U.S. State Department Geographic Bureaus: Europe and Canada Bureau

U.S. Department of State
96/02/01 Testimony: John Shattuck on Human Rights in Bosnia
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor



FEBRUARY 1, 1996

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, I am pleased to be here today to be able to testify on the human rights situation in Bosnia. Other Administration officials have spoken to you before about our broader objectives in bringing peace to that war-torn country. The war in Bosnia was the worst conflict in Europe since World War II and the biggest threat to the cohesiveness and stability of Europe since the Cold War.

Without the painstaking efforts and leadership of the United States there would have been no peace agreement; continued American leadership will be required if the peace is to take root. We believe the success of the peace process is integrally related to the successful implementation of the human rights provisions of the Dayton accords. For this reason, implementing the human rights elements of Dayton is one of the Administration's highest priority goals for Bosnia.

Each time I have appeared before this Committee in the past, I have underscored the importance of human rights issues as a fundamental pillar of U.S. foreign policy. Nowhere is this more true than in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where Europe witnessed its most terrible crimes against humanity since the Holocaust.

Since the onset of the tragic conflict there, the United States has been committed to exposing and stopping the horrific violations of human rights that were occurring. We brought Bosnia's human rights tragedy before the United Nations as early as August, 1992. In early 1993, we led the effort in the UN Security Council to create a Commission of Experts to investigate war crimes. We subsequently spearheaded the creation of the International War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. We have been the Tribunal's most important supporter, providing it with financing, personnel, political backing, and information. The United States was the first to publicize information on mass graves and other evidence of war crimes and the first to facilitate Tribunal access to witnesses, victims and sites of atrocities.

I myself have visited Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia on eight separate missions to advance our human rights goals. My efforts centered on exposing violations of human rights by all parties, seeking free access to all parts of Bosnia for international investigators and the media, arranging releases of prisoners and detainees, seeking cooperation with the International War Crimes Tribunal, and facilitating compliance with the peace agreement. I will discuss my own activities further in a moment.

Four broad goals have guided our approach on human rights in the Bosnia conflict:

o First, to end gross violations of human rights;

o Second, to promote institutions to establish individual accountability for war crimes so that justice is done;

o Third, to ensure the release of prisoners and detainees, and to trace missing persons; and

o Fourth, to establish institutional structures that will help insure a peaceful and secure environment in which the people of war-torn Bosnia can enjoy their human rights.

Most of this background is well known to the distinguished members here today. If you wish, however, I will be happy to expand on it and provide any additional details you want during the question period.

What I would like to focus my remarks on today is the Dayton peace accords and our work since November to implement that agreement. As you know, I was at Dayton and was involved personally in negotiating the accords. Since then I have traveled to Europe and to the former Yugoslavia three times to pursue aspects of implementation. I will be leaving for the region again tomorrow, accompanying Secretary of State Christopher, to continue our work.


From a human rights perspective, the Dayton accords are a remarkable document. Never before has a peace treaty placed such heavy emphasis on human rights concerns. This emphasis reflects our conviction that human rights issues are at the core of our effort to bring peace to the former Yugoslavia. Let me review for you and expand on some elements of the Dayton agreement:

o First, the accords include a new constitution for Bosnia that guarantees all its people the highest level of internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms. Bosnia and Herzegovina will continue as a single state with two entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Serb Republic. It will have effective federal institutions, through which the bulk of international assistance will be distributed, including a presidency; a bicameral legislature; and a constitutional court a third of whose members are appointed by the European Court of Human Rights. The protection of fifteen different international human rights instruments are built into the new constitution. In particular, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms will have precedence over Bosnian law in all cases.

o The accords create a Commission on Human Rights to safeguard the rights guaranteed by the constitution. The Commission will have two parts: an independent Human Rights Ombudsman and a Human Rights Chamber.

