'Ethnic cleansing' in Bosnia continues

Issue 

By Jennifer Thompson The Bosnian cease-fire commenced on Wednesday, October 11, but fighting continued as Bosnian government and Croatian forces continued their drive to take back Bosnian Serb-controlled areas. Murder and expulsions — "ethnic cleansing" — by Bosnian Serb forces were also continuing. The continuing hostilities are the inevitable result of Western plans for a settlement based on the ethnic partitioning of Bosnia. Bosnian Serb forces shelled towns in Croatia and Bosnian refugee camps just prior to the cease-fire. The attacks on Croatia were in retaliation for joint military gains by the Croatian army (HV), Bosnian Croat militia (HVO) and Bosnian government forces in north-west Bosnia. The Bosnian Serb army claimed the presence of Croatian troops in Bosnia threatened the cease-fire but made no mention of at least 1,000 troops who recently crossed into Bosnia from Serbia. Bosnian Serb forces resorted to a renewed bout of "ethnic cleansing" to cement their grip on Banja Luka in northern Bosnia. UNHCR officials announced on October 9 that Bosnian Serb forces had expelled approximately 3,500 non-Serbs from the area during the week. They expected that up to 9,000 more could be purged. The officials said the expulsions had been "extremely brutal". Many men had been separated from their families with unconfirmed reports they had been taken to a concentration camp and that at least 100 had been executed. Refugees arriving in Zenica on October 7 said they were forced to walk several miles and cross a river to avoid going through a minefield, Reuters reported. Witnesses said two women drowned crossing the river. The cease-fire agreement, signed on October 5, was to start on October 10 on the condition of the re-establishment of gas and electricity for Sarajevo. Military commanders were bound by the agreement to halt all offensive actions. The sides also agreed to humane treatment of civilians or prisoners and an exchange of prisoners with UNPROFOR as mediator. The agreement calls for Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia to hold talks in the US on October 31. If successful, a peace conference in Paris will follow. The cease-fire is to last 60 days or until peace negotiations are concluded, whichever is longer. Brokered by the US and monitored by UNPROFOR, the cease-fire aimed to build on the agreement reached on September 26 between the Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian foreign ministers on a set of general constitutional principles for a post-settlement Bosnia. Elements of the September 26 agreement include the "goal" of democratic elections and a new presidency, parliament, and constitutional court. One third of the seats in each would be reserved for representatives of a Serbian "entity" who could veto any decisions. On September 8, an accord was signed by Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia which has — despite Bosnian government resistance — been described as an agreement to "partition Bosnia". The Sarajevo daily paper summed it up as: "Bosnia whole in two parts." The plan is vague but shows the signs of ethnic partition. The Seattle-based Committee for a Multi-Ethnic Bosnia says while the September 8 accord affirms Bosnia's territorial integrity, it contains conditions favourable to partition. " ... parallel special relationships with neighbouring countries" means Serb-ruled areas could establish ties with Serbia separate from the rest of Bosnia, leading to annexation. The right of refugees to return "or receive just compensation" opens a loophole for refugees to be paid-off instead returning home, says the committee, making ethnic cleansing permanent. US negotiators also suggest giving the Bosnian Serbs eastern Bosnia and a widened corridor to western Bosnia, creating the more contiguous territory necessary for partition. The territorial integrity of Bosnia is also threatened by the Bosnian Croat HVO and Croatian regular army troops. The Bosnian government army is now allied with these better armed forces but they control over half of Bosnia not in Bosnian Serb hands. The HVO has previously conducted brutal ethnic cleansing against Muslims and Serbs and calls for "special" Croat zones in a liberated Bosnia. In contrast to Western plans was the Bosnian government's 12-point peace plan issued on August 18. It calls for a end to hostilities and separation of armies behind the 51%-49% borders of the 1994 Contact Plan as a step toward the peaceful reintegration of Bosnia, with democratic rights guaranteed for all ethnicities. The government supports granting substantial autonomy and self-rule to the Serb areas — as long as they are part of Bosnia and ethnic cleansing is reversed.

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