bryant - the betrayal of bosnia

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    This pamphlet draws upon eighteen months experience as part of the editorial

    team ofBalkan WarReport, a monthly briefing on the Yugoslav crisis; a series

    of visits to Bosnia and Herzegovina throughout 1992 and 1993; and personal

    interviews and research conducted over the past two to three years, including

    attendance at the Geneva peace talks during August and September 1993. I amindebted to many people who have helped me grapple with some of the issues

    raised in the text, though I shall implicate none by naming them.

    This paper is a first attempt to pull together various strands of my ongoing

    research into the role of the Great Powers in the Bosnian war. It is borne of a

    personal committment to the ideal of peaceful coexistence and collective living

    which this war was waged to destroy, and a vehement opposition to racism,

    fascism and their apologists; it is not an attempt to write somebody else's

    history.Lee Bryant

    November 1993

    Lee Bryant is a part-time post-graduate student at CSD and aninformation officer for the Bosnia-Herzegovina Information Centre in London.


    Images of thirsty Sarajevans provoke questions of how to repair the water pipes, but not how to

    prevent anyone from being able to cut the water off in the first place. Butchered children induce the

    West to ask whether children should be evacuated and how, but not how to prevent all the people(not only children) from being wounded. Sarajevo is said to be hungry because there is no food, not

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    because of the siege. Children are wounded because of "the war", not because the Serb Army shot


    Until the end of this May, Sarajevo served as a kind of laboratory among the world media for

    measuring the limits of human endurance, and the reports were that the limit had not been reached.

    But following the Washington statement, which extinguished any real hope that the West would

    defend its own principles in Bosnia and especially Sarajevo, the morale of Sarajevans began to fade.

    The main topic of almost all conversation in the city over the past three months has been how to get


    Tihomir Loza, WarReport, August 1993

    The nineteen-month war in Bosnia and Herzegovina has so far claimed over 200,000 lives. The

    United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that over forty percent of

    the republic's pre-war population of 4.3 million people have been either displaced internally or

    have become refugees. Two of Europe's most cosmopolitan cities, Sarajevo and Mostar, havebeen systematically destroyed and their mixed populations reduced to a survivalist existence

    under siege. Starvation, unknown in Europe since the 1940's, has claimed many lives incut-off

    enclaves in eastern Bosnia, and many more have died through lack of basic medical care.1

    According to human rights organisations such as Helsinki Watch and Amnesty International,

    almost all of the grave breaches of international humanitarian law set out in articles 129 and

    130 of the Third Geneva Convention, article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and article

    85 of the First Protocol have been committed regularly in the Bosnian war. In fact HelsinkiWatch goes so far as to characterise the war as a genocide against the Muslim population,

    according to the definitions laid down in the Genocide Convention, and to urge the United

    Nations to abide by article 1 of this convention, which places a responsibility upon the

    signatories to "prevent and punish" acts of genocide.2

    In its provisional judgement of April 8th and its later order of September 13th, the International

    Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague made clear that the rump Yugoslavia had a case to answer

    under the Genocide Convention, and called upon Serbia and Montenegro to immediately ceaseand desist from the commission of genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In its order of

    September 13th, the Court was also implicitly critical of the UN Security Council's failure to

    1Mortality figure from Bosnian Institute for Public Health, November 15th 1993 report.Refugee figures from UNHCR, March 1993.

    2"War Crimes in Bosnia-Herzegovina", Helsinki Watch Report, number 2, (New York1992).


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    "prevent and punish acts of genocide" (a responsibility conferred on all one hundred signatories

    to the Genocide Conventions). In December 1993, the voluntary legal team acting on behalf of

    the Bosnian Government in the ICJ is to sue Britain for complicity in genocide under articles I

    and III(e) of the Geneva Conventions. Though they can hardly realistically hope to win, Britain

    has a clear case to answer.3

    The Bosnian conflict is variously described as an ethnic war, a religious war and a civil war;

    but although the conflict may lately have assumed the characteristics of one or all of these

    classifications, this pamphlet nonetheless rejects them. Instead, it proposes that the primary

    causes of the war are political and essentially exogenous to the republic itself. Although various

    historical factors are often discussed, the premise of the pamphlet is that the fundamental

    driving force behind the war was the contemporary Serbian regime's fascistic military

    campaign for a 'Greater Serbia', and the subsequent mutual desire of both the Serbian andCroatian regimes to see the multi-ethnic republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina divided between


    The role of the international community has been crucial in allowing this to happen, both in the

    period preceding the outbreak of war, and throughout the fighting itself. After the war it will

    be the same international community to whom the victors will turn in search of historical

    legitimacy and recognition of the anti-democratic political formations they are carving out on

    the battlefields of Bosnia. The international community, if such an abstraction can be said toexist, will acquiesce without reluctance. In the interests of containing the conflict, in the

    interests of creating a new balance of power in the Balkans, and to cover up the cynicism and

    hypocrisy of their role in the bloodiest episode of post-Second World War history, the Great

    Powers will gladly legitimise `Greater Serbian' and `Greater Croatian' states on the territory

    of what was the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

    An essential element of this narrative has been the cynical betrayal of the legally-elected

    Bosnian Government by the Great Powers of France, Germany, the USA, and especiallyBritain. A recognised state subject to an aggression which was clearly motivated, planned, and

    coordinated from outside the republic, the legal government has nonetheless been denied the

    right to self-defence by the illegally imposed arms embargo, and abandoned to its fate at the

    3Interview with Professor Boyle by RTV-BiH journalist Zoran Piroli_, Geneva, 15September 1993. Details of the case against Britain from a personal interview with AmbassadorSacirbey, co-agent with Professor Boyle at the ICJ.


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    hands of powerful Serbian and Croatian aggressors.

    To this end, the international community has consistently sought to equate the victims of

    aggression with its perpetrators, in order to prove the assertion that the war is a civil war

    fought between `warring tribes' of Serbs, Croats and Muslims -- one which does not have

    clear causes, and therefore cannot have clear solutions. In a speech to the Royal College of

    Surgeons in Dublin on November 8th 1993, Lord Owen, the European Community's peace

    negotiator (and Britain's place-man), spelt out this approach in a bizarre passage likening the

    crisis in the former Yugoslavia to an "illness" which had to "work its way through the system."

    "The ill patient and particularly their relatives, " he went on, "all too often look to doctors for

    action and are rarely satisfied with anything which rings of inaction. As a protective

    mechanism the medical profession has developed the skill of masterly inactivity. The skill is toappear calm without being complacent, to act unhurriedly but to be decisive even if the

    decision is to do nothing." According to Owen, "Angola, Eritrea and El Salvador present very

    different problems to Bosnia and Somalia. The latter two are not politically ideological wars;

    but tribal, racial, nationalistic and religious."4

    The year-old Geneva Conference has exemplified this approach. The international community's

    mediators refer to the steadfastly multi-ethnic Bosnian Government as `the Muslim side' as a

    matter of course, thereby affording the illegitimate Serb and Croat proxy political forces equallegitimacy. Throughout the latter stages of the Geneva process the mediators have taken this

    approach a stage further. Unable to find a solution acceptable to all sides, and recognising that

    military force is the single most important determinant of legitimacy in the war, the current

    Co-Chairmen of the ICFY, Lord Owen and Mr. Thorvald Stoltenberg, have instead sought to

    find an agreement acceptable to the Serb and Croat parties which could be imposed on the

    Bosnian Government as a diplomatic fait accompli.

    The fruits of this diplomacy, which Lord Owen himself dubs "a deal from hell"


    , hasinevitably been named the `Owen-Stoltenberg' plan. As Owen has pointed out, however, this

    is in fact a misnomer.6 The plan was actually the result of negotiations between Croatian

    4All quotes from the published text of "A Framework for Survival", Lord Owen's 8thNovember speech to the Dublin Royal College of Surgeons.

    5"Owen says peace plan made in hell", Reuters (9 August 1993).

    6Lord Owen's press conference, Geneva, 1 September 1993.


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    President Franjo Tudjman and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, conducted through the

    mediators during the period May-July 1993, and therefore would be more correctly titled the

    `Milosevic-Tudjman' plan. The role of the Co-Chairmen has simply been to confer

    international legitimacy on the Serbian and Croatian Presidents' plan to divide Bosnia and

    Herzegovina between them, and to try to achieve minor modifications to the document in order

    to spare the Bosnian Government the humiliation of unconditional capitulation.

    As in the past, multi-ethnic Bosnia has found itself a pawn in the games of the European

    powers, who have decided this time that the republic's disappearance from the political map of

    the continent is a price worth paying for appeasement of Serbia, and as a means of solving the

    otherwise apparently intractable Serbo-Croat war.

