Outstanding reporting from B-H
Author: Peter Lippman
Uploaded: Friday, 19 April, 2013
The Bosnian Institute is proud to reproduce here a representative example of the unique reports on the reality of Bosnia-Herzegovina and its people that the author has been compiling over many years.
Human rights activist and independent researcher Peter Lippman has been traveling to former Yugoslavia, and living there for extended periods of time, since 1981. He lived for two years in post-war Bosnia (1997-99) and since then has returned thirteen times. Fluent in Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian, he monitors the living conditions of ordinary people and the grassroots human rights campaigns – starting with the right to return – that periodically well up as an expression of the desire of the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina for a better existence. Along the way, Lippman also discusses corruption, elections and domestic politics, the behaviour of the international community, and ethnography, among other subjects. See Peter Lippman’s reports here:http://balkanwitness.glypx.com/journal.htm.
To contact Peter in response to any of his articles, click here.
The reports are hosted on the BalkanWitness web site. Founded during the NATO intervention in the spring of 1999, BalkanWitness provides a progressive analysis of trends and events in the former Yugoslavia. It has come to be considered an invaluable resource, particularly among those who are participating in the ongoing struggle against the atrocity denial practiced by Serbian nationalists and some Western leftists. See http://balkanwitness.glypx.com/. To introduce Bosnian Institute readers to Peter Lippman’s, we reproduce below a report from Sarajevo datelined 26 December 2012.
WINGS OF HOPE – BOSNIA
I have developed a rather finely-tuned internal meter that detects how effective, useful, and honest the work of a non-governmental organization is. Along with exposure to NGOs comes a certain amount of skepticism, as I've observed that everyone in the "third sector" knows the right things to say to foreigners, and everyone knows how to fill out an application form for support from an international humanitarian agency. These are the ABCs of NGO work - but also of humanitarian profiteering. NGOs are to be found at every point along the spectrum from altruism to exploitation.
Once in a while you find an NGO that is doing exemplary work. I found one almost inadvertently, an organization whose members I visited only because of the irresistible invitation of a friend. But by the time I left the meeting, I was inspired.
The Foundation for aid to victims of war "Krila Nade," or Wings of Hope - Bosnia, has been working to help people in Bosnia-Herzegovina since the war period. Founded by a Dutch organization of the same name, Krila Nade became completely independent in 2004. Since then it has concentrated on service to people in Sarajevo Canton. The organization defines its updated mission as one of "empowerment and social inclusion of vulnerable and marginalized groups, particularly women, youth, and children through the promotion and protection of human rights and mental health and support of education."
I spoke with Belma Žiga, psychologist and staff member of Krila Nade, about what this means.
Ms. Žiga described a "multi-system, interdisciplinary model of social inclusion" implemented by Krila Nade. The organization employs a psychologist, a psychiatrist, and an educational consultant or "pedagogue." "We work to educate people regarding the role of psychologists and therapists, to reduce the amount of stigma associated with therapy."
Krila Nade is the only center in Sarajevo where one can choose different forms of psychotherapy. Each year, over two hundred clients receive psychotherapy or counseling there.
In addition to providing therapy, Krila Nade implements projects on several fronts including employment assistance, summer school and special school sessions, adult education, and creative workshops. As usual, implementation of projects depends on available funding. One successful program that had to be terminated was the support of a dentist who volunteered to tend to clients' teeth without compensation. Materials were also donated. Through this program over a thousand uninsured children received dental care over a period of three years. Another now-defunct program brought disadvantaged children to the mountains, in wintertime, for lessons in skiing and snowboarding.
The work that most fascinated me involved pilot projects in elementary schools. Ms. Žiga told me that the organization's project of "integration and inclusion," supported by the Soros Open Society Foundation, is called, "Redefining culture, policy, and practice in elementary schools in Sarajevo Canton."
Ms. Žiga repeatedly used the term "inclusion." At first I assumed that this referred to the inclusion of non-Muslim students in the learning process in the predominantly Muslim-populated school system of Sarajevo Canton. I found out that "inclusion" referred to something much more basic.