-- The Ombudsman has been appointed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. She is Gret Haller of Switzerland. She has already begun her work. As Ombudsman, she has the authority to investigate human rights violations, mediate disputes, issue findings, and bring proceedings before the Human Rights Chamber.

-- The fourteen-member Human Rights Chamber will hear human rights cases and complaints brought by or on behalf of citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina and by the Ombudsman. It will have the authority to order relief to victims and to order parties to cease and desist from any actions it finds to be in violation of their human rights commitments. A majority of the Chamber's members will be appointed by the Council of Europe.

-- In addition, Bosnia's constitutional court can hear appeals from entity courts, including on human rights. Three of its nine judges will be appointed by the President of the European Court of Human Rights.

o The Dayton accords provide that free and democratic elections are to be held throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina in the second half of this year to elect a president and legislature of the federation, the presidents and legislatures of the two entities and, if feasible, local officials.

-- The Dayton agreement obliges the parties to create conditions in which free elections can be held, by protecting the right to vote without fear of intimidation and ensuring freedom of speech, the press and association. The OSCE must certify that conditions exist for free elections.

-- The preparation of elections will be organized and supervised by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. This effort will be carried out in conjunction with an electoral commission headed by an OSCE representative and comprised of international experts and representatives of both entities.

-- Refugees and persons displaced by the conflict will have the right to vote in their original place of residence, unless they choose to vote elsewhere. All persons eighteen years old or older listed on the 1991 Bosnian census are eligible to vote.

o The agreement obligates all parties to release, without delay, all civilians and combatants who have been held in relation to the conflict, including those in forced labor, and to give the International Committee of the Red Cross access to all places of detention. This process has begun; I will expand on its status in a moment.

-- The agreement commits the parties to cooperate with the ICRC in finding all missing persons, and to grant UN human rights agencies, the OSCE, and non-governmental organizations full access to monitor the human rights situation.

o Finally, the Dayton accords obligate the parties to cooperate fully with the International War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in its investigations of war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law, and to comply with its orders.

-- This obligation binds all parties, including Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Serb republic.

-- The obligation to cooperate with orders of the War Crimes Tribunal is also enshrined in the new Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina. All parties must give the Tribunal unrestricted access to all sites and persons. They are obligated to cooperate with the Tribunal's investigators and to surrender suspects in detention whenever the Tribunal requests them to do so.

-- The agreement stipulates that individuals indicted for war crimes who do not comply with the Tribunal's orders cannot run for or hold elected or appointed office in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

-- The sanctions suspension resolution adopted by the Security Council following Dayton includes provisions that will assist in enforcing compliance with these provisions. Upon the recommendation of the commander of IFOR or the High Representative, if parties are found to be "failing significantly" to meet their obligations, sanctions will be reimposed unless the Security Council decides otherwise.

-- In addition, an "outer wall" of sanctions will remain available, if necessary, in the form of denying access by non-compliant parties to international organizations, international financial institutions, and foreign assistance. We have discussed and agreed with our European allies that economic assistance to the parties will be conditioned in part on their human rights performance.

-- Finally, Security Council resolutions make cooperation with the Tribunal a binding obligation on all nations, which can, if necessary be enforced by further Security Council action. We are very pleased that Section 1342 of the of the Department of Defense Authorization Bill will bring the U.S. into compliance with its international obligation to cooperate with the War Crimes Tribunal. We appreciate the broad, bipartisan support in the Congress for this provision and we hope it will encourage others to follow our example.

I think you will agree, therefore, that the Dayton accords include very strong provisions on human rights. The accords are far more than a statement of principle. They establish new structures for the protection of human rights; they obligate the parties to take a variety of major steps to comply; and they provide for international supervision of human rights performance.


The challenge facing us since Dayton has been to put its provisions into practice. We are making good progress, although we still face substantial hurdles. We need to overcome the tremendous distrust and ill will that permeates the political atmosphere in the aftermath of a horrible war. There are likely to be problems and setbacks as we try to move forward. Still, we are determined to make this process work. We have been putting a major effort into implementation.

