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Center for Balkan

Tel: 978-461-0909
Fax: 978-461-2552
[email protected]

" 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 Kusljugic, ambassador
Permanent Representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the UN

Boston, 4 April 2002

Ladies and Gentlemen
Dear Friends of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Dear Bosnians,

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 man’s 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 state’s 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 war’s 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 Bosnia’s nightmare began.

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 Tuzla’s 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. Marijan’s 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, after him.

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 be forgotten.

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 than 17.000.

Tragedy and pain of Bosnia’s 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 Marijan’s 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 can’t 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 Bosnia’s 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 Bosnia’s 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 Bosnia’s war. For me the best critique of the IC involvement presents Tanovic "No man’s land".

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 building.

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 can’t be negotiated:

  • Cooperation with the ICTY, not only by words but also by deeds is the priority and can’t be negotiated. Bosnia and Herzegovina can’t 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 Bosnia’s constituent people must be respected on the whole territory. This means constitutions of the current entities in Bosnia should have multi-ethnic character.

The responsibility of the IC is to ensure respect for the above and for other universal values.