The Dayton Peace Plan: What Should Labour Do?
by Aaron Rhodes
- The Dayton Plan is riddled with contradictions and deeply inadequate. Despite facing the imminent prospect of total military defeat, the nationalist Serbs have managed to exploit the moral lassitude of the international community to achieve a deal that is actually less favourable to the Bosnians than any of the peace plans proposed before. In a very real sense, appeasement has been snatched from the jaws of victory.
However, the plan has now been signed by all parties, including the Bosnian Government, albeit under tremendous pressure. We shall have to make the best of it.
- Far from being on the brink of a permanent peace, the stage is potentially set for a major foreign-policy catastrophe, with NATO forces ending up as the policemen of apartheid. It should not be like that. The good parts of the Dayton plan could be used to assist Bosnia's re-emergence as a democratic and plural political community.
However, that requires a willingness to use the NATO Implementation Force to achieve the stated objectives of the Agreement, including:
- returning refugees to their former homes, under NATO protection;
- war criminals being arrested and detained wherever possible;
- the programme of free and fair elections being upheld throughout the whole o Bosnia- Herzegovina.
- The next 12 months will be critical. It must be the role of the Labour Party to exert maximum pressure upon a Tory government whose track record of appeasement shows that they would happily go along with the de facto partition of Bosnia.
- Remember, Labour will return to government sometime over the next 18 months. British troops will almost certainly still be in Bosnia as part of an extended NATO mission. That is why we have to be absolutely clear and firm today.
- The appeasers will try to limit IFOR's role in policing a zone of separation between the armies. Such a minimalist policy is doomed to failure in the long run, as the fate of the UN separation zones in Croatia clearly shows. That is why the tasks of IFOR must also include the following:
- ensuring access for, and co-operation with, the International Tribunal on War Crimes, as demanded by the Dayton Agreement (Annex 4, Article II, 7);
- assisting UNHCR and the Refugees Commission in guaranteeing the right of return of civilian refugees and ensuring their security; (Those are the implementation force's objectives: to ensure that, in the next 12 months, people feel that degree of security and, 'where they have left their homes, secure enough to return to them. (Michael Portillo, 12 December 1995).
- supporting the Human Rights Ombudsman in preventing any violations by force of the civilian right to property and physical safety;
- ensuring free and fair elections, including the right of refugees to vote in their original home districts.
Labour Friends of Bosnia also demand
- Economic aid: apart from immediate humanitarian need, all economic aid should be targeted at promoting communal reintegration and civic reconstruction as a priority.
- Political conditions: strict political conditions should be attached to all international aid programmes, with verifiable criteria. In particular, there should be formal liaison between the proposed co-ordinator of International Aid and Reconstruction, and the proposed Commissioner for Human Rights, with regular published reports from both.
- Military: failing reintegration of the different armies under the clear authority of the Union Presidency, then the Army of the Bosnian Republic must be trained and supported as has been proposed by the US Government.
- Kosova: There should be no question of the final lifting of the sanctions against Serbia proper until the human-rights abuses in Kosova and elsewhere are ended, and the status of Kosova and Vojvodina decided in a form acceptable to the international community.
- Croatia: equally, there should be no question of developing relations between Croatia and the EU until the human-rights abuses in Krajina and elsewhere are ended, and the right of return of Serb refugees back into Croatia is fully accepted and has begun to be implemented.
- The deficiencies of Dayton are obvious. It is the worst of all the plans proposed since 1991. At best, it is a recipe for constitutional paralysis; at worst, it is a blueprint for eventual secession.
On the other hand, the international community still has powerful levers - including IFOR - which it can pull to uphold the goals of democracy, free elections, justice, the investigation of war crimes and the repatriation of refugees, all of which Dayton stipulates:
- there is a Constitutional Court to break deadlocks;
- there is a Commissioner for Refugees to ensure repatriation;
- there is an Ombudsman for Human Rights, to prevent abuses.
- There is a High Representative, Carl Bildt, to co-ordinate and supervise the civilian programme.
- The international community has effective or final control over all of the above. Therefore, any failure to achieve the democratic and political goals of the Dayton Agreement cannot be blamed on 'the warring factions.' /this is a plan drafted by the West, imposed upon the Bosnians, and enforced by NATO. If it fails, it is the Tory Governments failure and we must make that point clearly.
Labour Friends of BosniÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌ°a?
Presidents: Michael Foot and Jill Craigie
Chair: Clare Short MP
Convenors: Kate Hoey MP, Calum MacDonald MP and Malcolm Wicks MP
Sponsored by fifty-one other MPs from across the Party
Labour Friends of Bosnia has been established to mobilize support across the Labour Movement for a plural, multi-ethnic Bosnia, and to oppose by any means necessary the attempt to create ethnic apartheid in the Balkans.
The Government's policy has been based upon callous expediency and appeasement. A new Labour Government will have to seize the initiative in Bosnia and instil a sense of morality and purpose into our foreign policy.
If you would like to join, or affiliate to, Labour Friends of Bosnia, please contact them at Room 206, Norman Shaw South, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.