In previous reports I have mentioned problems with the educational system in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Lessons tend to be delivered as packages to be consumed by students without their active participation. "Inclusion" refers to participation, active learning that is necessary for a more effective education. Ms. Žiga explained, "Inclusion is a process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all learners through increasing participation in learning, culture, and communities, and reducing exclusion within education and exclusion from education. There is a need to be responsible in the schools for inclusion of all different aspects of diversity; not just children with special needs, but also for gifted children."
I remember from my own school experiences that questioning was at times a risky thing to do; most students accept without resistance the social processing that is the main goal of education. By the time they reach high school, critical thinking is non-existent, or at least heavily suppressed.
In recent decades there has been a widespread fight against this anti-thinking form of education in the West. In Bosnia, Krila Nade is trying to introduce independent thought by way of active learning in some of Sarajevo's schools. The organization is implementing a ten-month pilot program in two elementary schools. The program introduces a method of self-evaluation called "Index for Inclusion,"and it provides school psychologists as well. One goal of the pilot program is to assess policy, culture, and practice in those two schools.
Regarding this project, Ms. Žiga explained, "In the schools, students are passive, and there are human resources that are not used. The students are not involved in the educational process; they do not participate actively and cooperatively in the learning process. Students at all levels, from age six to 25, are passive. They only try to repeat what they have learned. So this results in a situation where, when they finish school, they have a low level of self-confidence. We have hoped to get the Ministry of Education involved and to have them recognize the value of this type of work. But the Ministry of Education, as soon as we mentioned psychologists, they stopped the discussion and said, 'We have pedagogues, don't mention psychologists.' That was the end of this. So we did not ask for permission to have our psychologists in the schools. You have to break the rules."
In Bosnian schools, there are problems that are more striking than the simple, old-fashioned system of rote learning. There is the notorious practice of corruption - especially in the universities - where students are compelled, at times, to buy passing grades with money or sex. I can't help but think that if students were trained to question and to use their critical thinking capacities from an early age, they would not put up with such practices.
Krila Nade aspires to develop an educational culture in schools, to encourage teachers to use the mental resources available to the students. "It's not so hard," Ms. Žiga said. After describing to me the school projects of her organization, she asked me, "Do you think we are too ambitious?" I said, "You are subversive, and for that, in order to fight the brainwashing, you have to be ambitious."
Q: Do you get a good response from the teachers?
A: "They are tired of seminars about stereotyping and about special needs. They act like they know everything - as if they are from Star Trek. But, for example, they are not prepared to deal with autistic children, or with ADHD. We made a survey with a questionnaire and asked what the teachers wanted to learn, what they lacked in their work, and what they felt they had to contribute. But in their responses, they were not interested in a gender workshop nor in active learning. There is a lot of work being done on active learning, but the teachers are not using this knowledge in practice. There needs to be more effort."
There's not much in Bosnia-Herzegovina that's more painful for the survivors of the war than not knowing where their missing loved ones are. At the war's end there were some thirty thousand people missing in Bosnia. Finding them has been an excruciatingly slow task, especially in the first few years after the war. At that time, it was dangerous to venture into "enemy" territory and search for mass graves. Those who knew the location of such graves were not talking. And when graves were found and remains were exhumed, there was no scientific way of establishing the identity of the remains until the introduction of DNA matching technology at the end of the last century.
In spite of this, a number of courageous people dedicated their lives to the search for the missing. It is hard for me to imagine spending my days, for years on end, braving the scorching sun or the chilling cold - and sometimes the glare of watchful neighbors - to scrape in the ground for the bones of the missing. Yet people like Amor Mašovic, Jasmin Odobašic, and many others have done just that. In performing this work over the past seventeen years, they have brought a measure of comfort, for example, to the widows of Srebrenica, by making possible, so far, the identification of the remains of over six thousand victims of that notorious set of massacres.
Prijedor municipality is another area where several thousandvictims went missing, and investigators gradually discovered mass graves there as well. Dozens of mass graves were discovered in that municipality.
