ICG gets it wrong

Another of my Balkans friends has sent me a long missive about a recent ICG letter to the EU’s Political and Security Committee.  Happily, I am told the letter did not have the desired effect, as the committee was deeply unsympathetic with the views put forward.  As always, comments are welcome, so long as they address the issues and avoid personal invective:

On 2 May International Crisis Group (ICG) President Louis Arbour sent a three page letter to the ambassadors of the European Union’s Political and Security Committee in advance of their May 3 meeting. The letter contained ICG’s version of events in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as policy recommendations.

The ICG letter contains a number of factually inaccurate claims. These claims not only paint a false picture of events on the ground, but are also used as the basis for subsequent recommendations. Here are some of the blatant inaccuracies in the text:

  • The letter claims that the Republika Srspska (RS) referendum “does not purport to have legal effect”. This statement is factually incorrect: the RS Law on Referendum and Citizens’ Initiative clearly states that referendum results are legally binding. The referendum decision adopted by the RS National Assembly is a legally binding act and it entered into force upon publication in the RS Official Gazette.
  • “The government of the…Federation was formed illegally”. This statement has no legal basis under BiH domestic law or international law. This contradicts not only Bosnia’s domestic legal framework, but also the views of the OHR and the wider international community. The Ambassadors of the Peace Implementation Council’s Steering Board (Canada, EU Delegation, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Spain, Turkey, UK and US) along with OHR and other representatives of the international community (UNHCR, EUFOR, EUPM, OSCE, NATO) consider the current Federation government legitimate.
  • The letter implies that the RS referendum decision was triggered by the High Representative’s decision of March 27. This claim has no basis in fact, as these actions were clearly part of a longstanding RS policy to push for state dissolution and is in no way linked with the High Representative’s intervention in the Federation. The RS passed similar conclusions in May 2009, which the High Representative was forced to annul at that time. The RS’ intention to hold a referendum was announced long before the High Representative’s March 27 Decision, as both the RS Government and RS National Assembly passed official acts on this matter in December 2009. To link the March 27 Decision and RS referendum implies a non-existent causality.
  • The letter claims that the High Representative’s March 27 Decision suspending a decision of the Central Election Commission (CEC) annulling the “formation of the FBiH (Federation) government” and “the consequent interference with the right to appeal that ruling, have undermined state bodies and the rule of law”. In fact, the CEC never annulled the formation of the FBiH government and the High Representative’s Decision left open the door to authorized officials to challenge and clarify the constitutionality of the formation of the FBiH government before the FBiH Constitutional Court. Croat parties did submit several appeals to the FBiH Constitutional Court, but then inexplicably withdrew their appeals before the Court issued a ruling. Domestic legal remedies still do exist for aggrieved parties in this matter, and the High Representative’s Decision in no way circumscribed the use or application of these remedies.

Unfortunately, the ICG letter follows the ideological path of several recent ICG Bosnia reports, in that it resorts to false claims and factually inaccurate information to push a policy line that repeats nearly verbatim the official propaganda emanating from Republika Srpska. The letter could have been written in Banja Luka.  This ICG line – which has consistently parroted RS policy since early 2009 – is causing tremendous damage to BiH at a time when the country can ill afford it.

Perhaps an even more significant problem than the things that ICG writes, are the things it omits. None of the ICG reports of the last two and a half years has mentioned Milorad Dodik’s high profile push towards state dissolution, nor have they attempted to analyze his motives for obstructing and dismantling state institutions. They have failed to discuss the tendentious, provocative and highly combative nature of statements by RS officials. ICG gives scant shrift to RS’ constant denials of genocide, even though the ICTY and ICJ confirmed that genocide had occurred in several rulings. ICG fails to mention that RS is disputing the Final Award of the Brcko Arbitral Tribunal and has attempted to dismantle state institutions mandated by the Dayton agreement. ICG doesn’t mention the state capture of media inside the RS or the RS government’s heavy-handed bullying tactics against opposition figures and missing persons groups. ICG also fails to mention that the current media atmosphere inside RS is similar in tone to the wartime years, a sharp contrast to the Federation media.

RS media gave unusually prominent positive coverage to the ICG letter, as they have to all ICG reports published recently.  At a time when Bosnia is headed on a downward trajectory, ICG’s work is playing an active role in undermining relations within the country, while sowing dissent within the international community.


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6 thoughts on “ICG gets it wrong”

  1. I think Mr. Server that you just lobbying for the Muslims in Bosnia, You have never said a single nice word for republika Srbska, Prezident Dodik and the Serbian people. I think, If you had the power you would destroyed the Serbian nation. Ms. Louise Arbour wrote the correct attitudes and the situation on the ground but you Mr. Server inadequate because of hatred towards Mr. Milorad Dodik and Serbian people.

