" The remedy lies in breaking the vicious circle
and restoring the confidence of the European people in the
economic future of their own countries and Europe as a whole"
George C. Marshall, June 5, 1947.
Address of dr. Mirza
of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the UN
Boston, 4 April 2002
Ladies and Gentlemen
Dear Friends of Bosnia and Herzegovina
It is a great honor for me to have opportunity to address
this forum on the subject "Requiem or Renewal
A Decade of Balkan Conflict". It is especially a challenge
to speak on this provocative subject to the people who have
been continuously involved in the area for the last ten years
and who very much care for the future of the region. Even
though the "conflict" in the Balkans has a regional
dimension, Bosnia and Herzegovina will be in focus of my address.
Let me start with dilemma: "Requiem or renewal?"
The title of the conference brings in my mind the last picture
of Danis Tanovic "No mans land" movie of helpless
soldier, laying on an unexploded mine and its parallel with
Bosnia and Herzegovina, trapped with Dayton constitutional
structure. The dilemma could be rephrased: "Is there
future for Bosnia?" My answer is: yes, there is future
for multi-ethnic Bosnia and Herzegovina since there is enough
positive energy and determination within her society for the
renewal. But, then the question remains "how to coordinated
her internal strength" and "how long the process
of recovery will take". In order to elaborate my stand
I have to start from the beginning of the "conflict",
from the spring of 1992.
History records the facts: The war in Bosnia, the aggression
against Bosnian state, was the third and most destructive
stage of Yugoslav federal states disintegration. After
Slovenia and Croatia simultaneously declared independence,
Bosnia was left with a choice to remain in a "rump"
Yugoslavia or to leave Yugoslav federation. In the event the
referendum for independence was organized and Bosnia and Herzegovina
declared independence on 1 March 1992. Bosnia was recognized
as an independent state by the EC on 6 April and by the US
on 7 April, ten years ago, and on 22 May 1992 became the full
member of the UN.
Since 1992 there has been ongoing debate about the wars
origin. Even international organizations and agencies split
over the key question: "Was the war caused by aggression
of Serbia and Montenegro against a newly independent Bosnia
and Herzegovina or by inter-ethnic cleavage within country,
triggered by the declaration of independence?" This question,
the dilemma "aggression or civil war", is being
asked again and again whenever strategic decisions about future
of the country are to be made.
As an official representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina I
say that this question and other questions regarding character
of the war in Bosnia have recently been answered on the ICTY
trials. I am convinced that substantial evidence regarding
the planned aggression against Bosnia will be revealed during
ongoing trial against Slobodan Milosevic.
As a citizen of Bosnia, who spent with his family four years
in the war, I knew the right answers from the very beginning.
Voting for independence the citizens of Bosnia voted for peace
not for war. We were hoping that full membership in the UN
would, according to the UN Charter, bring peace and international
protection to our vulnerable and unprotected country. We had
believed in international justice and international law and
our eyes were directed toward New York and Washington. And
we were very disappointed to see that at that time the international
actors did not see the right answers, too. Since I came to
New York to represent Bosnia in the UN, five months ago, I
have learnt that the international actors new what was happening
but decided not to become involved. The only decision they
made was not to "take the side amongst the parties involved"
and not to make any substantial decision. In the situation
when, back in 1992, the aggressor was militarily so powerful
and the defenders of Bosnia barely armed, those decisions
meant taking the side of the aggressor and making the decision
for requiem of Bosnian state. Hence, in the spring 1992 Bosnias
In the spring 1992 the question was "Requiem or Survival
of Bosnian state". The patriots of Bosnia and Herzegovina
answered the question showing that love was stronger than
hate that good was stronger than evil.
Bosnians do not remember facts about the war. We have our
personal experience. Memories of the spring 92 are still
alive for all of us. Since, from the very beginning, communications
within the country were cut off we, who lived in Bosnia at
that time, have memories of the first months of the war from
a local perspective. I was living in Tuzla and my memories
of the spring 92 are memories of great moral and unity
of Tuzlas citizens. We were united in determination
to defend our homes, our town and our country. I recall how
brave people of Tuzla, from all ethnic groups, stood to defend
their town. They were poorly armed, frequently in sport shoes
and jeans, but they had carriage and hart to face the mighty
aggressor. Others have similar memories from different towns
and villages of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In those days each
town and each village had its local heroes. Usually those
were our neighbors, our friends, people who had worked in
factories and offices, with no former military experience.
