Monday, November 5, 2007


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (November 5,2007) - Muhamed Sacirbey, former Bosnian Minister of Foreign Affairs (1995-96) and the Bosnian Ambassador to the United Nations (1992-2000) has sent an open letter to a Spokeperson of the Office of the International Community's High Representative In Bosnia (OHR) Ljiljana Radetic.The content of the entire letter follows:

"Copy to Ambassador Miroslav Lajcak

Dear Ms. Radetic,
Your have made a public response/rebuke to Reis-l-Ulema Mustafa Ceric's reported comments in Detroit, Michigan, USA. Setting aside the accuracy of your statement, in terms of your public function and statements purportedly on behalf of the OHR, it is your responsibility to inform the public of Bosnia.

First questions for Ms. Radetic:

1. By whose authority you made the response and rebuke to Reis Ceric's Detroit comments?
2. Do you consider Reis Ceric to be legally bound by the Dayton Accords, (I'm certain that he was not there as signatory when I was in Dayton)?
3. Do you see other religious leaders in Bosnia bound by the OHR's interpretations of the Dayton Accords?
4. And, who actually interpreted/defined the Reis's purported comments as being inconsistent with the Dayton Accords.
5. Do you believe that Reis Ceric and other religious leaders should be silent or that they should only voice opinions when they coincide with that of the OHR, (or your own)?

If your statements were without further authority than self inspiration, then now and in the future please make certain that it is clear that your pronouncements are personal rather than on behalf of the OHR. You are welcome to your personal opinion, as any Bosnian citizen, and it is our obligation to defend every citizens right to express their views.

If your statement is made with the full knowledge and authority of the OHR, then I think that this is not consistent not only with Dayton, but the standards of an open, democratic or Euro-Atlantic state. (If you're not certain, ask those who actually have lived in a free and open society).

Further, when we signed Dayton, we did not see ourselves as imposing any censorship upon the religious communities in Bosnia or providing with such right to censor or censure.

If Reis Ceric's comments were inciting intolerance or hatred, I would be the first to criticize him for it. We have had religion too often misused by some as a weapon for conflict or genocide.

If we expect all of our religious leaders in Bosnia to promote tolerance, pluralism and co-existence, we should also allow them to project their vision of how such an open and democratic society is to be finally achieved. It is clear that we are not there yet. Otherwise, Bosnia would no longer have a OHR or RS. Also from the background of our negotiations in Dayton, it is clear that the Accords were intended as transitional and that BiH would have to transform beyond Dayton.

So, is Reis Ceric's mistake that he was an Islamic religious leader providing political commentary? If so, in a democratic and open society, I have the right to hear his views as much as he has to state his position and I also have the right to reject or accept in part or whole such opinion. It is clear though that you do not have the right to censor or censure by law, standards of an open society or the very Dayton Accords you so dearly hold, (but remember, I was there when this book was written).

To be clear, this is a principle of broad application in democratic and open societies. I will defend it with respect to Orthodox, Catholic, Jewish, Protestant or Islamic leaders, as well as proclaimed atheists. If any of them breach legality, then they should be prosecuted for incitement, or similar crimes of hatred. However, if you or the OHR simply disagree with their view, then leave it up to the free media in Bosnia to critique them for the content of their statement.

However, your censure of the Reis's purported statement in Detroit comes as someone who is an official of authority within Bosnia. There is a significantly higher standard by which any government, judicial or legal authority should censure versus a member of the free press or ordinary citizens. I fear that your rebuke will open the door to censorship and other undemocratic practices that do not foretell Europe but a totalitarian past become fashionable again in some circles, that had made my parents and many others its victims.

I fear that your rebuke will open the door to censorship and other undemocratic practices that do not foretell Europe but a totalitarian past become fashionable again in some circles, that had made my parents and many others its victims.

The point of this is not the Reis's statement, but my right to hear and decide for myself, (especially keeping in mind that he is the Spiritual leader of all Bosniaks including those of us in the US, and would you ever dare such a rebuke if you were working as an official authority in democratic Europe or US).

A secular society demands a separation of religious authority from state. While I may believe it is generally good policy to keep religion out of politics, it does not give any of us the right to silence spiritual leaders who have a view to contribute. (Again, I must also remind that especially in Bosnia we also do call upon our religious leaders to be active in promoting reconciliation as well as justice). However, it is almost always bad policy to have the state, or the OHR in this case, in the church, synagogue or mosque.

As for the substance of the Reis Ceric's statement, it is clear that Dayton cannot be the new orthodoxy in Bosnia. Neither is it the new state religion. It is transitory and mortal. We are all entitled to seek the better beyond it and to recognize the flaws and wrongs that we are obliged to change within it.

With regards,
Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey"

Mr. Muhamed Sacirbey holds B.A. degree in history and J. D. degree from Tulane University in New Orleans. He also holds M.B.A. degree from Columbia University. Prior to becoming the Bosnian Foreign Affairs Minister and the Bosnian Ambassador to the United Nations, he practiced as an attorney in New York City and worked for several years as an investment banker. He presently writes his book “A Convenient Genocide, in a fishbowl ” and is a commentator on human rights and political issues.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well done Mr. Mohamed