    At the heart of this power play has been cynical British and French balance of power politics,and arguably also a paranoid fear of Islam. The whole dirty game has been played out under

    the flimsy cover of the European Community and the United Nations, which has meant that

    their response to the crisis has been characterised by confusion, inconsistency and a flagrant

    disregard for international law and their own stated policies.

    Initially, certain EC Foreign Ministries jumped at the chance of becoming involved in the

    Yugoslav crisis, hoping it could be the catalyst for the creation of common European defence

    and security structures. Quickly, it became clear that the Yugoslav crisis was a double-edgedsword in this respect, and the EC attempted to withdraw from direct involvement, refusing to

    intervene militarily to bring peace, inviting instead the "warring sides" to Geneva for peace

    talks. This turn-around ignored the fact that the EC was by this time already a party to the

    conflict, and had been since its first mediation efforts in July 1991. Unable to extricate itself

    fully from the Bosnian war, but making no progress with mediation, the European powers

    began to work within the framework of the United Nations. In the first year of the Bosnian

    war, this pamphlet will argue, the European Community actually worsened the war, in a

    number of significant ways, through its ill-conceived intervention.

    By the Spring of 1993, the end of the first year of the war, the governments of the USA and

    the EC could agree only on the need to contain the conflict. Unwilling to engage themselves

    militarily to oppose Serbian expansionism and bring the war to an end, the Great Powers

    instead stepped up their humanitarian operation through the United Nations, as if Bosnia was

    some kind of natural disaster worthy of their charity.


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    By placing troops on the ground in a humanitarian role, rather than as peacekeepers or

    peacemakers, Britain and France created a perfect device for opposing the growing calls from

    other states for intervention to stop the war. First of all, they argued, intervention would

    jeopardise the humanitarian operation. Second, it would endanger their troops, who could

    potentially become embroiled in a war with one or other `faction'. By placing their troops on

    the ground, Britain and France were also able to manipulate media coverage of the conflict,

    which became markedly more oriented towards the provision of humanitarian aid and away

    from the dangerous realm of politics. Perhaps the cleverest nuance of this strategy (for it was

    undeniably a strategic move) was that the longer the aggression was allowed to continue, the

    more dependent Bosnians became on UN humanitarian aid, until the withdrawal of the

    humanitarian aid operation, which was never more than a stop-gap measure anyway, would

    have been a genuine problem.

    Meanwhile, in Geneva after eight months of negotiations, the `Vance-Owen' plan was born.

    Although flawed, the Vance-Owen plan was positively enlightened compared to the Owen-

    Stoltenberg plan which followed. However, when the plan was finally agreed by all sides the

    question the Geneva process was set up to avoid -- who was prepared to commit troops to

    Bosnia to bring peace? -- had once more to be answered. The Great Powers balked at the

    thought of deploying at least 50,000 troops to police the many thousands of kilometres of

    internal borders the plan created, and the plan slid ignominiously into oblivion.7

    Now, nineteen months after the start of the war, as Bosnia prepares to face another harsh

    winter under blockade, it is estimated that 2.7 million people will be almost entirely dependent

    upon humanitarian aid to survive the cold spell. This is twice the figure for last year, when

    many civilians still possessed either reserves of food or money with which to try and buy it on

    the black market. This is sadly not the case today. The survival of hundreds of thousands of

    people during the coming winter will depend upon relative peace being achieved on the

    ground, and upon a massive international relief effort being mounted early enough to enable

    sufficient supplies to be stockpiled.


    The Bosnian Army, though able to hold the territory still under its control, lacks the supplies to

    continue fighting for much longer. If Serb and Croat forces chose to launch a final assault to

    7In his 1 September 1993 press conference, Owen was unusually frank about the reasons forthe collapse of the Vance-Owen plan.

    8UNHCR estimate, September 1993.


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    divide Bosnia and Herzegovina between them, it is doubtful whether the Bosnian Army would

    be a match for their superior weapons and supplies.

    These two factors explain the readiness of the Bosnian Government to accept any deal which

    could guarantee even relative peace throughout the winter. When the last round of Geneva

    talks began at the end of July this year, the Bosnian Serb Army had the Bosnian capital

    Sarajevo in the palm of its hand, and were in a position to divide the city if the talks broke

    down. In the talks, Serb and Croat leaders threatened openly to launch fresh offensives against

    the Bosnian Government unless they agreed to the division plan on the table.

    With Serb and Croat forces threatening an escalation of the war, with the threat of starvation

    during the winter exacerbated by the mediators' suggestion that the humanitarian operation

    may be curtailed if fighting continued (i.e. unless the Bosnian government sign away theexistence of Bosnia and Herzegovina), and with the countries of the international community

    making clear that they would not come to Bosnia's assistance even if a final assault was

    launched to divide the republic, the Bosnian Government was in no position to "negotiate", in

    the literal sense of the word.

    The resulting `Owen-Stoltenberg' plan, if it ever comes into being, would legalise genocide

    and territorial acquisition through force of arms and expulsion of civilians; it would create

    ethnically-based states run by mafia-like military organisations in a region with a high level ofethnic heterogeneity; and it would leave over 60% of the pre-war Bosnian population to

    survive in 30% of its territory, cut off from the outside world and surrounded by powerful and

    hostile neighbours. The plan would reward the aggressors, punish the victims of their

    aggression, and sow the seeds of a long-term Low Intensity Conflict which would have the

    potential to undermine West European security as well as the whole of the Balkans. The

    implications of this kind of approach for the former Soviet Union, where a handful of wars are

    already taking place and very similar conditions exist, do not need spelling out in any great

    detail. The full cost of the abandonment of the principles of international law in the formerYugoslavia in favour of pragmatic short-term political expediency will prove to be higher than

    any of the possible courses of action the international community could have taken to bring the

    war to a proper end whilst it had the chance.

    This pamphlet will attempt to give a broad overview of how such a situation came into being.

    It will place the current crisis within the context of the historical development of Bosnia and

    Herzegovina as a political entity, illustrating how multi-ethnic Bosnian society has previously


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    always proved equal to the periodic attempts of regional powers to destroy it, and how the

    current genocide against Bosnia's Muslims is not an entirely new phenomenon.

    The following sections will examine the main causes of the war, outlining the strategic aims of

    the Bosnian Serb and Croat forces, and will go on to show how these aims were pursued in a

    brief account of the first phase of the war. Finally, the paper will touch upon the role of the

    European Community and the United Nations in the Bosnian crisis, and will trace the way in

    which the principles of international law, the UN Charter, and even stated EC policy towards

    Bosnia have all been progressively abandoned in favour of a simple policy of appeasing

    fascism and territorial expansionism.

    However, it is my firm conviction that this policy of appeasement will come back to haunt

    Britain, France and to a lesser extent Germany, whether in the Balkans, in the former SovietUnion, or perhaps in the heart of capitalist Europe itself. In concluding this introduction, I wish

    to touch upon but one way in which the effects of this policy relate to the political situation in

    Western Europe itself.

    Each of us lives in multi-ethnic societies, though none in Europe can boast the level of

    tolerance and genuinely collective living which Bosnia has enjoyed throughout its history.

    Today, these multi-ethnic societies are under threat from the forces of fascism and the far-

    right. If Bosnia can teach us one important lesson, it is that such forces of intolerance,exclusivity, racism and fascism are capable of shifting the parameters of politics very quickly if

    they are given the chance. Bosnia could also teach us that the societies we believe to be so

    stable, so civilised, can begin to unravel in an instant under the right circumstances.

    The Great Powers have chosen not to support the heroic struggle of those who call themselves

    `Bosnians' for a future as a democratic multi-ethnic state. They have instead acted as midwife

    to the birth ofa rampantly militaristic `Greater Serbia', which has all the characteristics of a

    fascist regime.


    What can their own citizens expect if West European multi-ethnic societies arefaced with a similar threat?


    9Tomaz Mastnak, "Killing for Europe", unpublished article (February 1993).


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  • 7/27/2019 Bryant - The Betrayal of Bosnia



    The case of Bosnia challenges the very notion of Europe, which borders on xenophobia if not

    racism: to be Western European is to distinguish between superior and inferior national identities.What is Europe but a white bourgeois peninsula on the margins of Asia? Europe is an invention of

    Western capitalism and a testimony to its enduring hegemony over competing world-views. The

    totalizing notion of being European is contested for between the Croats and Slovenes on the one

    side, and on the other the Serbs whose cultural traditions were closer to those of Asia Minor. But

    the Serbs, if only by virtue of their Christian Orthodoxy, in turn can claim a tradition of

    Europeanism against .... Muslim ethnic groups within the Balkans. The attractiveness of a culture of

    Europeanism is clear: it excludes more than it includes. The ending of the Cold War has once again

    raised the old question of where the limits of Europe are to lie.

