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    Press Release No:   UNIS/SC/1206
    Release Date:   23 March 2000
    Security Council Hears Briefing on Situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

     NEW YORK, 22 March (UN Headquarters) -- Addressing the Security Council this afternoon following an open briefing by the Secretariat on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, that country's representative warned against viewing the entire Balkans region as "one indistinguishable mess"; ultimately, ethnic diversity would be an advantage rather than an obstacle.

     Progress was possible in Bosnia and Herzegovina, even when it appeared to be stalling in other parts of the region, he said.  Successful implementation of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement and the New York Declaration of 1999 would counter arguments that the only option to progress was to change the accords, he said.  Despite their value, however, the Dayton Agreement had left his country with an institutional vacuum, making it difficult to complete domestic integration and integration into European institutions.  A progress report by his country’s President, to be sent to the Council, would shift the emphasis away from collective guilt and unhelpful generalizations, and point the way forward.

     The Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hédi Annabi, said that progress had been made in the last three months, but it had been slow and often based more on efforts by the United Nations Mission and action by the international community than on action taken by the local authorities.  Significant resistance from entrenched and backward-looking elements had been encountered at every stage.  Four years after its conclusion, implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement still remained a challenge, requiring the help of the international community.

     Perhaps the most important development in the last three months had been the official inauguration of a multi-ethnic Brcko district, where former separate police forces had been downsized and then integrated into one multi-ethnic police force, he said.  At the same time, changing the mono-ethnic character of law enforcement agencies was progressing slowly, mainly through the introduction of minority police officers trained in centres established through an UNMIBH?led effort.  In Cantons of the Federation where there were a relatively equal number of Bosnian and Croat officers, their integration into a truly joint police force had been impeded, particularly in Mostar.

     The representative of the Russian Federation said there was no reason for a particularly optimistic view of the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Only scrupulous adherence to the Dayton Agreement could be the basis for building a stable democracy.  Recent proposals by Bosnian politicians to "correct" or "polish up" the Dayton plan would be counter-productive.  Of particular concern had been expressions of political extremism, which would only whip up inter-ethnic hatred and undermine the peace accords.  Such tensions would inevitably spill over the border into neighbouring countries, he said.
     The United States representative said that, despite some positive results, many in Bosnia and Herzegovina clearly did not want a multi-ethnic society. Criminals continued to protect their illicit profits, and extreme nationalists in Mostar resisted reforms.  Such obstruction required strong action, not only by local authorities, but also by the Security Council.  He applauded the Bosnian officials who had worked hard to fulfil Dayton’s promise and pledged his country's ongoing support.

     Speaking on behalf of the European Union, the representative of Portugal said the Union, as the single largest contributor of international assistance to Bosnia and Herzegovina, remained committed to the country's economic and democratic consolidation, the reintegration of refugees, and national reconciliation.  While the Union continued to work actively within the Peace Implementation Council towards the full implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement, Bosnians themselves must move the process further and faster.

     At the conclusion of the meeting, Council President Anwarul Karim Chowdhury (Bangladesh), summing up points raised during the meeting, said that Council members had welcomed the signing of the New York Declaration last November and urged all parties to redouble their efforts to adhere to its provisions.  Members had also urged those concerned to ensure, without further delay, the integration of the Ministry of the Interior, as well as that of the police systems throughout the Federation

     The representatives of the United Kingdom, Canada, Malaysia, Argentina, China, Tunisia, France, Ukraine, Jamaica, Namibia, Netherlands, Germany, Turkey, and Italy also made statements this afternoon.  Mr. Chowdhury (Bangladesh) also made a statement in his national capacity.

     The meeting, which began at 12 noon, was adjourned at 2:08 p.m.

     Council Work Programme

     The Council met this afternoon to consider the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  It had before it a report of the Secretary-General detailing the progress achieved by the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH) since his report of 17 December (document S/2000/215).  The present report also reviews supporting activities of the United Nations system in that country during the same period.  The Mission continues to be led by the Secretary-General's Special Representative and Coordinator of United Nations Operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jacques Paul Klein.  Its International Police Task Force (IPTF) has an authorized strength of 2,057, but the redeployment of IPTF officers to the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) has reduced it to 1,837.  The composition of the IPTF is contained in an annex to the report.

