bosnia report
New Series No: 19/20 October - December 2000
 
Two Open Letters to President Kostunica
by Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia

Two Open Letters to President Koštunica

I

The New Government’s First Steps

Dear Mr. President,

On behalf of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia and the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), which includes 39 independent human-rights organizations throughout the OSCE region, we congratulate you on your election victory. We would like to ask for your support for several steps that would give the world community assurances that Serbia is on a new path with regard to human rights and relations with neighbouring countries.

We would propose that these include:

- the recognition of Bosnia-Herzegovina as an independent state, and the immediate establishment of diplomatic relations;

- steps to end border disputes with the Republic of Macedonia;

- the release of Albanian prisoners abducted during the violence in Kosovo, like Flora Brovina and Albin Kurti;

- undertaking steps to investigate the fate of Ivan Stamboliƒ;

- restarting a political dialogue with Kosovo Albanian leaders by acknowledging the new reality in Kosovo;

- creating a new dialogue with the Montenegrin people and its leaders about the future of Montenegrin-Serbian relations.

- initiating a process of full cooperation with the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague;

- clarification of your support for the Dayton Agreement and the Kumanovo Agreement;

- planning emphasis on the problem of refugees in the Federation, including policies of granting citizenship and assisting in refugee return in appropriate cases;

- initiating a process for implementing European standards regarding minority rights;

- taking steps to nullify the discriminatory elements in the Information and University laws, and supporting the return of purged judges and professors to their positions;

- beginning legal actions in response to criminal acts that have not been properly investigated by the current authorities according to the rule of law, and speeding up the investigation into the unsolved case of killed journalist Slavko uruvija.

We are deeply grateful for your consideration. We would welcome an opportunity to meet you to discuss these proposals. Our organizations are eager to be of assistance to the new government in helping to achieve compliance with international human rights standards.

Yours sincerely,

Sonja Biserko, Chairperson of Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia

Aaron Rhodes, Executive Director of International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights

Belgrade/Vienna, 10 October 2000

II

Support Amnesty and Ban Landmines

Dear Mr President,

The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, using its right provided for by Article 44 of the Yugoslav Constitution, hereby submits the proposal that an Amnesty Law be urgently adopted in the Federal Parliament. The Law would grant amnesty to all persons who from 1 June 1998 until 30 June 1999 committed the crimes stated in Articles 214-219 of the Yugoslav Penal Code. As you know, military courts have been conducting proceedings against several thousand citizens for the crimes of avoiding mobilisation and conscription etc. The refusal of these people to go to war for the aims of former president, Slobodan Miloševiƒ, made them refugees from their own country. We are asking you to use your authority and launch the question of amnesty of these citizens, and thus enable them to return to their country.

The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia is a national co-ordinator of the Yugoslav Campaign to Ban Landmines. We form part of the World Campaign, which gathers together numerous non-governmental organisations working toward banning the production and use of landmines. The activities of the World Campaign have put strong pressure on their countries’ governments to legally sanction this field by adopting the Convention on the ban of production and use of this weapon. This inhumane weapon (as any other) targets mostly civilians, including children. Every 22 seconds one person is killed by this weapon. We emphasise that the World Campaign is a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is one of rare countries in Europe and the only one in the region which has neither signed nor ratified the 1997 Ottawa Convention, whose full title is: Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction. So far 138 countries have signed or ratified the Convention.

The territory of the former Yugoslavia is among the most contaminated areas in the world, to which fact the greatest contribution has been made by the former Yugoslav People's Army and the present Army of Yugoslavia, since they disseminated the largest numbers of mines. It is estimated that there are more than half a million mines planted in Kosovo alone, and every day there is a civilian and child getting killed by this weapon. The border areas of our country are also heavily contaminated by anti-personnel mines.

We propose that FR Yugoslavia urgently ratifies the Ottawa Convention, and that the Army of Yugoslavia hands over all maps of planted mines, so that international and local decontamination agencies may efficiently perform their task.

Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia

Belgrade, 17 October 2000

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