    `The Return Of History' by Gerard Delanty,

    University of Hannover, March 1993


    The struggle for the control of Bosnia is as old as the Balkans itself. The origin of the conflict

    in what is today the Balkans goes back to the very formation of Europe. Throughout its

    history, Bosnia has been the meeting point for various peoples in the region. Its multi-ethnic

    and multi-cultural society has always been vulnerable to powerful neighbours and has often

    been torn apart, though never yet destroyed.

    It is axiomatic to say that whenever war has set the peoples of Bosnia against one another, ithas invariably been instigated from the outside and has always resulted in the persecution and

    mass killing of Bosnian Muslims in an attempt to ethnically homogenise the territory. Despite

    this fact, Bosnian civilisation is remarkably resilient and has historically been able to heal its

    wounds and quickly return to the more serious business of collective living.

    In the thirteenth century, before the Ottoman conquest of Bosnia, the area was populated by

    Roman Catholics (mainly Franciscans), Orthodox Christians and followers of the dualist

    Church of Bosnia (often identified with the Bulgarian Bogomils) who were the victims ofoccasional anti-heretical crusades at the hands of their Christian neighbours. The mainly

    Orthodox Christian region of Herzegovina was added to Bosnia in the early fourteenth century.

    On the eve of the Ottoman conquest, the Bosnian church was in a state of decline, and an

    increasing number of Bosnians identified themselves with the Catholic Church (despite the


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    In 1463 the Ottoman conquest of Bosnia began, and it was completed by 1482 when the

    Herzegovina region fell to Turkish troops. The Ottomans brought Islam into the Balkans,

    although it was not entirely new to the region because of the large number of travelling Sufi

    Muslims and Arab traders who had passed through previously. Under the millet system of

    governance, other religions also continued to co-exist without persecution or forced conversion

    within the Ottoman empire. Adherents of the Church of Bosnia largely converted to Islam, and

    to a much lesser extent so did Catholics and Orthodox Christians.

    Ottoman dominance in the Balkans lasted for over two hundred years until the War of the Holy

    League (1683-1699) when the Turks and Bosnian Muslims retreated from the advancing

    Habsburg and Venetian forces, and the Peace of Carlowitz set Bosnia's western borders withCroatia.

    During this period, and during the Ottoman retreat from Serbia and Montenegro in the early

    1800's, Muslims remaining in territories taken by the Austrian, Venetian or Serbian insurgent

    forces were persecuted, killed and forcibly converted to Christianity. Most Muslims fled into

    the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, thereby altering the demographic balance further in

    their favour. During this particular period of forced Christianisation, Muslim communities in

    Slavonija, Lika, Dalmatia and Boka Kotorska were wiped out completely.11

    In the late nineteenth century Bosnia and Herzegovina became part of the Austro-Hungarian

    Empire, and thereby one of the few remaining majority Muslim political entities in Europe

    after the expulsion of non-christians from Spain in the late fifteenth century. Taking advantage

    of the Bosnian uprising of 1875, the Russians launched a war against the Turks in 1877/78

    whilst Austro-Hungarian troops invaded Bosnia.

    The 1878 Congress of Berlin, brokered by the Great Powers, was an attempt to create abalance of power which would halt Russian expansionism in the last phase of the tottering

    Ottoman Empire. It recognised Austro-Hungarian control over Bosnia and Herzegovina, and

    10Ivo Banac, "Bosnian Muslims: From religious community to socialist nationhood and post-communist statehood, 1918-1992." a paper written at Yale University (1992).

    11Gerard Delanty, "The Balkans and the limits of Europe: The Return of History": a paperwritten at the University of Hannover (1993).


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    defined what are now its current legal borders for the first time. Independence was also given

    to Serbia, prompting a further wave of persecution and Muslim migration both into Bosnia and

    towards Turkey. Bosnian Islam during this period became cut off from the Muslim world,

    integrated as it was within the Habsburg monarchy's etatistpolicy towards non-catholics. The

    Habsburgs in many ways actually fostered a specifically Bosnian national sentiment

    (`Bosnjastvo') as a bulwark against Croatian and Serbian nationalism. As a rule, it was

    Bosnia's Muslims who most readily accepted this `Bonjak' identity, though many Serbs and

    Croats also identified with it as well.12

    Austro-Hungary officially annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908, at which time the large-

    scale emigration of Muslims towards Turkey became a flood. This significantly reduced the

    proportion of Muslims in the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and was an important

    turning point in the area's history. However, the Austro-Hungarian authorities never pursued acampaign of annihilation of Muslims, and actually later became concerned by the level of

    Muslim emigration, because this was beginning to tilt the demographic balance of Bosnia too

    far in favour of the Serbian population.13

    The Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913 saw the final defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans,

    and Serbia's emergence as the main power in the region. Austro-Hungary was willing to

    tolerate Serbian expansionism southwards, but after the 1913 London Treaty denied Serbia the

    whole of Macedonia, Serbian leaders focused their attention instead on Bosnia, to the west.They supported Serbian insurgents within Bosnia, most notably the infamous `Union of Death'

    (commonly known as the `Black Hand'), which had emerged in 1911. Colonel Dimitrijevic,

    Intelligence Chief for the Serbian General Staff, provided Gavrilo Princip and his co-

    conspirators with weapons, and helped them back into Bosnia from Serbia for their attack on

    the visiting Austro-Hungarian leader.14

    The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand (on what is now called Princip bridge) in Sarajevo

    led to the Austro-Hungarian invasion of Serbia in 1914, and the start of the First World War.France, Britain and Russia allied themselves with Serbia as part of their successful fight against

    12Mustafa Imamovi_, "A survey of the history of the Genocide against the Muslims in theYugoslav lands", off-print from The Herald, number 6 (Sarajevo 1991).




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    the central European powers of Germany and Austro-Hungary.

    After the First World War, the Paris Peace Settlement led to the creation of the first

    Yugoslavia (literally: land of the southern Slavs), which was ruled by the Serbian king

    Aleksander I. This `Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes' was actually dominated from the

    start by Serbia; Bosnia and Herzegovina was denied any kind of autonomous status, though it

    still existed in the form of its six districts until 1929. Throughout this period, the main Muslim

    political party (JMO) constantly pressed demands in the Yugoslav parliament for Bosnia and

    Herzegovina to be given equal status with the three other constituent elements of the kingdom,

    but without success. In January 1929, Aleksander banned the JMO and other opposition parties

    and declared direct rule by decree.15

    After Aleksander's assassination in 1934, Prince Pavle took over what was becoming anincreasingly precarious Serbian royal dictatorship. Pavle held rigged elections in 1935 and then

    proceeded to pull in elements of all the main opposition parties into a new ruling party (JRZ).

    However, the JMO's participation in this pseudo-parliamentary government counted for little

    when Prince Pavle began negotiations with the increasingly strong Croat parties, and

    subsequently agreed to the formation of an autonomous Croatian political unit (Banovina

    Hrvatska) in 1939, which contained about a third of the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

    The remaining parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina were effectivelyput under Serbian control,

    thus effecting a division which left Bosnia's Muslims dispossessed.16

    During the Second World War, after the German invasion in 1941, the Nazi-quisling

    Independent State of Croatia (NDH) was formed, which included all of Bosnia and

    Herzegovina and parts of Serbia. Led by Ante Paveli_, who constantly tried to woo Bosnia's

    Muslims by showing respect for their religion and referring to them as Croats of Islamic

    confession, and famously "Flowers of the Croat nation", the NDH nevertheless denied Bosnia

    and Herzegovina any autonomy. This Ustasa regime was responsible for the slaughter of

    hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Gypsies and Muslims.

    Ivo Banac points out that during this period the NDH regime pursued a deliberate policy of

    trying to implicate Bosnia's Muslims in the atrocities which were committed mainly against the

    15Delanty, op. cit.

    16Banac, op.cit.


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    Serbs, for example by issuing Ustasha fighters with fezzes (traditional Muslim headgear) and

    by the use of Muslim noms de guerre.17

    At the same time Dra_a Mihailovi_'s Chetnik forces were committing horrendous atrocities

    against non-Serbs in areas they took as part of their attempt to create a `Greater Serbia', most

    notably in eastern Bosnia and the Herzegovina region. Caught between the fascist Ustasha and

    Chetnik forces, Muslims faced a campaign of genocide during the Second World War.

    In one of the only comprehensive studies which has been made on the genocide against

    Muslims in the Second World War, various original documents were re-printed which proved

    that the eradication of Bosnian Muslims was in fact a policy of Mihailovi_'s Chetnik forces,

    rather than just a by-product of the war. It is estimated that up to 100,000 Muslims were killed

    in the period 1941-1945. Most serious studies of this period, one which was taboo in theCommunist education system, conclude that after the Jews, Muslims suffered the greatest

    losses as a proportion of their population during the Second World War (approx. 8%).18

    Tito's Communist partisans picked up the issue of Bosnian statehood as one of their auxiliary

    causes in their liberation struggle, and recognised Bosnia's Muslims as a community with the

    same rights as Serbs and Croats, although they still regarded them as "nationally undeclared".