     The Secretary-General notes that, despite continuing difficulties, progress has been made in police restructuring, review of the judicial system and the establishment of the Brcko unified police force.  The Mission has launched important initiatives to accelerate changes in the ethnic composition of local police, improve inter-entity police cooperation, depoliticize local police administrations and advance the establishment of court police.  In some key areas, however, the Mission has had to take strong action to overcome continued obstruction, resistance and delay.  Despite the New York Declaration of 15 November 1999, implementation of the State Border Service has been delayed.  Bosnian Croat authorities in Mostar have blatantly refused to integrate the Ministry of the Interior and the local police force on the west side of Mostar.  In addition, the Republika Srpska has missed key benchmarks for minority recruitment.  The UNMIBH will need the support of the Council and Member States with influence on the Bosnian Croat and Bosnian Serb authorities to overcome resistance to these important endeavours, the Secretary-General states.

     The report finds that while tangible progress is possible in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it requires intensive, coordinated and robust international engagement.  In police restructuring and reform, the key elements of its mandate, the Mission has made considerable headway, but there are many areas where it must work with other members of the international community to achieve common goals in areas of shared responsibility.  These areas will continue to provide a coordination challenge and, at a time of increasing calls on limited resources, it is essential that all international organizations involved in peace implementation in the country redouble their efforts to make timely progress.  That progress, which in some areas is linked to improvements in the overall political and economic situation in the wider region, will remain superficial and incomplete unless comprehensive measures are taken to expose and eliminate political interference, corruption and organized crime in law enforcement bodies.

     Continuing, the report asserts that the Mission's results-based concept of operations (including full co-location, intensive micro audits and intervention with the judiciary) will challenge extremist nationalist politicians and organized crime.  The pledge by the newly elected Government in Croatia to respect the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina and to cooperate with its people and the international community is a welcome development.  In order to remove the remaining obstacles to the restructuring of the police and judiciary and to undertake effective, professional and successful operations, the Mission's personnel and property must be safe and secure.  Accordingly, the Special Representative continues to explore various options for addressing the Mission's future security needs.

     Moreover, police restructuring and reform must be complemented with judicial reform to ensure the establishment of a state based on the rule of law, states the report.  The Mission's judicial assessments have systematically identified political, institutional and technical impediments to the functioning of an effective judiciary.  When the Council authorized the judicial system assessment programme in UNMIBH in 1998, the Mission was of the view that a basic assessment could be completed within approximately two years of the start of the programme.  The judicial experts have done excellent work in the initial assessment since they got under way towards the end of 1998, but implementation of the reform has just begun.  Several reports, which are expected to be finalized in the coming quarter, will address delays in the judicial system, enforcement of court orders, the use and abuse of court experts, political interference in the judiciary and the inspection of company registries.  Once this work has been completed, by the end of the year, the Mission's assessment programme of the judicial system will be completed.

     As noted in the Secretary-General's previous report, the present report finds that the Parliaments of both entities are considering legislation which will cover the review of the qualifications, performance and appointments of all prosecutors and judges in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The review is expected to appraise the professional performance of an estimated 800 judicial officials, and the draft legislation envisages the establishment of some 23 separate commissions.  The UNMIBH, within its mandate and under the overall coordination of the High Representative, has begun preparations to play its part in efforts to support this important project and to monitor, observe and inspect judicial organizations, structures and proceedings, as mandates to its IPTF under annex 11 of the Dayton Agreement, within existing staff levels.

     Also according to the report, the Mission's special project to form a Bosnia and Herzegovina police contingent for service in a United Nations peacekeeping operation has been an important symbolic contribution to strengthening State identity.  In February, the first such contingent, comprising 16 police officers from both entities and all three ethnic groups, successfully completed background checks and a two-week training course providing by IPTF.  It is expected that the contingent will be deployed to the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).  The value of this endeavour is more than symbolic, as these officers will not only contribute to a peacekeeping mission in a part of the world where their services are needed, but they will also gain invaluable international experience which they can bring to their profession upon returning home.

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