishment and Internal Organisation of the Offices. The Presidency has also carried out some procedural tasks such as accepting the accreditation of several Ambassadors to Bosnia and Herzegovina, forming working groups and tasking the Council of Ministers.
21. The Presidency has a number of important outstanding issues on its current agenda. The establishment of the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina, for example, could not be finalised by the Council of Ministers. The Presidency has instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to prepare a proposal for the division of posts of Ambassadors and other international representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina abroad. This proposal has not yet been submitted. The London Conference conclusions refers to the responsibility of the Presidency for appointing Ambassadors, and urges them to appoint any new or replacement Ambassadors by the end of March 1997, however this has yet to happen.
22. Given the crucial importance of international assistance to the reconstruction of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the key role of the Council of Ministers in helping to secure that assistance, my office organized an Economic Policy Forum (EPF) on 12 January following the appointment of the Council of Ministers. Organized in coordination with the IMF, the World Bank, the European Commission and the US Treasury, the event was used to clarify the necessary action for an agreement with the IMF, the principle pre-condition for holding the next Donor Conference. A joint short-term action plan and mid-term structural reform program were presented. My Office's efforts in the subsequent months have been centered on the passage of the emergency economic legislation within the Quick Start Package (Foreign Trade, External Debt, Central Bank, Budget, Customs Policy and Tariffs). This also enabled my Office to inject some substance into the new institutions from their inception.
23. The Council of Ministers met for its first session on 3 January 1997 following its appointment at the inaugural meeting of the Bosnia and Herzegovina House of Peoples. From January to the end of March the Council met in formal session on fourteen occasions, and informally, or for "extraordinary" sessions, three times. Despite an increasingly cooperative atmosphere between the Council members, few decisions have been forthcoming. However, its work is improving with each session and progress, although slow, is evident.
24. One of the more difficult issues in the first two months was the adoption of the Council's provisional Rules of Procedure, which were eventually signed on 20 February 1997. The main point of contention concerned the role of the Deputy Ministers and whether they should be full members of the Council, with the accompanying decision making powers. A compromise was reached through provision for consensual decision-making within each Ministry, with differences of opinion forwarded to the full Council. While cumbersome, these procedures should assist in overcoming residual mistrust and suspicion, and are designed to ensure fully participatory decision-making.
25. The Quick Start Package was formally presented to the Council on 16 January and working groups were established to study the various laws. These working groups met at my office, assisted by my staff, throughout the remainder of January, February and into March. Status reports, and eventually the laws themselves, were brought to the Council at the weekly sessions. Either I or my Principal Deputy have attended most of the Council sessions, and we have often been able to assist in clarifying or arbitrating in disputes, usually involving questions regarding the extent of the state authority provided in the Constitution. Currently, the Council has concluded work on two of the laws, and work continues on the remainder.
26. Little has been accomplished with regard to the common staff, structures, or organization of the Ministries. While each of the Council members now have offices in their respective entities, and a few personal assistants, neither the "services" envisioned in the Rules of Procedure nor the individual Ministries have been established. The question of a permanent location for the common institutions must also be resolved. To address these issues, and in keeping with former practices, a "Law on the Council of Ministers and Ministries", based on a draft produced by my Office, will be presented. It will undoubtedly prove contentious, as it will have to address issues regarding the competencies of the Ministries, their location, and the status of the extant state structures of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. These issues must take priority in the coming months, concurrent with efforts to wean the common institutions from the support provided by my Office.
27. The House of Representatives held its constitutive session in Sarajevo on 3 January. At this session the Verification Committee verified the mandates of all Members elected in the September elections. The House of Representatives also adopted its Provisional Rules of Procedure and selected from its Members one Serb, one Bosniak and one Croat to serve as its Chair and two Deputy-Chairs. According to the Rules and Regulations the post of the Chair will rotate every eight months between them. At the same session, the House of Representatives approved a nomination of two Co-Chairs and the composition of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
28. The House of Peoples was constituted on January 3, 1997 in Sarajevo. At this first session, the Verification Committee verified the mandates of all its Members. The House of Peoples has also adopted its Provisional Rules of Procedure and selected from its Members the Chair and two Co-Chairs of the House.