    From the end of the Second World War until the early 1960's, Bosnia and Herzegovina was

    dominated by its Serbian population, and the Muslim leaders imposed by the communist

    authorities encouraged the adoption of Serb nationhood in censi. However, in 1961 Titoofficially promoted Muslims to the status of ethnic group as part of a wider balancing act

    designed to hold the multi-ethnic federation together.

    The federal state which the Yugoslav League of Communists set up with the help of the British

    towards the end of the Second World War contained six republics, and two autonomous

    regions inside Serbia (Kosovo and Vojvodina). Bosnia and Herzegovina was the key to this

    balancing act, being the most ethnically diverse republic situated at the physical centre of

    Yugoslavia. In 1971, at the behest of the Muslim Prime Minister Dzemal Bijedi_ (who was afavourite of Tito), Muslims were elevated to full national status, and the Islamic authorities in

    Bosnia began making links with the wider Muslim world. This new status was made official in


    18Vladimir Zerjavi_ Yugoslav population losses in the Second World War, The YugoslavVictimological Society (Zagreb 1989); and Bogoljub Kocovi_ Victims of the Second World Warin Yugoslavia (London 1985).


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    the notoriously inscrutable 1974 constitution, which also elevated Kosovo and Vojvodina to the

    status of autonomous provinces within Serbia, and was part of a conscious attempt by Tito to

    balance growing Croatian and Serbian nationalisms.19

    Tito suppressed nationalism, often by brutal means, and tried to foster pan-Yugoslav identity

    among the population with a degree of success. Mixed marriages between ethnic groups

    became common, especially in Bosnia. But the designation of Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia as

    national "homelands" institutionalised ethnicity, and nationalism became a focus of dissent,

    which meant that for the most part the communist government could only seek to balance

    rather than eradicate these mutual antagonisms. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, however, Serbs,

    Croats and Muslims were together recognised as the principal `nations' of the republic, with

    no single people predominating.

    The pan-Yugoslav identity which Tito tried to forge was viewed with suspicion in Slovenia and

    Croatia, who feared it was merely a mask for Serbian dominance of Yugoslavia. For this

    reason, at the 8th Congress of the Yugoslav League of Communists in 1964, Tito himself

    disowned the concept, in favour of "Yugoslav Socialist Patriotism", which meant identification

    with Yugoslav self-managing socialist society. The structural isomorphism of the central

    government, and the duality in constitutional law between the autonomous status of both the

    republics and their constituent national groups, was also a factor in creating the legal space in

    which nationalism could grow within the former Yugoslavia.20

    This brief survey of the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Balkans shows us that when

    Bosnian civilisation has been under threat, it has been under threat from neighbouring states

    wishing to homogenise its mixed society. During these times, the Muslim population of the

    region has been subjected to campaigns of expulsion, terrorisation and forced conversion.

    During the late Seventeenth Century, in the Second World War, and in the present day, this

    has taken a genocidal form -- in the strict sense of a campaign of physical, cultural and

    historical eradication.


    19Ivo Banac, op. cit.

    20For a detailed account of this period, see Sabrina Ramet,Nationalism and Federalism inthe former Yugoslavia, 1963-1992, second edition (Indiana University Press 1992).

    21Imamovi_, op. cit.


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    In the modern age, after the Congress of Berlin in 1878, the multi-confessional territory of

    Bosnia and Herzegovina was used as a tool in the balancing act of the Great Powers. After the

    First World War, when the European empires were broken up and on the semi-peripheries of

    Europe the concept of ethno-linguistic territories was encouraged as the basis of state

    formation, Bosnia and Herzegovina temporarily disappeared within the Serb-dominated

    kingdom of Yugoslavia.22

    When Bosnia and Herzegovina re-emerged under Tito as an autonomous political entity, it

    played a key role in his containment of competing Croatian and Serbian totalising nationalisms.

    However, when the disintegration of the Yugoslav Federation began, and when the Croatian

    and Serbian leaderships adopted ethno-nationalism as an ideology of state formation and

    legitimation, the existence of a multi-ethnic polity in Bosnia and Herzegovina was once again

    put in doubt.


    The political upheavals in Eastern Europe which took place in 1989/90 represented graphically

    the end of the Cold War and the era of the division of Europe by the iron curtain. Free from

    Soviet domination, the former socialist states found themselves instead on the periphery of a

    capitalist Europe. Despite the victorious "end of history" rhetoric which accompanied the end

    of East European socialism, the European Community (EC) showed little enthusiasm forassisting the integration of the post-socialist states into its economic and political system.

    EC governments saw Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland as the most suitable economies for

    the kind of reforms necessary for integration. Bulgaria and Romania were seen as too

    backward economically to provide markets worthy of exploitation, too much in need of

    political reform, or perhaps just too peripheral to warrant attention. Yugoslavia, although

    potentially one of the best candidates, was virtually ignored because of its obvious political

    problems. In 1990, when Federal Prime Minister Ante Markovi_ was pursuing a liberalprogramme of economic reform, political commitment and substantial economic assistance

    from the countries of the EC would have bolstered his weak position in relation to nationalist

    political forces and could perhaps have altered the course of subsequent events. However, this

    was not forthcoming.23

    22Delanty, op.cit.

    23See Misha Glenny, The Re-Birth of History, second edition, pp. 118-142 (London 1993);


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    At the beginning of the 1990's the process of integration in western Europe was going well.

    Many within the EC wanted political integration to develop much further than just the

    economic sphere, and the issue of common foreign policy and security structures was the

    subject of much debate. The Western European Union (WEU) was gradually being resurrected

    as the organisational basis for a common security structure, championed by France and

    Germany. The EC was becoming increasingly confident of its role as an international

    organisation, and the Yugoslav crisis provided its first real test.

    Many politicians within the EC saw the crisis in Yugoslavia as a tremendous opportunity to

    speed up the development of common foreign policy and security structures - integration on the

    hoof, so to speak. But in retrospect, this eagerness to get involved as soon as Yugoslavia

    plunged into war proved to be a big mistake, and the abject failure of the EC's interventionmay have dealt a fatal blow to the cause of creating common foreign policy and security

    structures in Europe.

    The `Berlin Wall euphoria' which led European governments to speed up the pace of

    integration in 1990 and 1991 has now dissipated. The harsh realities of recession, the decline

    of the centre-right and centre-left parties which held sway in Western Europe throughout the

    Cold War period, and conflict over trade and fiscal policy have laid bare political divisions

    within Western Europe.

    These political divisions have manifested themselves in a confused and divided response to the

    disintegration of the former Yugoslavia which, I believe, has contributed to worsening the war

    in Bosnia in a number of ways. British and French fears of an increased sphere of German

    influence in central and eastern Europe have been a major factor in inhibiting a coordinated

    European response to Serbian expansionism. Similarly, political divisions over the future role

    of NATO, the WEU and the United Nations, which cause consternation in Western capitals,

    have contributed directly to the suffering of a people under threat on the battlefields of Bosnia.

    In Washington, the same post-Cold War confusion has been evident. Despite strong campaign

    pledges, President Clinton has yet to formulate a coherent policy on Bosnia beyond verbal

    also, Gianni de Michelis gave a very forthright interview to the Italian weekly Panorama (4July 1993), saying clearly that Britain blocked an EC initiative to give assistance to Markovi_'spre-war Yugoslav government.


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    opposition to the European-led Geneva peace process. Evidently, Bosnia has been a subject

    much under discussion in a White House and Pentagon trying to re-define the USA's post-Cold

    War superpower role -- but that is no consolationto the families of the 200,000 people who

    have lost their lives up to now in the Bosnian war.24

    Historians will one day look back and ask why the Genocide Conventions which were devised

    in the aftermath of the Holocaust failed their first test. They will ask why the Great Powers

    refused to admit that genocide was taking place, and why they chose instead to legalise its

    results rather than "prevent and punish" it, as the Geneva Conventions oblige them to do. The

    answer, I believe, lies in the dirty game of Great Power politics which has been played out in

    Europe, and between Europe and the USA, since the end of the Cold War. Once again, Bosnia

    has found itself a tool of Great Power diplomacy, and once again it has been sacrificed on the

    altar of traditional European balance of power politics.

    The inescapable irony of the fact that Europe's first major war since 1945 is treated as a matter

    of ECforeign policy is also indicative of an inability in London, Bonn and Paris to recognise

    the wider implications of the crisis. As Stojan Cerovi_ of the independent Belgrade weekly

    Vreme pointed out just before the Bosnian war began: "If European integration goes to plan,

    there will be a place for all of us. But the continent should take note, because if integration fails

    then Europe will share our fate, and we will not be sorry either. We will have been the avant-


    24See for example The Economist, "American Survey", (4 September 1993).