In Tuzla one of them was my friend Marijan Balta, a thirty-year-old
architect and former karate master. All members of Tuzla karate
club "Liberty" had enlisted for Bosnian Army and
Marijan went together with his mates to defend his family
and his town. Marijans father was Bosnian Serb, mother
Bosnian Croat and wife, then in the third month of pregnancy,
Bosnian Muslim-Bosniac. Marijan, like many others, also went
to defend multi-ethnic spirit of Bosnian society. Marijan
was killed in early June 1992. On his funeral we, his friends,
had sworn to the dead friend to continue our just struggle
for the future of his unborn child, for its right to live,
for the future of our children. His mates from the karate
club renamed their, lately elite unit of the Bosnian Army,
I also recall when the first expelled people from Podrinje
area, from the cities: Zvornik, Bratunac, Vlasenica and Srebrenica
came in early spring of 92. They were the first IDPs
who came to Tuzla.. The word IDP was invented by the UNHCR
for those in Bosnia who had been forced to leave their home
but remained in the country. More than 300.000 IDPs later
came from Podrinje area. The first stories about horror they
had experienced: mass murder, mass rape and torture came with
them, too. The crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina:
ethnic cleansing, genocide, detention in concentration camps,
systematic mass murder and mass rape and many more acts of
violations of international humanitarian law should never
In our mission in New York the photos of Bosnian cities:
Sarajevo, Mostar, Banja Luka, Brcko, Jajce, Travnik, Derventa,
Livno are displayed on the wall. Each of these cities has
a story about horror and suffering of those days. At that
time we were watching, like many others around the world,
the scenes about stories from hell on CNN. And each of us
has a personal story to tell, too. Many of my friends have
asked me what was the most difficult personal decision I had
to make during the war. I want to share may answer to this
question with you today. For me the most difficult personal
decision was to let my, at that time five-year-old, son to
play with his mates outside our house on a play ground, which
was partially exposed to shelling. In 1992 my wife and I had
resisted his pleas; in 1993 we could not resist anymore and
decided to let him play. It was not possible to keep him isolated
in the house anymore. By 1993 the small kids in our neighborhood
had already learnt how to find a shelter when they heard shelling.
In Tuzla there was a time interval of 3-5 seconds between
sound of shelling from nearby mountain and actual explosion
of a grenade. So by 1993 the kids had already learnt how to
use this time gap that divided life from death, to find a
shelter. My wife and I were lucky. Many parents in Sarajevo,
Mostar, Bihac and Srebrenica had the same dilemma. Many of
them were not lucky. In her book "Problem from hell",
Samantha Power recalls the death of Amina Pajevic, Ljiljana
Janjic, Sidbela Zimic and Maja Skoric, the four girls in the
age between nine and twelve, which were killed from the shell
crashed into the playground in Sarajevo. The total number
of children slaughtered in Bosnia during the war was more
Tragedy and pain of Bosnias citizens was immense and
yet Bosnia survived. I wanted to share with you my personal
story because I am convinced that all of us, who have been
fighting since 1992 for better future of Bosnia, have had
in mind future of our children and future of many more children
without parents, like Marijans daughter, and their right
to live without fear and danger. Each of us has his painful
memory. Together we have a collective painful memory. We should
never forget what has happened to us. But for future of our
children we have to learn how to remember without hate. Bosnia
and Herzegovina, which Marijan went and which we went to defend
in 1992 cant be built on hate. Multi-ethnic Bosnia and
Herzegovina can only be built on love and tolerance.
Finally on 14 December 1995 DPA was signed in Paris and the
fighting stopped. When the war ended we learnt that more than
half of 4.3 million Bosnians had been displaced, either as
refugees (1.2 million) or as IDPs (1 million). Estimation
of dead and missing persons is more than 250.000 or more than
6 percent of total Bosnias population in 1991. More
than 200.000 citizens were wounded, including 50.000 children.
These are statistically recorded data about destruction of
Bosnian society. Destruction of physical and economic infrastructure
was severe, too. More than 50 percent of housing stock was
either destroyed or unusable. Industrial production was reduced
to 5 percent of pre war level. Unemployment reached 90 percent.
Suffering and pain of civilians, which were prime victims
of the war, difficult to record statistically, was the real
toll of the four-year conflict.
DPA was negotiated under strong pressure from the IC. It
was based on a compromise, which was imposed upon "the
parties in the conflict". Many consider DPA as an agreement
that eventually brought peace to Bosnia, creating a possibility
to rebuild a democratic, multi ethnic state. Many argue that
DPA laid, at the time, the only realistic institutional framework.