29. As progress with the QSP has been slow, the Houses have not met since their first session. My Office is currently facilitating meetings between the Collegiums of Chair and Deputy-Chairs of both Houses to prepare for the next session. Disagreements on the contents of the Agenda have resulted in the session being postponed a number of times, at present it is scheduled for 30 April 1997. The Agenda should include the formation of the Committees of both Houses, the adoption of the QSP Draft Laws submitted by the Council of Ministers and the ratification of International Agreements signed by the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Collegiums are also discussing the organisation of a Secretariat for the Parliamentary Assembly.
30. All judges of the Constitutional Court have now been appointed. The judges from Republika Srpska were appointed at the session of the National Assembly of Republika Srpska on March 16. The House of Representatives of the Federation elected two Bosniak judges on January 24 and two Croat judges on March 18.
31. The Board of Governors of the Central Bank has been appointed and is meeting regularly and frequently, chaired by the international Governor, Mr. Serge Robert. The Board has worked intensively on a draft law on the new Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina and has resolved most technical problems related to the establishment of the Central Bank. Disagreement still exists with respect to the number of branches, the name of the currency, the design of the bank notes and the duration of the interim period until a new currency can be established.
32. The Presidency has taken the first step in establishing a Standing Committee for Military Matters, and endorsed its adoption at a recent Presidency session. Work must now proceed to ensure that the Committee meets and begins to function as a means of creating a confidence building mechanism that promotes stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in its relations with neighbouring countries. Initially, this should involve the exchange of information and strengthening of links between entity Defence and Military staffs. Thereafter, greater transparency will be needed to define the Committee's civilian command authority and its responsibilities within Bosnia and Herzegovina's constitutional framework, and to correlate this with the Entities Defence Laws. In due time, and before SFOR withdraws, the Committee should assume a number of the functions of the Joint Military Commission.
33. Of the non-economic laws included in the Quick Start Package, the Law on Citizenship of Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the most sensitive. The Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina states that there is a Citizenship of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to be regulated by the Parliamentary Assembly, as well as a Citizenship of each of the Entities to be regulated by each Entity, provided that all Citizens of either Entity are thereby Citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is therefore essential that the Entity laws are identical to the largest extent possible and are fully in line with the Bosnia and Herzegovina Law on Citizenship.
34. One of the working groups appointed by the Council of Ministers has considered the draft in close co-operation with my Office. At a recent meeting at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg the members of the working group, representatives of the Legal Department of my Office and the experts of the Council of Europe, were able to find some solutions however a number of disputed issues remain. Of particular concern, is the Republika Srpska's decision to extend citizenship of the Republika Srpska to residents of the former Yugoslavia, provided they register residence by the end of June 1998.
35. Closely related to citizenship is the issuing of passports and other travel documents. It is essential that all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in both Entities, have access to internationally recognised passports. The draft Law on Passports, which is included in the Quick Start Package, regulates the form of the passports and the way they are issued. The draft is currently being discussed by the working group.
36. Included in the Quick Start Package is also a draft Law on Immunity. The draft has recently been agreed upon by the Council of Ministers and will shortly be submitted to the Parliamentary Assembly. Members of the Presidency, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Council of Ministers, the judges of the Constitutional Court, and the Governor and members of the Governing Board of the Central Bank are granted immunity for acts performed within the scope of their duties.
37. Activities of the Provisional Election Commission (Annex 3), chaired by the OSCE, are referred to in the elections section of this report.
38. The Commission on Human Rights (Annex 6), composed of the Human Rights Chamber and the Ombudsperson, continued its work. To date, the Ombudsperson's Office has opened approximately 1200 provisional files, registered nearly 500 cases and referred 29 cases to the Human Rights Chamber. More than 55 requests for interim measures (under which the relevant Government is asked to refrain from taking certain actions pending review by the Ombudsperson) have been issued. The Human Rights Chamber began its first public hearing on 6 February 1997 and has now issued its Rules of Procedure.
