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Western Press Review: Troubled Bosnian Elections; Outrage On Behalf Of Children

  • Don Hill
  • Katarzyna Wysocka

Prague, 28 August 1996 (RFE/RL) -- A decision to postpone municipal elections in Bosnia attracts widespread comment and analysis in the Western press. Commentators also give attention to an international conference on child sex abuse and recent child sex crime revelations from Belgium.

WASHINGTON POST: Peacekeeping troops may have to stay in Bosnia longer than planned

John Pomfret writes from Sarajevo today in an analysis: "The American diplomat overseeing Bosnia's coming elections announced today that balloting for municipal posts will be delayed because of widespread electoral fraud -- meaning that peacekeeping forces might have to remain in place longer than planned. . . . The troops will be needed to help police the municipal voting when it is held. . . . The issue of NATO's further engagement in Bosnia is highly political because of (U.S. President Bill) Clinton's pledge to have the 20,000 U.S. troops he sent to implement the Dayton accord home in one year."

Pomfret concludes: "Many Western officials have argued conditions here defy holding 'free and fair' elections as mandated by the Dayton accord. Bosnia's media are for the most part state-controlled. There is still no freedom of assembly. Free speech often is followed by police beatings. Candidates have been jailed, threatened and hounded off the ballot by armed toughs working for Muslim, Serb or Croat nationalist parties."

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: Postponing municipal elections greatly reduces the potential for election day violence

In an analysis in today's edition, Julius Strauss writes: "The (postponement), the clearest sign so far that elections in Bosnia cannot be free and fair, means that local elections probably will be held next spring, when officials hope Bosnia may have had more time to re-integrate.. . . . The decision to postpone the municipal vote, the backbone of Bosnia's first post-war elections, has greatly reduced the potential for violence on election day. It means that Muslims who have been ethnically cleansed are unlikely to try to return to their homes to vote."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: The postponement is official confirmation that the goals of Dayton have not been achieved

The paper says today in an editorial: "The postponement of the municipal elections in Bosnia-Hercegovina is the official confirmation that the political goals of the Dayton agreement haven't been achieved. . . . Geographically this might be one country. But politically it is an artificial construction, where each of three irreconcilable ethnic groups wants to rule over its part of the patchwork and won't allow in any case its power to be reduced by the co-determination of someone else. Under these circumstances the attempt to hold democratic elections would be foolish. What is true for the municipal elections can't suddenly be false for the presidential and parliamentary elections. . . . Hurrying into nationwide elections now will be a capital mistake."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Bosnian Serbs registered thousands of supporters in cities in which they never set foot

Tracy Wilkinson writes in analysis today: "Often through coercion, Bosnian Serb leaders registered tens of thousands of their supporters in cities they had never set foot in -- to make Serb cities out of formerly Muslim ones and consolidate the ethnic divides that the accord brokered in Dayton, Ohio, is supposed to erase. The town of Srebrenica, for example, which fell to the Bosnian Serb army last year and then saw thousands of its men murdered, suddenly had a Serb electorate more than 10 times the size of its prewar Serb population."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Sexual exploitation of children is a booming business

The paper reports today from Stockholm: "The sexual exploitation of children is a booming business in rich and poor countries alike, delegates to an international conference on the sexual abuse of children were told (yesterday). . . . The Stockholm meeting. . . opened as a pedophile scandal unfolded in Belgium. . . . The Belgian case has heightened attention to the Stockholm conference and sparked international calls for tougher regulations."

DAGENS POLITIK: Kiddie porn is still an expression of freedom of speech in Sweden

In today's edition of the Swedish newspaper, Louise Sylwander, the country's ombudsman for children affairs, comments: "It is regrettable that Sweden as a host to the first world Congress Against Sexual Exploitation of Children does not live up to the requirements of the (international) strategy for action; it still allows for (a limited distribution) of child pornography. Sweden stands as a good example of a democracy where children's rights are well protected and respected. But at the same time kiddie porn is (still) viewed as an expression of freedom of speech."

THE LONDON TIMES: Queen Silvia of Sweden told Swedish politicians to ban child pornography

Dominic Kennedy, social services correspondent, writes in the newspaper today from Stockholm: "Queen Silvia of Sweden defied her critics yesterday to address the world's first congress against the sexual exploitation of children, unrepentant about the furor she has raised by telling Swedish politicians to ban child pornography. . . . Queen Silvia accused politicians of dragging their feet. . . . The Swedes have been overwhelmed by a sudden late surge in attendance at the conference."

BERLINGSKE TIDENDE: To consider pedophiles sick does not repair the damage done to children

In the Copenhagen newspaper yesterday, the general secretary of Red Barnet, a humanitarian organization protecting children worldwide, comments: "The argument that sexual contacts between adults and children, while unacceptable in the West, may be recognized in other cultures does not make sexual exploitation abroad a lesser crime. Ultimately, what the pedophiles themselves mean is of no concern to society. To consider them just 'sick' and not 'criminal' cannot repair the damage done to children and is (an expression of) double standards."

POLITIKEN: Sex between an adult and child is a relationship between the powerful and the powerless

The Danish newspaper says today in an editorial: "Partly but not exclusively, the responsibility for organized sexual exploitation of minors should be put on sex tourism. Poverty and the breakdown of economic and social structures are felt the hardest by the most vulnerable members of society, the children (who become easy prey for dollar-paying Westerners). . . . The issue should be made crystal clear. Sex between an adult and a child is always determined by the adult. It is a relationship between the powerful and the powerless. What consenting adults do with each other is generally their private affair. But to put forward the issue of consent when it comes to sex with children is a pernicious attempt to hide the real questions."