    25Stojan Cerovi_, "Yugoslavia: A Final Farewell", Breakdown: War & Reconstruction inYugoslavia, p. 78 (March 1992).


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    Against today's journalistic commonplace about the Balkans as the madhouse of thriving nationalism

    one must point out again and again that the moves of every political agent in ex-Yugoslavia,reprehensible though they may be, are totally rational within the goals they want to attain. The only

    exception, the only truly irrational factor in it, is the West babbling about ethnic passions.

    Slavoj Zizek, Guardian Europe, August 28th 1992


    Ethnic passions, age-old hatreds, ancient blood feuds and a whole host of similarly theatrical

    and obscurantist phrases are regularly used by the media to describe the motive forces behind

    the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and also by European politicians to justify their inaction.

    The barbarity of the conflict is certainly shocking to the TV viewers of a continent accustomed

    to the highly regulated peace of the Cold War; but however apparently complex, the causes are

    nevertheless of a political (rather than anthropological) nature.

    The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, like the wars in Slovenia and Croatia, is a feature of the

    general process of disintegration of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRJ) which began in

    the 1980's. A full analysis of the causes of this process would be beyond the scope of this

    inquiry, but it can be broadly described as a confluence of economic stagnation and politicalcrisis within the federal structure, in which competing elements of the bureaucratic leadership

    turned to nationalism as a means of maintaining control under conditions of increasing public


    This turn to nationalism, however, was not as simple a phenomenon as it may appear. It can be

    argued that whilst in most of the former Yugoslavia this turn to nationalism expressed itself in

    the form of a desire for nationhood, in Serbia the growing nationalist movement was

    advocating the subjugation of other nations within a `Greater Serbia' incorporating all "historicSerbian lands." The culmination of this process was the victory of national parties all across

    Yugoslavia in the 1990/91 elections, which was to have grave consequences for the multi-

    national Bosnian republic.

    26For an excellent historical record of the disintegration process, see Branka Maga, Thedestruction of Yugoslavia (1993).


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    In 1987, Serbian President Slobodan Miloevi_ came to power with a nationalist programme

    predicated on the unrest in the mainly Albanian province of Kosovo, which had been

    worsening since 1981. The intellectual basis for his new Serbian nationalist regime was the

    1986 declaration of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences (SANU), of which former

    Yugoslav President Dobrica Cosi_ was a key member. The SANU declaration called for the

    creation of a "Greater Serbia" to include all territories in the federation inhabited by ethnic

    Serbs. When, in the autumn of 1990, Miloevi_ stripped the provinces of Vojvodina and

    Kosovo of the autonomy they had been granted by the 1974 constitution and appropriated their

    voting rights within the federal presidency, Yugoslavia faced a constitutional crisis. This move

    effectively gave Serbia the right of veto over any legislation or reforms proposed by the other


    Antagonism between the northern republics (Slovenia and Croatia) and Serbia worsened, andMilosevic employed the Socialist party-controlled media in a campaign of nationalist

    demonisation of the northern republics. As a reaction to increasing Serb-dominated

    centralisation of the federation, Slovenia and Croatia pressed for a looser federal structure and

    for increased autonomy; but Serbia was able to block these proposals in alliance with the

    compliant imposed leaderships of Vojvodina and Kosovo.

    Fruitless negotiations took place throughout 1989 and 1990 to find a compromise solution: a

    loose federation, a confederation and even an asymmetrical federation were all discussed andrejected. Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovi_ played a leading role in these talks, because

    Bosnia and Herzegovina, caught between Slovenia and Croatia on the one hand and an

    expansionist Serbia on the other, had most to lose from the disintegration of Yugoslavia.28

    As the positions of the republics polarised, with Slovenia and Croatia now demanding outright

    independence, the ambiguities of Tito's cleverly balanced constitutional structures became

    apparent. First, the system of collective rotating presidency which Tito left in place after his

    death in 1980 was simply unable to function in a time of political crisis, which left the questionof legal authority in such a situation open to interpretation. Second, the constitution contained a

    crucial duality: the autonomy of the six constituent republics and the autonomy of their

    constituent peoples (narod). This became an important issue later, when Germany was arguing

    27Branka Maga, "The Destruction of Bosnia-Hercegovina",New Left Review196/1992, pp.102-112.

    28Misha Glenny, The Fall of Yugoslavia (London 1992), pp. 138-176.


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    for the right of Croatia and Slovenia to self-determination within their existing borders but

    failing to acknowledge the argument of the leaders of Croatia's 600,000 Serbs for autonomy

    within, and even independence from, the new Croatian state.29

    Slovenia and Croatia finally declared independence from Yugoslavia on June 26th 1991, and

    war soon followed. The Slovenian war lasted only ten days and the republic's territorial

    defence - who, incidentally, had been training in Austria and Germany for the preceding

    twelve months30 - conducted a highly organised, quite ruthless, but ultimately successful

    campaign against the Yugoslav Army (JNA), which had been deployed in an attempt to prevent

    secession. An EC-brokered agreement on July 7th, the Brioni Accord, led to the withdrawal of

    the JNA and effectively guaranteed Slovenia's independence.

    The war in Croatia was already well under way when the Brioni Accord was signed.Paramilitary formations from inside Serbia had been arming local populations in majority-

    Serbian areas of Croatia in an attempt to provoke fighting which would give the JNA the

    excuse to intervene directly on the side of the rebel Serb forces. Rather than respond to what

    were at this stage sometimes legitimate fears of being denied autonomy within the new

    Croatian state, President Tudjman's government used heavy handed tactics, dismissing local

    ethnic Serbs from state institutions and local authorities and sending in Croatian police patrols

    to replace local police forces which were often dominated by Serbs in areas where they formed

    a majority of the local population.

    Rebel Serb forces, armed and ultimately controlled by Belgrade, played on the fears these

    actions provoked in rural Serbian areas to launch the first stage of Milosevic's war to carve out

    a Greater Serbia from the ashes of Yugoslavia. In conjunction with the JNA they fought the

    fledgling Croatian National Guard (ZNG), precursor to the regular Croatian Army (HV), for

    control of approximately one-third of Croatia. Ethnic Croats were driven out of areas where

    Serbs formed even a relative majority, and from towns captured by rebel Serb forces.

    The spurious justification for the Serbian military campaign in Croatia was to protect local Serb

    populations from the supposedly neo-fascist Croatian regime. However, in truth the war was

    29Vojin Dimitrijevi_, "On Constitutional Nationalism", a paper delivered to the KentUniversity Conference on Yugoslav Identity, Summer 1992.

    30This information came to light during a personal interview with Pavel Celik, Slovene Chiefof Police (July 1991).


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    about carving out an ethnically-pure swathe of territory which would form part of a future

    Greater Serbian state. This meant that the JNA focused much of its campaign on strategic

    points such as the Dalmatian coast around Zadar and Sibenik, on petro-chemical facilities such

    as around Sisak and Petrinja in the Baranja region, on the cities of Vukovar and Osijek in

    Eastern Slavonia, and on cutting Zagreb's links with the Adriatic coast by attacking around

    Karlovac and Gospic, and south of Dubrovnik.

    The utterly inhumane siege of Vukovar in November 1991 and the systematic attempt to

    destroy the historic city of Dubrovnik came to symbolise the brutality of the JNA, which was

    by now becoming more closely allied to Milosevic's regime in Belgrade, and increasingly

    dominated by ethnic Serbs and Montenegrins. Hundreds of civilians were killed in the cellars

    of Vukovar, and human rights groups are still investigating the existence of a mass grave near

    the hospital where, it is alleged, Croatian patients were dumped en masse when the townfinally fell to the JNA.

    The Croatian war continued throughout 1991 until the Vance plan was signed under UN

    auspices in December, after a series of failed ceasefire initiatives. The Vance plan led to the

    (eventual) deployment of 14,000 peacekeeping troops along the frontlines between

    government-held Croatian territory and the one-third of the republic which was occupied by

    Serbian militia, designated as United Nations Protected Areas (UNPA's). It was envisaged as a

    temporary 'solution' which would last only until a "comprehensive settlement" was agreed forthe whole region. However, the front lines which were simply frozen by the deployment of

    UN peacekeepers are still inplace, despite several limited conflicts since then, and a proper

    solution has yet to be found.31

    The Croatian war catalysed the onset of fighting in Bosnia in a number of ways. First of all,

    perhaps inevitably, the Serb-Croat conflict spilled over into Bosnia causing increased tensions,

    localised clashes, and sometimes pitched battles between local Croats and units of the JNA.

    Secondly, the JNA used bases in Bosnia from which to attack Croatia. The base at Banja Lukawas used as the Headquarters for the joint Serb militia/JNA campaign in Western Slavonija,

    and the bases in Trebinje and Nevesinje in Herzegovina were used to co-ordinate attacks on the

    southern part of the Dalmatian coast, especially the senseless campaign against Dubrovnik.

