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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    MON, 17 FEB 1997 22:59:44 GMT

    Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in B&H


    AIM Sarajevo, 11 February, 1997

    In Bosnia & Herzegovina, only on the territory of the Federation, there are tens of various institutions which are mostly concerned with monitoring of human rights in this country. Unfortunately, in the ratio between rights, justice and righteousness, the two latter categories seem to be increasing the distance from the first. Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in B&H, established just two years ago is doing its best to bring them at least a little bit closer.

    What it is like in practice was revealed at the annual convention of the Helsinki Committee. From the speech of Srdjan Dizdarevic, President, who will remain at the post for another two years (by secret vote, he was unanimously elected again) it is evident that last year, 1996, was "a year of stable ceasefire, but also a year of essential shifts in establishment of a legal state, in installation of efficient and efficacious authorities willing to implement civil parts of the Dayton accords. It was also a year of parliamentary, presidential and regional elections which took place without fair and democratic conditions for them being previously created. Finally, the previous year was marked with the continuation of the process of ethnic cleansing - there are more than 130 thousand registered refugees and displaced persons, there is still no freedom of movement, there is no free use of private property, nor fundamental conditions for return of refugees. It would be wrong to say that there is a status quo, because behind the paralysis of institutions and non operation of the system, extremely negative processes are taking place which threaten with lasting dissolution of the country and do not even imply establishment of democracy and respect of human rights and freedoms", said Dizdarevic.

    As concerning "establishment" of relations with the Helsinki Committee, according to his words, monitoring of the Helsinki Committee, especially lately, caused some unacceptable reactions which are manifested through very pronounced pressure exerted on HK, and even serious threats. When speaking about the specific relation, about attempts to establish a dialogue with competent authorities in B&H, it in fact ends with efforts of the people working in the Helsinki Committee. As an illustration, there was a meeting with former prime minister of B&H just immediately after foundation of the HK - it was obviously just a protocol reception for TV cameras.

    Therefore, it is no wonder that at today's annual convention, the proposal was not accepted that members of the ruling national parties, the SDA and the HDZ, should be elected to the new Management Board of the HK, in other words the attempt to "win them over" in this way for the cause of human rights in the country in which they are in power. It would be too obvious in view of the fact that, for example, a man from the top echelons of the SDA, President of the Society of Writers, Nedzad Ibrisimovic, who held the flattering "title" of the president of the commission for human rights of the Sarajevo canton, as one of the members of the HK reminded the gathering, commented; "Human rights are the latest fabrication of the West"(!?)

    In quite a diversified discussion, besides expressions of support to the HK, a considerable attention was devoted to the problems of children and the need for their protection. In Sarajevo, to be specific, first the defence units and later on the regular army took possession of school buildings and institutions for children and ruined them even more. Then, buildings of kindergartens downtown became attractive for embassies, and so on and so forth. What is not visible but is by far more serious is the injustice suffered by "minority" children, which was described by Maksim Stanisic, President of the Democratic Initiative of Sarajecvo Serbs (DISS). A child which does not belong to the majority Bosniac people suffers not only because of what it is forced to learn, but also beause of the attitude, or rather harassment of its teachers, nothing to say about malice of the children of the 'right creed'. Stanisic stressed the fact that HK was the only one which actively dealt with problems in reintegrated regions around Sarajevo.

    Even a superficial thumbing through the report on cases with which citizens referred to the Helsinki Committee of Human Rights of B&H in 1996, shows that the majority, 270 of them, referred to violation of the right to return to temporarily abandoned housing units and privately owned real estate. Violation of the right to just trial follows, then disappeared and imprisoned persons. There is quite a few of those who appealed to the HK because of the problems they encountered when they submitted demands for compensation of damage from foreign citizens, most frequently for damage inflicted in traffic accidents by members of IFOR.

    And in the end, although it was not at all unimportant, Dizdarevic said that at this moment it was not hard to realize that the authorities were again tempted to reach out for measures which were an attack on human rights. "By limiting human rights and freedoms it is impossible to accomplish anything, not even decrease of crime, which is the attempted justification for re-introduction of curfew. Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights very precisely eliminates any international legal foundation for such a decision", he said.

    Obviously, this voice of the HK will also go up in smoke, because judging by radio and television programs inclined towards the ruling SDA, of course, as on 15 February, citizens of B&H will be under house arrest again.

    Tanja IVANOVA