39. The Human Rights Ombudsperson has recently issued final reports in several cases, finding human rights violations by both the Federation and the Republika Srpska, and has prepared a special report relating to violations of freedom of expression within the Republika Srpska. The authorities have been given until late April to respond to these findings. My Office will monitor the response of the authorities closely, and will intervene as necessary to support the findings of the Ombudsperson.
40. The response of the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to these new institutions remains substantially inadequate. Neither Entity has taken the concrete steps necessary to: establish the Commission as an integral part of the legal framework of Bosnia and Herzegovina; ensure full cooperation with the Ombudsperson and Human Rights Chamber by authorities at all levels; establish procedures for assisting with human rights investigations and responding to requests or reports from the Ombudsperson and the Chamber, or adopt legislation providing for the implementation and enforcement of their decisions.
41. Both institutions require additional support from the international community. On 25 February, the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina expressed its support for the Commission and its commitment to fulfill its obligation under the Peace Agreement to provide sufficient funding. Given current economic constraints, the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina has asked the international community to support a funding appeal by the OSCE and the Council of Europe on behalf of the Commission.
42. Many victims of human rights violations in Bosnia and Herzegovina remain unaware of either their legal rights or the possible remedies available to them. Human rights organizations are encouraging the referral of cases to domestic human rights institutions and are assisting in publicising their work. It is essential that the Commission on Human Rights have an impact throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. To that end, additional steps should be taken to distribute information concerning the Commission (particularly the Human Rights Chamber) beyond Sarajevo, especially in the Republika Srpska.
43. The Commission to Preserve National Monuments (Annex 8), coordinated by UNESCO, has established its Working Secretariat in Sarajevo as well as a back-up Secretariat in Paris. Both are currently financed by UNESCO; proper funding through the Entities' budgets has yet to be established. The Commission is studying the lists of national monuments submitted by the parties, with the intention of producing a consolidated list of designated national heritage sites. The Commission intends to establish a mechanism for the preservation of the designated cultural heritage of BiH and, ultimately, to hand-over to a state level institution. The Commission held its third session on 31 January and intends to re-convene in April.
44. Despite numerous meetings and proposals from its international members on possible institutional structures for joint public facilities, the Commission on Public Corporations (Annex 9) has not reached any agreement. Moreover, the Commission has refused to give any guidance to the technical working groups which have been created to examine specific operational problems in some areas. The situation is particularly acute in the power and railway sectors and an agreement to establish a Transportation Corporation has remained a dead paper. I am, therefore, convening a meeting of the two Prime Ministers of the Entities to examine the overall problem of public corporations and try to resolve the evident political impasse.
45. The municipal elections this year will be of critical importance to the future development of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Their preparation must be closely correlated with the overall implementation of the Peace Agreement. Considerable resources, both financial and in terms of experienced elections personnel, will be required to supervise the preparation and conduct of these elections and to ensure that the results are fully implemented.
46. The overall approach to the preparation of the elections should continue to be as prescribed by the PIC Steering Board in October 1996, namely: higher quality for the municipal elections than that which prevailed for the General Elections in September 1996; complete international supervision of all of the polling stations and of every stage of the election process; and that the OSCE should have the structures for the likely re-runs as well as for the installation of the elected officials.
47. At the London Peace Implementation Conference in December 1996 it was agreed that the elections would be held by the summer of 1997. In its 21 January "Election Plan for Municipal Elections", the OSCE Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina announced a target date of 12/13 July, which proved to be untenable. Planning proceeded accordingly until the end of February. On 6 March the OSCE Chairman-in-Office announced that, given the need for high quality elections and firmness after these elections, he had decided that the elections should take place on 13/14 September. The decision to defer the municipal elections has provided a realistic time-frame in which the elections can be thoroughly prepared.
48. The Provisional Election Commission (PEC) began its regulatory work in mid-January, somewhat later than had been anticipated. It has adopted a number of significant Rules, particularly those which were necessary to accommodate the November 1996 Memorandum of Understanding between the OSCE and the Republika Srpska, in which it was agreed that refugees may vote in an intended place of residence. Given the gross manipulation which took place in the registration process for the 1996 General Elections, the PEC adopted specific rules stipulating the requirements should refugees decide to vote in an intended place of residence.