Both with the war crimes related to Srebrenica and to Prijedor, the fact of "secondary graves" has made identification of the victims so much the harder. Secondary - and sometimes even tertiary - graves are the result of the excavation of remains from one mass grave and their removal to one or more additional sites in order to conceal the crime. Such an additional crime upon a crime tended to mix up the bones of the victims, so that it has not been unusual for one person's remains to be found in two or even more sites. It has been unusual, in fact, to find a complete set of remains in one place.
In order to make a DNA identification, relatives have to provide blood samples. For the more than 30,000 missing, to date over 90,000 samples have been received from survivors, many of whom have moved to exile in the far corners of the world.
These are some of the factors that complicate the effort to soothe a survivor's anguish by providing her with remains to give a proper burial. For this effort, those who search for the remains deserve praise and admiration.
I spoke with Jasmin Odobašic, former deputy head of the Muslim Commission for Missing Persons. Until 2008, there were three missing persons commissions, one for each of the main ethnicities in Bosnia. In that year the commissions were mothballed in favor of a nationwide Missing Persons Institute. Odobašic became head of a department in that Institute, under the direction of Amor Mašovic.
Upon my meeting Odobašic, he immediately showed me some photos of himself, his brother, and his father, black and blue after having been beaten at the police station in their pre-war home town of Prnjavor. Before the war Odobašic was an attorney and the deputy director of a factory in that city. As a member of an elite Muslim family in Prnjavor, Odobašic and his relatives were targeted by the separatists who wanted to intimidate Muslims into leaving. They were not put into a concentration camp, but they were taken to the police station every day, and put to physical labor as a way to humiliate them.
He showed me his photographs and said to me, "This is why I'm searching for the disappeared."
Odobašic was rescued from Prnjavor via prisoner exchange in 1994. Immediately after the war he became engaged in the search for the missing. Since he was from the Krajina, he employed his knowledge of that region and its people to search for mass graves more effectively. Under his leadership, teams of searchers discovered the hidden resting places of over four thousand victims in the northwestern part of Bosnia alone.
Mr. Odobašic spoke to me about the graves he had helped to discover in Prijedor: "We first went to Prijedor illegally, without permission from the local authorities, in 1998. There was the big grave in Stari Kevljani where 456 remains were recovered and of those, 352 were identified. In Jakarina Kosa 373 remains were recovered, of which 296 were identified. In Stari Kevljani the graves were six meters down. That site was discovered in 2000, but not exhumed until 2004 because of lack of funding. We were able to identify the specific bulldozer that was used in that grave from the scrape marks, and we determined that there was only one such bulldozer of that type in the municipality. The people who were killed at Omarska concentration camp were taken to Tomašice, which was a primary grave site. Later those remains were moved to the mine at Ljubija, in 1994."
Odobašic has written one book about the exhumation process - published at his own expense - and is compiling another: "My book will be about one thousand graves in the Bosnian Krajina. There were 1,025 graves in the region, and 4139 remains that were recovered. In Prijedor alone there were 1962 remains recovered; of those, 1463 were identified. All these graves that were discovered have been noted with GPS locations. There were traces of the remains - sometimes they were not even completely buried. You found a skull with gold teeth. There were pits near Kljuc. There was a five-month-old baby and a four-year-old boy. We found documents as well."
I asked Odobašic how the mass graves were found: "I got information from survivors, witnesses, and returnees. There were some Serbs with a conscience. There were other Serbs who would give information in return for a favor. There were others who would get drunk and start bragging in a kafana, and someone would hear the information and convey it. And then there are people who will sell the information."
Odobašic noted that at times, he had received instructions - including from the international community - only to search for the remains of Muslim victims: "From 1996 to 1998 no one allowed me to exhume Serbs and Croats, nor were they [searchers from those ethnicities] allowed to exhume the others. We were not allowed to exhume at Briševo [village in the Prijedor municipality, location of a large massacre of Croats]. But a victim is not an ethnicity; a victim is a victim. Every mother cries the same. Then we found nine Croats, and I wrote to the OHR, 'I made a mistake; shall I return the remains?' In one mass grave I found fifteen Muslims, eight Croats, and one Serb. I have found around 200 Croats, and I found some Serbs around Mt. Ozren."
