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UN: Top Officials Urge Further Bosnian Reforms, Karadzic Arrest

  • Robert McMahon

United Nations, 6 March 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Top international officials involved in reforms in Bosnia have called for greater efforts to arrest and hand over indicted war criminals, notably former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and military commander Ratko Mladic.

The appeal came at a briefing in the United Nations Security Council yesterday featuring the international community's high representative in Bosnia, Wolfgang Petritsch, UN special envoy Jacques Klein, and Javier Solana, the European Union's top foreign policy official.

Solana said Bosnia's chances of moving closer to the European Union depend on it taking firm steps, such as cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

"There needs to be decisive progress as regards the war crimes indictees. I am convinced that the painful chapter in Bosnia's history that began a decade ago will never be properly closed until justice is done, and seen to be done."

Klein later told reporters that NATO-led forces should be applauded for recent attempts to apprehend Karadzic. But he said it is a continuing embarrassment that the former Bosnian Serb leader is still at large.

"His continued freedom emboldens hard-line Serbs to resist. It makes moderate Serbs who are constructive cautious about engaging with us. It is the impotence of the West in the face of evil, and you cannot come to closure in Bosnia-Herzegovina -- you cannot honestly look at the people in the face and say, 'We have done our job' -- until Karadzic is in The Hague."

But Solana, Klein, and Petritsch also cited what they called dramatic progress in Bosnia in recent years, especially in the training of Bosnia's police and border services.

The UN mission has transformed and reduced the police force from a war-time level of 40,000 to about 16,000, set up two police academies, and instituted training in human rights, drug control and organized crime. The mission has also helped set up a multiethnic border service that now covers about three-quarters of Bosnia's borders.

Responsibility for police training and monitoring will pass from the United Nations to the European Union at the end of this year. That move was unanimously endorsed by the Security Council yesterday.

The council also approved of the appointment of Paddy Ashdown, the former British Liberal Democrat party leader, as international high representative for Bosnia after Petritsch steps down in May.

Petritsch, in his last address to the council, stressed some of the advances Bosnia has made under his authority. He cited the return last year of more than 90,000 refugees to towns where they are minorities. He noted a decline in the influence of nationalists in the major political parties in the country's main entities, although he said much greater commitment to reform must be shown in Republika Srpska.

Petritsch also said Bosnia has normalized relations with its neighbors and is preparing to join the Council of Europe, beginning the path of the "Europeanization" of the country.

"Forces bent on destruction and division are not yet completely defeated, yet the contours of a stable and self-sustainable Bosnia and Herzegovina -- based on the Dayton-Paris accords and firmly on course to Europe -- are at last coming into view."

One key area of further reform cited by officials yesterday was the Bosnian judiciary, which was described as corrupt and incompetent. Klein called for an immediate, radical reform of Bosnia's judiciary and prosecutors, saying that step is key to the international community's effort to build the rule of law in the country.

"I remain deeply concerned about the inability or unwillingness of the local judiciary to do its work. There is a grave imbalance in the rule of law, whereby police standards have [greatly] improved but the judicial system remains dysfunctional."

Petritsch said just last week he presented a plan for a series of judicial reform measures to take effect during the next two years. They include restructuring of the country's court system, de-politicizing the appointment of judges, and reforming civil and criminal procedure codes.

He said the Council of Europe was invited to work on the details of the plan to develop a judicial system for Bosnia that is compatible with modern European standards.