I would like to comment now on several elements of the implementation process.

Prisoner releases

The release of prisoners of war and civilians detainees is one of the highest priorities on our implementation agenda. Under the Dayton accords, all prisoners were to be released by January 19. The releases were not completed by the target date. Since then, however, there has been substantial progress and most of the first group of prisoners who have been identified and visited by the ICRC have now been released.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has registered a total of 938 prisoners held by the parties. Of these, 225 were released on schedule on January 19. Another 612 have been released since. Our best information is that 101 individuals registered by the ICRC remain in custody. Of these, 17 are held by the Bosnian government, 30 by the Bosnian Serbs and 54 by the Bosnian Croats. Each side asserts that some of the individuals it is holding are war criminals. The Dayton accords do require the parties to cooperate extensively with the International Tribunal so as to help bring about the arrest, detention and surrender of persons who would otherwise be released but who are accused of violations within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal.

My trip to Bosnia last week centered to a considerable extent on breaking the logjam and putting into place a system to ensure compliance with prisoner release obligations. I met with President Milosevic and urged him to press the Bosnian Serbs to move forward with releases. I also met several times with President Izetbegovic and pressed him to comply with his Dayton obligations by releasing immediately and unconditionally all prisoners and detainees. U.S. Ambassador Galbraith in Croatia met with Bosnian Croat officials and with Federation President Zubak to make the same points with them.

The Bosnian leadership was especially concerned that with thousands of its citizens missing, it could not complete releases of Serbian prisoners without some assurance that its people would be fully accounted for. I stressed that the releases could not be conditioned on any other development, but that the issue of the missing would be addressed urgently. Our view is that all prisoners and detainees must be released immediately and unconditionally. This includes not only those in prisons and detention camps, but also individuals held under "work obligation."

To meet Bosnia's legitimate concerns about missing persons, however, I worked with the International Committee of the Red Cross to structure a system for identifying and preparing for the release of any remaining persons held in relation to the conflict. We established a working group led by the ICRC, which will also include representatives of the High Representative, the UN, the OSCE and other relevant parties.

Prisoner releases and accounting for missing persons remain crucial issues for the success of the entire peace process. In view of this, I have proposed that we detail a senior U.S. official to help advance the effort. In addition, I will continue to give personal attention to the prisoner release issue. As one element of this process, I spent several hours earlier this week with Cornelio Sommaruga, President of the ICRC, to coordinate our joint efforts on releases. The ICRC is, as always, is working diligently in difficult circumstances and deserves our full support.

I will be leaving for the region tomorrow with Secretary Christopher; further prisoners releases and the tracing of missing persons will be among the issues on our agenda.

The War Crimes Tribunal

The United States made a major commitment to the International War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. A central element of the effort to bring about peace and reconciliation in Bosnia must be the creation of institutions to pursue truth and justice about the terrible crimes committed during the course of the conflict. As the President emphasized in his October speech on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Nuremburg Tribunal, "No peace will endure for long without justice. For only justice can break finally the cycle of violence and retribution that fuels war and crimes against humanity. Only justice can lift the burden of collective guilt.... Only justice can assign responsibility to the guilty and allow everyone else to get on with the hard work of rebuilding and reconciliation."

The War Crimes Tribunal is moving ahead well with its work, under the able leadership of its Chief Prosecutor, Justice Richard Goldstone. It has handed down 52 indictments to date. The Prosecutor's investigative work is proceeding well given its resource constraints, which have been a recurring issue for the office of the Prosecutor. As a result of the Dayton accords, however, investigators are now better able to interview witnesses.

The United States is providing strong support to the Tribunal. To date we have contributed more than $14 million in cash and kind to the Tribunal and have provided 22 U.S. government personnel to assist in its work. We continue to provide the Tribunal with broad diplomatic support. We continue to be the Tribunal's strongest supporter in the UN and other multilateral fora. Secretary Christopher will reiterate this support when he travels to Zagreb, Sarajevo, and Belgrade this weekend.