Odobašic has become a controversial figure in the realm of the search for the missing. After many years of work, in 2010 he was removed from his job at the Missing Persons Institute when he made some public statements criticizing his colleagues. His accusations have included venality and delay of identifications, among other things. These are, naturally, shocking assertions. Of such behavior, Odobašic says, "It is not unusual to steal from a store, or on the stock exchange. But stealing from the dead - never, that is a sacred question."
I have heard the kind of accusations Odobašic leveled before. My "honesty meter" gave him a strong reading for sincerity. But upon looking into his statements, I realized that I would have to dig much deeper in order to know the whole story.
SERBIAN TYCOON IN SLAMMER - RADONCIC AND DODIK NEXT (...or ought to be)
A couple of weeks ago, the man often known as the "richest man in Serbia," Miroslav Miškovic, was arrested and jailed on corruption charges. This is interesting on a number of levels; the move has domestic and regional implications, and it certainly pertains to Bosnia.
I wrote about Miškovic in 2008, when his economic forays into Bosnia-Herzegovina were being revealed. (See http://balkanwitness.glypx.com/journal2008-1.htm
.) Some of the wording that follows comes from that earlier writing, as it is still valid.
This month Miškovic, his son Marko, and nine other influential players in the Serbian economy have been charged with criminal activities in connection with the privatization of road-building companies.
The owner of the complex of businesses called "Delta Holding" first became known to the broader public when he served as deputy prime minister of Serbia for a time under Miloševic. Miškovic served as Miloševic's main economic advisor and was, it is alleged, one of Serbia's main wartime financiers. Since Miloševic's fall in 2000, Miškovic has donated funds to various political parties, including the Serbian Radical Party (SRS). This is the SRS that, led by Vojislav Šešelj (now on trial at The Hague), organized paramilitary formations that rampaged, murdered, burned, and committed rape during the wars in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo.
Delta is Serbia's largest private company, and the fourth-largest in the country after several state-run firms. A December 14th news article read, "Employing about 5,000 people, it operates through 76 different subsidiaries, dealing with farming, food production, retail, export-import, representation of foreign companies, consumer goods, car sales, real estate, financial services, and insurance."
Sometimes called the "true owner of Serbia," Miškovic is the owner of four large retail chains in that country, and he has worked tirelessly to expand his empire into the rest of the former Yugoslav republics. To date, Miškovic owns property in Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, and Bosnia. He does business in Croatia and Switzerland, and as far away as Russia.
In 2007 Miškovic was listed as one of the thousand richest people in the world. He has specialized in buying weak companies and, often as not, turning their prime real estate into shopping centers. In Serbia, Miškovic's sway is such that foreign companies that wish to build shopping centers in Belgrade are forced to build them on the periphery of the city, giving Miškovic an effective monopoly in the more lucrative areas - where he prices his goods at 20% above the market rate. Miškovic is said to control 70% of Belgrade's retail market.
The present charges against Miškovic and his business partners hold that they withdrew money and property from privatized companies and, in this way, stole some thirty million euros.
Investigative journalists discovered some of Miškovic's crooked dealings several years ago, but his power over the media (through purchasing advertising, among other things) was such that the information was swept under the carpet. One crooked practice involved buying failing companies that were located on very favorably located property in exclusive neighborhoods, without paying for the valuable land, only for the derelict building. Then, instead of reconstructing the factory or other productive company, Miškovic would tear it down and build a shopping center or apartment building.
Serbian tax laws have allowed Miškovic to buy a state company through one of his off-shore holdings without being required to pay taxes on that acquisition.
Miškovic's wealth led to great political influence. He donated to those in power and to the opposition parties as well, thus buying a say in how governments were formed at various levels.
