Open Letter to the 'Committee for Peace in the Balkans
On 26 June 1995, the founding meeting of a so-called 'Committee for Peace in the Balkans' was held in the House of Commons, under the auspices of about a dozen MPs and MEPs, including Diane Abbot, Tony Benn, Tom Dalyell, Neil Gerrad, Alice Mahon, Bill Michie, Dennis Skinner, Bob Wareing, Alex Falconer, Alf Lomas and Christine Oddy. In its initial statement of aims, distributed at the meeting and signed not only by former peace movement and Labour left activists but also by Radovan Karadzic's foremost British spokesman Sir Alofred Sherman, the Committee took the position that the war in the former Yuguslavia was a civil war in which one should not take sides, called upon the British Government to restrict its role to purely humanitarian and mediation efforts, and called for the arms embargo to be maintained on all sides. We print below an open letter to the Committee, sent by the Tuzla municipal branch of the Congress of Independent Trade Unions of the Republic of Bosnia-HerzegÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌ°ovina.
Help from those who do not know - or do not wish to know - that the sovereign state of Bosnia-Herzegovina has suffered aggression from Serb extremists who have grabbed all the weapons of former Yugoslavia is not required.
The Serbian aggressor, aided by Serb extremists from Bosnia-Herzegovina under the slogan of 'all Serbs in one state', have been killing all those who do not belong to the Serb nation, particularly Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims0 and Croats, as well as destroying the material, spiritual and cultural heritage creted by our people through centuries.
On the territories controlled by Karadzic's Serbs, most Catholic churches, eight hundred mosques and numerous cemeteries have been destroyed. They have been bombarding the urban and agricultural civilian population for four years now, killing adults and children alike. They have cut off all our energy supplies, gas, water and food. Yet your Committee for Peace in the Balkans calls this a civil war.
There is no civil war here. What we have here is fascist aggression, using the most monstrous methods. We, who are its victims, possess only very limited means to defend ourselves, because, of all the UN resolutions, the only one which is upheld in full is the one relating to the arms embargo against Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Serbian aggressor, on the other hand, has sufficient weapons to continue killing us for another ten years.
We do not look to you to fight for us. Nor do we wish anybody to be killed to save our lives. We seek either the lifting of the arms embargo, or that the international community disarm the Serbian aggressor in Bosnia-Herzegovina. This, together with a ban on all traffic to and from Serbia with the exception of humanitarian aid, would be sufficient to end the war at once. The UNPROFOR mandate should be changed: if it cannot defend us, it should leave.
The action by your Committee for Peace in the Balkans, under the heading of 'No military intervention in Bosnia'. is an action that aids the aggressor. The evidence of this is your complete passivity in the face of the humiliating capture and chaining of UN soldiers held as hostages for days by Karadzic's soldiers. As a result of this shaming act, many Western statesmen proclaimed Karadzic to be a terrorist.
Why does your Committee not demand of the Serbian aggressor to stop the daily bombarding of civilians? In Tuzla, 71 young people died and over 2000 were wounded from a single shell that fell in the town centre. The victims inluded all nationalities, since Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs all live here together.
Your Committee supports humanitarian aid, but you do not demand an end to the murdering of civilians. You wish to send us humanitarian aid, so that we can fill our stomachs before we get killed by the aggressor's artillery. Such aid we do not need.
Your Committee supports mediation, but says nothing of the fact that we have accepted all proposals for a peaceful solution in Bosnia-Herzegovina, while the Serbian aggressor has refused them all.
Why do you not lead action to open roads into Sarajevo, a place where Bosniaks, Croats, Serbs and Jews live together without food, medicine, water, elecricity or gas?
As we have stressed on countless occasions:
- we demand Bosnia-Herzegovina within its recognized borders;
- we demand a state with democratic and human rights;
- we demand a just and lasting peace;
- we demand the right to work and to live in dignity from our work.
We wish to live and work with people from all nations, but criminals will have to answer to the Tribunal in the Hague.
Our state has a thousand-year-old tradition: we will never allow it to be divided.
On the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina controlled by the legal government, we live and work together regardless of nationality, religion, race or party affiliation.
All that we desire for Bosnia-Herzegovina, we desire also for Croatia. We demand thatÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌ° Serb criminals on the territory of Croatia are called to account.
We seek solidarity between citizens, as well as between workers and their trade unions.
We seek a humane response to our tragedy. All those who aid the aggressor are in our eyes responsible for every dead civilian in our country.
Signed: Fikreta Sijercic (President), Tuzla, 22 June 1995.