Letter to Bill Thomas, OHR - Brcko
by Hasan Roncevic
7 May 2000
24 Emerika Bluma St., 71000 Sarajevo
Tel.: +387 71 211-151 (Office)
+387 71 676-590 (Home)
To: Bill Thomas, OHR - District of Brcko, Bosnia-Herzegovina
Dear Mr Thomas,
I should like to thank you for seeing me at short notice while I was in Brcko on Friday 5 May 2000. I should like now to take the opportunity to set down on paper some of the issues that we discussed.
I am originally from the city of Brcko, and was expelled with my family and relatives by the Serbs in 1992. Of 54 close or distant members of my pre-war family, only I and my son are now still living in Bosnia- Herzegovina. Some have died, some were killed, and the remainder are scattered all over the world. The family has been uprooted and dispersed, probably for ever.
I am now working as a translator of English in Sarajevo, and since my return from London in 1996 I have been trying to regain possession of my and my sister's apartments, located in Brcko and now occupied by Serb squatters. My sister, Rahima Áicmil, who suffered for 2 years in Brcko under Serb rule, is now living in Berlin.
Despite the fact that we have all documents, including those from the Commission for Real Property Claims of Displaced Persons and Refugees established by Annex 7 of the Dayton Accord, confirming our right to property occupied by Serb squatters in Brcko, and despite the promises of the international community and the provisions of Annex 7, we have been unable to return to our town and to regain possession of our apartments.
I am sure I do not need to remind you that in addition to the specific provisions of Annex 7, I and all other citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina enjoy, at least in theory, the constitutional right to the `peaceful enjoyment of our possessions', a key provision of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Article 1 of Protocol 1) and also a provision explicitly set out in the Constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina (Annex 4 to the Dayton Accord), Article 2. I know too that you are certainly aware that by decision of the High Representative and on the basis of laws adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia-Herzegovina in October 1999, occupancy rights are considered as `possession' in the terms of the ECRH, the Constitution of B-H, etc. These provisions, being applicable at the level of the State of Bosnia-Herzegovina, apply to both Entities and to the District of Brcko.
I fully appreciate that, as the High Representative has often stated, `nobody should be on the street', that is that nobody who has tÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÔ
he right under the law to alternative accommodation should be arbitrarily evicted. However, persons who did not have occupancy rights prior to the war, or those who are dual occupants, do not fall into the category of those who have the right to alternative accommodation. It so happens that the current occupants of both my and my sister's apartments in Brcko do not have the right to alternative accommodation, and that they are in fact illegal occupants. I cannot therefore understand why it is that they are permitted to continue living in these apartments while my sister and I are deprived of our constitutional right to the `peaceful enjoyment of our possessions', a right confirmed by the documents I have already referred to (lodged with the Department of the Ministry of Refugees and Displaced Persons, Brcko, and with the Multi-ethnic Commission for Housing Issues in Brcko). At the same time, although my constitutional right to the return of my property in Brcko remains unattainable, I have no right to alternative accommodation here in Sarajevo, and am obliged to pay a monthly rental of 500 DM for the flat I am currently occupying (average salary in B-H is DM 350).
My question is a very simple one: for how long must I continue to pay a high rent for an apartment while an illegal squatter has the `peaceful enjoyment' of my property.
I am aware that OHR itself faces certain problems in the implementation of decisions of the High Representative, in the shape of local opposition to returns and other forms of obstruction, and it is with this in mind that I am copying this letter to a number of foreign organizations in the hope that their support for OHR's wish to see an increase in returns in the year 2000 will be helpful.
Anything that you are able to do on my behalf, and that of my sister, to accelerate the process of returning to us the `peaceful enjoyment' of our property, will be greatly appreciated.
I look forward to your early reply and will be glad to provide any further information that may be helpful to you.
Following his expulsion from Brcko in 1992 Hasan Roncevic came to Britain, where he was London correspondent for the Sarajevo weekly Ljiljan. He also participated in numerous activities in solidarity with Bosnia-Herzegovina before returning there in 1995, and notably translated into Bosnian the pamphlet by Norman Cigar and Paul Williams, `Crimes and individual responsibility: a prima facie case for the indictment of Slobodan Milosevic', published by the Alliance to Defend Bosnia-Herzegovina and available from The Bosnian Institute.