The financial manipulations by Miškovic are far more involved than what I have related here. But how and why did he get into trouble? The fact that Miškovic was taking advantage of the Serbian economic system in such a crooked way, and costing the state budget so many millions of euros, was something that was bound to get him in trouble as soon as the authorities worked up the resolve to take action. One component of that resolve is that there is a new government in Serbia, headed by the extreme right-wing leader of the ironically-named Serbian Progressive Party Tomislav Nikolic.
Nikolic's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, Aleksandar Vucic, is the head of Serbia's campaign against corruption. It is apparent that as Nikolic's new government has gotten underway, pressure from the European Union has helped to breathe some life into that campaign. What better way to show your sincerity to the club you wish to join than arresting your richest embezzler?
In this, there is a close parallel to the jailing of Croatia's former prime minister, Ivo Sanader. Croatia is set to become a member of the European Union in the middle of 2013. Sanader unexpectedly resigned without explanation from his post in 2009. The next year he was arrested in Austria for high-level corruption charges leveled by the Croatian authorities. Just last month, he was sentenced to ten years in jail.
This looks good to the EU. The question is, when can Bosnia-Herzegovina ingratiate itself with the EU by arresting its most corrupt tycoons?
Just the other day, on December 21, the US Ambassador to Bosnia Patrick Moon came up with a bright idea. Speaking to the Bosnian daily Avaz, he said, and I quote from an internet news posting, "corruption in Bosnia was visible at all levels and that ordinary people rightfully expected something to be finally done about it. The political leaders must notice that, they must speak against corruption and corruption cannot exist in government, Moon said, adding that corruption should not be prosecuted selectively and that such measures should taken against everyone if there was evidence of it." (See http://dalje.com/en-world/us-ambassador-says-bosnia-can-fight-corruption-like-croatia/453650
Hallelujah - Patrick Moon has, as they say in Bosnia, discovered hot water!!
There's such a broad field of corrupt tycoons in Bosnia that one could hardly know where to start. How about arresting RS President Milorad Dodik? Such a move would not only remove a very corrupt individual, but would also, perhaps, take some of the wind out of the sails of the Serb separatist movement, of which Dodik is the foremost proponent.
On the same day that it occurred to Ambassador Moon to light a fire under the corrupt operators of Bosnia, Dodik was agitating against corruption in his own entity. The press agency Fena announced that Dodik has commanded the RS special prosecutor to work more effectively in breaking up organized crime and in fighting grave economic corruption. He cited public dissatisfaction with a special prosecutor's progress in anti-corruption work, and criticized that office for intimidating the free press, which he called "absolutely unacceptable."
I don't see why intimidating the free press in the RS should be a problem, since there is none.
Nor have I ever heard of an economic criminal (nor a war criminal, for that matter) arresting himself in the RS, but it appears that things are taking a turn for the better.
President Dodik commented on Miškovic's arrest, saying that "every fight against corruption is important," but that Miškovic's guilt had yet to be proven. Dodik praised Miškovic's investment in the Republika Srpska, and said that "it would be good if Serbia had more investors like Miškovic."
Perhaps a better parallel to Miškovic than Dodik would be Fahrudin Radoncic, a corrupt tycoon who has entered into politics in the last couple of years, and who was just recently appointed to the post of Minister of Security. Radoncic is sometimes called "the Miškovic of Bosnia."
It's a good parallel - Radoncic even has business dealings with Miškovic. This relationship goes back to 2007, when the two businessmen formed a company called Prezident Realty, together with an off-shore firm based in Belize named Vanity International Corporation.
The story gets even richer as it is revealed, by Bosnia's top intelligence agency SIPA, that the owner of this off-shore company is Naser Kelmendi who, as I described in my first report in this series, has been blacklisted in a report signed by President Obama as one of Europe's top narco-traffickers. During a political shake-up last summer a raid was conducted on several gangster outfits in Bosnia, and Kelmendi has been on the lam since then, allegedly back in his Kosovo home.