One additional aspect of our support for the Tribunal which requires special mention is information-sharing. We have provided the Tribunal with all appropriate information available to us from a wide variety of sources, including classified information, on events within its mandate. I have met with Justice Goldstone on this issue, as have the Secretaries of State and Defense and the Director of Central Intelligence. On his most recent visit to Washington, Justice Goldstone pronounced himself fully satisfied with our efforts.

On my trip to the region last week, a major issue was gaining access for the Tribunal to the sites of atrocities and mass murders that occurred during the war. We decided to make Srebrenica, site of one of the worst such massacres, a test case of access and freedom of movement under the Dayton accords. To do this, the U.S. pressed President Milosevic to work with the Bosnian Serbs in granting access and security protection for my team. I informed Milosevic and the Bosnian Serbs that I would be accompanied on my visits by two investigative officials of the Tribunal and that I would have to be guaranteed unimpeded access as required by the Dayton accords. I did not disclose in advance the sites I wished to visit. My team was, in fact, given full and unimpeded access to all sites we wished to visit. The Tribunal investigators who accompanied me filmed sites and collected evidence that will be used in prosecutions. Although this visit was only the beginning of what needs to be done, the cooperation and assistance my mission received was an important test of the willingness of one of the parties to meet its obligations.

In the wake of my visit to Srebrenica, I met in Sarajevo with NATO Commander Admiral Leighton Smith and Justice Goldstone, who agreed on ways to coordinate their respective missions under the Dayton accords. Admiral Smith is satisfied that IFOR will be able to provide appropriate assistance to ensure area security for Tribunal teams carrying out investigations and activities at mass grave sites. Admiral Smith agreed to accept an offer by Justice Goldstone to have a Tribunal official liaise with IFOR, and has agreed to a request by Justice Goldstone to avoid public discussion of details related to future Tribunal requests for IFOR assistance. Justice Goldstone stated during the meeting that he is satisfied with the level of support offered by Admiral Smith and agreed that IFOR support should be provided within the limits of its mandate and available resources.

Before moving to other issues, I should say a few further words on my visit to Srebrenica, which was the most moving and grueling experience I have had in eight trips to the region. I visited seven sites which echoed with the horrors of the conflict: a school and gymnasium near Karakaj where non-Serbs had been herded, then taken in groups of 30 to a field two kilometers away and murdered; an intersection at Konjevici where victims, told to find a free place to stand, had been lined up in rows and shot by armored personnel carriers; a soccer field in Kasaba where as many as 2, 000 Bosnians had been herded before being taken away and killed; two mass graves in Glogova where evidence of human bones and clothing remained; a house in Potocari where Muslims were separated and herded onto buses, and the town of Srebrenica itself, now decimated, where the onslaught began. The starkest site of all was a large warehouse in Kravica -- bloodstained and riddled with bullet holes and evidence of grenades -- where thousands of innocent civilians were murdered in cold blood.

Each site I visited corroborated fully the accounts and detailed descriptions given to me in Tuzla in late July by survivors of the mass executions in Srebrenica. There can be no doubt whatever after such a visit that truly horrendous war crimes did occur. The evidence is clear and compelling. We are paying careful attention to what is happening at these sites, and we have made clear that any attempts to tamper with evidence would be futile. On this matter, as on all others, we will be rigorous and even-handed in insisting that each party adhere fully to the Dayton accords.

I want to reiterate, before I move on to other issues, the importance we attach to the Tribunal and its work. As we have said on many occasions, there can be no lasting peace without justice. Only when the guilty are called to account will the people of Bosnia be able to turn their full energy to building a new and better future.

