Friday, March 25, 2005

Bosnia's Highway to Hell - Part One

Here is Part One of "Bosnia's Highway to Hell". According to the official Western narrative, the civil war in Bosnia was the result of 'Serbian aggression' to create an ethnically pure 'Greater Serbia'. This article explains the real cause of the civil war in Bosnia - unilateral and illegal acts by the secessionist Muslim-Croat alliance, and their violations of the national rights of the Bosnian Serbs.

Bosnia's Highway to Hell - Part One

Alija Izetbegovic, leader of the Bosnian Muslim ‘Party of Democratic Action’ (SDA), announced to the Bosnian parliament in February 1991 that “I would sacrifice peace for a sovereign Bosnia-Herzegovina, but for that peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina I would not sacrifice sovereignty”, and sacrifice peace for a sovereign Bosnia-Herzegovina was precisely what he did. On October 15 1991 Muslim and Croat deputies in the Bosnian assembly illegally passed a declaration on the sovereignty and independence of Bosnia-Herzegovina, despite the adamant opposition of the Serbs. Momcilo Krajisnik, the Bosnian parliamentary speaker at the time and a Serb, had attempted to prevent this unilateral declaration from being passed by bringing the session to a close, which he legally could. After he did so, however, the assembly was illegally reconvened by the Croat deputy speaker, and the Muslim and Croat deputies, who together formed a majority (forming 44% and 17% of the population respectively), rejecting both the Belgrade initiative (see later) and a compromise proposed by non-national parties, passed the declaration.

The Bosnian constitution stipulated that two of the national groups could not simply outvote the third like this, consensus being required for important decisions, making it completely illegal and illegitimate. The Bosnian assembly also did not have the legal power to declare sovereignty (although the Yugoslav Constitutional Court was no longer functioning at this point and hence did not rule on this case, it had judged all other declarations of sovereignty, from Slovenia’s to Macedonia’s, to be illegal and unconstitutional).

It was unilateral secessionist acts like this, that violated the national rights of the Bosnian Serbs, which led to the Bosnian Serbs exercising their own right to self-determination, and ultimately caused the civil war in Bosnia. The illegal secessionist moves put Bosnia, just as Serb leader Radovan Karadzic warned at the time of declaration, on “the same highway to hell and suffering that Slovenia and Croatia [were] travelling”.

In February and March 1991 Izetbegovic had unsuccessfully attempted to pass a similar declaration on sovereignty (unsuccessfully because the Croats, too, opposed it at that time), and throughout 1991 Serb municipalities had formed regional associations. In August, Izetbegovic rejected the Serb-Muslim ‘historic agreement’ whereby Bosnia would remain in Yugoslavia (see later), and announced a referendum on the future of Bosnia within Yugoslavia, and the following month Serb associations began to unite into autonomous regional bodies. The seeds were already being sewn, and the October 15 declaration hugely accelerated this path to disintegration and conflict.

Rightly declaring the Muslim-Croat alliance an anti-constitutional act that violated the parity principle of consensus of the three-nation, power-sharing coalition, the Serbian parties - the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), their smaller rival, the Serbian Movement for Renewal (SPO), and a few other minor groupings such as the Reformist Party - walked out of the assembly at the time of the vote on the declaration. A few days later they formed their own ‘Assembly of the Serbian People of Bosnia-Herzegovina' to represent the Bosnian Serbs - continuing to serve in the Bosnian assembly, too, though - and announced a plebiscite, for November 9-10, on remaining in Yugoslavia.

The Muslim-Croat alliance in the Bosnian assembly, meanwhile, continued on the path it set out on, creating a new coat of arms and flag for Bosnia, and, on October 27, informing the federal parliament that Bosnia was a sovereign state. The Serb plebiscite, on the other hand, showed an overwhelming majority - 98% of 85% of Serb voters - in favour of remaining in Yugoslavia, and on November 21 the Serb Assembly proclaimed as integral parts of Yugoslavia all areas in which pro-Yugoslav Serbs were in the majority. The two sides headed off on their different paths - the Muslim-Croat alliance to secession, and the Serbs to forming their own state, which would remain in Yugoslavia, in response - paths which would soon collide. The Bosnian Presidency, despite the absence of the SDS and the opposition of the two Serb presidency members (Biljana Plavsic and Nikola Koljevic), requested recognition from the EC on December 20, a request which the SDS responded to by declaring their intention to create a Serbian republic within Bosnia. This, the Serbian Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina -which they said would be a federal unit of Yugoslavia - was then declared on January 9 1992. It was said to be the result of “illegitimate and illegal decisions of the Muslim-Croatian coalition”, and a response to Muslim-Croatian demands for international recognition of an independent Bosnia-Herzegovina. Karadzic emphasised at the time that they would only begin to build the institutions of the republic if “the Croats or Muslims try to separate from Yugoslavia or if they are recognised” - it was a defensive measure.