49. A new affirmative voter registration has also been agreed by the PEC. If well prepared and properly executed under close international supervision, this registration should lead to a clearly defined electorate, thus avoiding the confusion and disputes which arose in September, 1996. But the challenges in registering voters remain considerable. For registration to succeed:
- the Local Election Commissions must be trained and fully functioning well before the beginning of the registration process on 5 May;
- all those who are eligible to register must be able to do so in conveniently-located registration centres. The PEC's 11 February decision to ensure international supervision of all of these centres is a significant measure by which the potential for fraud can be curtailed;
- the number and location of the polling stations must be carefully correlated with the specific requirements of each municipality. There should also be confidence that the number of polling stations currently envisaged, 2,300, is sufficient;
- a massive and effective voter education campaign will be required because an active voter registration process is not part of local political tradition.
50. The PEC has also adopted a number of other Rules, including those which provide for the participation of Political Parties in the work of the Local Election Commissions. It has also strengthened its provisions regarding the media. The PEC should complete its regulatory work soon and try to avoid preparing Rules late in the electoral process, as happened in 1996.
51. The municipal basis for the elections in the Federation needs to be resolved, both with regard to those municipalities which were divided by the Inter-Entity Boundary Line (IEBL), and from the perspective of the calls for the establishment of some new municipalities within the Federation. An Advisory Commission, which worked under the auspices of the Council of Europe, was established by the Federation Forum on 3 February to examine these issues. Its opinion - in the form of a Draft Law - prepared by my Legal Department and experts of the Council of Europe, was communicated to the Federation Government on 3 March. The Federation Ministries of Justice and Urban Planning are currently preparing a final text which will be submitted shortly to the Federation Parliamentary Assembly. An early decision is required to enable the OSCE to proceed in its planning with a clear vision of the Federation's municipal structure.
52. The London Conference Conclusions stressed the importance of tackling the crucial post-elections issues. Recent events in Serbia have underlined that the electoral process does not stop on polling day; officials must be able to take office and perform their duties. As the London Conference had requested close coordination on the planning of the election process and the management of the post-elections period, my Office prepared a preliminary paper on these issues for the 21 January meeting of the Steering Board of the PIC. Considerable problems can be expected with the implementation of the election results; the OSCE has, therefore, recently established a Post-Elections Planning Group, in which the OHR, IPTF, SFOR, UNHCR, ECMM and the Council of Europe participate.
53. A sound electoral process is the essential ingredient in the peace implementation process in 1997. Quality, determination and complete implementation of the election results will be essential for the advancement of the democratic process in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
54. The implementation of the Federation remains one of the major fields of activity of my Office. The first months of this year were characterized by continuing mistrust between the Federation partners. In January, the Prime Minister called publicly for the resignation of his Deputy because of some alleged customs irregularities. At the end of the same month, the HDZ froze its participation in the Federation Government and the Federation Assembly until some unsettled issues were resolved, in particular the formation of new municipalities.
55. At a Federation Forum on 3 February, my Office, in cooperation with the US Government, tried to bridge some of the most urgent differences. Agreement was reached on the establishment of an Advisory Commission, led by the European Council, to address the question of municipalities. In addition, the next steps on organizational questions regarding Sarajevo and Mostar, as well as the new dates for the formation of the Federation police, were agreed.
56. However, none of the deadlines could be kept due to an eruption of violence in Mostar on 10 February, when West Mostar police officers shot at the backs of Bosniak cemetery visitors. This was followed by a series of assaults on travellers in the Mostar area and a wave of evictions in West Mostar. In response, my Principal Deputy, together with COMSFOR and the UN IPTF Commissioner, assembled Federation leaders on 12 February, and reached agreement on the 'Decisions on Mostar' in which the UN IPTF was requested to submit a report on the 10 February events. In this Report of 24 February, 3 police officers were clearly identified as perpetrators of the shooting. The conclusions from the Report, in particular the arrest and punishment of the perpetrators, were endorsed by the UN Security Council on 11 March. As yet, there has not been compliance. On 25 March, the UN IPTF and my Office submitted a second Report on the situation in Mostar, from 1 January to 15 February, which graphically illustrated that neither the political authorities, nor the police of Mostar, have reacted appropriately to the human rights and security situation in the city. It further outlined the consistent police failure to respond to incidents involving victims of an ethnicity other than their own.