    31Filip Svarm, "Singing the Blues", WarReport (January 1993), p 20-21; Igor Mekina,"Croatian Paradox", WarReport(February/March 1993), p 12-13; and Milorad Pupova_, "AFramework for Krajina" (ibid.), p 11.


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    Northern Bosnia was also used to transport arms to the Serb rebels in Croatia. This led to both

    an increase in the concentration of JNA personnel and materielin Bosnia, and to an increase in

    tension on the ground.32

    Importantly, the situation on the ground in Croatia which was frozen by the Vance plan and the

    establishment of the UNPA's gave both Croatia and Serbia added incentives to compensate for

    their respective positions by annexing Bosnian territory, though as we shall see both sides had

    already discussed dividing Bosnia even before the Croatian war began.

    Although Serbian forces in Croatia, in alliance with the JNA, had managed to secure control

    over a third of the republic, they had failed to fulfil one vital element of their war aims, namely

    a secure land corridor linking the occupied territories with Serbia proper. This could only be

    established by the annexation of the Bosanska Krajina region in Bosnia. Also, the loss of athird of Croatia's territory to the Serb insurgents gave President Franjo Tudjman and his ruling

    HDZ party greater incentive to compensate for the lost land by taking those parts of Bosnia and

    Herzegovina in which Croats are the majority population. Croats from Western Herzegovina

    predominate in the HDZ leadership, and represent its most nationalist faction, which partly

    explains the party's desire to incorporate the area into the new Croatian state. During the

    period of theBanovina Hrvatska (1939-41) and the NDH nazi-puppet state (1941-43), Western

    Herzegovina and Posavina, both of which are majority Croatian areas contiguous with Croatia

    itself, were formally part of the Republic.33

    However, it should be noted that the Croatian Government's goals in Bosnia and Herzegovina

    have never been absolutely clear, indeed they have developed opportunistically. They have also

    generated considerable opposition within Croatia, and even within the HDZ itself. Many who

    oppose Tudjman's policy argue, quite rightly, that by seeking to annex part of Bosnia, the

    Croatian President has significantly weakened his position that the annexation of one third of

    Croatia by Serbian forces should not be legalised.

    In March 1991, in a hunting lodge in Karadjordjevo (Vojvodina), Presidents Tudjman and

    Milosevi_ held the last of a series of meetings before full-scale war erupted, and they agreed on

    the principle of dividing Bosnia between them as a means to solve the wider Serbo-Croat

    32Mark Mazower, "The War in Bosnia-Hercegovina: An Analysis", Action for Bosnia(1992).

    33Ivo Banac, op.cit.


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    conflict. This political agreement was later supplemented by a military pact between the leaders

    of Bosnia's Croats (Mate Boban) and Serbs (Radovan Karadzi_) which was settled in the town

    of Graz, Austria, on April 27th 1992 after the war in Bosnia had begun. The Graz agreement

    was "the single most important document of the war," according to Vreme's military analyst

    Milo Vasi_, and its function was to limit conflict between Bosnian Serb and Croat forces by

    demarcating clear lines of control. Crucially, it allowed both parties to concentrate on taking

    territory at the expense of the Muslims.34

    So, in the autumn of 1991, whilst Germany was conducting an intensive - and ultimately

    successful - EC lobbying campaign for the recognition of Croatia and Slovenia on the basis of

    the sanctity of existing borders, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman was publicly advocating

    that these principles be ignored in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In fact, even after

    Croatia was recognised as an independent state on January 15th 1992, government officialswere quite open about their territorial designs on Bosnia-Herzegovina.35

    Aside from the nationalist agendas of the governments in Belgrade and Zagreb, and their

    respective territorial designs on the republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, another important

    factor was at work: the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA). Despite pre-war Yugoslavia's

    population of only 24 million, the JNA was the fourth largest standing army in Europe, with a

    total of 79,000 officers and 180,000 recruits. It was a highly equipped and modern army, with

    the very best of Soviet-made and western equipment and weaponry.36

    The JNA had played a key role in the formation of the Yugoslav federation, in fact much of the

    post-Second World War party bureaucracy initially developed from within its ranks. As Marko

    Hren argues, "[it] was the main agent for political change in Yugoslavia." This meant that the

    JNA enjoyed a uniquely privileged role in Yugoslav society. Military matters were taught in

    schools, youth work camps were run by the JNA, and the system of industrial production was

    largely geared towards providing for the army. This was compounded by Tito's doctrine of

    "Total Defence", which envisaged a three-tier system of defence, presumably based on the

    34Milo Vasi_, "Two against one in Bosnia", WarReport(January 1993),p. 8-9.

    35Ian Traynor, The Guardian (17 January 1992).

    36Milo Vasi_ and Aleksander Ciri_, "No Way Out: The JNA and The Yugoslav Wars",WarReport(January 1993), pp. 3-5.


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    hypothetical Soviet invasion which was in the back of the leadership's collective mind in the

    period after Yugoslavia's break with Moscow in 1948. The system was anchored in the multi-

    ethnic organisational structure of the JNA, and supplemented by local Territorial Defence

    Units (TO) and, as a last line of defence, full-scale civil mobilisation.37

    The implications of this were two-fold. First, should civil war erupt it was pre-destined to be a

    very bloody affair, as all adult males received military training and a substantial majority

    possessed weapons. Second, in the event of the federation splitting up, the JNA would face an

    existential crisis. In 1991, the secession of Slovenia and Croatia had grave consequences for

    the JNA, in that a substantial source of both recruits and taxation was lost, and the army

    became increasingly Serb- and Montenegrin-dominated.

    The consequences of independence for Bosnia were potentially even greater, however, as thelargest concentration of both military bases and armament/munitions production facilities were

    located within the central republic -- for obvious strategic reasons. Immediately before the

    outbreak of war in Bosnia, it is thought the JNA had increased its presence in the republic to

    something in the order of 80-90,000 men. The loss of Bosnia and Herzegovina was something

    the JNA leadership was not prepared to countenance, particularly as Serbian President

    Slobodan Miloevi_ had already made clear that his new Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)

    would not be prepared to guarantee the salaries and pensions of the existing JNA officer


    Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovi_ recognised the importance of this factor when, in

    September 1991, he tried in vain to persuade the EC to set up a trust fund which would pay the

    salaries and pensions of JNA officers based in the republic if the JNA agreed to remain loyal to

    Bosnia and Herzegovina and desist from waging a war to bring the republic back into the

    Yugoslav federation.39


    37ibid; and Marko Hren, "The Leading Role of the Army", War Report(January 1993), p7.

    38Mark Mazower, op.cit.



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    The authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina were in many ways the most loyal to the Yugoslav

    identity and ideals. But this ethnically diverse central republic found itself caught between the

    hegemonic intentions of Serbia and the desire of the northern republics to achieve national self-

    determination. The 'Agrokomerc' scandal in 1987 had led to the removal of the core of the

    republic's existing leadership. In the political vacuum which followed, Milosevic's regime in

    Belgrade campaigned to destabilise the republic by calling on ethnic Serbs to declare loyalty to

    Serbia rather than to Sarajevo. Clearly, Belgrade aimed to undermine Bosnia's autonomous

    status and eventually incorporate as much of the republic as possible within the Greater Serbia

    envisaged by the SANU group.40

    Milosevic's task was made easier by the results of the first free elections which were held

    across Yugoslavia in 1990. The three nationalist parties in Bosnia, the Serbian Democratic

    Party (SDS), the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), and the mainly Muslim Party ofDemocratic Action (SDA) won the majority of the votes, and took 86% of the seats in

    parliament between them. Smaller multi-ethnic parties such as the Liberal Party, the Reformist

    Party, the Social Democratic Party and (despite its name) the Muslim Bosnian Organisation all

    won only minority support.41

    This produced a pattern across the republic where the party representing the majority

    population of a particular area, after winning control of the local authorities, would begin

    promoting "their" people in the police, councils, state-owned companies etc., often purgingmembers of the other two ethnic groups from top jobs and positions of authority. Only in the

    city of Tuzla did an alliance of the Reformists and Social Democrats win control of the local

    government; all other areas were won by the three main parties.

    The SDS and HDZ parties were from their very inception in 1989 and 1990 respectively, little

    more than proxies of the regimes in Belgrade and Zagreb. The ruling clique of the SDS is a

    group of Bosnian Serb intellectuals led by Milorad Ekmeci_, who are linked with the Belgrade

    SANU group which developed the idea of creating a "Greater Serbia" out of the ashes ofYugoslavia. The party's leader, Radovan Karadzi_, was a wealthy Sarajevo psychiatrist and

    amateur poet who, along with another powerful SDS official Mom_ilo Krajinik, had spent

    much of the 1980's in jail for corruption. The HDZ has its power base among the radical

    40See Branka Magas op.cit. pp. 226-7

    41Branka Maga, op.cit.