Izetbegovic had already announced his intention to hold a referendum on independence, and, with the EC now asking him to hold a referendum if he wanted recognition, on January 25 1992 the Bosnian assembly, in which the Serb deputies were still participating, debated the holding of such a referendum. The debate centred on whether an agreement on regional structures among the three national groups in Bosnia should precede or follow the referendum. In this and all other future negotiations, the Bosnian Serbs were prepared to give up their wish to remain in Yugoslavia for a cantonal organisation of independent Bosnia. If Bosnia were split into numerous different cantons, each essentially assigned to one of the three national groups, then the equal political power of the three nations would be assured, regardless of the overall percentages of the population. The Serbs were thus prepared to accept living in an independent Bosnia in such an arrangement, as it would ensure they would not be an out-voted minority.

Hasan Cengic, SDA vice president, agreed with Karadzic that a proposal for regionalisation should be worked out before the referendum - “Never were we closer to an agreement as at this time”, Karadzic said to the applause of delegates. Karadzic then suggested that the commitment to regionalisation be incorporated into a constitutional amendment before the referendum was held, but before the agreement could be clinched, Izetbegovic shot it down. The Serb delegates then withdrew from the assembly in response, followed by the Muslim and Croat deputies adopting the decision to hold a referendum.

Izetbegovic thus shot down an agreement that would have prevented the Bosnian civil war - according to which the Bosnian Serbs would have accepted living in an independent, regionalised Bosnian state - and instead pushed Bosnia further on the highway to hell by adopting yet another illegal and unilateral decision.

The other issue about the referendum was whether it would be one of citizens or nations. Karadzic proposed that the referendum be one of nations, which, as consensus of the three nations was required, obviously made sense. Izetbegovic, however, was insistent that it be a referendum of citizens, which would mean that the Muslim-Croat alliance could simply outvote the Serbs. The SDA proposed a ‘compromise’ - a referendum of both citizens and nations - which Karadzic refused, as a referendum of citizens was irrelevant, it being the views of the three nations which mattered, but would be used by the secessionists to legitimise their secession against the wishes of the Serbs. Eventually Izetbegovic got his way, and the referendum, held on February 29 - March 1, was one of citizens alone.

The Serbs overwhelmingly boycotted the referendum, which 63.4% of Bosnians voted in, 99.7% of whom voted for independence. The referendum did not achieve a two-thirds majority in favour of independence, and, although this was not strictly necessary as it was not a legislative referendum, it is indicative of on what thin ice the secessionists were on. More importantly, there was not consensus between the three nations, as the Serbs overwhelmingly boycotted it. Despite this, on March 3 Izetbegovic declared Bosnia an independent state.

The EC Badinter commission had said that a vote on independence would only be valid if respectable numbers from all three communities approved, but, despite this, and the fact that the Bosnian government did not have authority over Serb-inhabited territory which it claimed as part of its state, on April 6 the EC recognised Bosnian independence. The EC even ignored the fact that Izetbegovic was, at this point, not the legal president of Bosnia - the Bosnian Presidency was supposed to revolve on an annual basis, meaning a Croat or Serb should have been president then.

Civil war then began. On April 4 the Bosnian Presidency ordered the general mobilisation of territorial defence forces (which Serb municipalities ignored), prompting the resignation of the two Serb members of the Bosnian Presidency. The independence of the Republic of Serbia of Bosnia-Herzegovina was subsequently declared, and on April 8 the remaining members of the Bosnian Presidency declared a state of war-danger.

As can clearly be seen, it was the unilateral, illegal, and unconstitutional acts of the Muslim-Croat coalition - the declaration of sovereignty and the referendum on independence - that set Bosnia on the path of civil war - the “highway to hell”.

In Part Two, I shall look at the attempts to avoid civil war that Izetbegovic torpedoed - the Belgrade initiative/Serb-Muslim ‘historic agreement’, and the February-March 1992 Cutilero plan - and, in Part Three, the disingenuous position of the Bosnian Croats. Part Two will hopefully be written over the next few days.


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