bosnia report
New Series No. 8 January - March 1999
 
Brcko Arbitration Statement

by Roberts B. Owen

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 5 March 1999

When the Dayton Accords were signed in late 1995, they left open for later international arbitration the difficult question as to the governance of the Brcko municipality in northeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although both the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska have sought exclusive control of the area, the Tribunal has now decided on a neutral solution: the pre-war Brcko municipality (or opstina), which Dayton left divided between the two entities, is now to reassembled as a self-governing 'neutral district'.

This solution is designed primarily to further the Dayton goal of allowing all war-time displaced persons and refugees to return to their original homes. Although the international community has pressed for significant returns to and from the Brcko area, those international efforts have been seriously obstructed by local nationalist groups. To remove the obstruction, control of the region will be placed in the hands of a new multiethnic district government under intensified international supervision and beyond the control of either entity.

Some of the highlights of the decision are these:

  • Since Dayton the northeastern portion of the Brcko municipality (opstina) has been temporarily a part of RS territory, while the southern portion has been Federation territory. Both portions will now be held by both entities on a 'con- dominium' basis, so that the territories of the two entities will overlap throughout this new district, although both must surrender control to the new District government. Thus all territories within Bosnia and Herzegovina will continue to be assigned to one entity, or the other, or both.

  • The new government will be democratic and multiethnic. Like other regions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it will be subject to BiH sovereignty and the authority of the BiH central institutions.

  • The change being ordered by the Tribunal will take place over time, on a schedule to be determined by the International Supervisor.

  • The IEBL will remain in place until such time as the Supervisor concludes it has ceased to have any legal significance. The law applicable in the RS and Federation territories will continue to apply until such time as they have been revised and harmonized.

  • All law enforcement will be in the hands of a new multiethnic, democratically orientated District police force that will be independent of any ÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÔ entity police. The new force will be gradually phased in under direction from the Supervisor, and entity military forces will be gradually phased out.

  • For the time being, Federation law and Republika Srpska law will continue to apply in the District as before. Any inconsistencies will be eliminated under supervision.

  • The Tribunal has emphasized that the new District arrangement will not impede any legitimate movement through the Brcko area. Freedom of movement will be guaranteed, and military transit will be permitted under SFOR regulation.

  • The territorial continuity of the RS will be ensured

  • The Tribunal's decision places new obligations on both entities to move towards Dayton's goals, treating both entities on essentially equal terms. Both entities will be paying some price for their failure to comply with the Dayton Accords and the Tribunal's earlier rulings.

  • The Tribunal emphasizes that the creation of the new District government has been necessitated primarily by the failure of hard-line nationalist party members to comply with earlier Tribunal and supervisory orders and their continuing efforts to impede the two-way return of war-time displaced persons and refugees to their original homes. Without RS Prime Minister Dodik's pro-Dayton efforts during the past year, the Tribunal might have been obligated to award Brcko out- right to the Federation.

  • The Tribunal also emphasizes the importance it places on Serb returns to the Federation, particularly Sarajevo. It supports strong action by the international community if the Federation fails to comply with its obligations in this regard.

  • Given past non-compliance, the Award provides for severe penalties for future non-compliance. If one party seriously obstructs implementation, the Tribunal will retain authority to place the District under the exclusive control of the entity that is complying.

Office of the High Representative

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