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    Croatian nationalists of western Herzegovina, although it was originally led by a Sarajevan,

    Stjepan Kluji_. Kluji_ was later purged at the start of the war because of his support for a

    unitary Bosnia, and was replaced with the hard-liner Mate Boban.

    The SDA was formed by a group of Islamic scholars who were involved in the controversial

    "Islamic Declaration" trial of 1983, which saw Alija Izetbegovi_ (the party's leader) jailed for

    alleged fundamentalism. It should be noted, however, that contrary to much of the subsequent

    propaganda relating to this trial, the declaration did not advocate the creation of an Islamic state

    in Bosnia, nor is that the programme of the SDA.42

    From the beginning it was clear that the SDS and HDZ were pseudo-military organisations,

    and that both parties were being used as conduits for the arming of the populations they

    spuriously claimed to represent. The SDA, however, had no external backers to match thegovernments of Belgrade and Zagreb, and began creating its own militia forces (the `Green

    Berets') only in the immediate run up to the war itself.

    The set of military plans which the JNA had drawn up to prevent Croatia seceding from the

    federation went by the acronym of `RAM'. The basic strategy of the RAM plan was to

    provide arms to Serbian irregular forces in strategic parts of the republic, and to mobilise them

    in the event of a declaration of independence with the backing of the Army itself.

    In Belgrade, a well-organised supply system was developed by Socialist Party MP Mihalj

    Kerte (an Interior Ministry official), who helped organise the arming and training of

    paramilitary formations based in Serbia and local rebel Serbs in Croatia. Throughout 1990,

    several hundred thousand weapons were sent to the Bosnian Krajina and eastern Herzegovina,

    through the SDS party network, in order to supply Croatian Serbs and JNA reservists fighting

    in Croatia. This supply system was also used to arm Bosnian Serbs in these two areas, along

    with those on the Romanija plateau, east of Sarajevo. In August, outgoing federal Prime

    Minister Ante Markovi_ released a tape recording on which Slobodan Miloevi_ could beheard informing the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karad_i_ of a new consignment of arms

    which were to be delivered through the JNA HQ in Banja Luka, and telling him thathe could

    call in air strikes through General Nikola Uzelac in Banja Luka if he felt it necessary.43

    42Personal interviews with representatives of each party (Sarajevo, April 1992); and TihomirLoza, YugoFax (May 1992), p 8-9.

    43Mark Mazower, op.cit.


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    The HDZ also began arming Bosnian Croats during the 1991 Croatian war. The Croatian

    Council of Defence (HVO) was set up by regular Croatian Army personnel, who also provided

    weaponry, in preparation for the imminent conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Also, units of

    the neo-fascist Croatian Party of Rights militia (HOS) began operating in western Herzegovina

    during 1991. Regardless of the intentions of the governments in Belgrade and Zagreb, this

    process of arming Croat and Serb communities in Bosnia began to develop its own momentum,

    and isolated but fierce clashes were already taking place around Mostar throughout the autumn

    and winter of 1991.44

    Even before the November 1990 elections, the SDS had begun consolidating control over

    majority Serbian regions in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In October, a Serb National Council was

    established in Banja Luka, which was to be an independent legislative body wholly independentof the legal government in Sarajevo. Six autonomous regions (SAO's) were declared, which

    would later become the basis for the formation of the `Republika Srpska' in Bosnia and


    Throughout 1991 the SDS used its MP's and officials in the Bosnian Presidency to block all

    measures which the government was trying to introduce to save the republic from war. The

    shaky coalition of national parties was thus deadlocked, mirroring the situation of the Yugoslav

    Federal Presidency a year previously. In October 1991, the Bosnian Assembly adopted a draftmemorandum affirming the inviolability of the republic's borders and supporting the option of

    a Yugoslav federation of sovereign states. At this time Radovan Karad_i_, whose party walked

    out of the Assembly whilst the vote was taken, warned that insisting on the sovereignty of

    Bosnia and Herzegovina would lead the republic "into a hell in which the Muslims will perhaps


    In the run up to the EC Conference on Yugoslavia the Bosnian government needed to draft a

    common position regarding the republic's status, which was also necessary to keep Bosnia outof the Croatian war. However, the SDS staked its opposing claim immediately after the

    memorandum of sovereignty by declaring a Serb Republic in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This

    was soon followed by a declaration of two "Croatian Communes" in western Herzegovina and

    44Personal interview with an HVO officer in Livno, who also confirmed the fact that everyHVO officer in early phase of the war was from the HV.


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    A meeting was held between the three national parties at the end of 1991 under the auspices of

    the EC. The SDS demanded independent cantons for areas where large numbers of ethnic

    Serbs lived, claiming approximately 65% of the republic, whilst the SDA and HDZ voiced

    their support for a unitary civil state. It was at this stage that the EC could have shot down any

    plans for an ethnic division of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which everybody concerned knew

    could only be achieved through war. However, EC officials were at this stage pre-occupied

    with the failure of their policy in Croatia - fourteen cease-fire agreements had so far been

    brokered and subsequently ignored - and were in the process of seeking agreement on the

    Vance plan.46

    The Vance plan was agreed in December 1991, and under German pressure EC governmentsalso agreed to recognise Croatia and Slovenia as independent states rather than expose the wide

    divisions in foreign policy which existed at the time. Some German diplomats now admit quite

    openly that in the absence of an overall EC policy for the former Yugoslavia, insistence on

    recognition may have been premature.

    These two factors, an agreement to end the Croatian war which recognised territorial gains

    made by force of arms and which treated the Croatian war in isolation from the worsening

    situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the decision to recognise Croatia and Slovenia, sealedBosnia's fate.

    Since mid-1991 Bosnian Serb communities had been arming in preparation for the war, and in

    fact, the missiles and some of the artillery which were to be used in the shameful siege of

    Sarajevo were in place on Mount Trebevi_ by October47. There can be no doubt that by this

    stage in the game it was clear even to the governments of Britain, France and Germany that the

    intention of Miloevi_'s regime in Belgrade was to use the JNA and the military structures of

    the SDS in Bosnia to launch a war of territorial acquisition, whose purpose was the creation ofthe "Greater Serbia" envisaged by the 1986 SANU declaration, and the destruction of the

    45Branka Maga, op.cit.

    46Hugh Miall, "New Conflicts in Europe", Oxford Research Group Report(July 1992).

    47Tihomir Loza, from a personal interview (April 1992) in Sarajevo. He had seen some ofthe emplacements on Trebevic.


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    Bosnian state. Paramilitary groups had been created with direct and identifiable links to the

    Security Services in Belgrade, and a complete logistics and supply network was in place not

    just for the arming of local communities, butalso for the expulsion of non-Serb populations

    which was to be the purpose of the operation.48

    Plans were also afoot for the HDZ to consolidate its political and military control over the

    Posavina region and western Herzegovina, in order eventually to incorporate them into

    Croatia. Yet war was not yet an inevitability.

    The final factor which caused the Bosnian war was the intervention of the EC. Some, like

    Toma_ Mastnak, argue that European governments were deliberate in their actions; others

    believe they were simply incompetent at this stage. It is possible we will never know. But what

    is absolutely clear is that with regard to Bosnia the intervention of the EC, far from preventingthe war, actually hastened it. As we shall discuss later, the subsequent EC "peace process",

    which aimed to halt the fighting, actually worsened the war in a number of ways.

    The recognition of Croatia, against the findings of the EC's own Badinter Commission which

    had been set up to discuss the issue, forced the Bosnian government's hand on independence.

    On December 20th, the government formally requested recognition, and began making

    arrangements for the independence referendum of March 1st. At this point, however, the

    Bosnian government's writ only ran to two-thirds of its territory.49

    The Vance plan in Croatia, the price of international recognition, gave legitimacy to the

    occupation of one-third of the republic by Serbian forces, and interposed UN troops to police

    the frontlines. This allowed the JNA and the Serbian regime in Belgrade to focus its attention

    on Bosnia and Herzegovina, where as we have seen, a similar strategy to the one which had

    been used successfully in Croatia was needed to complete the project of "Greater Serbia".

    Additionally, the fact that the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) for Croatia was

    to have its headquarters in Sarajevo was but one of the signs which led the Bosnian governmentto believe that a prompt peacekeeping intervention would be forthcoming should war erupt in

    Bosnia and Herzegovina.

    48Livio Hughes, unpublished M.Phil dissertation (CSD, University of Westminster)"Genocide and War Crimes in Bosnia-Herzegovina" in preparation which, among other things,deals with the mechanics of the genocide.

    49Branka Maga, op.cit.