57. After international pressure and some intervention from Zagreb, the situation in Mostar calmed down and the security environment improved. In the aftermath of 10 February, some West Mostar gang leaders were arrested, amongst them strongmen Mladen Tuta Naletelic and Vinko Stela Martinovic, both of whom are being held in prison in Zagreb. In the medium and long term, these arrests may add to the stabilization of the situation in Mostar, but the crimes committed on 10 February remain unpunished. On 4 April, the United Police Force of Mostar started to function again, working in joint Cantonal police uniforms; an important step towards the unification of the police in the whole of the Herzegovina Neretva Canton, possibly in late April.
58. In March, the HDZ returned to the Federation Assembly and Government. On 18 March, both Federation Houses elected the new Federation President, Vladimir Soljic, and his Deputy Ejup Ganic. On 20 March, the Government adopted a draft Law on the Federation Implementation Council which will, if adopted by the Federation Assembly, facilitate the removal from office of officials who obstruct the implementation of the Federation. On the financial side, the customs system was put back on track after some danger of falling apart in January and February. On 20 March, the Government adopted the Federation budget which now awaits approval by the Assembly, scheduled for 16 April.
59. On 26 February, the Advisory Commission on municipalities finished its work on split and the first group of new municipalities, and submitted a draft law to the Government. Due to some of the proposed new municipalities being contested, in particular the Croat populated Usora, the Government has not yet agreed on the draft law, thus posing a considerable problem to the OSCE which has to proceed with its planning for the municipal elections.
60. On 27 March, leaders of the parties represented in the Sarajevo Canton Assembly signed a comprehensive agreement on the implementation of the Sarajevo Protocol. Precise steps were outlined to establish the City Council, elect a mayor of Sarajevo and his Deputies, and to amend the Federation and Canton Constitutions. Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs will have guaranteed rights in the governance of the city. If implemented, this would constitute a significant step towards ensuring the multi-ethnic character of Sarajevo, facilitating return, improving the climate in the Federation and ultimately providing the possibility for all peoples and citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina to identify with their capital.
61. At the end of the reporting period, the recent crisis in the Federation appears to have been overcome, for the time being. It is clear that the implementation process needs further international attention and assistance, particularly regarding return of refugees and displaced persons. The relations within the Federation also depend, to a considerable degree, on the relations between the Entities and within the common institutions.
Republika Srpska issues
62. The formation of the Entity structures, as well as necessary legislative framework, has continued in the Republika Srpska. The National Assembly of the Republika Srpska held three sessions during the reporting period. The deputies to the National Assembly, elected on the territory of the Federation, were allowed to participate fully in the work of the National Assembly without taking an oath. In order to facilitate their participation, the OHR and IPTF provides technical support.
63. Since my last report, the reorganization of the structure of the Government has been finalised. The National Assembly adopted at the 7 February session, the Law on the Government of Republika Srpska and the Law on the Ministries. These Laws rationalized the structure of the Government and decreased the total number of Ministries. The main pillars of the programme of the Government remain: defence of territorial integrity; organized settlement of the population to areas close to IEBL; economic reconstruction and social protection of the people.
64. There are a number of issues, however, about which I am concerned. The Republika Srpska continues the pretence of statehood; a number of its laws are filled with references and terminology to this effect. The continuation of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs is contrary to the Peace Agreement, as is the reference to crucial issues of foreign economic policy in the newly adopted Law on the Senate of the Republika Srpska. A Law on Foreign Exchange, while short on specifics, gives wide powers to the National Bank of Republika Srpska to legislate the operation of the foreign exchange market and refers to "new dinars" as the domestic currency. The recent amendments to the Law on Citizenship, will further retard the process of agreeing on the Quick Start Package.