Others say that in Dayton a nightmare of the implementation
of an "unfinished peace" agreement started for Bosnias
people. Today, many consider that controversial DPA is an
obstacle for further peace process implementation. In the
remaining part of my address I will try to explain my view
regarding DPA implementation and my vision of Bosnia renewal.
For the successful implementation of DPA the role of the
IC is critical. De facto DPA was an international undertaking.
In general, from the very beginning the IC was very much involved
in Bosnian war. In the beginning international actors seemed
as internally divided as the national political leaders. The
EC saw the Yugoslav crisis as a test of its capacity for a
common foreign and security policy. However, from the outset
of the conflict incoherence in actions of major European countries
was evident. The US criticized European ineffectiveness, but
was unwilling to become fully involved. In his "Srebrenica
Report" to the security Council the Secretary General
Kofi Annan admitted failures of the UN involvement.
First, ineffectiveness of the IC involvement was a consequence
of the split among international actors between diplomatic
goal of the negotiated settlement and the human right objective
of a just one.
Second, during the war international actors also split over
the proper role of peacekeeping, especially over the implications
of maintaining "neutrality" in the face of the crimes
against humanity. Recently many excellent books have been
published about role of the IC in Bosnias war. For me
the best critique of the IC involvement presents Tanovic "No
The change happened when engagement of the IC acquired an
increasing coherence and when international mediation, military
and humanitarian efforts began to function more productively.
The key moment in the new approach was decision to replace
humanitarian and peacekeeping mission with the willingness
to use force as a partner to diplomacy. The critical element
was readiness of the US to use its military power. However,
decisive response of the IC for many in Bosnia came late.
For more than 8.000 citizens of Srebrenica it came too late.
The conclusion is: the IC is not only a partner in DPA implementation,
but also the critical stakeholder in development of sustainable,
democratic multi ethnic Bosnia and Herzegovina. Hence its
decisive, coherent and consistent policy is a precondition
for the success of Bosnia renewal. Building of sustainable
Bosnia and Herzegovina is not only its challenge and moral
responsibility but also interest of the IC.
Several features of the conflict and way the war concluded
bear heavily on the prospect for DPA implementation.
First the conflict in Bosnia was interdependent with political
processes in the region. The resolution of it would remain
so, indicating an unavoidable regional dimension to peace
Second, in the core of the conflict were different positions
of the nationalistic political parties regarding the constitutional
structure of the country, which would guarantee basic human
rights, both individual and collective. The resolution of
this problem would require finding a functional constitutional
arrangement, which would provide basis for development of
modern, democratic, multi ethnic Bosnian state. The major
shortcoming of "Dayton Constitution (Annex IV of DPA)
is that it does not provide such legal arrangement.
Finally, the armed conflict ended because of intensive pressure
from the IC, especially from the US. It is now obvious that
majority of the parties in the conflict were far from committed
to the arrangement they signed. The central implication of
this fact for peace was clear: any chance for a success would
heavily depend on the IC. From the beginning it was likely
that heavy continuing negotiation, even enforcement, would
be needed to ensure that signing parties stack to the terms
of the accord.
Where do we stand today? Several evaluations of DPA implementation
have already been published. Key question is: "Is Dayton
failing?" My opinion is that DPA implementation process
has failed to produce desired results. Today, more than six
years after the agreement was signed Bosnia and Herzegovina
is not functioning sustainable state. However, the only realistic
option is full implementation of DPA and its necessary evolution
through a continuous upgrade and update of the constitutional
structure set in Dayton, according to the European standards.
I believe that DPA provide a basis for evolution. I believe
that a vision of viable, democratic and multi ethnic, European
oriented Bosnia and Herzegovina can be realized through a
process of necessary reforms. Since all political parties
claim to have such vision, I also believe that "normal"
Bosnia can be developed through the process of political negotiations.
However, certain issues cant be negotiated:
- Cooperation with the ICTY, not only by words but also
by deeds is the priority and cant be negotiated. Bosnia
and Herzegovina cant be developed on hate. However
sustainable inter ethnic reconciliation can only be based
on justice and truth.
- The ICTY only deals with individual responsibility. The
truth about the war in Bosnia, which will be taught in our
schools, we have to write.
- European vision implies European values in human rights.
Therefore the rights of Bosnias constituent people
must be respected on the whole territory. This means constitutions
of the current entities in Bosnia should have multi-ethnic
The responsibility of the IC is to ensure respect for the
above and for other universal values.