bosnia report
No. 13 January - 1996
I. Summary
by Signed in Paris on 14 December 1995

I. Summary

The Dayton Peace Accords provide foreign powers - as represented by the NATO-led Implementation Force (IFOR), Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and other bodies - with broad authority over civilian, military and political activities in the territory of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina (RBH). They also provide for a fundamental social, military and political transformation of the RBH, which is to be replaced by a new state 'Bosnia-Herzegovina' (BH) 1. BH is to consist of two Entities: the Federation of Bosnia Herzegovina (FBH) and the Republika Srpska (RS).

Key elements of the Accords:

  • The Dayton Accords grant IFOR virtually complete discretion to control any military activity and to take police actions in BH. IFOR's authority to use force primarily concerns the enforcement of a no-fly zone over BH and the separation of the forces of the RBH, FBH, and RS along a 'Zone of Separation' (ZS) between the FBH and RS 2 .While IFOR is granted broad authority to take military action at its discretion in order to enforce compliance with military and non-military provisions of the Accords, it is not obliged to take any such action. The Accords do not explicitly provide guidelines or means for enforcement of their military provisions or the military activities of the FBH or RS after IFOR has terminated its mission. The IFOR mission is estimated to last approximately one year. The Accords do not explicitly provide for the stationing of troops at any point on BH's international borders.

  • The Accords provide guidelines, but not enforcement mechanisms, for the overall level of military forces allocated to BH, the FBH, RS, Croatia and the 'Federal Republic of Yugoslavia' (FRY) 3, which are to negotiate numerical limits on their holdings of heavy weapons. These parties are not to import heavy weapons 4 for 180 days after the signing of the Accords or until a negotiated settlement is reached - whatever is the earlier 5. If they do not reach such an agreement withinÌÌÌÌÌÌÌ̸ 180 days of the signing of the Accords, an arms control regime is to be instituted. While requiring the FRY to build down to 75% of its current holdings of heavy weapons, the regime is to preserve FRY's regional military superiority by imposing weapons limits at a ratio of 5:2:2 for the FRY, Croatia and BH respectively. The BH allocation is to be divided between the FBH (two-thirds) and RS (one-third).

  • Fifty-one percent of the RBH's territory, including Gorazde and all of Sarajevo, is to be allotted to the FBH. The remaining 49%, including Srebrenica and Zepa, is to be allotted to the RS. Control of the narrow 'Brcko area' 6, which links the RS's eastern and western territories, is to be resolved through an international, binding arbitration within one year. The FBH and the RS may mutually agree to further territorial exchanges.

  • The Accord's constitutional arrangements provide for the legal continuation of the RBH as BH and avowedly provide for the preservation of the state's sovereignty, unity an territorial integrity. The central government's powers, however, are few in number while those of the constituent Entities, the FBH and the RS, correspond more closely to those of internationally recognised states. Actions by the central BH government can be vetoed by a minority of parliamentary deputies voting as an ethnic bloc. In addition, the government is given neither the means nor authority to compel compliance with any aspects of its constitution or other parts of the Accords. Indeed, in their provisions for the IFOR mission, the Accords specifically prohibit efforts by BH or the FBH to enforce compliance on the part of the RS.

  • The OSCE is to supervise - but not conduct - elections throughout BH between six and nine months after the signing of the Accords. BH citizens may vote where they were resident before the war. Refugees may vote in such districts in person or by absentee ballot. They may also apply to vote elsewhere. The FBH and the RS are to ensure a 'politically neutral environment' for the elections, but the Accords do not provide enforcement mechanisms or sanctions against the Entities if they do not cooperate.

  • While the BH constitution and political system would ostensibly be democratic, ethnic quotas and ethnic veto powers are institutionalized at several levels. At the same time, the Accords do not provide for the elimination of political elements that have actively undermined Bosnia's sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence. While indicted war criminals are nominally barred from all public positions and the Parties are to cooperate with the UN War Crimes Tribunal, the Accords would allow most Serbian ultra-nationalist leaders to continue to exercise political, police and military power in BH unless they were deposed in RS elections.

  • Refugees are to be free ostensibly to return to their homes or be compensated if they cannot return to their property. The RBH, FBH, RS, UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), and states where BH refugees are currently located are to formulate a plan for the repatriation of refugees and displaced persons. Although the RBH, FBH and RS are to terminate laws and activities that interfere with the return of the refugees, there are no enforcement mechanisms or sanctions for non-cooperation.

Marshall Freeman Harris & Stephen Walker
The Balkan Institute, Washinton · 22 December 1995


  1. This paper's use of the terms 'Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina' (RBH) and 'Bosnia-Herzegovina' (BH) reflects their corresponding usage in the Accords. It should be noted, however, that under the Accords BH is to be the legal continuation of the RBH.
  2. In official and public statements, NATO officials and the Clinton administratÌÌÌÌÌÌÌ̸ion have repeatedly and explicitly stated that IFOR's activities would be limited to these domains.
  3. Serbia-Montenegro.
  4. Unless otherwise specified, heavy weapons are to be defined as tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery 75 millimetres (mm) and above, mortars 81mm and above, and anti-aircraft artillery 20mm and above.
  5. UN Security Council Resolution 1021 (22 November 1995) provides for the gradual termination of the arms embargo imposed in 1991 on the - since defunct - Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY). Ninety days after the signing of the Accords, all provisions of the arms embargo aside from those prohibiting the import of heavy weapons and arms (as defined above), mines military aircraft and helicopters are to terminate. After 180 days the embargo is to be terminated outright.
    UN Security Council Resolution 1022 (22 November 1995) provided for a more rapid termination of economic sanctions against the FRY. Sanctions against the RS are to be suspended upon certification by IFOR that Bosnian Serb forces have withdrawn to their designated side of the ZS (see 'Military Provisions' below). If the High Representative (see footnote 8) or IFOR reports that either the FRY or RS are 'failing significantly to meet their obligations' under the Accords, the suspension of sanctions is to be terminated within five days, unless the Security Council decides otherwise. Sanctions are to be terminated outright ten days after the first elections are held in BH, provided that Bosnian Serb forces 'have withdrawn from or continue to respect' the ZS.
  6. Referred to in the Accords as the 'Brcko area'.


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