65. An agreement between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Republika Srpska, establishing a "special parallel relationship", was signed in Belgrade on 28 February 1997 and was subsequently adopted by the Assemblies of the Republika Srpska and FRY. The agreement contains similar elements as those included in the agreement concluded between Croatia, the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federation, in Paris on 15 December 1995. Though the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina allows for "special parallel relationships" (Article III, 2 a), my Office has considered the agreements and found that both suffer from constitutional shortcomings. Negotiations are also proceeding on the formation of a virtual customs union between the Republika Srpska and FRY and I have warned that this would be contrary to the Peace Agreement. We must insist that all agreements be reviewed by the Bosnia and Herzegovina Parliamentary Assembly and brought into line with the Constitution.
66. I am also concerned about the apparent disrespect displayed by some leaders in the Republika Srpska for the provisions and procedures of the Republika Srpska constitution. This was especially evident during the conclusion of the above mentioned agreement on a "special parallel relationship" with FRY, which was signed on behalf of the Republika Srpska by Momcilo Krajisnik, the member from the territory of the Republika Srpska in the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in violation of the Republika Srpska constitution.
67. While such legislative posturing continues, the Republika Srpska economy is slipping further into decay. The initial boost from the return to peace was short-lived and there is still large scale unemployment, low income levels and a severely limited ability to care for the elderly and poor. My Office has made strenuous efforts to redirect the flow of international aid to the Republika Srpska in order to revitalise the economy and prevent inevitable social tensions.
68. At the same time, such aid must be conditioned to co-operation with the peace process. The authorities in the Republika Srpska must be convinced that their activities could lead to a severe reduction in planned economic aid and an increase in social turmoil which would, ultimately, be to their own disadvantage and that of the people they purport to represent.
69. Events elsewhere in the region underline the vital role of independent media in achieving democracy and stability. OHR is giving high priority to entrenching and consolidating independent media in all parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
70. The London Conference Conclusions gave a reinforced role to OHR in co-ordinating international support to independent media project; there are now regular media round-tables in Sarajevo with all major donors. A detailed database of existing and proposed projects has been set up, and an effective instrument now exists for avoiding overlap between different donors and agencies, and promoting co-operation between them.
71. My Office plays its most active role in assisting the Open Broadcast Network (OBN), as Chair of the Governing Council and its Steering Committee. The OBN is the only true cross-entity broadcaster in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It carries the programming of TV-IN to most areas of the Federation, and to much of the Republika Srpska in the area around Banja Luka. The project has had to overcome a number of institutional and technical problems. It has also had to endure much politically inspired public criticism designed to undermine what remains a fledgling but maturing TV Network. As such it continues to need the support, protection and nurture of the international community. The network is now embarking on Stage Two of its development, a $7.4 m programme which will roughly double the audience for its programmes, set up a fully-fledged affiliate station in the Republika Srpska with its own local identity, and expand substantially the programming capacity both of the central hub in Sarajevo and of the affiliates. Stage Two will aim to consolidate the network's operations over a two-year period, after which it should be self-sustaining.
72. The Republika Srpska is a crucial target in my efforts to promote independent media. A proposal for an independent print house in Banja Luka is being finalised in conjunction with the democratisation working group in Banja Luka; funding is being made available from EU sources. As Western Herzegovina is even more closed than the RS to independent media, my Office is also seeking a pro-active strategy with other international institutions and donors to promote the independent media in that region of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
73. At present, there is no comprehensive framework for the legal regulation of media in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Federation does not even have a media law. My Office co-chairs with the US embassy the Federation Forum Special Group on media issues, and has given the Federation partners, as a possible basis for discussion, draft laws on broadcasting prepared by the European Institute for the Media. My Office is also in close touch with the Presidency working group preparing draft legislation on telecommunications, which has some limited implications for broadcasting. Our interest in the field of media law is in ensuring basic media freedoms and protecting independent media. It will be particularly important to ensure the position of cross-entity broadcasters within this framework.
Return of refugees and displaced persons
74. The beginning of 1997 has signaled a major push to repatriate refugees. Approximately 235.000 refugees and displaced persons are believed to have returned to their homes during 1996, mainly on a spontaneous and individual basis; the scene for 1997 promises to be more complex. Some host countries in Europe have started to lift temporary protection status and have begun large-scale organised repatriation. This is likely to create further disruption; the influx of returnees in 1996 has already used up much of the housing capacity in Bosnia and Herzegovina, additionally, the homes of the refugees are, by and large, either destroyed or occupied by internally displaced people. A possible influx of Serbs from Eastern Slavonia into the Republika Srpska would merely exacerbate the problem.
