Rule of Law
The OHR hired Oliver Burch to open a Zvornik field office in January 1999 with the mandate to promote minority returns over and against local obstructions. Based on his two years as UNHCR head of office for Doboj-Teslić, he understood very clearly the dimensions of the task before him.1 His Zvornik OHR office was to form the hub of a Local-RRTF covering Vlasenica, Srebrenica, Bratunac, and Zvornik, areas ruled by SDS mayors still closely aligned with Karadžić and closed to minority returns. There had, in fact, been no minority returns to Zvornik since the contentious return of Bosniaks into the Zone of Separation in late 1996. Indeed, when the local office opened, the only prospect for return was again near the IEBL, in the village of Klisa (fig. 8.1). Here Zvornik officials had given ten displaced Bosniaks permission to clean their destroyed homes, watched suspiciously by twenty police. The mayor’s office cited security problems as the reason why so few were allowed back to Klisa, but Burch wanted to open the village for the return of its entire prewar population. He set about first coordinating the local officers of the various international agencies, including the UNHCR, OSCE, and IPTF. Burch had been directed by the OHR to also work closely with SFOR, which had only just announced that it would support minority returns and was not yet integrated in return efforts.2 Burch then met with Zvornik’s mayor, elected officials, party leaders, and representatives from both Serb and displaced Bosniak communities, making it clear that Klisa would have to open to returns.