Elections and Human Rights Activities

Finally, but not least, I'd like to outline for you some of the many human rights activities underway on the civilian side of Dayton implementation. Civilian implementation, of course, did not get off to a quick a start as the military operation. Unlike the military side, entirely new civilian structures must be created and put into place. That takes time -- and resources. Nevertheless, civilian structures are beginning to fall into place and work is underway.

Overall coordination of civilian implementation, including human rights and elections, is carried out by the High Representative, as called for in the Dayton accords. The High Representative's office has established a Human Rights Task Force to coordinate civilian human rights work in Bosnia.

The OSCE is charged with organizing and overseeing free and fair elections throughout Bosnia within six to nine months of signature of the peace accords. It has fielded two visits by an electoral assessment team, in December and again in mid-January. The team has prepared a preliminary planning document, which has been provided to the parties. One of the OSCE's high priorities is to establish a Provisional Election Commission, which will be chaired by an American with experience in the region and on OSCE issues, Ambassador Robert Frowick, who also serves as the OSCE's chief of mission in Bosnia. The seven-member Commissions was named on January 30. Ambassador Frowick will soon announce the criteria which will have to be met before he can recommend to the OSCE that certification should proceed for holding the elections. Frowick has named a senior deputy to assist with preparations for elections.

The OSCE is steadily building up its effort. It is opening five field offices throughout Bosnia and will deploy thirty delegations around the country. The field offices will be staffed initially by European Commission Monitoring Mission and eventually by additional monitors currently being recruited. Several countries, including the U.S., are working on the recruitment effort. The total number of OSCE monitors, both for elections and human rights monitoring, will be 250, of which the U.S. will provide 40-60. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva is also engaged.

The total cost of OSCE activities in Bosnia is estimated at $25 million, of which the U.S. will contribute about $2.25 million.

The OSCE recognizes, quite rightly, the close relationship between human rights conditions in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the ability to certify and hold elections; for this reason, it intends to place a strong emphasis on promoting human rights improvements in the region. Ambassador Frowick is expected soon to appoint a senior deputy for human rights. The OSCE-appointed Ombudsman, Gret Haller, also will play an important role in protecting human rights in the region, in conjunction with the ombudsmen's office created under the federation constitution.

Beyond our support for these multilateral efforts, the U.S. sees a critical need for civil society and rule of law programs in Bosnia. Some immediate civil society programs are planned with SEED funds, to be administered by USAID. When we have been able to make a comprehensive assessment of the current state of the legal and judicial systems in Bosnia, we will be able to consider measures to strengthen the rule of law.

A key to establishing the rule of law and a secure and peaceful environment in Bosnia will be the reconstitution of a civilian police force. Anticipating this need, the Dayton Accords create an International Police Task Force as a UN Civilian Police operation to oversee local police operations. The IPTF will monitor, advise and train local, civilian police forces. Most importantly from a human rights standpoint, the IPTF will accompany the police as they carry out their duties, providing them with on the job training, including respect for human rights, and acting as a check on any potential abuse of police power. The IPTF has already begun its work with almost 200 officers in the field. It remains far short, however, of its goal of 1, 700 officers; achieving this level will require a substantial infusion of international resources.

The U.S. has pledged to provide 200 of the police officers needed, with some portion of that total dedicated to the parallel effort of peacekeeping in Eastern Slavonia. To date, however, we have been unable to transfer the funds necessary for this effort from the Defense Department. I urge Congress to take prompt action of the Administration's $200 million transfer request, some $50 million of which would be dedicated to the IPTF.

Immediate Next Steps

I will depart tomorrow morning with Secretary Christopher for my ninth mission to the region. We will have a full agenda there, and I can assure you that human rights issues will be at the top of the list. In particular, I intend to continue our efforts on the three key sets of issues I outlined for you today: pursuing prisoner releases and accounting for the missing; insuring access for and cooperation with the War Crimes Tribunal; and pressing ahead with implementation of the Dayton agreements on human rights monitoring and elections.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'd be pleased to take your questions.


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