75. Violent incidents such as the shootings in Mostar on 10 February and the deliberate destruction of houses and shelters in the Zone of Separation, indicate the hostile environment minority returns can encounter. Nonetheless, the process of normalisation has provided some openings to individual and low-profile minority returns. UNHCR estimates the number involved to be about 10,000, many more are signaling their wish to return to their homes across the IEBL in both directions.
76. Since my last report, my Office has concentrated its efforts in three fields: the establishment of the Reconstruction and Return Task Force; support for the Coalition for Return; the implementation of the Procedure for return and reconstruction in the Zone of Separation. Furthermore, my Office's overall efforts towards the economic reconstruction of Bosnia and Herzegovina; functioning common institutions; the improvement of the overall human rights, policing and judicial situation, can be expected to have beneficial effects for the provision of durable solutions for displaced persons and returning refugees.
77. After consultations with UNHCR and other main actors including the European Commission and the international financial institutions, I called for the inaugural meeting of the Reconstruction and Return Task Force on 4 February. The Task Force has sought to develop links between economic reconstruction and the return of refugees to maximise the impact of limited resources in supporting sustainable returns. Among the conclusions of the Task Force have been the need to focus resources in areas where there is both economic potential and expected refugee return, and the need to identify loan mechanisms to overcome the major financing gap in the housing and relevant infrastructure sectors. The Task Force will submit recommendations to the donor community.
78. The Coalition for Return, a movement of displaced persons and refugees of all nationalities and from all parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has continued to grow during the reporting period. A number of refugee associations in third countries have also joined. By jointly expressing their interests, those most affected by the war and manipulation by the authorities are becoming a significant political force at the grass-roots level. This was expressed by the gathering of 270 members of the Coalition in Tuzla on 22-23 February. The Coalition has promoted the creation of an information network between displaced persons by organising visits to communities throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. Material support has been received to establish regional offices that will further improve contacts; the first is planned to open in April. My Office will continue to give technical and political support to the Coalition until such support is no longer required.
79. Returns to the Zone of Separation, on the basis of the Procedure established in October 1996, have met a mixed fate. Violence directed against the labourers and the destruction of the pre-fabricated provisional shelters in the hamlet of Gajevi has hit the headlines. However, the successful administrative integration of returned villagers by Republika Srpska authorities, and joint police patrolling of Republika Srpska police and UN IPTF in the Sapna and Doboj areas, do indicate a changing attitude in some areas. Likewise, the Federation authorities have recognised that cross-IEBL returns into the Zone of Separation have to be conducted in a civil and orderly manner.
80. Returns to the Zone of Separation have also been achieved in the Brcko municipality; reconstruction efforts have been ongoing under the adopted Procedure for approximately nine months, with only some initial incidents of destruction of property. Returns to contentious areas and the endorsement of the Procedure by the President of the Republika Srpska and the joint Bosnia and Herzegovina delegation to the UNHCR's refugee ministers' meeting of 21-22 March, give rise to the expectation that phased and orderly return to the Zone of Separation might become a more common and less disputed element of the stabilisation process in 1997. A focused international effort will be needed to bring about the revitalisation and normalisation of this area through the return of its original inhabitants.
81. My Deputy in Brcko, acting as the Supervisor, together with two deputies, to implement the arbitration award of 14 February 1997, will soon establish and oversee the realisation of a special procedure to enable the return of original inhabitants to Brcko. Return is a core element of the arbitration award.
82. My Office will continue its task to co-ordinate the efforts of international actors to facilitate return and repatriation and to exercise contingency measures. After its recommendations to the Donor Conference, the Reconstruction and Return Task Force will remain engaged in efforts to harmonise economic reconstruction with return requirements. I will continue to press the governments in Bosnia and Herzegovina to fulfill their obligations to create conditions favourable to return, and will closely monitor other durable solutions offered to the community of displaced persons and refugees.