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    The attempt to broker some kind of agreement between the three national parties, combined

    with a tendency to favour nation states over multi-ethnic/multi-national polities, led the EC to

    support the cantonisation of the republic along ethnic lines. Others believe that the European

    powers were against the independence of a majority-Muslim state in Europe, and claim this

    was the hidden agenda behind the EC's consistent support for ethnic division.

    Although in the December both the HDZ and SDA had opposed this option, under pressure

    from Zagreb the Croatian party changed its position and voiced support for division. Thus,

    despite the obviously disastrous results of a policy of ethnic division in a republic where over

    1.7 million people lived in municipalities where no group had an absolute majority, the EC

    adopted cantonisation as official policy.50

    The referendum, held on February 28th, produced a majority in favour of independence as a

    unitary civil state, but was boycotted by most Serbs. Immediately following the vote, violence

    flared in Sarajevo when SDS militia units took control over several areas of the city and

    erected barricades; only a courageous peace demonstration led by Alija Izetbegovi_ persuaded

    the SDS to back down.51

    In March, the EC held a further meeting in Lisbon, and the EC envoy Lord Carrington putforward a more detailed cantonisation plan based on the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina

    into separate Serb, Croat and Muslim regions. By insisting that recognition would be

    contingent upon all three sides agreeing to his cantonisation plan, Carrington was able to

    overcome the opposition of the SDA and the Bosnian government. Thus, Izetbegovi_ agreed in

    principle to some form of de-centralisation and national autonomy, believing that he had

    guarantees from the international community to intervene to protect the new state in the event

    of a Serbian or JNA attack. Around the time of this meeting, the town of Bosanski Brod on

    Bosnia's northern border with Croatia was already being shelled by the JNA and Bosnian Serbunits based nearby, and pitched battles were underway in western Herzegovina between Serbs

    and Croats.52


    51WHY?(April 1992), Journal of the Sarajevo International Peace Centre.

    52On the shelling of Bosanski Brod, see Hugh Miall, op.cit.; Tihomir Loza, op.cit.; andMark Mazower op.cit.


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    By the time of recognition by the USA, at about 6am local time on the morning of April 6th,

    the war was already underway. The promises Alija Izetbegovi_ believed he had from the EC

    proved to be empty, and although fighting was now taking place inside Sarajevo itself, the

    UNPROFOR contingent based there still had no mandate to act in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

    The timing of the outbreak of the war, over the weekend of the Muslim festivalBajram which

    preceded international recognition on Monday April 6th, was no coincidence.

    The logical conclusion of plans to cantonise a multi-ethnic republic in which only a handful of

    municipalities were anything like homogenous was soon to become horribly clear: a war in

    which mass executions and expulsion of civilians were not just a function of the fighting, but a

    central part of the aggressor's strategic aims.


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    It is one day after Bosnian Muslims and Croats voted for independence from Yugoslavia. A masked

    Serb with a machine gun sees a group of people on their way to work and shouts: "You wantindependence? Here, I'll give it to you!" He fires a burst over their heads. An elderly man ducks

    behind a car. His voice is a mixture of sadness and disbelief: "This is it. It's all over, the

    brotherhood and unity is over."

    Duan Stojanovi_ (AP), Sarajevo, March 1st 1992

    By March 1992, approximately one-third of the republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was under

    the effective control of the Serbian SDS militia. Police stations in areas where Serbs formed the

    majority of the population were taken over by the SDS, along with their equipment and

    weapon arsenals. Karad_i_ and his fellow party officials also put enormous pressure on

    journalists and editors in the various media (including bribes and threats) to create separate

    Serb, Croat and Muslim newspapers and TV channels.

    State-wide newspapers such as Oslobodenje andNedjelja, and TV-BiH all steadfastly resisted

    this pressure, which was an important factor in maintaining relatively peaceful relations

    between the three major communities for such a long time. TV-BiH came under special

    pressure to divide, because it represented perfectly the kind of society the SDS wished to

    destroy. Editor-in-chief Nenad Peji_ was a Serb, and the whole journalistic and editorial staffwas comprised of roughly equal numbers of Serbs, Croats, Muslims and Yugoslavs (those who

    refused to declare themselves as a member of a particular ethnic group).53

    The state-run, but effectively independent TV-BiH would broadcast using the Latin alphabet

    (for Croats and Muslims) and the Cyrillic alphabet (for Serbs) on alternate days, and the station

    consistently sought to emphasise its message of tolerance and mutual understanding. In the

    immediate run up to the war, the caption "Citizens of BiH - Don't shoot each other!" was

    displayed on the screen between programmes, accompanied by aerial shots of Sarajevo inwhich the camera would slowly pan from the view of a mosque, to an orthodox church, to a

    catholic church and to a synagogue. YU-TEL, the other main state-wide TV station solved the

    problem of objectivity by showing viewers the highly dubious Croatian TV and Serbian TV

    news programmes in the evening, after its own show, with the implicit warning that neither

    53Nenad Peji_, personal communication. After the war began he was targeted by the SDSand eventually forced to flee.


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    should necessarily be believed.

    When the SDS proved unable to divide the main media, it chose instead to set up SRNA, its

    own news agency based in the Bosnian Serb stronghold Pale. They also singled out both the

    Oslobodenje building, the TV stations and its transmitters for particular attention when missiles

    began raining on Sarajevo after the war began.

    After raiding police and territorial defence stations in Sarajevo, the SDS militia again set up

    barricades around areas of the city under their control on the night of Saturday April 4th. The

    next day, the eve of Bosnia and Herzegovina's recognition as an independent state, saw several

    thousand Sarajevans march to the centre of the capital and gather outside the Parliament

    building. The marchers symbolically advanced towards the last remaining barricade on a

    nearby bridge and were met with gunfire. Suada Dilberovi_, a young student from Dubrovnik,was first in the line of fire; the bridge on which she died was later re-named in her honour.

    There followed a spectacular three days of demonstrations, which people travelled from all

    over the republic to join, and an occupation of the parliament by opposition and peace groups

    calling for a government of national unity and the disbanding of all armed forces. Unarmed

    miners from the northern city of Tuzla stormed a hotel from which Serbian snipers were

    shooting on the crowd, and a total of five people were killed and dozens wounded in what

    many foreign journalists mis-construed as a Bucharest-style attempted coup. The occupationwas supported by TV-BiH, who broadcast the unfolding events live, and was joined by writers,

    film-makers and other respected people. But by the time it was over, on the Wednesday, two

    days after Bosnia was recognised by the USA and the countries of the EC, Sarajevo was

    already at war.54

    Another key event which foretold the war to come was the occupation of the north-eastern

    town of Bijeljina on April 2nd-4th. A crack Serbian paramilitary unit led by the infamous

    criminal known as `Arkan' crossed over from Serbia and committed a massacre of Muslims,which caused most of the town's non-Serb population to flee in terror. This was the beginning

    of the campaign to occupy eastern Bosnia, and to drive a Serbian corridor across the north of

    the republic. Zvornik, to the south, fell on April 10th after heavy JNA bombardment and an

    54For my account of the demonstration, see Lee Bryant, YugoFax (May 1992). All otherforeign journalists were on the other side of the shooting, inside the Holiday Inn hotel and SDSbase.


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    infantry assault by Arkan's special forces.55

    Immediately following Bosnia's recognition, JNA and Serb paramilitary units also penetrated

    Bosnia from Montenegro to take control of Foca in a similar fashion, killing and expelling the

    non-Serb population and imprisoning the rest. Bratunac, Rogatica, Vlasenica, Viegrad and

    other towns and their surrounding villages were all taken in the same way during the month of

    April, as local SDS militias and a variety of Serbian paramilitary units moved with the support

    of the JNA to secure control of most of eastern Bosnia.56

    In western Herzegovina, Croatian Council of Defence (HVO) units fought to secure control of

    the area on the west bank of the Neretva river, with some success. The JNA resorted to aerial

    bombardment in cases where they lost the initiative on the ground, such as on the Kupres

    plateau and around Capljina. In the northern Posavina region the HVO also made gains,threatening the vital supply route between the Bosnian Krajina region and Serbia proper.

    In this early phase of the war the JNA, by now a wholly Serb- and Montenegrin-dominated

    army whose political and military strategy dove-tailed with Miloevi_'s aim of a "Greater

    Serbia", was fully engaged on the side of the Serbian insurgents against Croatian forces, and to

    a slightly lesser extent also those of the Bosnian government. Yet its leadership was divided,

    which meant that its tactics in certain areas owed more to a desire to protect its own position

    and facilities than territorial acquisition on behalf of the Bosnian Serbs. When, on April 27th,the authorities in Belgrade proclaimed the new "rump" Federal Yugoslavia, Bosnian President

    Alija Izetbegovi_ordered the JNA in Bosnia to either withdraw or accept the status of foreign

    occupying force.57

    After much vaci