    1. It’s not always a case that the truth lies halfway between any two given positions. In this case, considering the agreement signed at Dayton in order to stop the killing on both sides, the truth is closer to the Bosnian position: the Serbs do not have the right to opt for independence, much less to withdraw from BiH and hand over the territory to Serbia. (Individuals are of course free to move to Serbia proper, if they do not wish to live in a Serbian entity that is part of an independent state.)

      In any case, look at the trouble Serbia is managing to cause Kosovo, which has the support of some of the most powerful countries in the world, and think how much more trouble a Republika Srpksa would face in gaining legitimacy? Russia and Serbia are signatories to the Dayton Accords and even they might find it difficult to openly support RS claims of independence, and Serbia’s acceptance of the territory of another state would likely make it an international pariah. Even Putin didn’t dare do that with South Ossetia when it offered to join Russia.

      As for Mr. Dodik, is he really supporting the Serbs, or merely using them for his own political ends, as a certain Mr. Milosevic did a few years ago? The latter certainly did not accomplish much for the people he claimed to be defending.

  2. Mr. Server, as an architect of Dayton you are now struggling to maintain your faulty construction despite the cracks in the foundation. Instead of accepting that the current Bosnian construction cannot be saved because it lacks a stable foundation you are shooting the messenger that is Mrs. Arbour.

  3. I love Western hypocrisy. It seems a defining feature of Occidental civilisation. It really doesn’t help the Serb pro-Bosnians like myself who oppose Dodik and his idiotic policies.
    In your view, Kosovo can be independent, but RS cannot, and the only reason seems to be that Serbia is too afraid to fight and Bosniaks are not. That and bureaucratic inertia. All other reasons I refer to your chief feature. I hate to say it but as a student of Bosnian history whose family has been involved in its joys and tribulations over the past 500 or so years, this is the worst edition of my people yet seen, and fifteen years of Western involvement has its measure of blame.

  4. Mr Armer,
    I am appalled by your statement that “Individuals are of course free to move to Serbia proper…”. This is exactly what the Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Tudjman in Croatia were saying in the 1990s. This is what the Kosovo Albanians are saying today.

    Tudjman’s policy succeeded in expelling 300,000 Serbs from Croatia, and in denying them of all rights to their property, language, religious rights (they are referred to as Ortodox Croats, imagine that). In Kosovo remains only a handful of Serbs still trying to live there despite the persecution that lasts practically since the end World War 2. Please look at the census numbers of Serbs in Kosovo in former Yugoslavia.

    “Kosovo, which has the support of some of the most powerful countries in the world…” is a product of unilateral secession from an internationally recognised state. Your comparison with South Ossetia should rather be applied to the case of Kosovo, rather than the RS. Leaders of this self-proclaimed state, terrorists, drug-smugglers, people engaged in the illegal trade of human organs and human trafficking were the leaders of a terrorist organisation named Kosovo Liberation Army or KLA and most of them are still facing prosecution before intenrational courts. KLA was regognised as terrorist organisation for years, before suddenly, thanks to the propaganda in the West, becoming heroes of the resistance… Resistance to what? To legality, law, protection of human rights of minorities…

    Your public call for large-scale ethnic cleansing of Serbs from areas where they have lived for centuries is shameful and horrendous in the 21st century in Europe.

  5. Sorry, but in my appallement and surprise with your shameless statements, I forgot to say that the Republika Srpska is the only guarantee for the Serbs that they will not be majorised, outvoted in Parliament, denied of their human, civil and property rights and that their children will not one day be taught in school that they are “Orthodox Muslims” or “Orhtodox Bosnians”, before Sheria law is applied in Bosnia and they are converted into real orthodox Muslims like the one shooting at the US Embassy a few weeks ago in the middle of Sarajevo, while the Muslim police were peacefully watching, well hidden behind fences, while he was doing it.

    That is why Serbs are so fierce in defending the Republika Srpska and opposing furhter transfer of competences to the so-called Bosnian state.

    In times when European states are de-centralising, and Europe is being called Europe of regions, furhter centralisation of the “Bosnian state” is evermore inconsistent with trends in the European Union.

    And it is high time for Europe and the US to take a moment and think what monster they have created in SE Europe in the form of several, very well connected, territories with Muslim majority (parts of Macedonia, Kosovo, Sandzak, BiH) in the southeastern part of Europe. The old dream of Sarajevo Muftis and politicians and Turkey of creating a “Green Transversal” connecting Sarajevo with Istanbul is finally taking its real-life form.

    I just hope that the next shooting in front of a US Embassy will not happen in Berlin.

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