Yugoslav Crisis: Situation Worsens as Peace Process Continues

Article excerpt

As the situation in the former Yugoslavia steadily worsened he first three months of 1993, the United Nations supported intensive negotiations to contain and conclude the ethnic conflicts raging throughout the area. UN officials, describing the humanitarian situation as "desperate" and deteriorating daily, reported that those in need of assistance numbered nearly 4 million--up from 500,000 in December 1991, when the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) began operations there.

Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights, reported "numerous cases of summary executions and death threats, disappearances, torture and ill treatment of detainees and destruction of property, including religious sites", in the former Yugoslavia.

Amidst continuing reports of systematic "ethnic cleansing" and sexual assaults, the Security Council established an international war crimes tribunal to consider "serious violations" of international law committed in that area since 1991. It also authorized States and regional organizations "to take measures to ensure compliance" with the six-month-old ban on military flights over Bosnia and Herzegovina, which had been violated at least some 465 times since November 1992.

The mandate of the 23,000-strong UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR), in the region since February 1992, was renewed until the end of June 1993. it has contingents in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Appeals were made for security and stability in Croatia's "pink zones"--Serb-controlled parts of Croatia lying outside the UN Protected Areas (UNPAs).

Intensive peace talks took place in New York and Geneva for an overall political settlement of the crisis, under the auspices of the Co-chairmen of the Steering Committee of the International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia, Cyrus Vance and Lord David Owen. By the end of March, a four-part peace package for Bosnia and Herzegovina had been accepted by the Bosnian residency and the Bosnian Croats, including agreements on human rights monitoring, a boundary commission, creation of 10 semi-autonomous provinces, and interim arrangements.

On 26 February, Lieutenant-General Lars-Eric Wahlgren of Sweden, Force Commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon since 1988, replaced Lieutenant-General Satish Nambiar of India as UNPROFOR Force Commander.

Between 1 January and 31 March, the Security Council met, either formally or in consultations, on 17 occasions, adopting five resolutions and issuing 12 statements.

Tribunal a first

The Security Council on 22 February decided that an international tribunal "shall be established for the prosecution of persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia since 1991". It was the first time that the UN established an international criminal court with jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed during armed conflict.

Unanimously adopting resolution 808 (1993), the Council asked UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to make specific proposals within 60 days for the organization and operation of such a tribunal.

France, Italy and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) had submitted reports on the tribunal's statute, composition and rules of procedure. The Council had established in October 1992 a five-member Commission of Experts to examine information and reports of alleged "war crimes".

The Commission reported (S/25274) it had received several thousand pages of documentation, as well as video information, on allegations of grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and violations of international humanitarian law, and was preparing a database on all reported crimes.

The Commission also arranged for an investigation by a team of forensic experts of the mass grave of Ovcara, near Vukovar, in the UNPA Sector East in Croatia. …

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