New Resolution on Bosnia and Herzegovina in the U.S. Congress

The Bosniak-American Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina, based in Washington, D.C., recently initiated, and with the help of the newly formed Congressional Caucus on Bosnia and its co-sponsor Christopher Smith, submitted for consideration to the House of Representatives, a new resolution on Bosnia and Herzegovina (H. Res. 679).

With this resolution, the House of Representatives expresses its views regarding the continuing effects of the genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

Among other things, this resolution recalls: 

– The previously adopted resolutions of the U.S. Congress regarding the genocide in Srebrenica (H. Res. 199 and S. Res. 134), which state that Serb forces committed aggression and genocide against the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its population, with the direct support from authorities in Serbia and Montenegro. 

– The verdicts of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which found numerous Serb political and military officials guilty of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of genocide against the non-Serb population of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

– The judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of February 26, 2007, which ruled that the institutions of the Republika Srpska entity, and in particular its army and police, were responsible for the genocide in Srebrenica, and that Serbia violated the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide by failing to prevent the genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina and punish its perpetrators. 

– The resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on constitutional reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which calls for an in-depth reform of the Dayton constitutional arrangements, and particularly for the reduction and elimination of the entity voting mechanism.

This resolution of the U.S. Congress, among other things, states that:

– The perpetrators and the supporters of the aggression and genocide, including the Yugoslav People’s Army and its Ministry of Interior, the Army of Republika Srpska, the Police of Republika Srpska, and other regular and paramilitary forces under Serb control, intended to destroy, through slaughter, rape, torture, and expulsion, the unique multiethnic culture of Bosnia and Herzegovina woven through a thousand years of tolerance, respect, mutual trust, and dignified coexistence of all of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s ethnically and religiously diverse citizens.

– Srebrenica and other areas of eastern Bosnia from which the victims of genocide hail continues to be under the jurisdiction of the Republika Srpska entity and its institutions, especially the Police of Republika Srpska, that committed genocide.

– The Interior Ministry of Republika Srpska (i.e. the Police of Republika Srpska) has failed to provide specific data on several hundred individuals deployed in Srebrenica in July 1995 under the direct or indirect auspices of the Republika Srpska authorities.

– Countries are obliged not to recognize as lawful the situation created by the crime of aggression and the crime of genocide, as well as to cooperate in the application of measures designed to eliminate the consequences of such crimes.

– The General Framework Agreement for Peace, the Dayton Peace Accords, ended the aggression, genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, but it failed to achieve its intended goal of reversing the effects of those crimes. Furthermore, the peace agreement failed to ensure sustainable return of refugees and displaced persons to their homes of origins, as guaranteed by Annex VII of the Dayton Peace Accords, as a result of which the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Annex IV of the Dayton Peace Accords) has evolved into an ethno-territorial arrangement that now institutionalizes the results of the genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

– One of the most ominous of the ethno-territorial provisions of this Constitution is an entity voting mechanism, which allows a small number of Serb deputies from Republika Srpska in the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina, constituting less than one-quarter of the Parliament, to block any proposed legislation or decision. The entity voting mechanism has been used to block various crucial State-level legislation, including the proposed changes to the Citizenship Law of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

– The Republika Srpska entity, among other things, shows no willingness to agree to reforms within Bosnia and Herzegovina that are in in line with the standards demanded by the European Union.

– The ethnic excslusivity within Republika Srpska effectively discourages and prevents the return of the ethnically-cleansed non-Serb population to this region of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

With this resolution, the U.S. Congress, among other things, concludes that:

– Bosnia and Herzegovina should begin the process of adopting a new constitution that is based on civic representation and that fully eliminates the ethno-territorial arrangements which reflect and institutionalize the effects of the genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

– The new constitution must restructure the ethno-territorial organization of Bosnia and Herzegovina and eliminate its division into entities, cantons, and municipalities with a view to creating a single, unified economic space.

– Srebrenica and other areas of eastern Bosnia should be placed under the exclusive jurisdiction of the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to ensure that the situation created by genocide is not recognized as lawful.

– Police reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina must create a single police structure, replacing entity police forces with a single police at the state level, and in particular eliminating the Police of the Republika Srpska entity, which was identified in the ICJ judgment as one of the institutions of Republika Srpska that participated in the commission of the crime of genocide.

– The Republika Srpska entity cannot persist under its current name which represents the ethnically-exclusive political philosophy of its founders and which perpetuates the effects of the genocide and ethnic cleansing.

– Serbia must immediately honor its international legal obligations towards Bosnia and Herzegovina, stemming from the Convention on the Prevention and the Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the ICJ judgment, by immediately apprehending and transferring to the ICTY all individuals indicted for participating in the commission of the crime of genocide, particularly Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. Their arrest is in the national interest of the United States.

– The United States reaffirms its strongest support for the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and supports the transformation of Bosnia and Herzegovina into a state with governmental institutions commensurate with EU and NATO membership.

– The House of Representatives calls for an immediate, refocused, and concentrated diplomatic effort by the United States to achieve the objectives stated in the resolution in order to achieve definitive success in reversing the effects of genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina and building a modern, functional, self-sustainable, and a fully democratic state.

The Advisory Council calls on the true friends of Bosnia and Herzegovina to support this resolution and to immediately ask their congressperson to become a co-sponsor of the resolution (H. Res. 679).