Kelmendi is an old friend and business partner of Radoncic, as I have written before. Once Kelmendi imported a couple of reinforced Jeep Cherokees with bullet-proof glass from the US and supplied one of them to Radoncic.
Prezident Realty has purchased land in Sarajevo, Banja Luka, and Tuzla. In Sarajevo, Prezident bought a furniture factory called Standard, with the intention of tearing it down and constructing a shopping center.
Here's a timeline that tracks some of Radoncic's progress from rags to riches.
--1970s: After finishing trade high school in business in his native Montenegro, Radoncic finishes a college degree that qualifies him to be an art instructor.
--1977: Joins the Communist Party of Yugoslavia and remains a member for the next twelve years.
--1978 to 1991: Works as a journalist and editor in the capital city of Montenegro.
--1991: Moves to Sarajevo (carrying his belongings, everyone says, in two plastic bags), founds Avaz publishing house and company for real estate and hotels.
--1993-1995: With financial help from the Bosniak nationalist party SDA, expands his holdings into a media empire including the influential daily newspaper Avaz.
--Mid-2000s: In Sarajevo, with money illicitly granted from the Federation of Bosnia's Development Bank, builds tallest tower in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
--June 1, 2012: Social Democrat Party announces break in Parliamentary coalition with SDA and formation of new coalition with Radoncic's SBB (Party for a Better Future).
--June 1, 2012: On the same day, President Obama signs blacklist that names Radoncic's friend and business partner as a top drug trafficker in Europe.
-- June 1, 2012: Also on the same day, President of the SDP Zlatko Lagumdžija proposes Radoncic for the post of Minister of Security.
--July 2012: Radoncic divorces his wife Azra, a hairdresser who had never paid taxes.
-- July 2012: Radoncic sells Avaz business complex to his ex-wife Azra for 200 million KM.
--October 7, 2012 (election day): Fahrudin Radoncic walks into the voting station holding hands with Azra Radoncic.
--Late November, 2012: Radoncic is appointed Minister of Security. In a financial disclosure form, he reports his monthly income as 1404 KM. In the same disclosure, which asks if any member of his family owns or manages any private firm, he answers "no."
Other nicknames for Radoncic: "The Donald Trump of Bosnia." "The Berlusconi of Bosnia."
So you have a triangle composed of a high-level Montenegrin/Bosnia media/real estate mogul turned politician (Radoncic), a high level ("controversial") Serbian businessman (Miškovic), and a high-level Kosovo Albanian/Bosnian drug lord gangster (Kelmendi).
One is in jail. One is (safely) on the lam. One is Minister of Security.
Ah, well. I guess it will be "malo sutra"- a colloquialism meaning, roughly, "never," or, "that'll be the day" - before Radoncic is arrested. Sadly, Bosnia-Herzegovina's just not that ready to go to Europe.
THE MARCH FIRST COALITION
This posting wraps up my series of reports on justice and activism in Bosnia-Herzegovina. I can't finish the series on Bosnia, however, without telling you about one very interesting development: the March 1st Coalition. Those who are interested in the fight for justice in Bosnia will want to follow the progress of this important campaign.
On December 18th, representatives of 27 non-governmental organizations met in Sarajevo and signed an agreement to form the March 1st Coalition. Many of the leading lights of the human rights movement were there: Edin Ramulic of Izvor (Prijedor); Munira Subašic of the Mothers of Srebrenica organization (Sarajevo); Bakira Hasecic of Women Victims of War, Hajra Catic of Women of Srebrenica (Tuzla); and Hatidža Mehmedovic of the Association of Srebrenica Mothers (Srebrenica).
The new coalition will campaign to register voters in the locations where they voted before the war - thus the name March 1st, referring to the last time that people voted before the war, in 1992.
The campaign is reminiscent of the recent registration campaign "'Glasacu za Srebrenicu" (I will vote for Srebrenica), which I described in my third report in this series. Then, activists led by Emir Suljagic registered several thousand displaced Srebrenicans to vote in their home municipality last October. The result was a victory for the independent mayoral candidate Camil Durakovic, who was unanimously backed by all the political parties that do not deny that genocide took place in Srebrenica. After months of appeals and delays, just this month the Central Election Commission found it within itself to give a final confirmation to the electoral results.
