Declare and Enforce `Safe Havens' in Bosnia Plans for Military Intervention Cannot Ignore Collateral Damage and Must Consider Efforts of Local Peace Groups

By Jennifer M. Green. Jennifer M. Green is the administrative director of the Human Rights Program School. | The Christian Science Monitor, May 20, 1993 | Go to article overview

Declare and Enforce `Safe Havens' in Bosnia Plans for Military Intervention Cannot Ignore Collateral Damage and Must Consider Efforts of Local Peace Groups


Jennifer M. Green. Jennifer M. Green is the administrative director of the Human Rights Program School., The Christian Science Monitor


WHILE diplomats debate the Vance-Owen peace plan and the number of bombs to be dropped to end the atrocity in the Balkans, who is asking about the impact of those bombs on the civilian population? Are options being considered that are likely to assist the people most in need, to prevent the unnecessary loss of civilian lives and promote lasting peace?

The seeming urgency of military intervention is prompted by concern over how to assist Bosnian civilians subjected to the genocidal policies of the Serbs. But certainly the international community should consider the impact of intervention on all innocent civilians. The record of the United States demonstrates the harm that results when such concerns are downplayed or ignored.

In the 1991 Gulf war, often lauded as an exemplar of multilateral action to protect a people subjected to genocidal actions, thousands of civilians living in Iraq were killed as a result of air strikes. One Iraqi professor, Mohammad Khader, lost his wife and four daughters in the bombing of a Baghdad civilian shelter. He waits in vain for some action by the international community to compensate or even acknowledge responsibility for his loss.

Another example of "collateral damage" are the Farhats, a Lebanese family who, after Iraq was expelled from Kuwait, were brutally attacked by the Kuwaiti military. In the aftermath of the war fought on its behalf, the newly restored Kuwaiti emirate unleashed a campaign of terror, chiefly against non-Kuwaitis, adding thousands of victims to the toll inflicted by the war.

Days after the war, a Kuwaiti resistance fighter raped Naimat Farhat, shot her in the head and murdered her father and brother. Efforts to secure justice from the Kuwaiti government and the international community have, more than two years after the atrocities, gone unfulfilled.

One potential model of action to end the slaughter and minimize the number of innocent civilian deaths inflicted while "saving" the Bosnians could be the nonsectarian "safe havens" proposed by the New York Citizens Committee on Bosnia-Herzegovina. This proposal requires the Security Council to authorize the secretary-general to declare the areas in most danger as "safe havens. …

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