The March 1st Coalition's tactics will be similar, though much grander in scale. Here, the campaign's goal is not only to elect favorable candidates in the upcoming 2014 general parliamentary elections. The goal is to make it possible for enough officials to be elected in the Republika Srpska and at the state level for there to be a change in the constitution. This is truly an ambitious project that could, theoretically, unblock the political stalemate and end the crisis that has been in force in Bosnian politics ever since the Dayton agreement was signed.
Emir Suljagic, initiator of the new campaign, explained that the primary goal was to elect five favorable representatives to the state-level Parliament from the RS. The presence of this many "pro-Bosnian" officials in the entity and state-level parliaments would make it possible for lawmakers to cooperate in clearing hurdles to membership in the EU. Some of these hurdles involve constitutional change, particularly in response to the 2009 decision by the EU Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg. That court found the Bosnian (Dayton) constitution to be in violation of international human rights conventions because it discriminates against minorities. There are rational solutions to this problem, but they have been blocked since the decision was made.
The Coalition must work at several tasks in order to succeed. In violation of Dayton's Annex 7 guaranteeing freedom of movement, there are laws in preparation in the RS to prevent people from registering in the place of their choice. The Coalition will have to fight against these laws. The Coalition will also have to ensure, as was done in Srebrenica, that there is a solid electoral coalition of candidates who are not destroying their chances by competing with each other. At present there are enough sympathetic voters in the RS to guarantee three favorable representatives in the state-level Parliament. Suljagic reckons that an additional 80,000 to 100,000 voters would make the election of two more representatives possible.
Another task is to establish in the Federation Parliament a law that supports returnees to the RS, as was done in the case of Srebrenica in the recent campaign.
The biggest job will be registering voters from the diaspora to participate in this campaign. In the recent municipal elections, out of 1.5 million Bosnians in the diaspora, only some 35,000 voted.
It is hoped that all the political parties in Bosnia that do not deny genocide will participate. This includes the SDP, whose behavior this year has been so unprincipled as to bring its participation into question. This is particularly important as SDP President Lagumdžija holds the post of Foreign Minister, and he could thus have an influential role in promoting the registration campaign abroad. I would not personally bank on his cooperation; however, on December 13th the SDP publicly announced that the party would support the campaign.
RS President Dodik has, naturally, come out in opposition to the campaign, saying, "It is obvious that the atmosphere is being created to repeat what happened in Srebrenica. We will certainly not allow a new campaign."
Suljagic brushed off Dodik's words, saying that "Dodik is not in a position to threaten anybody, let alone the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina. He is only the president of one of two entities in the state of Bosnia, in which there are more hungry than there are satisfied people. If I were in his place, I would take care to preserve the loyalty of his praetorian guard, that is, the Ministry of Internal Affairs [the police], whose pay he recently, once again, reduced by ten percent, because that is the only thing that stands between him and the anger of the people."
Suljagic commented that the presence of the critical number of favorable representatives in the state-level Parliament can lead to the creation of the "foundation of a renewal of Bosnian-Herzegovinan society on the principles of tolerance, truth, justice, equal rights, and the protection of human rights on the whole territory of the state."
These are, of course, admirable goals and the campaign is, in a way, a rare attempt to strike back and the separatists and plunderers who have been tearing the country apart for the last twenty-odd years. One only wishes that the idea had been promoted immediately after the war, but the campaign is worth watching.
For a television screening of the public founding of the campaign (in Bosnian), see
Late news: A December 25th
news post reported that police officials in Srebrenica were harassing members of the March 1st
Coalition in that city by coming to their homes late in the evening and questioning them about the location of some of their fellow members. One policeman threatened to issue an arrest warrant for members who were not immediately located. A communiqué from the Coalition condemned the police actions as police harassment of non-Serbs and likened atmosphere in the Republika Srpska to apartheid.